I knew it was only a matter of time before I was asked this. Last night, like every night at work I stop off at the fire house to chat with my friends for a few minutes and get a cup of coffee. I go in, pour myself a cup and talk with a few of the guys who just hang out there because they'd rather be there than home. And the question just comes out. In fact, I was really amazed that it took this long for someone to ask me.
"Hey Tom. The town cop quit. Why don't you apply?"
Well, first off this is the third town cop this tiny little hamlet of Athens has gone through this year alone. That should tell me the management style the town uses for it's one-man police force.
Secondly, No. The tough-guy macho thing to say at this point is "Been there, done that".
When I first was discharged from the army I did what every Irish kid in my neck of the woods does. I joined the police department. In my neighborhood you either became a cop or fire fighter. It was engraved in stone. So I followed in my brother's footsteps and joined the cops.
My first night on the job out of the academy I was partnered with a grizzled old veteran, overweight, huge bulbous alcoholic nose and a stub of a cigar firmly planted in the side of his mouth. With a voice that sounded like he gargled with razor blades and turpentine I was asked...
"Kid, why'd you become a cop?"
"I, I, I guess I want to help people..."
"Piece of advice kid. They don't want your fucking help."
Wow. Heady shit for a twenty-two year old. I wondered that night how anyone could be that cynical and pessimistic?
Flash-forward about eight years. (This part, my fellow readers I have never told anyone before, you are the first to get this deep into Ranger Tom's psyche, something I've never let out before. It's not real pretty and I'm not to proud of it, but here it is. Thank God I'm not like this anymore)
So eight years go by. I answer a call one night. Disturbance House. (Domestic) I get to the address and find a skinny seventeen year old stabbing a woman repeatedly with a large kitchen knife. I order him to stop and put down the knife... Instead of complying with my order, he turns towards me and launches at me with the knife. In a split-second my service piece was unholstered and one round was decidedly placed into the "X" ring and down he went for the count. He was definitely dead when he hit the floor but the woman, who turned out to be his mother was still alive, but barely. I called for EMS and waited for Fire Rescue to show. I couldn't do anything for the massive stab wounds the woman had in her upper body.
Fire Rescue arrive and does their thing, onto the stretcher, out the door and off to the hospital with lights and siren.
After reams of paperwork and the expected "interview" that would rival anything the Spanish Inquisition would perform with the Gink Squad (Internal Affairs) I was free to head home. But I didn't go home. I went to the hospital where the woman who's son had stabbed her seventy-two times (because she wouldn't give up cash so he could score more crack) had just come out of surgery. I sat by her bed all night that night and every night after my shift and prayed... Seven nights until she finally died, never coming out of the coma she was in.
All the hospital staff and other guys on my squad thought I was a fantastic guy, a real gem for doing that. Praying for this woman, keeping a bedside vigil...
But I really knew what I was praying for. I was a sham. I wasn't Saint Tom of The Suffering.
Know what I was praying for?
That she would die. I was praying she'd never wake up, because I knew in my warped version of the world at the time if she had fully recovered, I'd have been sued for wrongful death of her sweet, precious little boy.
How the fuck did I get that callous and cynical?
Now here I am again. I am not that person anymore. That I can thank a very special dear friend in part for. Making me actually care again. They brought back from the depths of despair that twenty-two year old, bright eyed boy who really thought he could help people. Through this person, in the past year I learned how to care again. My friend is much stronger than me in a lot of ways. I can't face things like that anymore. I know deep down in the bottom of my heart I can't.
But I can try to help.
Maybe I can't help all the people, and in the way I tried on the PD, but if I help one person's suffering I think it'll all be worthwhile. I don't ever want to be put in that situation again so I'll never be a cop again. I'm not running away from it, I'm making an educated decision to not put myself into a position where I'm ever able to become the cynical and angry cop with the startings of a serious drinking problem.
Forgetting the past is a mistake. I choose to remember it and learn from my mistakes and make a vow to never to repeat them. My friend and the other guys on the FD are helping me do just that. I really like the new old me.
God bless you. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden