Tuesday, October 03, 2006


The priest thinks he's helping. "This is a terrible thing to experience," he says, sweat spreading across his upper lip. "Yeah father," I mumble. "But you can take comfort in the fact that," I shake my head violently, "Stop," I say cutting him off, then jam the crucifix that hangs around my neck back between my front teeth. The vertical part of the cross is a hollow tube and when I exhale it whistles. He's silent, looking down. I'm silent, staring blankly at the wall and a poster that might describe all that can go wrong with the male uro-genital system.

Sergeant Jackson evolves through the blue institutional curtain and whispers something in the priest's ear. I hear, "the whales are floating away," though that would seem unlikely. As he speaks I reach up and start turning that big spotlight thing on and off, a slow strobe that turns the two of them into a silent movie scene. I imagine a title card will come up, "Both are very concerned," and the piano player will hit a black key chord. The Sergeant turns, looks at me strangely, and slides back out. The priest gets up from the white plastic chair and moves toward me. I could get up and move away from him but I just feel too tired right now. So I let my eyes drop and the fact that my boxers are stained in red and pink registers but doesn't immediately connect.

"You need to know that you did all you could," I am told, "and look for God to bring you peace." I don't respond. He touches my shoulder. I flinch. He keeps his hand there. I try unsuccessfully to shrink below it. "Would you like me to pray with you?" I say nothing, but now, amidst the red on the last piece of clothing I wear I see a tiny fleck of gray, and I know.

That tiny fleck is part of Billy's brain. I don't know how it got there. Well maybe it fell off the blood soaked shirt or vest when I took one or the other off. Peeled them off actually. It's amazing how blood, even the amount of blood that pours from a gunshot shattered skull, coagulates. How it starts to glue everything together, the vest to my body, the shirt to the vest, the pants to my boxers, the boxers to the hair on my legs, the fragments of gray matter to everything, and the image to my brain.

They will come and give me some very strong drug in a few minutes. They will bring me scrubs to wear home. They might even be pouring peroxide over my uniform now so I will not need to see all those bloodstains. I will throw this underwear away as soon as the scrubs arrive. I will stand naked by that sink and scrub myself with Phisoderm. But nothing will get this clean. Not the meds, not the prayers, not the detergents.

If we had gotten there thirty seconds earlier, well, either we would have saved things or one of us would have been shot instead. There is no way to know. Instead, in that split second, we saw the guy step out behind Billy. We saw his head explode. Denny dropped the guy with three shots and I, coming the long way from the driver's side, got to Billy just after both bodies hit the sidewalk. I guess I tried to put his head back together. I sat there on the sidewalk cradling him and, with the free hand, trying to find pieces of skull I could put back. It occupied my time as he bled out and the ambulance raced to the scene.

A doctor has come in, no, maybe a psychiatrist. He hands me three pills and one of those tiny cups of water. I swallow the pills. The priest pats my shoulder, then he vanishes. There aren't any words. I hear the scratching as the psychiatrist writes something down. He leaves too. The curtain swings closed. And then I am alone.

copyright 2004-2006 by Ira Socol


MB said...

Ow. I can't say much more than that now.

zingtrial said...

Hi Liked reading through its a nice blog will have to come back for more.
Wish you well

Brenda said...

This is heartbreaking...

Just heartbreaking.

Such shootings may happen every few minutes on TV, the stuff of every action film, and the numbing. We need your writing to remind us of our humanity.

Though the toll, memories, nightmares, PTSD, angers and longings, love and fury, and the terrible great sadness, oh these I don't wish on anyone.

Thank you for writing.