Saturday, September 30, 2006

Psychiatry

Sean and I had nothing in common. "We weren't friends," I had said when I first sat down here. I had to say that. It wasn't just true. It was important to say that it did not really matter that much.

Sean had grown up always wanting to be a cop, dreaming of being a cop, and more than that, assuming a kind of success as a cop. His grandfather had been a captain; his father was Chief of Bronx Detectives. It was the family business. I assumed purer motives for myself, though, sure, this was the best paying job I could possibly find. Other guys became cops for reasons similar or different, but the result was the same.

Once you are a cop you are different from everyone else. In Sean's world this was good. In his family, among his friends, being a cop made him larger than life, a hero. In my world it worked very differently. Not that I... well, I think I am a good cop. I think I am doing good things. I had even just said this, "I'm a good cop, I like my job, I mean, I don't like trying to stick some guy's brains back into his skull on a rainy sidewalk, but…" He had just stared back at this. I didn't tell him that in my world it worked differently.

Now I say what honestly comes into my head: "Really doc," I say, "if anything's wrong it's what this schedule does to me. I miss my friends, I miss hanging out on Saturday nights. I miss being home with my wife."

"And that's frustrating?" I think that is right out his "how to interview" book.

"Of course it's frustrating." Worse, I want to add. Worse. It's totally isolating. I think about the last time I got high with my friends. One had his new girlfriend with him. When she found out she was getting high with a cop she freaked out. I spent the rest of the night assuring her I wasn't undercover. And whenever I meet new friends of Carolyn's, well, it's always strange. Now, well now everyone in the city's seen my picture. Everyone thinks they know something about me. They react with nervous pity and I don't like that at all. But I don't add any of this. I catch myself. If I don't I'll be stick in this psychiatrist's office forever.

"But that's just the bad stuff, and it ain't much. I love this job. Every job's got bad stuff."

"Yes," he says. "Yeah," I breathe.

"Isn't one of the bad things that you guys can't cut yourselves any slack?" I'm not sure what that means, and he realizes that, so he goes on.

"OK, your schedule's weird, so you're mostly, your world is mostly other cops. But then when something happens, especially when something bad happens, you're always putting the blame on the guy it happened to." I actually look him in the eye. "That seems like a lot of pressure."

"I don't know," I answer, and this is the truth. There's some time when nothing is said.

"You should think about that," he says, "and you know, if you want to come back, just call, the department's picking up the tab."

"I might do that," but we both know I won't.

"If you do come back, maybe we could talk some about other stuff that's happened to you. There's some things here," he flicks his hand, indicating the files on his desk, "that I might be able to work on with you."

I shrug.

"But you're ok." It's either a question or an answer. Not being sure I just say, "yeah, doc, really."

"Take a few more days," he scribbles on a pad and hands the note that gives me a week off. I look at it, the idea of a long day of sex with Carolyn flickers across my consciousness, then that drips away. "Thanks," I say. I start to leave.

"Two last things," he says. I stop.

"First, I'm going to guess that you're right. That you are a pretty good cop. And you like the job, you're telling the truth about that too." There's nothing to say to this.

"Second, you also know that what you said at the beginning doesn't matter."

"What?"

"It doesn't matter that you weren't friends." I look at him. He looks at me.

I walk out of the office. I get into the elevator. I don't want other people to be in there but other people are in there. Maybe six. All women. All Manhattan-dressed New York women. The kind of women who would never, ever, be in my precinct. Who can probably not imagine the places that I work. If they even see me I am probably mistaken for a delivery guy. If they saw the gun they'd be terrified. I think, I could let them see the gun. But I don't. I don't do anything. I just stand there staring at my smeared reflection in the aluminum doors until they open on the lobby.
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copyright 2004-2006 by Ira Socol

3 comments:

Brenda said...

There is so much just below the surface here, almost streaming out, almost being revealed, yet remaining in the flow of words, the interview, the thoughts, the whole crazy life of the cop.

Most actors or actresses need to be stepped up in their conveying of emotion, for the audience wants to feel, and yet there's Julia Roberts, who overflows, and who needs to be contained, on the edge of, and towards whom we offer our hearts, we adore her for what she enables us to feel.

Your writing here especially reminds me of that... the undercurrent of emotion strong, pulsing, almost overwhelming, but held in the syntax of grammar and image, allowing us to feel the complexity of emotion, the tangle of this life.

MB said...

I know people like this — those who give the sense they've a surface of control or calm beneath which things run strong and shadowy, but I'm not entirely sure exactly what those things are. You portrayed that delicate balance well.

Ira, thanks for your kind comment on my blog. It's a pleasure to "meet" you, thanks to Brenda!

narrator said...

brenda and mb:

those edges, control, lack of control. Morality vs, hmmm, what "Realpolitik"? as they use to say. emotion v suppression. I like to try to describe what happens along those divides...