March 28th, 2008
|10:30 am - The Smooth Plastic Line Between Peace and Woe|
I brought the dog along to a buddy's place, the other night. The three of us sat around, listening to music. We must've hung out for an hour or so, talking about breasts, drug-related mishaps, and war. We kept it dog-friendly. Topics for discussion that only seem important after eleven p.m. on a full stomach, with the prospect of a warm bed and someplace to go the next day secured. The kind of shit you shoot when there's an absence of want. Easy going and safe.
The dog and I left. Winter seemed long gone, the sky was clear. We waited on the corner of one of the town's larger roads. The dog watched for oncoming lights. I tried to find Orion over the treeline behind the park. The road grew dark and quiet, we crossed. A few miles away, at the marina, a bell rang every forty five seconds. That sound carries all the way to the Ashby BART on a clear night. That's the kind of peace that reigns, here. A lonely bell tolls and rolls over the streets, yards, rooftops and sleepy heads on a clear night.
I breathed in the flowers and weeds and vegetation that was making its way into the planter boxes and gardens that line the street to my house. The night air, here, gets damp. All kinds of fragrant on the better-cared-for stretches of town, but always a little chilly. We picked up the pace, the dog's claws clicked a little faster on the sidewalk.
It takes about ten minutes to get home with the dog, assuming he stops to piss every thirty paces, or so.
Maybe about five minutes into the walk, I spotted these red and blue lights up ahead of me. I see a lot of cops around my neighborhood. More often than not, they just creep along slowly with their lights off. Waiting for a reckless driver. An intoxicated homeless man. Someone who, to the cop-mind, seems out of place,
The flashers kept with their pulsing, and I realized there were more cars--cop cars--parked along the street. Some had their lights on, others didn't. As I got closer, I could see that they'd run tape across the street. And some flares had been lit, and set along the yellow line that divides the street. A sad and ghostly color, that. . . magnesium, I think, burning over asphalt. Sadder and ghostlier still are the reds and blues that appear on the fronts of houses and apartment buildings, rhythmically splashed against the dwellings by those cop-rides.
I pulled the dog closer, brought in the slack on his leash. Those yellow cop-ribbons seemed to be everywhere. . . streaming from the trees, even. On the other end of the block, two hundred meters on ahead, I could see two cop-mobiles kissing. A bumper to bumper barricade.
My chest was tight, the flowers smelled two strong, the air got colder, that bell from the marina seemed louder. I didn't see any cops for a few moments, I was nearly to the belly against the yellow "DO NOT CROSS" lone when one finally appeared.
He asked me if I lived on that block. I try my best to avoid talking to cops, and I don't like their questions. . . I don't like their modes of questioning. Do I live on that block? I told him no, then recited my address. My throat was dry. I did everything I could to keep my eyes on him, even though he probably couldn't tell what I was looking at from where he stood. He told me the block the cops were on was closed for another eight hours. I asked him if any of the neighboring blocks were in danger. "You mean, now? In danger NOW-now?" He saw me shake my head, I guess. "No," he said after a moment. And then the cop-speak seemed to soften a bit. Something like sadness, maybe, crept into his voice. "Anyone who was any kind of danger is in the hospital, now." I ran a short list of streets by the guy, and asked if that was an acceptable detour. He told me that it was.
So we made out way across the street, along the yellow plastic streamer, on our way home. "Hey," the officer called after us. "Is that a shiba inu, by any chance?" The dog looked over his shoulder, at the cop. He knows the word "Shiba." He knows it refers to him somehow. His side brushed up against my calf. His tail was down.
"Yes, sir," I mumbled. "Yes, sir, it is." And then a thank-you, when the cop told me how beautiful he thought the dog was.
I took my detour. Spinning and dizzy. Short of breath. Almost tripping balls. If I'd ingested a drug that brought on the ill body-buzz I was feeling, I'd be kind of scared. I'd be reaching for the goggles, crash helmet and diapers.
We made it back to the gate, the gate to our house. Those red and blue cop-lights were blooming, one after the other, on the little bulbs topping the bars to our gate. It's always a relief, when you return home, to find that that yellow, cop-tape isn't draped across your walkway.
I'm usually the type to spout off on how we live in a police-state. But, that night, I was grateful for the robotic cop-men that kept me away from the crying, the wounded, and the dead. And when I thought of this guy, whose job it is to keep the rest of us away from the sadness and madness of others, trying to make small talk about my little dog. . . he was trying to chill me out, trying to be human.
For the first time ever, I regretted calling that lonely, fat cop in front of The Dixieland Flea Market back in Michigan a pig, over ten years ago.