Wednesday, May 2, 2018

I Am No One / The Current Will Carry Us

I don't know your name - I don't think I ever did - but you have become a daily reminder of where I am in this life, where I once was and where never to return to, and for that I am truly grateful.

Wherever you are in life, I love you very much. I hope you are okay.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Dress Blues (Permanence)

Officer Rueda and I received the call over the radio: two African-American males in their late twenties had been detained for questioning by Officer Davis after being pulled over fleeing from the scene of a homicide. Davis was outnumbered two-to-one and was requesting backup from any available officers in the area. Despite having clocked out for the day after finishing our own respective 12-hour graveyard shifts we responded to her call for assistance; Rueda hit the siren while I punched the gas. The sun was just beginning to clear the San Bernardino mountain range, awakening the city from its slumber when we arrived on-scene.

Officer Davis was still clutching the radio in her hand when we met her on-scene. I sized up the individuals in question while she filled us in: two African-American males, twin brothers in their late-twenties, both with beards, backwards-facing baseball caps, pullover sweatshirts, blue jeans and tan boots. Both individuals were meticulously dressed, the urban-hipster vibe notwithstanding. Both were short - 5'6" maybe - but neither were unathletic. Despite being six feet tall and 150 pounds of lean muscle, it was obvious that Davis was outmatched with no easy way to detain one without losing the other in a foot chase through the sleepy city streets.

By some miracle she had managed to engage both individuals at the scene without spooking them. "These two need to be patted down and cleared for weapons," she whispered as Officer Rueda and I stepped up. "I would have done it myself but..."

I understood her apprehension. With all of the anti-police sentiment permeating the mainstream media she thought it better to standby for backup at the expense of her own safety then risk some grainy and misconstrued cellphone video making its way onto the six-o-clock news for the talking heads, political pundits and opportunistic activists to tear apart.

Officer Rueda began advising the first individual of his rights and of the pat-down procedure while I drew a bead on the second individual at the scene. He never took his eyes off of me.

After finishing the pat-down Officer Rueda stepped aside and while reaching for his radio the individual he had just cleared began backing away slowly, as if preparing to make a run for it.

"Now that that's over," he proclaimed loudly while staring at his brother as if searching for a cue, "I'm just going to..."

"No," I said, polite but firm, the way I was trained. "You are going to hang tight until this situation is resolved. Do you understand me?"

"Nope," he muttered, the thin veneer of civility slipping away.

He broke eye contact with me, the false smile slipping from his lips. The expression that replaced it can best be described as murderous and in that moment it became quite clear that these two brothers were indeed the two associated with the homicide in question that had brought us here to begin with.

Attempting to regain control of the situation I moved around and grabbed him by his forearms, bringing them behind his back and moving to cuff his wrists. A moment later his brother stepped up
to me and leveled me with a look that stopped me cold.

This man has killed before, I remember thinking in the moments before everything went to shit. So have I, but I'll bet this guy enjoyed it.

"Hey Officer, how you feeling?"

"Likewise," I began to say, the adrenaline slipping into my veins and narrowing my vision, "you are going to hang tight until this situation..."

In one horribly efficient movement his fist came flying up like a boxers, the syringe held in place between the middle and ring fingers of his right hand. The syringe sank itself into my neck all
the way to the hilt, penetrating in a spray of arterial blood just beneath my lower jaw while tearing through my windpipe into my esophagus. With an equally efficient follow-up movement he depressed the plunger of the syringe with the fleshy part of his palm and stepped away, letting the emptied syringe fall to the ground.

I managed to yell out before everything went black.

The coroner's report listed the cause of death as an intravenous injection of an as-of-yet unidentified and highly toxic substance(s).

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Douglas (This Time Next Year)

It is never too late to change who I am or who I want to be.
Thank you for dropping in and reminding me of that fact, sir.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Night Terrors

I can remember quite vividly dumping your dismembered body into the campus dumpster while thousands of students rushed hurriedly to their next class, oblivious to the contents of the unmarked shopping cart and the industrial-sized trash bag it contained.

Those Instagram feeds and Facebook profiles aren't going to update themselves, you know, I remember thinking. Keep your eyes on the screen in front of you and ignore me entirely.

I can also remember being pulled aside by a superior and speaking with him for several minutes while two campus police officers interviewed a student directly outside the dumpster in question. While their backs were turned I coolly wiped my fingerprints from the shopping cart handle before slipping back unnoticed into the crowd.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Grey Man

I only ever appear in the background. The handful of times I have stepped into the foreground . . . well, I apologize to the people whose lives I directly affected.

I have never allowed myself to be emotionally accessible and this character flaw has influenced my interactions with others for as long as I can remember.

In this way I cannot be who you want me to be, and I cannot be what I truly am, but I am trying.

I walk along silent roads trying to figure out how to figure this all out. I am merely existing, shuffling from one place to another like a ghost in transit, lost in the climate of lonely apartment living.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Only Anchors

I was only eight years old when you passed away and I wish I could remember more of you. Of course I remember our dinosaur-hunting expeditions, digging for worms and other awesome insects with our bare hands, eating pistachios and chocolate on the back patio after a hard days work, barbecuing freshly-caught fish on the backyard grill for our family to enjoy while partaking in yet another picturesque San Pedro sunset.

You also helped protect me from my parents during the times when they were angry and disappointed with me - I can still remember the sound of breaking bones, a broken nose and bloody sneakers... awkward family portraits filled with strife and unspoken animosity.

You and Julia were the anchors that kept me grounded while my family fell apart around me.

The one thing I cannot for the life of me recall is the sound of your voice; to this day I feel guilty about that fact because I really wish I could. Your presence provided this scared little boy with a sense of sanctuary in the face of overwhelming adversity; in my later years I have found myself at times conscious of the desire to rediscover that feeling during some of my darkest moments, as a bulwark against these nightmares made flesh, these nightmares come alive.

But this morning, walking into the television room to find you sitting on the couch, reading the newspaper with Julia at your side...

It was the sound of your voice bringing me back home after all of these years, deep and warm and inviting and resonating and loving. The way, I imagine, a grandfather's voice is supposed to sound like:

"When you are reduced to living every day with the weight of your conscience on your back...just know it can be lifted, and you can be victorious in this war against yourself. You have the strength inside to turn this all around, Stephen. But I can only speak from experience - the rest is up to you. Whether you are stuck in the past or lost in the future...this is for you, kid. This is for you."

Thank you, Papa. I appreciate you dropping in to say hello. I wish you could have stayed a bit longer...but I know sometimes we don't get a choice in the matter, and I will never hold that against you.

I am a far cry from perfection but in the years since your passing I have learned to stand my ground. Through strength and through will and through unwavering discipline I am becoming what I want to be. I am becoming who I want to be. Some days I win and some days I come up short. But each and every day I get back up and I move forward.

And in that constant struggle I find and forge honor in your name. For you and those who came before me. You are the reason why I am here.

Only anchors can stop me from moving forward.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Regional Dialect

Watching the sun shine through the cracks in the cloud cover that encompassed the sky-high peaks surrounding our sleepy valley hideaway was one of the most beautiful sights I have seen.

Early this morning I climbed those same sky-high peaks to revel in their frozen beauty. For the briefest of moments I contemplated shedding my climbing gear and losing myself in the snow-capped pine trees, slipping into unconsciousness like a newborn baby among the snow drifts, allowing the chill of the winter air to work its way into my bones and wear down the edges of the unforgiving wilderness around me.

We find bodies of hikers and mountain climbers up here all the time. Honestly, what's one more?