Sunday, June 27, 2010

In Flight

As a passenger, I get to sit back and enjoy the trip. At least that’s usually my intention when I first board the airplane. At least it has been. I can’t really say what my intention is anymore. Things have changed.
When on a plane like this, I can wallow in intentional ignorance. I don’t have to know what is happening in the cockpit, I don’t have to know what is happening in the communications tower. I am entirely unaware of the five other hunks of flying metal that are lifting off the ground in the same second that my own is rattling out of gravity’s finger tips. I have no idea that another plane has just been redirected so that it won’t collide with the one I find myself in.
I only know that the charming woman up ahead is going to bring me peanuts, and a fizzy beverage after the captain turns off the “fasten seatbelt” lights. My mouth is watering and I’m trying to decide whether I would like a Coke or a Clamata and I’m wondering if I might persuade her to part with two bags of peanuts on my behalf… all of it while death is soaring all around me, talons neatly spread, wondering if it can make off with two jet planes full of people, including myself.
But I don’t have to think about that, not about that, not unless I really want to. Sometimes I do want to. Maybe more often than not. Isn’t that known as morbidness? I like the sound of that word. I don’t mind it being applied to me.
While I fret over the discovery that this airline no longer serves the honey roasted peanuts I had so perfectly envisioned and instead has switched to serving pretzels, some prematurely balding man in a button up white shirt is determining my fate. Let him determine, it is only a clear manifestation of something that has been true all along. “Fate is in your hands” is only an old joke to tell kids on the day of their graduation after all. My hands are not large enough for fate, they can barely hold the bag of pretzels and a soda.

I turn to the man sitting next to me. He is a middle aged executive who can’t stop fumbling with his briefcase as soon as the fasten seat belts light goes away. I begin to speak to him, without the need of any prompting, without checking to see if my speech is welcomed or even tolerated. It probably isn’t. It usually isn’t. Who wants their fellow passengers to talk to them? Very few people do.
I have learned to set aside such considerations. I simply feel it is the time for me to speak and I feel that it is time for him to listen. I am sure I will soon find out if he disagrees. However he reacts, it won’t matter. Eventually I will do what I can do, and he will do what he is bound to do, and the result of the equation will be determined by time. No need to stop at the doorway of possibility when the numbers are always ready to be computed and served back in an easy to open container of rainbow light.

“Can I tell you how I came to be here? How I came to be here at this time and this place, this point of convergence between dimensions that I imagine or experience or dream, this moment that I may not understand at all? If I tell you, swear to me that you will accept every word I say as true and not press me on matters which seem questionable, for I fear that it will break my delicate grip with this reality if you prod it unnecessarily.”

My questions are of course rhetorical. I don’t intent to wait for an answer. The man turns to me and it is clear by the look in his eyes that he is starting to believe that I am insane. Who’s to say that he is wrong? I may be about to prove him right. I often have my doubts but I only have so many things I can worry about at one time.

“These things are like fine webs made of spun sugar mounted one upon one another to form pink cloudy softness, webs that once touched with sweaty hands or a curious tongue merely melt into sticky sweetness, no more constant or fixed than human promises. I will tell you because you seem sincere and because you are here, a captive ear for my untrained voice. So listen up, place all your attention on me, give me all of it just for a moment. I will tell you the story of the black man and the little bird.”

I have to admit I don’t really think he seems at all sincere in his attention, his eyes are glazed over, as if he already knows anything I could possibly have to say. He would rather not have to listen to a stranger, but he will probably like the story I have to tell, maybe it will make him just a bit more sympathetic to my speech. That’s what I tell myself. In the end, like I have said, it doesn’t really matter how he responds, whether he likes it or not. Or it hardly matters. Maybe just a bit.

All I would have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the trip. There would be no need to be telling stories to strangers that probably would rather have the loud silence that comes with a large mechanical plane in full glorious metallic movement. I could simply relax and take in all that is happening and all that is not happening.
It just happens to be that that is not what I do. Maybe I will do that eventually, maybe I used to do that before things happened. Since then, I can’t resist the urge to talk.

“First I will tell you about the black man.”

I say it clearly and loudly and the man’s eyes are wide open even as he tries to look steadily ahead. Maybe he thinks I will go away if he consistently ignores me. Kids think that sometimes when they close their eyes to avoid being found during a game of hide and seek. It doesn’t really work. Not there, not here.

“It does not matter which of these things I tell you about first as the events surrounding these two nouns; man and bird, occurred simultaneously, if they occurred at all. That is to say that sequence has everything to do with language in that the word is like a narrow doorway through which only one topic may pass at a time, like little drops of dewy spittle from my lip to your ear, a tiny packet of data about things which have been occurring in a world too vast to squeeze into a dew drops or words or feathers that have been made into writing quills instead of the wings of flying birds. One comes before the other only because that is all that the doorway permits, all that the ungracious lord, THE WORD, will allow, one at a time to visit the well of communion between souls.”

I stop briefly to make sure that he is still listening. I decide that he is in fact listening reluctantly, or at least as much as he ever was, as much as I can ever expect him to listen to this strange creature who won’t stop talking in a space where silence would be ideal. This strange creature who appears to be me at the moment. Eventually I won’t even care if they listen. I am not there yet. Soon, pretty soon.

“So first the black man. Let me tell you this about him.. he is the cohort of countless witches condemned to burn as well as those that fly round secret fires in a whirlwind of ecstasy before they are discovered by the mob and punished for their incomprehensible crimes. The black man, he is not what you expect. He, as I have known him anyway, is always mild mannered, self composed and unassuming. He that knows so much will ask you what he well knows as though he never knew it, not to play a game with you, but just that the two of you shall partake of knowledge together in the renewed asking of a question, in the fresh discovery of an answer. His hair flecked with gray, his posture stooped, he keeps trees that bear fruit, unusual trees, and he will peel back the leathery skins of those fruits to reveal the strange delights held within and offer it to you as water to a parched man.”

Maybe he turns slightly towards me, maybe it is just an attempt to make himself more comfortable, but what real comfort can there be when I won’t stop talking. And I truly mean it: I can’t stop talking. I simply can’t. It is an unfortunate side effect of the things that happened. Maybe not so unfortunate, maybe not so much on the side, maybe not an effect at all. As for him, maybe he really is about to start listening. Good. Just in time.

“He would withhold nothing, least of all that which grows from seed to meat. Should you wish to partake, he shares without reserve. What is his is yours while you are with him and again later if you choose. He is also a fisherman who draws great shy beasts from the deep with lures unlike any used by ordinary men. He will draw up the arcatuthus for you and then you will see your greed for the catch dissolve into sympathy for the beast and you will see its children born and hope that it survives captivity and may return to the deep, but if not, then there are still the offspring in whom to invest this new found tenderness. He is a stranger, a lover, a father all in one, your oldest friend, a friend that you have forgotten. Never did he forget you. Never did he hold it against you that you would forget or swear that you are unacquainted with him. He has all the tenderness of an old grandfather, the wisdom of a priest of one of those true orders of mystic stewardship. That is the black man. That is as much as a I can now say about him.”

When the plane changes course to avoid a lightning storm, I am oblivious to the maneuver, we both are. I say “we”, for now we have formed a we, even if unstable and tentative, even if easily untangled. I turn away briefly to ogle the flight attendant as she comes around again for the passenger’s garbage. I am not past such pleasures, I hope I never will be. I enjoy the view of her rear as she works her way up the aisle past my seat. There is something in its implied roundness that makes me sit a bit straighter, and it makes me want to talk. But of course, I have never stopped talking, not even while I looked away.

“And then there is the bird. I met the bird in a parking lot looking for a crumb to nab. I was putting groceries into the back of the truck and I heard him say that he was hungry, so I broke off some bread and tossed it gently his way as I had been taught by the black man. The bird turned his head slightly to look me in the eye and thanked me very much for taking notice of him. I told him that it was my pleasure and I hoped he would enjoy the fare and, as he went heartily to it, I got into the truck and drove away.”

Now I have to say he definitely has turned towards me. There is no doubt now that he has turned. Something in my story has interested him. Good. I knew that this wasn’t a complete mistake. They are never mistakes, these strange impulses I have, even if I sometimes worry that they might be. It’s the mention of the bird which has got to him, that is what usually does it. It certainly did it for me when I first saw it.

“How did he look? Well he was small and sort of grayish brown, a sort of sparrow maybe. It is his little voice which was clearest to me both then and now. I heard his voice again this morning while I walked to the airport. He was singing gaily. You will tell me that sparrows don’t sing, but I must tell you that by today he was no longer a sparrow. His voice was very clear and bright and I listened to it as I walked, touched by its merriment.”

A hint of a smile, something he wishes to hide but he can’t hide it from me. I have turned completely towards him and it would now be very obvious if he turned away. So he stays in place, frozen, with just that hint of a smile, that hint that tells me everything.

“I noticed that he sang the song that cars sing when they are rubbed the wrong way by someone who cannot turn off the alarm. Diabolus in Musica and so forth, at least that’s where it starts. You know what I mean? It was the song of that alarm which goes off in low class neighborhoods and runs through a series of different obnoxious tones and rhythms so that the offending car robber will be dismayed by the shrill and clownish noises and depart in all due haste. Now my friend the bird repeated this same song in his lovely trill.”

I try to sing and imitate the bird song I remember. I do a fairly decent imitation, at least based on the second hand echoes I hear inside my own head. The hint that I noticed earlier has now turned into a broad smile and I smile at him as well. He has found his place in silently listening and I have found my place in talking, as I must continue to talk, for my story is not over. Not that it ever is truly over. But, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. I sing and I talk, then I sing and I talk some more.

“I stopped beneath the tree laden with pink blossoms and listened to his heart bursting with joy through his rendering of this popular new song. The outward form mattered not at all. The lyric to the song, the tones, the rhythms, all were quite unimportant. What mattered so was the heart. That is what he administered liberally to that tired old alarm call. He made it into a masterpiece.”

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that for a moment he wanted to sing himself, he wanted to break out in song, in the song that he imagined the bird singing. He wanted to sing with me. Maybe it was just a twitch of the lips. Maybe it’s just something that passes, like a fluttering of the eyes or a bird that flies by a window as you drive out of an old town.

“ ‘You should try it.’ The black man said to me, tasting a succulent gem from one of his trees. ‘That’s what we do. We take what they made and we remake it, we remake it with ourselves in it. We put ourselves into that which is not ours, that which is not us. It doesn’t matter at all what they meant for it to be in the first place. We make it alive, we make it live once again. Life is its own meaning. All other meaning is superfluous.’ He said this with a little fluttering hand gesture that reminded me of the bird. I can’t even say for sure if he was actually speaking. I can only report what I remember. I hope you don’t mind. His beard was short and sparse then, composed of short curled salt and pepper bristles. His skin looked like milk chocolate, soft and weathered with age. He was perfect in his own imperfect way.“

The man nods slowly. I can see it clearly now. Something has resonated deep within the folds of his pulsing flesh and he just nods, there’s no need for any further comment. I stop briefly because I am overcome by the pain of memory. Is there something in memory other than pain? Maybe pain itself is the basic building block of all visions of the past, of living time that has coagulated into frozen images. Maybe it is only when we forget that pain goes away. But as I talk there is no memory, there is only the story, and that is not the same.

“I say, sing on little bird, sing on and I will listen to you and to the black man too. I will listen and I will try to sing as well, when I can. That’s what I said as I walked here this morning, as I walked into the airport, right before boarding this plane, right before coming here to sit with you.”

And I whistle briefly, softly enough that only he will hear me, for he is my one and only audience. All other passengers have become the noise that surrounds us, a vibrant sphere of activity that only serves as a frame for our one sided interaction. Now he could react in some way if he wanted to, there is space for him to do so. But his reaction doesn’t matter, it never really did.

“What about you friend? Are you listening to me now, telling you this story with gaps wide enough for us both to fall through? If you haven’t heard, then no matter and never mind, so long as you spare me your criticisms. I don’t need them and they won’t change anything. I tell it to you the best way I can with this clumsy stuff, trying to wedge a leviathan through a hole made for a mouse. That’s what I do now. And so my story ends here, with me sitting with you, talking to you as I am doing.“

I turn on the seat completely, bending my left leg up and twisting my right leg sideways, pushing my foot under the seat in front. I stare right into him. He is too caught up now, he can’t avoid my eyes, and, of course, I have my way of forcing my own gaze upon him. It is rude and it feels so good to do it.

“I could have just told you the story of Iron Hans, painting the forest in greens so deep they were almost black like the rotted underside of forgotten chard. I could have told you any story at all, an old, old story, one that you have heard a dozen times before, and, if I had, I would have done as much if not more than I did here. It just so happens that I told you this story and that you are now a character within it.”

He nods again, his eyes wide open, looking straight at me. I can see the clouds passing behind him through the small oval window of the plane. We are flying together, in more ways than one.

“It is not what I told you really that will profit you at all, but what I poured into every senseless syllable. It comes from the fount at the heart swelling over after the rains of winter, ready to feed all the spring grasses and from them, little lambs, and from them, hungry lions.”

He smiles broadly and I smile broadly back at him. People are moving around us, returning to their seats. Soon it will be time for our time together to be over. So things come to an end, so cleanly, so abruptly. All unions end this way, with a flashing sign. Sometimes the sign is not so obvious.

“That is the story of how I came to be here, how we crossed here like roads running unknown courses, my voice and your ear, joined for a moment and now soon to part, for now I take my leave of you. I will never mind if you forget me. I will never mind if you claim that we never met.”

Soon the plane is engaged in a whole new ballet of high speed hunks of metal guided by fallible human directors who may or may not be distracted just now because this high stress job has taken a toll on their sex life and their significant other stormed out this morning with packed bags. Death perks up again, hopeful, but we land safely (we have definitely turned into a we now, even if the we will soon go away and we will once again be I and you, or him and me, or them and nothing.) I get to see the fasten seat belts light turn off and I lean back on the seat, closing my eyes. Quiet at last. Not for long.

As a passenger, all you have to do is sit back, enjoy the trip, and say thank you when it is over. Sometimes other things happen as well. Sometimes things change and they never return to their original position.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Going To Irak

The sun rose just a few hours before, but I have already done my breathing and written my dreams and sang a few songs. It is early and the light streaming in through the airport’s wide windows is pale blue and I stand, feeling young and protected from the world by my black hood, making me look like a lost forest creature in modern clothing. I am standing in a line that moves geometrically through a wide tiled space that echoes with machinery and groggy voices. It is the boundary of the airport, the place that divides the travelers from the stagnant. Beyond the artificial boundary is the place of arrival and departure, the doors where we step into the sky and hope to return, intact and breathing. I say my mantra and grasp my heart, holding onto the thin contact that wavers like a long silvery telephone line in the morning wind.
Hello? Are you there?

The line is seventy people deep and we are corralled through the space by metal bars, leaving us like cows waiting for the truck, only we think we know what lays ahead. Around me, people are still weary with sleep. Business men in their gray and black suits. A foursome of Norwegians, two blond guys and two girls. I stare at the pointed nose of the shorter girl that ends in a singular dot, I have never seen a nose that looks more sketched. She laughs and touches the arm of her female friend and they both begin laughing while their men remain solemn, looking at the line and x-ray machines waiting dutifully fifty feet ahead. The line moves slowly, winding like an angular snake, bending at 90 degree angles every dozen feet.

Two men in matching navy blue pants and white collared t-shirts are at the front of the line. One on each side. The man on the right is Asian, just crossing the threshold into middle age. His black hair is streaked with white, his face is etched with lines. He looks weary and sad, it will be a day of names and numbers, impatient travelers and fussy old women inconvenienced by the bureaucracy of it all, remembering a time when it was different. On the left is a young Latin man. He is a few heads taller than his coworker, seemingly fresh and unfazed by the repetitive nature of his job. Each man holds a pen in his right hand and a small flashlight in the other. They are TSA men, looking to match correct names to their matching tickets, looking for the things that don’t match too, foreign sounding names and distant, obscure destinations.

The young man is tall and slender. His long silky black hair is bound in a small bun at the base of his neck, shining in the early morning light wafting through the skylights. He has two paper tickets in his left hand and two plastic ID cards, his right is beaming the focused light of the flashlight into them. He looks over the information. An older couple, fifty people ahead of me stand in front of him, waiting quietly for their ticket and ID cards back, both are much shorter than him, coming just to his chest.

The woman is portly and wide, having expanded with time. Her cropped hair is styled into a wavy helmet that hovers around her head like a halo. She is dressed as I have seen many Asian grandmothers, in dark polyester pants and a thinly quilted jacket. The man is facing another direction, though I notice his head of white hair.

The young TSA agent looks at their tickets, then back at the two of them.
“You’re going to Iraq?!” He pauses, taking a breath, “I guess you want to go there.”
Incredulously, he looks back at the tickets and their ID cards. His mind seems to be spinning, unable to process the destination or the possible reason for going to such a god-forsaken country.

Neither of them say anything in response. The older man is turned away slightly, his attention already focused on the next thing, the x-ray machines and scanners that lay just a few feet ahead. The woman, holding her purse strap with one hand, merely looks up at the young man, saying nothing, nodding almost imperceptibly with a polite smile on her face, as though she has learned how to deal with young men that think they already know the secrets of the world.

Looking at the information on their paper tickets, looking again at their ID cards with his slender flashlight and finding no irregularities, he looks up with a smile on his face. Handing the items back, he says:
“I guess you want to go there.”
The woman nods again and opens her mouth slightly, though no sounds comes out. She reaches out for her items and then steps away, looking at the next stage, the next hurdle to cross. The young man turns to the next person in line, reaching for a ticket and identification with his right hand.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


“What are they?” the men crooned in unison. Their syllables bounced off each of the four walls multiple times, jumped off the empty marble floor before fading into the darkness of the windowless chamber.

He heard their words and let the silence hold, thick as anything he had felt before. He knew what they wanted: answers- the same reason they had come to him years ago, seeking comfort and guidance in a world of gray. Seeking a warm wing in which to bury their doubts. He knew them, for he had done the same thing decades before. And though they held out their deepest fears for him to calm, he hesitated, he didn’t have the answer.

He looked down at them from his red velvet covered throne. Their brown eyes were open wide with glinting terror, their bald heads glimmered with sweat and the shadows of flickering candles. He knew they needed him, just as he had needed his elders, they had no idea how to think, how to solve problems and create solutions. They were minions, followers, sheep. They played an essential role, the church needed sheep. The trouble was that he, their leader, was also in the dark, grasping at answers, searching for comfort in a world of gray.

He had watched the things for several days, crawling up the sides of the temple wall. He had watched, at first afraid, then only aware of them as flickering shadows, like the candle light he was so used to. He wished he could give them a name. They were black and almost two dimensional, but they moved. They clung to the area surrounding the doorway that led to the courtyard beyond. They were long, with skinny black limbs at least twice the length of his own. A few had appendages that looked like heads and four limbs, others were headless and merely twisted along the walls like ribbons, gripping, feeling with their long antenna-like arms.

He wondered what they were, why they had come, what they were seeking. Upon first sight, he imagined they needed to be let out, that they were the manifested spirits of his many prayers searching for the courtyard. It seemed like a reasonable explanation, only, he had opened the door, and like he had imagined, one escaped into the courtyard, but the rest stayed, and then they multiplied. The day he opened the door he had counted three distinct shapes, but the day after, he had counted six. Then there were eight.. And now, others were noticing them too. It was not just his eyes, but the eyes of his followers. They were scared. It would not be long until the whole community vibrated with rumors. The people needed answers, something in which to believe. Right or wrong, they needed an explanation.

“They are creatures sent by the Lord, they are here to help.”

The men nodded, satisfied with the answer. It was what they wanted, and it was what he told them. As for him, he sat with the full weight of the problem heavy on his aging shoulders. There were creatures on the wall, and he did not know why.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Toni And The Police

I awoke in a haze of sleep, my dreams evaporating instantly. The room was still dark, nearly pitch black to my half closed eyes. I pulled the thick covers away mechanically and stepped onto the carpet. Holding my hands in front like a blind man, I sought the hard realness of the desk against the wall and the glass doorknob I would find to the left of it. Holding the knob, I slipped my feet into the slippers I had thoughtfully left by the door. There was a sea of cold tiles that stretched from my bedroom to the bathroom, and I tried to avoid the frigid shock. I pulled the French-style door open, and a cool air hit my face. Without central heating- a cold darkness lay just beyond the bedroom walls.
It took me a second to realize it, while my brain computed and bumped along, but there was an unmistakable flashing red light coming from the garage. My door was open just a crack, and I pulled on the knob. The garage pulsed with flashing red and blue lights, like an empty nightclub. I urged my feet forward, carefully stepping over the guitar and microphone cords that criss-crossed the floor. The light source came from outside, just beyond the wood panels and high frosted glass windows that made our garage door. I stood on my toes and looked through the diamond shaped window, an architectural necessity for any house constructed in the 50s.
Two police cars were double parked in the street, one just in front of our house, the other in front of the first car, almost out of sight. Both had their lights on- blinking red and blue that seemed to scream silently in the night. There were the cars and the houses on the other side of the street, illuminated in the blazing lights. I immediately thought of our next door neighbors, the ones who had just moved in and brought with them loud voices and almost a dozen children. I listened hard for voices, but heard none. No sobbing women, no shrieking children. I pulled a green and cracked vinyl chair towards me and quietly stepped up, looking through the diamond window once again.
Partially shadowed by the night, then brightened by the lights, was Toni, our neighbor, with her hands behind her back, surrounded by four large police officers. Three of the men were white and large, one of them wearing a black beanie on his seemingly bald head. The fourth officer was a stocky Asian man. Toni looked so small and thin next to them, her chocolate skin illuminated and somehow looking pale.
“They don’t take care of my mom, I do!” she shouted. The men mumbled their responses.
They walked together towards the car closest to our house. One cop in front with the black beanie leading, one next to Toni, the two others following. The man in front was shaking his head, and from where I stood, he seemed to be looking right at me. I wondered if he was. Was it a warning? I felt myself grow cautious, wondering if they could see my curious white face through the small window. I felt a fear creep inside. The men felt dangerous. Men armed and willing, ready to take a life. They closed the backseat door behind Toni, then huddled by the trunk, looking at something the one with the beanie held. Toni shouted from inside the car, but her words were muffled, just the anger escaped through the closed metal door.
“Shut UP!” yelled the man wearing the hat. He turned instantly to the Asian man on his left, smiling. His smile filled me with fear. Bullies from high school, men with a license to shout and abuse, kill if need be. He thought it was funny. He did not have the insight to see that his actions altered the course of lives. What was a job, a routine night perhaps, something he would write a report about and then forget as he put the pen down, it was different on the other end, between the metal cuffs, waiting in the backseat of a car. A river flowing one way was instantly diverted with his presence. Arrest wasn’t a minor thing, though he might have gotten used to being the figure with power. And when he laughed, like he didn’t care, like she was just another piece of trash he had to deal with before his next coffee break, it etched a dread in me I had not felt in a long time.
The men conferred behind the car, looking at something. The Asian man broke away and walked to the police car. He opened the driver’s door and spoke through the metal grate to Toni.
“What’s your name?” he said quietly, but distinctly. I thought I heard her say Jessica, but I probably misheard.
I thought of Toni confessing months ago that she used to do crack, that her grown children were still mad at her for how she had been when she was raising them. What had she done tonight? I imagined her in a yellow lit house, wandering from room to room. Which one of her family members had called the police? Who would take care of her mother with dementia? I thought of the old woman who sat in the easy chair in front of the window, what would happen to her? What would they do with Toni? I imagined her heart shattered, crumbling in on itself as she thought about the helpless mother she was being dragged away from. What had she done?
I left the window and walked back quietly through the garage, careful to step over all the cords. I used the bathroom, never turning on a single light. I stood by the doorway to the garage, wondering if I should go back to bed. But then I heard my friend’s voice, asking me questions. I thought about Toni and thought someone should keep witness. Moving gently to the window again, I stood on my tiptoes. I looked into the windows of the other houses across the street, looking for other faces. If they were there, they were hidden. And if it was just me, watching as Toni was taken by the four men. Then I should watch it through to the end, whatever would be the end at this hour.
As I stood, the word boredom crossed my mind, and I felt guilty that the events had lost my interest. The scene was a bit more quiet, Toni had stopped cursing. Two cops now stood by the hood of the police car closest to me. The steps leading to Toni’s front door was illuminated by the porch light. I could see the purple exterior paint and the metal gate at the landing that was slightly ajar. I watched the quiet scene for a little while, then the light above her garage door came on. I wondered if it was a motion sensor, maybe a cat had walked by. Maybe someone had turned it on. A few minutes passed, then the sound of jingling, perhaps keys, though it sounded more like glass.
One cop came down the front steps, taking each step quickly, with a sort of bounce. His large black Maglight was beaming and down-turned. At the sidewalk by the steps, he began to search the driveway, carefully looking around the red car that was parked there. Toni started cursing again and another cop turned on his flashlight, joining the search. They didn’t find anything and within a few minutes two cops walked towards the car parked just beyond our house. I heard the ignition start.
The cop with the black beanie walked to the other car and took his place behind the wheel, his partner sat beside him. He turned on the engine and then turned his face to the left, in my direction. The shadow of the car’s roof hid his eyes, but I felt like he was watching me, perhaps daring me to do something. A deeper sense of fear moved through me, the man was dangerous, more ugly than many I had met. He stayed like that for several seconds and neither of us moved. Then he looked straight ahead and drove away.
I stood in the garage for several minutes, the space now black again without the police car lights. I moved back towards my room, but lingered in the doorway to the garage, wondering if I should lock my door. The space seemed less safe, not because of whatever Toni had done, but because of those men. The police and what they stood for.
Men without any hero’s code of honor, but simply men that had passed a few tests, a few obstacle courses…men that had been given a gun and the power to enforce laws, the power to hurt, the power to change destinies. They were nothing special, but they were backed by cells and judges and an entire system of repression that would bite down on the prettiest of flowers without a thought.
I was cold. I got under the blankets again and stared at the blackness of my wall until the sky turned blue.