Friday, December 19, 2014








(Friday, December 19, 2014, NYC)  He had had his nights.  Times when the world seemed to be at a hazardous kilter that was making him dizzy.  His thoughts would race on those nights and like the repetitive bursts of the same songs as the scan mode went through the stations on a car radio; his mind scanned through his memories and kept revealing the same handful of scenarios over and over again until they became one cohesive block. It was a bit unnerving that in that vast ocean of his past that he would always come back to that handful of moments, moments frozen in time where he perpetrated an error of commission or omission. Yes, he had had his nights; sometimes, after a 12 to 8 tour as the rest of the City was going about on their way to work he would find himself in the lonely shadows of a Blarney Stone or some other shithole tavern that actually did a brisk business at that time of day.  People who sit on bar stools at 8:30 in the morning see the world outside differently.  That was fine.  There were few people who could see the world the way he did and, even those who occasionally did, were rarely up for a few shots of Jameson’s  before the morning rush hour was even over.  So, he drank alone.

He was a good drinker, a good bar customer.  He sat alone at the farthest corner of the bar so his back was against a wall: laid out his cash, placed his cigarettes and lighter to one side of an ashtray, read the paper, did a crossword puzzle and bothered no one.  And no one bothered him.  Of course those were the days before the Imperial Mayor had swept into City Hall and began to regulate the habits of New Yorkers.  Fucker.  There was no small irony lost in that the City had become the safest large City in the country, the number one destination for foreign travelers, very business friendly, and clean thanks to the efforts of Bloomberg’s predecessor and the NYPD.  Things were running so smoothly that he had time to dream up all sorts of “quality of life” ordinances and initiatives.  Rudy Giuliani had inherited one God-awful mess after the abysmally inept David Dinkins and during his two terms things, the things that really matter, turned around.  He had been proud to be part of the PD when that tectonic shift occurred.

But on this particular morning he wasn’t thinking much about anything or anyone besides himself.  Typically, when he got in one of these moods, he could identify the precipitating event.  On this morning which was shaping up to be sunny and clear as far as he could tell, he wasn’t sure why he was sitting where he was. Clearly something triggered this mood; some scene or words exchanged with a mope; something was eating at him like the itch in a phantom limb that an amputee can never scratch.  Some cluster of nerve endings in his un- or subconscious mind was twitching.  Not caring at the moment for some introspection he let the warmth of the smooth Irish whiskey  to gradually round the edges in his mind.  It usually did.  For some reason on this morning he couldn’t identify the singular event or encounter that was troubling him and, after a few more Jameson’s he realized it was not a single event or scenario; it was the cumulative effect of the countless jobs, situations, scenarios, crisis, disorder; of witnessing year after year the callousness of people, the petty, trivial things they will kill over, kill for, deliver violence and brutality of an epic scale upon those least able to defend themselves.  Yes, it was always the children; the children are what could make his blood boil and heart ache.

*****     *****     *****

Suddenly, without recognizing him at first, an old friend came and sat next to him.  He was familiar with this specter, this mindset that conjured up what he’d long referred to as “the option”.  The option had traveled through life with him since his early teen years.  For a very long time, most of his lifetime actually, he could and would not speak to another about the option.  To do so might get him a permanent appointment with a Department psychiatrist or even worse some bleeding heart liberal psychologist the Department had on retainer would have him reassigned to "Thee Bow and Arrow Squad".  So he kept his option a secret; he protected his secret from anyone who might disparage it or otherwise imply he suffered from some sort of mental illness. After all, who besides a deeply disturbed man would ever even consider such an option?  But he found an odd sense of comfort in owning the option. His thinking in this regard was akin to that of an agoraphobic; a person who always had to have an escape route planned just in case…just in case of what?  Just in case of a panic attack or some other sense of being confined or impending doom. No but he held on to his option for similar reasons; if he ever decided it was time to exit, he could take himself out. Death via his service piece or one of his other fire arms was literally an arm's length away.  If he ever arrived at the point where his ambivalence towards life became a hazard for others, he’d be close to a proverbial door and simply slip out.  Yes, he found comfort in the option.

*****     *****     *****

Given the estrangement that has set in like a tenacious virus between the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, one is left to wonder if the Mayor has reached out to the family of the 33 year old, father of two, 10 year veteran Police Officer Sachin Singh who killed himself yesterday.  Sadly, this tragic story has not been covered in the media aside from a short blurb in the Daily News.  Suicide retains its age old distinction as a taboo, an unnatural act committed by a mind housed in a body that is completely constructed to cling to life.  Human biology is fundamentally, when taken in total, all about survival.  While we are composed of “selfish genes” determined to thrive, it is in the dark recesses of the soul, the shadowy nether regions of the mind that suicide lurks.  Like toxic mushrooms suicide grows in the damp shaded underbrush of a spirit that sees no light.  But it is a spore that does not take root in everyone’s mind; it simply doesn’t register with most people as an option for anything and therefore it is a closely held secret by those who’ve allowed it to flourish.

As a rule the NYPD does not call attention to the suicide of one of their own.  They keep very quiet about it as they instinctively, collectively circle the wagons knowing that every detail of the suicide’s life is going to be scrutinized by the Internal Affairs Division (IAD).  They will look into his bank accounts; speak with his colleagues, family, neighbors and friends looking for something untoward in the Officer’s life that they can explain the suicide away.  This is some of the nasty, disrespectful fallout that ensues after a Cop’s suicide.  In the locker room of the Precinct the suicide was assignation to the other Cops would scour their memories of the last interaction, the last conversation each of them had had with the deceased.  Some would wonder if they had missed some warning sign, some change in demeanor or personality that may have, could have been a red flag that something was not quite right with their colleague.  This line of thought occurs quite naturally after every suicide be the deceased a Cop or civilian.  Suicide just seems so far beyond most others comprehension that they need to know why; why did this happen and could I have done anything, anything at all to prevent it?  Rarely are such questions ever answered.  Death by suicide typically leaves more unknown than known.  The answers are held by the suicide into the grave.

*****     *****     *****

The bar he found himself in on this morning was called the Molly Wee.  It was on 8th Avenue and 30th Street just a  block south of Penn Station and Madison Square Garden.  His Dad had always called this bar and others of its ilk a “bucket of blood”.  But, now, there was no crowd from a Knicks or Rangers game, no college revelers doing shots of weird concoctions after a big concert at the Garden.  No, for these hours this was a hard-core drinker’s bar.  Despite the Irish name the only thing Irish about this tavern were the bottles of Jameson and Bushmills on the top shelf of the back bar.  Since the long dirty window faced west as the rush hour gave way to mid-morning the bar was graced by bright sunlight that illuminated the gauzy cloud of cigarette smoke that hung in a slow moving layer like some indoor vapor trail just above the old wooden bar.

Without realizing it the bar had begun to fill up a bit.  A few old grizzled Irish pensioners, likely retired  longshoremen and stevedores, talking quietly and smoking cheap cigars; a few Latino guys with the logo of an office cleaning service on their shirts, a hooker of indeterminate age slumped on the stool nearest the door with the tell-tale track marks on her arm of a heroin addict, and a couple of big firemen from the Engine 1, Ladder 24 House on 31st Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.  They nodded at him and raised their glasses and he in return raised his.  He recognized them from the days he spent working in Midtown South.  He liked fireman for a number of reasons and was just a bit envious of the public appreciation they received, and rightfully so;  he wished the public had some modicum of appreciation for his Department and the men and women who served on the front line between civil society and chaos.  But, shit, what the fuck, he thought.  Everyone has a role to play; everyone made a choice many years ago and that was that.

For a moment he lost sight of the option and wondered if he’d slipped out the back door between the restrooms and a storage closet.  In that moment he found a wave of relief wash over him because frankly, he knew he was just not up to dealing with the option today.  It was often a draining experience to spend time with the option; sometimes terrifying, at other times tranquilizing.  The dichotomy inherent in this relationship was not lost in him but, long ago he’d ceased analyzing his relationship with the option.  They knew each other well enough to know when to poke and prod and when to back off, to just let life unfold in its all too messy and random ways.

*****     *****     *****

The first suicide victim he had ever seen was a 66 year old man, a divorced retired military officer who was at the time the director of security for a big building in Midtown.  This fella, possessed of whatever personal mayhem that raged on that night in his mind, sat on the lid of the toilet and placed a .45 caliber sidearm in his mouth and pulled the trigger. His neighbors had heard the shot; a .45 is a big, heavy, loud gun and they had phoned 911.  He and his partner arrived only to see what was left of this man’s cranium precariously balanced on his facial bones while the rest of his skull and brains were plastered to the wall in chunks and clumps behind the poor fucker.  It was during the hours it took for the Medical Examiner’s crew to arrive that he spent time looking at this man with half a head on his shoulders.  What possessed him to do this?  How much balls does it take to commit suicide in such a brutal, sloppy manner?  Was there a note left behind that might explain why he did this?  Who was his legal next of kin and have they been contacted?  Once a person expires from whatever the cause a well-worn, efficient mechanism is set in motion by the NYPD on the scene and the ME’s Office. The victim’s family is contacted if there is any lead as to who they might be. It is not unusual to trace a dead end seeking the next of kin of a suicide.  Had they had better relations, more contact and communication, perhaps the suicide would never have happened. He was probably some one's grandpa. This is a common thought that every Cop whose ever had to "secure" such a crime scene wonders about.

The process can be perceived as a cold, callous,and intrusively obscene as a  routine by the next of kin but, every such incident is first assumed to be a homicide and is handled as such.  In this particular case it did not take very long, merely a matter of hours, to determine that this man had indeed taken his own life.  To this very day he could see that man’s final facial expression.  He looked to be oddly at peace. 

*****     *****     *****

It was nearing noon as he walked back to the men’s room that reeked of piss, disgust, and Lysol. As he stood there relieving himself he could not help but to read the graffiti on the wall in front of him and the metal partition to his left.  It was mostly the typical barroom shit, the names of unknown women who had committed unknown transgressions by the guy who carved some insult in the paint maybe with his apartment key.  There was something sad in all these emotional, bile-driven epithets and he was left to wonder anew about his own past, the women who had come in and out of his own life and, at some point in their relationship, had realized it was in their best interest to leave him to his own devices, to not ask to be introduced to his demons, and, above all, he’d guarded the existence of them. That was his option.  The results of a life carried out in such a fashion eventually catches up with you and this he realized more clearly with each passing day.

As he washed his hands in the rust stained sink he looked into the stall thinking perhaps the option was just hiding from him for the moment, poised to pounce at any second.  But that would not be the case on this day.  He collected his cigarettes and lighter, left the newspapers behind for the next person to read through, gave the barman a very generous tip and walked out onto 8th Avenue.  He could see the bright yellow and blue umbrella of a Sabrett’s hot dog vendor on the next corner.  He walked in that direction, ordered two dogs with onions, mustard and relish and continued on walking south.  His apartment was a bit of a walk from where he started but he needed the sunlight, the air and the activity.  Before he realized it the option had taken leave.  That was a good thing.  He was planning to go to bed and sleep as soon as he got home.  The option could visit anytime; sometimes at the worst of times but for the time being they seemed to have forged a fragile détente’, a ceasefire that would last for who knew how long?  At least today he’d kept the option at arm’s length, the very same distance in which he wore his service piece.  The .38 caliber, five shot wheel gun with a 2 inch barrel was worn on his ankle; this was the piece his Dad had given him when he’d graduated from the Academy eons ago. 

He thought often about his Dad who, at the still tender age of 18 found himself a Marine on a landing craft to be beached on Okinawa.  He had occasionally in his later years spoken about death and it was from him that he was taught that everyman, no matter what they proclaim or say, will cling to life tooth and nail.  Marines in the island-hopping South Pacific battle theater learned this lesson exceptionally well.

But life is not meant for everyone; longevity as a goal might reside in our DNA but in the minds and souls of others, it has no appeal.  To do battle with an ambivalence towards life seems so anathema to most that those who have a long-term relationship with the option know they cannot speak of it.  

At 23rd and 9th there is a church.  The doors were open so he walked inside, his vision unfocused from the abrupt change from the light of day to the darkness of the church.  He sat for a moment looking up at the stained glass windows; various Saints captured in an artisans mind made real in wedges of thick glass.  If it was a Saturday he may have waited around to make a Confession but there was no Priest to be found on this early afternoon.  He said a few prayers, asked God to forgive him his many transgressions and also pleaded his case for a rapid and imminent death.  It was probably a sin to pray for death but it couldn’t hurt.  He immediately recalled the axiom to “be careful what you pray for…you just might get it”.




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