Radiohead was spilling blood from the speakers as I sped down the gravel road, dust clouds trailing behind me in the form of a chalky apparition. I was getting lost again in a memory of her when I saw the cop car flashing his lights in the rearview mirror.
The city of Lancaster was a progressive town and they realised an intervention was required. After witnessing case after case of sad people doing sad people things they took action. They recognised that depressed people were unproductive, ambitionless, unfriendly and standoffish, not the traits of a contented people. They didn’t want the town infected with diseased minds. They believed that happy people contributed to the community, spent money at the local shops, attended church, worked harder, were more sociable and committed fewer crimes. A smile was worshipped, a frown was medicated.
Their solution was forced upon its less blissful populace. If you suffered from depression, you were required to take medication and you were assigned a therapist that met with you on a weekly basis. They wanted a peaceful hamlet brimming with happiness, whether it was artificial or not wasn’t a concern. A fraudulent smile was still a smile.
Your neighbours morphed into human bloodhounds with a nose for despair and apathy. They prowled the shadowy recesses of your life searching out a whiff of melancholia to report to the authorities. If you were caught being sad, you received a warning and a trip to the pharmacy. A second offense led to a more involved remedy. Treading lightly was advised if you were feeling blue.
The crunch of the cop’s boots on the gravel told me he had finished running my driver’s license through the system.
“Mr. Jacob’s, I noticed that you’re listening to some Radiohead. That’s interesting. Also interesting is that ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts and the picture of the woman sitting on the passenger seat. Care to explain?”
“Just going for a drive, officer, listening to some tunes. Is that a problem?”
“According to our records, you were cited six months ago for watching a film called The Notebook three consecutive times on a night while drinking a twelve pack of Budweiser. Then you texted a woman named Amber Jenkins, telling her you missed her and you couldn’t move on. Do you recall this event, sir?”
“Yes. I made a mistake. I’m doing better now.”
“It doesn’t appear that way to me. You’re being charged with DWS, Mr. Jacob’s.”
“Driving While Sad. This is your second offense. I don’t want to be a complete hard-ass here, so smoke one last cigarette and listen to another song before I haul you away. I’ll give you five minutes.”
“Thank you, officer.”
I let the lyrics and thoughts of her wash over me. I welcomed the pain, every drop of anguish contained a snapshot of a happier time. I leaned my head back and smiled. A real smile.