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I Became a Cop so I Could Try to Stop Myself.
I became a cop so I could try to stop myself. … It’s not working.
I take off my boots at the door, like Danielle started asking me to during her hippie phase. They go on a rack that Alaina bought from Pottery Barn as a way to maintain order when Will didn’t want to carry his shoes all the way up to his room. Mine are easily the biggest of the various pairs, so I put them on the bottom because I used that principle to explain to Danielle why trucks sometimes tip over if they’re not packed properly. I kiss Alaina on my way through the kitchen to the stairs, my gunbelt still on. It smells like well-cooked meat but there’s a pool of blood on the wax paper she left by the sink.
There’s a vault at the back of the closet in our bedroom, and my gun goes in there. I’ve come to terms with the fact that should my house be invaded, unless I have a substancial amount of time, my only defense for my family will be womens’ razors and lumpy pillows. I change out of my uniform and replace it with jeans and a t-shirt. Whenever Alaina lectures the kids about presentation at the dinner table, I usually keep my mouth shut. That’s also because I’m chewing. I often wonder why she doesn’t do it in the morning, when I’m in uniform and can actually contribute to the rhetoric.
When I come downstairs Alaina’s chopping carrots to add to the salad. I slip my arm around her slim waist and nuzzle her neck because the kids are upstairs. When she smiles into my cheek, I know she’s about to call them and I reach to turn on the tap and start washing my hands. Only Will comes down, and I ask where Danielle is.
She won’t be home for dinner, I’m informed by Alaina. Her friend Alex has a concert and Alaina gave her permission to go. It’ll be over at eleven, and either Alaina or I have to pick her up. That means I have to pick her up; I always offer. Alaina works hard, she’s tired by eleven. I’m not tired. Or, if I am, I don’t notice it. Will tells me it’s Bring Your Parent to School day next week and he wants me to come. I agree and make a mental note to schedule myself to be off work that day. Alaina’s disappointed; she’d like to be asked to come in, but she accepts that divorce attorney places second to police officer in the eyes of our eight year old son.
After dinner, I do the dishes while Alaina helps Will with his math homework. Alaina doesn’t notice I’ve barely touched my food. Good. I tell Will a story at eight o’ clock and tuck him in. When I come downstairs Alaina’s folding laundry in front of Fight Club. This is why we’re still married. I help her fold and laugh at the most inappropriate moments just like she does. I only see this side of her rarely now because of the kids. She hides her real self from them, and me by extension when they’re around. Then again, she might feel the same way about me. It makes no difference; she’s not sick like I am.
At ten thirty I pull on my boots at the door and leave to pick up Danielle. I’m not anticipating this. They won’t want to leave right away, so no matter what time I arrive it’ll be too early. The most commonly used local venue is still pulsing when I get there, so I park my car and stand in the back of the place. The band that’s playing doesn’t seem very skilled or talented, but they still have the tiny crowd knocking each other’s teeth out. I know what I’m seeing right now wouldn’t be happening if I had my badge and gun with me. After another ten minutes, I see Danielle with a scraggly group of fellow teenagers sitting at a small table. I walk over. It’s eleven.
Seven pairs of identical raccoon eyes look up at me at once. In a couple cases of couples there are two people per chair. I look at them with an ugly taste in the back of my throat seeping into my mouth. They’re like spiders, quiet, scuttling to and fro under their parents’ noses, like rats, always watching but never saying a word while you’re still there. Danielle’s face is the only one not blank of expression. She’s angry.
“Dad, why are you so early?” Her first words to me are a complaint.
“Your mom said eleven. It’s eleven,” I say, not in the mood for an argument. The raccoon eyes keep watching me, occasionally aiming their gaze at Danielle. They think it’ll make a difference. Danielle sees this and mutters a few swear words I don’t feel like deciphering just to tell her off for. She untangles herself from Olivia and gives her a game of tongue-tag goodbye. Danielle has all kinds of words for my feelings on Olivia. I’m a homophobe until I point out that my best friend is gay. I’m racist against her because she’s Italian and we’re Polish. It’s none of these things. It’s the raccoon eyes that stare all the time but never say a word.
“Does anyone need a ride?” The required first-parent-to-arrive question.
“Win does,” Danielle says, and a boy around sixteen gets up. I’ve driven him home before; he has his own place because he emancipated himself. He lives further from the venue than we do. Winston is his real name. We leave in silence and the two teenagers occupy the back seat together. Danielle used to sit up front with me whenever we drove anyone home.
“I’m going to drop you off first, Danielle, then come back after I drop Winston. Get ready for bed.
“Dad, it’s still early—”
“School tomorrow.” I can’t have a discussion with Danielle right now. My knuckles are white on the steering wheel. At a light I slip on gloves without Danielle or the boy noticing. I stop in front of the house and Danielle gets out. I wait until she closes the front door. My bet is she doesn’t take off the ripped up converse she’s wearing, even though she instituted that herself. I tell Winston to get in front and he does without saying anything. Winston’s apartment is nearby. I park in front and look at him. He points those raccoon eyes at me again. When he opens his mouth to thank me, I wrap my hand around the base of his skull and slam his forehead into the dashboard. He’s surprised and my arm is halfway around his throat when he starts trying to hit me. His fists are ineffective and I easily outmatch him; he barely weighs more than my daughter and none of it is muscle. Winston’s windpipe is like an extra-large plastic straw under my hooked elbow. I stare straight ahead and count the seconds till he stops kicking.
No one is watching. I take him inside, I use his key. There’s no blood. He could easily have hit his head at that concert. When I’m done with his apartment, Winston has hanged himself. Nothing’s out of place. No one’s seen me inside. When I get home, I tell Danielle to go to bed, because she’s still talking to Olivia on the phone. I’ve resigned myself to a larger text bill if it means I don’t have to hear her voice.
I’m a sick person for doing this. Since she was thirteen… I became a cop so I could try to stop myself.
It’s not working.