It was a regular Tuesday for most of the day: morning routines, animals to feed, news to read. I wont bore you with the details of my perfectly boring day. I don’t even mind boring days because it means that, for now, tragedy hasn’t breached the pretend walls I’ve constructed on a very flimsy foundation of routines which serve only to provide an extremely false sense of control over the world, and life, and things that might happen in a day. I was immersed in the normalcy of my life. The work day was nearly over. The stock market was just closing, and I was struggling to keep my happily bored eyes open while sitting at my desk in my ‘desert bone’ colored office where I sat at my mediocre desk in front of way too many computer screens working my work, chatting with colleagues about ordinary things and counting the minutes until I could walk down the stairs and move on to the early evening part of my flimsy, easily breached routines. Then the doorbell rang. “Fuck“. That was my philosophical deep thought when the doorbell rang. Just, “Fuck, what it is now”.
The dogs sprang into action. Annoyance invaded the space of my perfectly normal day. I put down my headset and walked to the stairwell. From upstairs in the hallway I could make out their uniforms but it was through the thick kind of glass panes that distort the view from the other side, and surely those weren’t police uniforms I was seeing through those panes of distortion. “What the hell has he done now” I thought to myself; along with a surge of embarrassment as the reality of police officers at my door joined the invasion of normalcy. I’m not afraid to say I am now ashamed of my embarrassment. But I hadn’t yet read the story so I didn’t know the plot. Shit, I wasn’t even aware yet that I was being plopped into an entirely different story altogether.
Door cracked open just enough for my eyes to confirm what they saw, and for my words to make their way onto the porch. “What is this about” I asked while the dogs announced their objections and tried to squeeze through the opening so they could deal with this threat. “Can you step outside, ma’am” they asked. “What is this about” I asked again, making sure to include the rapidly brewing frustration that their presence evoked. “I’m in a meeting. My microphone is still on and the dogs aren’t happy about this” I said in my best bitchy voice. “Ma’am we really need for you to step outside“. “I really can’t right now” I said, allowing my inner bitch a more prominent role in this scene. Obviously these officers don’t understand I am working. “I’ve got the dogs going crazy, I’m in a meeting. Can you please just tell me through the door” I repeated. “What the fuck has he done now!” I thought to myself in what I now see as a perfect string of cliche reactions. I needed to get back to work so I could move on with my stupid fucking day and obviously these officers didn’t understand that. But why were they being so nice while I became increasingly annoyed and agitated? Why weren’t they responding to my annoyance with the usual assertion of authority? What the fuck is going on? Alas, those were just whispers in the very back of my mind at that moment. There was no time to think. As I said, the dogs were going crazy, making obvious their desire to deal with this threat, I was worried about work and what the neighbors would think. Sometimes we just don’t have time to listen to the quiet questions that arise as we walk through a crisis or a tragedy because, well, one never really knows they are walking through a tragic event as we take those first few steps into the new storyline, so we can only respond to the immediately obvious from the perspective of the old story that we don’t know we’ve been yanked out of. At that moment the immediately obvious was finding out why two police officers, or was it three, were standing on my porch looking so sombre and not reacting to my increasingly asshole-ish behavior. I didn’t know yet that I had been dropped into the wilderness of this new story. I was traveling in the comfort of the old familiar plot, not knowing the terrain had changed, completely unaware of the dangers that lay ahead. Whiskey Tango Alpha Foxtrot.
“Ma’am, we really do need for you to come outside. “Are you the wife of XXXX XXXX?“. That was the question that changed my demeanor. “Yes, I am his wife“. “We can wait here while you put the dogs outside or in another room“. Resistance resigned in that moment. Suddenly I was slammed onto the pages of a story I had read so many times before. Without warning I was the main character in a novel I didn’t want to read. I was the wife being asked if I would like to sit down, and when I said “no, I need to get back to work“, I was suddenly the wife being told “you should really sit down” while they gestured with a slight movement of hand toward the bench on the front porch and that’s when I knew. That’s when everything changed. That’s when time warped; everything stopped but wouldn’t stop moving. Every moment was a duplicitous contradiction of senses. That’s when the synapses in my brain lost their ability to adapt to this story so they started firing all wrong, impeding my ability to make simple decisions. Resistance resigned. Story in motion. I sat on the little red bench on the porch where we used to sit together in the early morning when the pear tree offered protection from the sun. We, he and I, sat on that bench together so many times and now I sat there alone in the middle of it staring at two officers standing on the walkway looking up at me as if it were a stage and I was cast in this role that I didn’t want, but the curtain was up and there was no way off of the stage and I knew what they would say, but it was only a play. This wasn’t real. Surely this wasn’t real.
My synapses couldn’t adapt to the story so they fired all wrong and I was calm when I should have been frantic. I was measured and slow when I should have been reactive and shaky (at least that’s how the director would have directed this scene). Time stood still but wouldn’t stop moving. I couldn’t get a good grasp of the moment. I sat on the bench in the middle of the seat where we used to sit, staring at two officers waiting to hear the words I knew now they would say. They fumbled with the words, clumsily at first. No person wants to say those particular words to another human being. These words almost always adamantly resist being called to duty. They don their battle gear, refusing to stay bunched together in that way, for that purpose. They claw and scratch and kick and scream in a futile attempt to stay safe in the back of the throat. Like capturing a feral animal, one must capture those particular words then force them together against their will, despite their protest, then out into existence. “Your husband was found dead in his truck“. End scene
Except in this play there are no curtain calls, no call for lines you forget, no understudies to take your place, no backing out of the script you were handed. Nothing to do but exist in this new moment that has landed violently into the story you thought that you knew but now is ripped up and buried.
Doorbells change lives. Never underestimate the power of someone knocking at your door. This is my story.