Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Stairwell

The troops were called in to handle an “incident” late that night.  Gearing up in the locker room, I realized I hadn’t had time to grab an extra belt.  Oh well, in this kind of situation you can only be as prepared as you come, and hope that your skills are sufficient.

None of us knew why we were there – at least not at first.  We’d been told they’d fill us in on the way.  One more experienced officer did know however, and he wanted us mentally prepared for what we were about to face.

“There’s been an 11-45,” he said.  Attempted suicide.

“And it was successful.”

I nodded, keeping my face blank as my mind flew, not to the last suicide I had dealt with, but rather, the first.

A shining light of bubbly personality, my friend Adam was as sharp and as flamboyant as they come.   Always mischievous and always with such Presence – his loss left gaping holes in our lives where something good used to be.

Missing wasn’t unusual; he’d lost his phone so many times I never knew what his number was.  But then, they found him.

Seventy-five feet high.  Hanging from an electrical tower against Merced’s March sky.

Even in death he made his presence known.

And six months later, the ripples could still be felt as I stood halfway around the world.  In Morocco I wrote:

His smile

doesn’t echo here,

His laughter

never filled these rooms,

but his presence is

as strong as the


of my heart

against the walls

of loneliness.

A hole that only he could fill

my shrink but remain ever still

upon the tear-stained walls

of my heart.

The walls on this night were stained by something much more visceral.

Red-brown streaks on a closed grey door.

Caution tape and bookshelves serving as improvised barricades.

We weren’t meant to see the scene but not all doors were closed so tightly.

Eight stories of stairwell is a lot to keep contained and to the untrained eye I suppose that lump of pink on the step could have been a rather large wad of gum, but I knew better.

I could tell the Inferior Frontal Gyrus from the Occipital Lobe, and I know when both are staring me in the face – plastered to the wall or sliding down the steps.  Remnants left from a mind long gone.

The job had me standing there for hours.  Wind whipped up by the elevators wafting the subtle smell of raw meat into the hallway.

It was past midnight by the time we were able to leave, as the library closed, students slogging home bleary-eyed, completely unaware of the scene just on the other side of the wall from where they had sat studying for so many hours.

At the end of the night, the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing had other officers asking if there was anything we wanted to say.  But, what can you say in the face of death?

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Home (Collage)

A blue-grey house perched on the hill, filled with the trinkets that make up a life.  Bed, table, kitchen, family, dog, couch.  An attic full of memories and seasonal decorations brought out every year to adorn the gutters, eves, porch, and windows.  covering the door with signs, changing the meaning and colors of Welcome.  But underneath lies the house, blue-grey, perched on the hill, as solid as ever.  Waiting for you to come home.

Pine needles spring beneath my feet, making the ground feel soft and my stride effortless as I walk under the tall pines.  Birds sing soft melodies and the air is fresh from recent rain.  The open air is cool under a blue sky as a soft breeze kisses my cheek, welcoming me back to where I belong.

Home is the warm smile on your mother’s face when you surprise her on her birthday.  The solid feel of her arms around you as she pulls you close, long blonde hair wafting hints of coconut oil into your face.  The comfort of being held, squeezed within an inch of your life by those you love.

Hard asphalt, baked black in the sun and glistening with the residue of oil left from the thousands of cars that have been there before you.  Chain-link fences and gates with guards that bar entry to anyone but you – for this is your domain.  You know all the shortcuts, the secret exits and entrances.  The escape routes leading you to and from home.

Indescribable acknowledgement.  Proof that you know it’s there.  A feeling bone-deep yet airy with acceptance.  There’s nothing left to prove, no effort needs to be made.  It doesn’t matter what you see when you look out the window because right now, in this moment, here, you are home.

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Bird Rock

Written 1 February 2013Bird Rock

The waves lap gently against the rocks, whispering secrets beyond my grasp. The pelicans perch proudly on Bird Rock as the sun sinks slowly behind a cloud on the horizon, scattering sunlight across the still-blue sky into rays of yellow above and hints of burnt gold beneath the purpling clouds.

The smaller birds grow restless as the day drifts closer to its end, smattering over the last scraps of food in the rocks and flying low over the water to head for a place to roost.

The ebbing tide soothes my own restlessness as the salty air fills my lungs. I still haven’t made a decision but the swirling clouds that fan from the day’s descending sun, swirling around like question marks in the pool of my mind, remind me that life is always uncertain.

I’m nearing the end of this day, of this chapter in my life. But the ocean will always be there, waves lapping soothingly or crashing vehemently over the rocks depending on the tide. And as the sun sinks hidden below a cloud, my future remains shrouded in mystery, with just a few golden glimmers of possibility shining through.

I may not know what the future holds but I do know that tomorrow the sun will shine, the waves will continue, and the world will greet another day.

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