Alex Teach Image
“Time heals all wounds,” they say. In my experience, the only thing that has ever consistently “healed all wounds” is a stiff shot of bourbon, but perhaps that was just the broken part of me speaking. I assumed it was broken, anyway. At least some part of me still talked though, and who was I to cast off its judgment?
I lay on my bed, one hand behind my head, the other resting on my chest, holding a cigarette with an inch of ash that was more anxious to fall than I was to consider even sitting up. It was hot and the ceiling fan toiled ceaselessly, and I was grateful for it and the shadows it cast from the parking lot lights outside my apartment. I did my best thinking under a ceiling fan, and alternately, I did my best not to think at all the same way. The bourbon was within reach, and all was as well as it ever was.
Time just makes the shadows crawl across the ceiling night after night and does nothing but pour acid into the dark pit of my hollow gut, and I was looking to make it pass. Quickly. No matter how deep the pit seemed, just when I thought I’d found its bottom, I always found there were ways to dig deeper. Sometimes I held the shovel…and others, like this, were indeed like that acid burning its rocky soil away, and I felt like a bound prisoner watching it helplessly from a distance in frustration.
I had told a grandmother a few hours earlier as gently as I could that that the grandson she had been raising since infancy had been killed during a botched robbery, and she managed to surprise me by vomiting from a standing position, all 350 pounds of her. Oh, she had turned her head so no contact was made, but I have to admit…while I expected her to react, that was not exactly the reaction I was expecting. I politely ignored it and in under a minute I was embracing her as she wailed, and we stayed there until the tears began to subside. Both of ours. She was a proud, older black woman, but this was a new low for her, and eventually I handed her off to family as they arrived and went inside to get her something to drink.
I started off my career working parts of town in which people asked me to take off my boots before I entered their homes to take a report so as to not soil their gilded carpet (I turned around and left), and the next call would result in someone attempting to stab me while trying to elude being caught stealing a spare car tire. Those things were difficult to understand, but paled in comparison to the collateral damage that were the families touched by even more senseless crimes. It was a lot to digest. Oh, my poor stomach.
The only definitive relief for these thoughts was to go into my son’s bedroom and give him a hug while he slept, maybe just trace the lines of his face with a fingertip or brush the hair from his forehead. I would enter that room now…but he wasn’t there. I couldn’t even call him at those hours because he now slept under a different roof with his mother and her new husband. So I stroked the lines of a lead crystal glass of spirits instead. Such a poor trade.
My pager and my phone sat dormant on the bedside table for a record-breaking two hours before I woke to mechanically put a cheap tie over a cheap shirt that I tucked into cheap pants and cinched together with a belt and expensive gun, and went to my car to start another day over again.
I thought of the grandmother that next morning on the way in, and wondered how she was doing. I couldn’t check of course; I was the harbinger of her grandson’s death, the proverbial “messenger,” but that was OK. Raises were out of budget, but we were always flush with pain for the dying.
I checked my watch, and hoped to call my kid before he caught the bus. I hid my smoking from him, but maybe he’d understand if he found out later.
Did he think of me at night, too? He had a ceiling fan in his new room, after all...