Thursday, March 17, 2011

Deep Green

St. Patrick's Day was a Sunday that year, and we awoke late, our bodies waiting for the overnight rain to disappear before coming to life. But even that was slow, we breathed in the stew of smells, sheets dried outside on the line, the sweat of our bodies, the peat from the fire in the next room, the salt slipping in on the westerly breeze.

"When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other's work would bring us to our senses."

I did not read her poetry, but watched her as she stood naked, silhouetted against the dull blue sky. "You haven't written a thing in three days," she said. Not a question, so I stayed silent.

She turned.

"Today?" "Not today, we need to be outside today. Tomorrow, tomorrow is Monday."

We gathered things to eat from the kitchen - brown bread and black pudding, yoghurt and bangers, cheese and bottles of beer - and walked from the house down the hill. We could hear the Atlantic breathing. We could smell the live wool of the sheep. We felt the winds of the world grazing our faces.

At the shore we lay on a blanket. There was just enough sun to allow us to keep ourselves warm.

(copyright 2011 by Ira David Socol)

In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984 by Seamus Heaney

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Seventeenth

Eric Ascalon (c)
I said I wasn't putting a uniform on and I wasn't working the parade and while I wanted the day off that wasn't a huge deal because even if I didn't get the day off and, it's not like I'm not sensitive to the staffing reports that he needs to send in to One Police Plaza everyday, I'll pretty much be here when I'm here but that'll be between him and me. The lieutenant said, "Whatever, but what do we have on these guys in New Jersey?" And I ask, "That the Feds haven't leaked to CBS yet?" He groans. I just say, "I'm going in today. I won't go tomorrow. Thursday I'll look at the reports. I'll tell you something Friday." He says, "Friday?" I say, "Yeah," and I turn around, spilling a little of the now cold coffee from my mug onto his carpet, mumble "sorry" and leave. Then I spend the next six hours wandering through the ruins of the Trade Center garage, surprisingly hot under the hard hat though it's cold down there, but we're not finding anything important anymore, that's just the truth.

Wednesday I make token attempts. I wear an old Michigan State sweatshirt because it's green. I get to work by about 8:15 more or less, and since my day technically starts at 7:30, that's not bad, for me. I've taken the slow train in. This might mean I've spent too much time thinking. Yes. It does. I've thought about how tired I am. The last three weeks, Jesus. I've thought about how I've slept probably thirty hours since the attack in February, so, of course I'm tired. I've thought about how that's not true: that's not why I'm tired. I'm tired because I'm going nuts as a single dad and I'm tired because not only haven't I gotten laid in a really long time I can't even imagine that a woman might look at me like that anytime soon if ever again and I'm tired because I came downtown eighteen months ago because they thought I was a burnout or I thought I was a burnout and because I have no idea if I want to be a cop anymore and because I've been that tired and then, bam, some motherfucker tries to knock over the towers and then, bam, because my bosses mistake eccentricities for intelligence, I'm totally a cop again, and I wasn't ready for that. And I've thought, well, we pretty much know what's happened and we've pretty much identified the assholes involved and we're not going to get any credit for this anyway because the FBI is running a 24/7 publicity machine for themselves and besides, at some point the CIA and the DIA are gonna take over, right? Then, if all that's true why can't I just dump this task force and go back to crime trend data analysis or whatever the fuck my job is supposed to be, or better yet, just leave this city behind before… well, before whatever's next.


On the train there are lots of cops, of course. Tons of cops and fireman all in uniform all heading down to be in the parade or to work at the parade. I've done that. Not marched but worked it. I did it as a rookie, all rookies do it even ones assigned to weird deep cover stuff. And last year because they said that kind of crap was more or less the price of the detective's shield, or surely the price of getting quickly bumped from Detective Third Class to Detective Second Class when you're getting that kind of pay raise without capturing Son of Sam or something. So I've worked the parade. It's not bad, I just never liked being in uniform in Manhattan where they expect you to wear hats and have shiny shoes and stuff. If I'd done it today though, I'd meet people, and I don't want to meet people or answer questions about how I am, and so I ride downtown, hidden in a corner, the old college baseball cap pulled down over my eyes, and I make it through the pre-parade crowd un-noticed.


I make it through the day mostly un-noticed. I get in late. I drink coffee. I walk a wide lap around the Trade Center. I sit by the water. I sit in the churchyard at Trinity. I walk another lap. I have three beers and a corned beef sandwich at a bar that ought to be better on the edge of Tribeca. On the way back from the bar a fat guy seems to be having a heart attack in front of a Burger King and I drop into public servant mode and do what I can for him until the ambulance gets there. Stuck to the light pole next to where the fat guy lies on the sidewalk is a hand-lettered poster asking, "Is America Safe?" A block later I meet Ahmad who's a waiter up in Windows on the World. He walked down 106 floors 19 days ago, and he's been out of work, of course, but he seems good. He laughs cause I'm wearing green, "You guys really aren't all Irish."


At home this night I'll have a Guinness or two, but I'm not going to find a babysitter in my neighborhood on St. Patrick's Day night. Tomorrow I will spread this mountain of paperwork all over the conference room and try to see things in ways I have not before. I'll be wearing jeans and a shirt and tie and none of it will be green. Friday I'll tell the lieutenant something, but I doubt that anything I can say will make any difference.


(copyright 2004-2011 by Ira David Socol)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Finding Patrick

The sun has dropped behind the hills to the west and I have stood in the field as the sky has tumbled from a royal to a navy to an ink blue that is almost black and now the moon has risen to straight above, surrounded by an immense ring which fills almost half the heavens.

At my feet the grass turns from dry to damp and the chill settles around me, and, though it has now been more than a year since my last cigarette I pull a fresh pack from my pocket, tear off the plastic, open it, the tobacco adding to the smells of the night, and slip the Camel between my lips.

Then I pause. I do not want to strike the match. I do not want to, even for a moment, add light into this dark. Terrestrial light seems an insult to that moon and the stars which themselves wait on the edges of the ring, Orion impatient on the southwest.

Patrick is not really my saint. Patrick brings the light to Ireland, which surely, is good. But to St. David the lights in the night are harbingers of death - ignis fatuus - and are to be carried with care. So I wait as well, the silence so deep that I hear the blood coursing through the capillaries of my ear drums, a faint yet ancient beat.

(copyright 2011 by Ira David Socol)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

photo: Flickr by ionizdat
We stop at Saint Dominic’s off Gun Hill Road right after loading the guy with the heart attack on Edenwald into an ambulance. “Please guys,” we beg the paramedics, “sure he’s dead but if he’s dead here it’ll take us over an hour to get this taken care of, and you can just dump him on the E/R.” We kneel before the priest and take communion and are blessed with the ashes. Then, still deeply hungover from Fat Tuesday alcohol consumption, we run to the “shots fired” call where Edson ends at Strang, and find the kid dead in the tall brown grass of what was supposed to be a park.

The kid is maybe ten, well later we’ll know he wasn’t even, but at that moment, at the point where Colin says, “oh fuck” and I come over and see the thin body with the blood leaking from a temple, we think “ten,” not knowing that he was tall for his age.

A minute later I realize there’s a gun in the grass as well, a silver .22 automatic, and I reach into my pocket and pull out gloves and hand one pair to Colin who takes them without moving his eyes from the boy’s frozen face and I pull them on, silently because I fully believe that noise will rob this place of the desperately needed sanctity and I kneel down and and am about to lift this weapon into my hands when its location and position scream to me and I leap to my feet and start backing away, muttering, “holy fucking shit, no.”

There are no parents. No one knows where any father might be. Mom’s in jail. When we finally ask enough questions we find the place Grandma lives, a basement apartment a block away, and she is dead in her bed. It seems natural, she clearly went in her sleep.

“I guess he couldn’t take it no more,” another third grader tells us. “He was gettin’ picked on a lot at school. The teacher didn’t like him neither.” “Oh,” I say, “did he like his Grandma?” “Loved her,” the kid says, “she dead?” “I guess she must of died in her sleep,” I say without thinking about who I’m talking to. “Then that’s why, he must’a found her and give up.”

“You ok?” I ask him. “Yo, po-leece,” he says, “I’m jus’ fine.”

I look around. The cold winter sky. The low brick rowhouses. The projects towering over there. The abandoned, burnt cars near the edge of the park. I walk back to where the body still rests, touch the ashes on my face, bend down once again, this time making a tiny cross on that cold forehead.

(copyright 2005-2011 by Ira David Socol)