I had just wheezed my way to the top of the hill, and was pedaling easily toward the traffic light, trying to catch my breath. Looking ahead, I noticed the black-and-white sitting there as the light changed from green to yellow to red.
Wondering what infraction I might have committed, I pulled up alongside and snapped my right foot out of the pedal to prop myself on the curb.
Peering across the front seat of the cruiser, an attractive black female police officer grinned broadly at me and said, "You sure you don't need help gettin' up those hills?"
Relieved that I wasn't in trouble, I answered, "Hey, I'm not proud! If you're offering a tow up the next one, I'll take it!"
She laughed, the light changed, and she was gone. I continued my ride, thinking little more of the incident, but carrying with me a pleasant glow from the exchange.
A couple of days later, at a public event monitored by the local police, I noticed the same officer, paired with a male officer, patrolling the grounds.
Approaching them (from the front, hands in plain view! I'm not taking chances with people who carry guns for a living! ) I asked, "Aren't you the one who was giving me a hard time about getting up the hills on my bike?"
She looked a little confused, and I realized she probably didn't recognize me without the helmet and sunglasses, etc. When I named the intersection and the day, however, the light dawned and she grinned broadly.
"Naw, man! I was givin' you props!" she laughed "I thought you was doin' good!"
We swapped a couple more smart-ass remarks and parted ways, both grinning. Her partner looked a little non-plussed, and she explained as they walked away.
About half an hour later, I was sitting at a table near one of the food vendors, enjoying a snack, when a voice from behind me asked, "Do you ride a lot?"
I turned to find the smiling face of my new friend.
"As often as life allows," I replied, pulling out a vacant chair for her, "but not as often as I'd like!"
She sat, automatically arranging the equipment hanging from her belt to clear the chair.
"Please tell me you're on a break or something," I said, "and don't have to rush off right away."
"Actually, I'm off duty." she smiled, waving her hand to indicate the crowd around us, "I came in for a half-day on my day off because they were short-handed and needed extra people to cover this."
Over her half-hearted objection, I bought her something to eat, and we spent almost an hour getting acquainted. By the end of that time, she had dropped a few hints about being available, and had even told me what days she had off, so I picked up the ball and ran with it.
"How about dinner Friday night?" I asked.
"You don't mind going out with a cop?" she asked lightly, but the tension around her eyes seemed to indicate that there was more than levity behind the question.
I shrugged, "Not if you don't mind going out with an aging cyclist who has trouble hauling his ass up the hills around here."
She laughed and looked at me sideways, "Shall I bring my uniform, in case we decide to do more than have dinner? I know a lot of guys have fantasies about makin' it with a cop."
Again, the question seemed not as innocent as it sounded.
I studied her for a moment before replying. I got the feeling there were hidden depths to Officer Wilson.
"I'll admit to having entertained such fantasies myself, from time to time." I replied, "but I think I'd like to get to know the person inside the uniform before I start having sex with the uniform, if that's okay with you."
Her smile told me I had passed whatever test she was giving me and she stood, saying, "See you Friday night! About Seven?"
"Uh, Officer Wilson?" I interjected, deadpan, "There's just a couple of things I need to know before I can take you out."
Her face became a mask as she replied, "Yes?"
"Well, first," I said, trying to keep from smiling, "I'd kinda like to know your first name. Then I'll need to know where to pick you up, and finally, it would be nice to have your phone number, just in case."
The grin broke brightly across her mahogany features as she replied, a little embarrassed, "Melinda! It's Melinda."
She wrote her address and phone number on a page torn from a small notebook she carried and took down my information in the same book.
At seven sharp on Friday evening, I knocked at the door to her apartment. Cops don't make a lot of money, but she had taken care to find a place in a fairly nice, middle-class neighborhood.
I was a little nervous, this being my first real date since my wife died several years ago. My palms were sweaty on the bottle of wine I carried. Fortunately, it was a nice, mellow, Merlot, and didn't mind not being chilled.
When the door opened, I almost asked if Melinda was home before I realized that the vision before me was indeed Officer Wilson. (Think Jada Pinkett Smith with relaxed, shoulder-length hair plus about three inches in height!)
"Wow!" was all that would come out.
Her deep blue one piece silk gown highlighted Melinda's fit, slender form by clinging lovingly to every curve, covering everything, but hiding nothing!
"You look fantastic in civvies, Officer Wilson!" I gushed.
Her smile told me she had hoped for such a reaction. "You clean up pretty nice yourself, Ted!"
We hadn't agreed on a place for dinner ahead of time, so I took the liberty of making reservations at my favorite restaurant in Napa, and had decided on a sport coat and golf shirt. In California in the summer, that's about as close to formal wear as you get outside Hollywood or Sacramento.
"Come in for a few minutes while I finish getting ready!" she pecked me on the cheek and took the wine from me, "Oooh, Merlot! My favorite!"
"We should get going pretty soon," I cautioned as I stepped inside, "we've got a little drive ahead of us, and I had to cut it pretty fine on the time to get reservations tonight on such short notice."
Melinda smiled up at me as she screwed the backing onto the post of an expensive-looking diamond and sapphire earring. The combination perfectly highlighted the blue of the dress. "Want to take the cruiser? We won't have to worry about traffic!"
Trying not to sound judgmental, I replied, "Nah. I'd just as soon take my chances with the traffic. I'm sure a lot of guys would appreciate that, but I don't happen to think that the fact that I'm dating a cop entitles me to any special treatment."
She looked at me strangely, then smiled. "I'll be ready in just a minute."
"Here," I offered, holding out my hand for the backing to the other earring, "let me help. I got pretty good at this with my wife."
"You're MARRIED!?" Melinda gasped.
"Was." I replied, placatingly, "She died while the kids were in High School."
"Oh." she looked abashed, "Sorry."
"No harm, no foul." I screwed the backing on the other earring. My wife had told me once that only expensive earrings came with screw-on backings. Earrings were too easy to lose, I guess, with just the push-on type backing, but screw-ons are a pain in the ass to get on and off.
Dinner was excellent, but I hardly noticed. Melinda was charming, witty, and delightful. She was clearly well read and delighted in discussing almost any topic. We got into a couple of heated, if good-natured debates over - what else - politics and religion. She told anecdotes about her adventures on the police force, putting a humorous twist on each. She was in turns elegant and charming, then earthy and coarse, fitting her style to the story to enhance its entertainment value.
I refrained from drinking, since I don't trust my reflexes at freeway speeds with even a little alcohol in my system, especially when I'm driving. Melinda had only a glass or two of wine but by the end of the meal we were both feeling pretty mellow.
Her head rested on my shoulder most of the way home. Much of that time we were silent, content to just share each other's company.
At one point, Melinda looked up at me and murmured, "You're a comfortable guy, Ted. This is the first date I've ever had that I felt I could relax and just be myself."
I smiled and replied, "I'm going to assume you meant that as a compliment! Seriously, I've enjoyed this evening immensely, and your company most of all."
"I DID mean it as a compliment!" she said, punching me playfully on the arm, "Most guys want something from me. Almost all want sex, and I can live with that. Others want something from me as a cop. Still others are just nervous being out with me, knowing I'm a cop. You don't ignore the fact that I'm a cop, but you don't seem nervous about it. You've made it pretty clear that you don't want any special privileges for dating a cop, and though I can see in your eyes that you appreciate my body, you don't make me feel like you're going to pounce on me the first chance you get."
I shrugged, the whole conversation seeming a little strange to me.
"I can't speak for anyone else, Melinda." my mind was struggling with how best to express what I wanted to say, "I find you attractive as a person, not because you wear a police uniform, but because you have a sense of humor, and near as I can tell, a good heart. All the other stuff is window dressing. I'm not so old or so blind that I can't see that you're physically attractive, and I'd feel privileged to have sex with you, but that's not the purpose of this evening. I just want to get to know you and see where we go from there. If that makes me 'comfortable', I can live with it."
.... There is more of this story ...