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One Cop. Well Done.
Two pork chops and a bag of popcorn? Are you kidding me? That’s what you call dinner?” he screamed. I looked at him blankly from across the room, feeling no emotion…only a breeze against my shirtless back through the open screen door behind me.
There’s a chance that’s why I never really heard him; it actually felt good. I was empty, an emotional clean slate, so at a certain point, any sensation that isn’t pain feels wonderful, amazing. And that breeze…that breeze was the best a June in Tennessee had to offer in a landlocked state, with just a touch of 7 o’clock sunlight to set it off. That combined with the waning sun’s warmth as its light illuminated the dust floating aimlessly in its rays in perfectly straight lines as they passed through the sliding glass door, leaving their lines and curves on the carpet in complete yet ultimately temporary precision? Spectacular. I closed my eyes and actually let the corner of my mouth begin to curl into a smile as I enjoyed the simplicity of it all, when I was again so rudely interrupted.
“Get your shit together. GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER!”
The noise got my attention. Not the content—just the volume, and for the same reason as the fluctuating breeze against my back. He probably needed to hear something if he was going to go away, so I said, “They were cooked.”
There was a pause, which I believe was my desired effect. “Cooked? What the %*&# does that have to do with anything?!” he yelled. My partner? My co-worker? Whoever.
“If they were raw, I really would be %*&#’d up. I cooked’ em. I’m cool.”
He shook his head in disgust, and I felt a twinge of relief; I’d won. He’d be leaving soon.
I was having a difficult time, it would seem.
I’d discovered something that I couldn’t put back, and it was wearing on me. Like a curse, a spirit, a devil. Dissolving me, parts that were too small to see with the naked (mind’s) eye, but whose effects couldn’t be denied. Not even by me anymore, but I didn’t care. (After all: That, too, was one of the parts that had been dissolved.)
To shut my friend out, I heard string music playing in my head now because it seemed to accommodate the strength of the sunbeams in the room and the heat against my back; its subtlety matching the innocence of mere light but its strong chords underscoring the power from whence it came. And how unstoppable it was, even when shaded from eyes by an upheld palm, since light could still penetrate it and show the reddish insides and even blood vessels though that palm, if of sufficient intensity, before it could make its final point, if necessary, by burning through it with invisible yet undeniable radiation. And time was, of course, on its side.
Yes. I was dissolving away…like gasoline on Styrofoam, like a drop of soap on a disc of oil on a dirty dish, spreading apart into nothingness. I guessed. Who cared? Not the bare-chested guy wearing only cargo-pocketed tactical pants in his living room, waiting for the world to conveniently end as to avoid another %*&#’ing day of whatever this shitbox world had to offer. Like every day. Every day.
Why did this seem “normal”? Because when your head’s a repository for horror, there are no fines for late returns because nothing is really ever checked out—it just stays there on the shelf. But you don’t know that for a long time. It is this, and learning to survive this, that is what makes you a policeman. A cop. But me?
I was just damaged, an abandoned car on the side of the road waiting on vandals or a tow truck, whichever came first and concerned about neither. Did I make it look easy? Why hell, no. But at least I was still giving something back to people I didn’t know, and all at the low, low price of my sanity and a shitload of insurance report copies. Such is life.
(Relax! So many years have passed and I’m MUCH better now, as you can see.)
(Epilogue: The man that came by to blow me out of my spider hole that night was more than a man, he was a mentor. He cared. He got me out of that shitbox funk, but only because his tools used in doing so came from the same place I got mine: Personal experience. Columns like this are vague, but very direct teachers to those in the know. Hang in there, brothers and sisters. Damn few left.)
• Alex Teach is a police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.