A Guilty Conscience
Got stopped by the cops on my way to pick up Holden from daycare yesterday afternoon. The police up here are a little quick with the trigger, especially if they think you live in the flats and are trolling in the hills for...I have no idea what. Scenic, panoramic views from newly restored golf courses? My license still has me at our old place down by the freeway. When I explained I'd recently moved and gave him the new address, he seemed to grow nicer. Maybe it's my imagination. Maybe he was never going to give me a ticket for not using my turn signal. Which is what I was accused of doing. Although I am pretty sure I did. I'm an extremely cautious driver. But we all make mistakes, and I was listening to Tierney and Davis's "The Drive" on 95.7's new sports talk station, "The Game," and a debate over whether Alex "Whiskey Dick" Smith deserves a long-term deal, which was getting me worked up. So obviously I could've been distracted.
Next bullshit article you read about how the 49ers all had Kyle Williams's back after the fumble, remember this pic.
Even Mike Ness gets tamed by old age. (Was that a fucking jazz intro?) No, I was just a white suburban kid, who, like Sam once said, was like every book she ever read. Add my name to the thousands of skinny sickly slinking junkies all over the city, with the doe eyes and outstretched hands, bitching about how nobody ever gives them a fair shake.
I'm not saying the cops pushing me around--and they did push--wasn't deserved. You can debate whether using illegal drugs strips you of your personhood or whatever. I'm not going to do that. At the time, I felt victimized. Now it's later and I can see why I was treated the way I was. Terms like "deserve" or "fairness" don't really factor in when you are living that way. I mean, if you are violating and circumventing every law, making special allowances for yourself, it seems a wee bit hypocritical to be bemoaning others not playing it by the book.
Doesn't make a difference, the right or wrong of it. All that matters is that when I walked away, I was saddled with a PTSD sort of problem (and, no, not like a solider. Like a guy who was fucked up from a traumatic situation). And that world was traumatic. Getting rousted at dawn in a squat; accosted in a Nordstrom's parking lot, or outside a 7-11, helmets put on your head and beat senseless; cops walking in and stealing money from bathrobes. This was my life and my friend's lives for a long time. You can assign all the blame on outlaws doing wrong. Fine. Doesn't change the memories you take with you.
It's not like I wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night screaming, "Charlie!", and start humping the nearest doorknob. But I am still skittish around the cops, and a part of me still thinks, even when it's a routine stop, that something will show in that system, something I thought I'd long ago cleared up and had expunged, or maybe I'll simply enter the Twilight Zone, where there is no rhyme or reason, only suffering and retribution. Because a part of me still expects to be hauled before a court, cosmic or otherwise, and held more accountable for my past transgressions. It's the old Catholic in me, a burdening guilt that needs to be recognized and punished.
Until one of my former classmates, who is now a cop, came up and whispered in my ear.
"Something ain't right with your eyes," he said. "I see those eyes all the time on the job. Something ain' right."
And then he smiled and walked away.
In Berlin, I'm sure everyone knew about my "problem" and run-ins with the law. We were the bad Clifford kids. Was he just fucking with me? Did he know he'd just touched on my biggest fear? Had he been waiting 20-some-odd years for his revenge because he didn't like the way I used to draw cartoons of him with really bushy hair in Mrs. Black's class? Maybe he was just goofin' too. But it got to me.
It's what I fear when cops stop me. That they will take a look in my eyes and see what lurks behind them: the broken, bad parts of a broken, bad man. Doesn't work that way, I know. I mean, unless you live in the south. I feel rest assured that in SF, no one is tying me to the back of a pick-up and dragging me down a dirt road. It's more the concern that they can see through the slickly polished veneer and facade, to a black heart full of malice, and they will know I am guilty for so many things, so many bad, cruel, selfish actions, so many wicked thoughts. I fear they will see the sickness inside me. And if they were to call me on it, how could I deny it? When I've suspected it's been there all along.