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1. My Own Personal Hell

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The world’s an awful funny place, isn’t it? The way society has things working, it’s amazing that we all don’t notice these things. What does it matter what I think or what I say? So, who am I? I’m Damien, Damien Thompson, long time outcast of society. The world is so damned complex, why try to understand? It’s easier to just go with it, do what you have to from time to time, and live to each new day. It’s been years since well, it’s not important. Just a few days that forever changed my life. Maybe it was all predetermined and out of our grasp to begin with? Another day, another one of life’s lessons. The events of those few days have been forgotten, erased, or have they? Time to look ahead instead of backwards, live for today, not yesterday. Tomorrow may never come, especially in my line of work, so why depend on it?

Not only was it seven years since our lives were torn apart, but five years since I had entered into the world of policemen. Since then I’ve elevated amongst the ranks, become a detective. Seven years, five years, what’s the big difference? Was it only that long? So much has happened since then, maybe I should enlighten you, or you wouldn’t care? Nobody cares nowadays, so the real question isn’t would you care, it’s would I? Would it matter to me if the past had never happened, if the events of seven years ago never occurred? Where would I be? 25 years old leading around a gang of high school dropouts, teenagers? What a waste! Who knows? My life was a waste to begin with though, it would have only gotten worse.

Seven years ago, but why harp on it? Let’s just say simply that seven years ago my life was forever changed. More like my life was suddenly disrupted and severely altered. So it goes, you learn to live on. Now, as I was saying, the world’s a funny place. Society has a working that …well, you know how it is. You’ve been there, seen it at work, why should I bother explaining? Still clueless? Look around! Every day has more and more examples of society’s workings then the last. I would know above all, I’ve seen the world from so many different points of views. As a cop, or rather a detective, I’m supposed to take notice of all these things. But the hell with the observation bit, it’s common sense really. The world is naturally a screwed up place, what are you to do about it? Nothing, there’s not a damn thing that you can do.

Still want to worry yourself about the world’s problems? Come now, let the world take care of its own problems, you should only worry about yourself. Sound familiar? I hate that damned bit of advice, I never saw a good person make any use of it. It’s a selfish attitude, hell with that. What’s the point of being selfish? It only screws your mind up, your morals and methods. I don’t think so. I’d rather take ignorance over selfishness. What about you? I suppose in my line of work I subconsciously form morals from what I see day to day, but don’t let that stop you from thinking however you do. Hey, it’s your life, live it as you wish, I can tell what I know; I’m paid to do just that, tell what I know.

Well, not exactly, tell what I think really. Form hypotheses, theories and so on. I never was much of a philosopher, so I’ll keep things pure and simple. Like I said, I’m Damien, and in layman’s terms, I’m a cop, a New York City law enforcement officer who’s supposed to use his head a bit more than his gun. Maybe, who knows, why fight facts? Someone once told me that you can beat logic with enough imagination, another said with enough reason? Does either one make sense? I really didn’t understood sayings, so I never passed them on. My favorite little saying always was “like the blind leading the deaf”. Think about it both ways, the blind leading the deaf, the deaf leading the blind. I think the way I say it makes more sense. You form your own opinions, I’m sick of going with my gut.

Seven years since the bond of four friends was tested and shattered. Seven years ago it was when Seth, Eileen and I saw the cruel reality of life. To think of what we’d all been through together, to remember that one of the fateful four was no longer with us. It was like a chain reaction back then, dominoes. One after another, like pure clockwork, someone else would be in tears. The really odd thing is that well, we got over it. Contradictions were daily occurrences as friend and foe joined forces. To think of where we’d all be seven years later? I sure as hell would have bet that we’d have been more bothered about this. Maybe I’m just lying to you, that this whole ordeal is tearing me apart. After all that, can I honestly be expected to be unharmed? My gang, the good old gang. My line of work can’t allow me to be seen associating with them but hey, I sneak by from time to time to say hello, keep them in line, you know. I never really adjusted to being replaced, but I heard later on that the “replacement” never lived up to my example. I can’t remember the poor guy’s name that had followed in my shoes but it was his decision to attempt it. Good luck buddy.

To see me today, you wouldn’t recognize me. For the most part, the black is gone, though I sneak a little into each day. You can take the darkness out of the cop, but you’ll never take the cop out of the darkness. This line of work seems to strengthen my negative view on life, but, who gives a damn anymore besides me? I’m trying to clean up on language; you can’t kill a guy for trying to be a bit more respectable. One habit I was never able to really break was smoking – it came with the group. Maybe in later years I’d be able to quit, why worry about the future anyway?

To think, me, former gang leader and all around problem kid would be a policeman; I can’t keep from laughing. My “colleagues” have commonly asked me about the odd “smirk” or the misplaced laugh from time to time. My answer? It’s always the same, a simple shrug, a smile and a calm “just thought of something funny”. Usually they stand there to consider it, and I’ve walked off to find something to do. They have their own ideas of what I was thinking about, but that’s their business. Never let anybody say that you’ll never do something or that you can’t. Sure, everybody’s born with “talents” but that doesn’t mean that your future career has to be focused around it. Look at me! If I had a talent it had to be not getting arrested. A lot went down in that gang, a lot that I’m not at liberty to say, got my principals of trust and all. What can I say? “Wasn’t me”? “Ain’t my fault”? Nah, simply that what happened, happened, that’s it, the whole truth, nothing but, end of discussion on topic. Next question, if you please?

But I’m not alone in this world of chaos and evil. Seth Shortt; a faithful friend, loyal companion, and best friend for life. He went into the force with me; we stuck together, worked together. In terms of working together, we were partners, but we were so much more than that. We’d been buddies since we were young, we grew up together in that little nowhere town. New York City, the complete opposite of everything I’d ever known. Good old Seth, I was going to meet him now. Seven years ago, there were four of us who had stood together as friends. We’d laughed and cried together, endured the good and bad times. We were down to three now. Well I’d be meeting Seth at the pub; Eileen would meet us both there.

Eileen Holmes, who was 25 like Seth and myself, the actress. It had always been her dream she told us, we used to laugh about it. We’d sit and laugh for hours on end about our dreams, dreams that would never come true. Hers did. She was with us through thick and thin, number three of the four. Eileen had a heart as good as gold, we grew up with her too. We were neighborhood friends since the time we could walk. Through elementary school and high school we’d made a reputation for ourselves. In other words, we got in a bit of trouble. I had a gang back then, but it was more of a mock gang, a gang of friends instead of troublemakers, except for me. We’d meet up, drink awhile, laugh about the good times; remember the bad.

The fourth of our group was Melissa, dear Melissa Riley. She was a Halloween baby, born October 31st. We used to kid that that’s why she was so different, why she didn’t quite fit in. We weren’t perfect either, we all fit into molds specially created for us, but she was very different. None of us could really grasp it. She would have been 25 today; that must be why I keep thinking back. You see, seven years ago Melissa Riley took her life by way of hanging. I remember so vividly the imagery, the day, time, everything as if it were yesterday. Why? The answer; I was there.

Now, don’t jump to conclusions, it was her choice, not mine. I just happened to be there. Course I tried to stop her, but sometimes it’s just too late. Don’t think I didn’t care, I did. I cared a lot but it just didn’t matter. She was in a lot of pain, there was nothing any of us could have done, the choice was hers and she made it. What can I say? What’s done is done and therefore cannot be undone. Nothing can change the past, we didn’t know, or did we? Why does all this bother me now you ask? Because I did know, and I did nothing. No, I won’t worry about this now, there’s so much more to think about.

The streets always seem more crowded when you need to get somewhere fast. No matter the time or weather, there’s always somebody in the way. It happened to be pouring rain today, why not? A day of all days, night of all nights; this would really spoil some little kids’ evening when he looked outside to check his trick-or-treating environment. Hey, I don’t control the weather, I can’t fix it, I just have to deal with it. Sorry kids, maybe next year.

Like I said, pouring rain and stubborn crowds just like every other day. Cutting and weaving through, I made it to my destination. Seth was standing outside smoking; he couldn’t quite break the habit either. Can’t blame a man for being a bit stressed can you? I stood next to him, taking shelter under the doorway as he had. In silence we waited. Our friendship had grown to a point were we understood each other without speaking. I treasured times when he’d understand without me having to explain. We stood for a while, watching the various kinds of people pass. Our job was to defend them yet they didn’t appreciate it most of the time. Oh well, comes with the job I guess.

We waited maybe ten minutes before we saw a recognizable figure emerge from the mess of people. Moving faster then the rest of the bustling crowd, Eileen cut through. Seth threw down his cigarette and stomped it out.

“You’re late, you both were.” He turned promptly and sulked inside. Something must be on his mind, but he wasn’t grouchy. I knew I was late, barely, but he would notice. Good old Seth, always looking out for everyone else, but at the same time, always wary. He held qualities I thought unimaginable in a person. We had gone through a lot of pain together, the four of us. Four, down to three, and what next? In our line of work, three could quickly turn to two or one. Eileen well, she was an actress, always traveling.

Who knows? We’d all be gone someday anyway, why worry now? I too had thrown down my cigarette and was about to move inside. Eileen pulled me over for a minute.

“It’s the anniversary, maybe we should have gotten together some other time.”

Could I blame her? She was just as shook up about everything as we were. None of us wanted to admit it, but it was tearing us apart over time, from the inside out. We shouldn’t have met that night, should have all gone home and slept. The biggest night for mischief of the year, I wasn’t allowed to take off. Seth and I were told to be on duty as soon as we left the bar. Who says Halloween is all fun and games?

Eileen was concerned; this had to have been bothering her like it was with me. I ducked down and whispered, “Don’t worry, it had to happen sooner or later. We can’t live afraid of a day.” She nodded and we both stepped inside. Looking through the dimly lit room, we sought out Seth. We all sat at an old table and thought quietly for a moment. Who would shatter the silence first? What word spoken would turn us to speak?

“Weather sucks.” Seth was staring absentmindedly out the window as the rain fell, pounding on the pavement. Eileen and I looked at each other. What kind of opening statement was that? Oh well, why worry, we went with it. Picking up from there, we stumbled through a nowhere conversation for what seemed like a lifetime. It was barely five minutes. Staring at the clock we sank down in our chairs. Time seems to go slower when there is guilt to be had. Time to deal with it I suppose.

“How’s work Eileen?” I started searching my mind blindly for something to say. She too was staring out the window, and the mention of her name drew her back.

“Work? Oh yea, fine, great, love it, you know, and what about you two? Get your fair share of action being cops?”

We both smiled and laughed at her. When we were younger we had hated police, swore that we’d never even consider it and that cops were the lowest of low creatures. Well, what could we say now? Seth smiled and gave a little grin.

“What, are you too good to sit and have a drink with two lowly New York cops all of a sudden? Maybe we should roll out a red carpet for you Miss Holmes?” She hit him in the arm and he started laughing like a madman. We had all gone into careers we had hated as teenagers, swore that anyone involved in them deserved to go to Hell. Well, look at us now. We had a good laugh about our lives, how we’d mocked them in our “youth”. Time still dragged by, one grain of sand at a time.

The time by now wasn’t very late, roughly noon, but never too early for a drink. I grabbed someone walking by and ordered. Tonight was going to be a long one. There’s no such thing as a quiet and simple Halloween in New York, impossible. Maybe where we grew up, being we were the most trouble that town ever saw. They were sure as hell glad to be rid of us. They’d tell us that we were nothing and that we would never amount to anything. This one’s for you, Mr. Mayor.

We threw various topics into the discussion but none would really stick. We laughed and drank until an uneasy silence returned. Halloween 20–; it was seven years ago today that we all got together as a group – when we lost Melissa. It wasn’t we though; I lost her more than they had. I was only 18 but it felt like I’d known her my entire life. Losing a family member is completely different from losing a close friend. Everyday for a split second my mind flashes back to that day, those distant memories. Who am I trying to kid? I can’t forget and if I don’t talk about it I’ll go crazy.

Why harp on it? Because seven years ago my fate was determined, my course of life decided. You don’t care do you? Do I? I’m supposed to give a damn about all this, for seven years I’ve been lying to myself. I’ve told myself I don’t care, it’s done and over with, get over it. The three of us haven’t been together since then; it’s been much too long. Eileen stayed away for the most part; I’ve been working with Seth since. She travels a lot, always seems to have an excuse to not be around. Took us this long to talk her into coming back, and I won’t lose her now.

“Who are we kidding?” I looked over to Seth; his own voice seemed to have startled him. Eileen and I knew what he was talking about. She looked down a bit and her eyes began to get teary. He had a point; we were only kidding ourselves. I turned to look out the window to see the rain still pouring. What was there to say? I couldn’t think of anything worth saying that would be…appropriate. We’d been there for a half-hour; it took that long for us to settle down to the facts.

“C’mon, seven years ago today, we all know it, why try and pretend that nothing ever happened? If we all don’t vent a bit we’ll end up in the nut house. Our lives are stressed as it is; we have to let go. You and me Damien, we got a line of work that keeps our minds occupied. Eileen, you travel so often and work so hard, you don’t have time to worry about it either.” He looked out the window with me. Eileen spoke next.

“I haven’t been acting for years now.” Her words hit like knives. I almost fell over in my already tipped back chair. Seth swallowed hard and coughed heavy. We stared at her wide-eyed. Years, that didn’t make sense! She used to call and write us telling about her different “gigs” and the great times. I looked at her eyes and for the first time realized how tired they looked. As a young child they were always bright and full of life, they had remained that way all through these years we thought. Now it seemed as if all the spirit and fire that had made them so interesting was gone. Eileen Holmes, we thought we’d known her.

As best friends we’d never hidden things from each other, we were truthful most of the time. Disbelief came immediately and struck hard, it was like a silent explosion. A time bomb had just gone off, but there was no sound. No, this couldn’t be so; I refused to believe it. But it was, it was reality, the world, society, everything I loathed was standing over me, laughing. Why couldn’t the world make sense! It was times like these that time itself stood still. It was as if the scene froze and only myself was allowed to stand up and move around, think aloud without anyone else hearing. Just like people did in the movies. If my life had been a movie, then a happy ending would be guaranteed.

It’s almost time for a trip down memory lane. To go back and take a good look at the past. I can’t put it behind me, I can’t forget about the past, so I suppose I have to explain. Today is Halloween, the year 20– and I am now 25 years old, a respected policeman with a shady past. Background checks are common in the force, but in my case some strings were pulled. I can explain the present once the past is better understood.

None of this should concern anyone other than myself, so why do you care? You’ve been reading this story since I began telling it; maybe society isn’t the way I picture it. Perhaps people aren’t as ignorant as I would think. The beginning of my story has a title, as does each “chapter”. In my life, there’s a grief that can’t be spoken. Why? Because the story behind it stretches far and wide, the emotional stress is too much to even consider talking about. Weakness cannot be expected of cops. I am Damien Thompson, New York police detective. I’m telling you this because, well, I have to.

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