Last night, I went to get some fruits at the groceries.

Last night, I went to get some fruits at the groceries.

As I returned, there was an unusual line at the intersection with a gas station.

Rather than wait, I cut through the gas station and joined the road to my house.

Immediately, a police car followed me, it’s light flashing like it was Christmas, commanding me to pull over.

What did I do wrong?

I pulled over, quickly.

I did what Freida High

taught me in 1992

when I arrived in the United States.

“Should the cops pull you over,

place both hands on the steering wheel

where the cop could see them.

Look straight ahead of you.

If they ask you to produce your driving license

do not move quickly.

Before moving, ask:

‘Sir, may I reach for the license

in my pocket (or

wherever the document is), please?’

If they say ‘Yes,”

then slowly reach with one hand

for the required document

still keeping the other hand in view

on the steering wheel.”

I followed the ritual,

knowing it may be my last day

in this world. I reasoned, “Well,

I am in my 60s and have enjoyed

a relatively good and productive life

and if this is the end

so be it,

in a strange land.

I kept my eyes

on the rearview mirror

keeping the cop car in view.

I breathed in slowly, tense.

To my surprise, out of the police vehicle emerge a black cop, one of the few I’ve ever seen in Austin, Texas. Dark blue skin. A thick, tall, muscular black man. He must have been working out a lot. Between 25 and 45 years old, I estimated. He swaggered toward me. I heaved a tiny sigh of relief. He might think BLM.

“I’m Officer XXX from the XXX precinct,” he announced.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“No, sir.”

“You cut through the gas station.”

“Yes, sir, I did. But is that an offense, sir.”

“Yes, it is. You aren’t supposed to do that.”

“I apologize, officer. I didn’t know that.”

“Your driving license.”

“Officer, it’s in my wallet

inside my back pocket.

May I reach

for it please?”

He pulled back a little and stiffened.

He placed his hand around his waist, where his gun was holstered.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, I reached for my wallet and withdrew the license.

He took it

and went back to his cop car

and sat there for what seemed an eternity.

My head was racing with thoughts

none of which was pleasant

although my license is clean.

Then he came out of the cop car

and sauntered back to my vehicle

holding my driving license.

He would give me a fine, I concluded.

“Ṣé ẹ gbọ́ Yorùbá?” He said, in perfect intonation.

I almost jumped out of my skin.

Was I hallucinating?

I swallowed.

No sound came from my throat.

“You have a Yoruba name, sir.”

“Yes, officer. I speak Yoruba.

Mo gbọ́ Yorùbá, sir.”

“I’m from Ibadan. Born and raised,” he said.

“I moved here in 2000.”

I exhaled.

“Here is your license back, sir.

Be careful. This is a warning

Professor Okediji.

I know the name.

You teach at UT, right?”

“Yes, officer,” I said.

“Have a great day, prof.”

He went back to his vehicle.

I remained there, shocked, for a full second.

Then I pulled back the car

on the road,

numb, still shaking, breathless

gripping the steering wheel for support.

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