Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Strange Memories

I heard the song “No Woman No Cry” on the way into work this morning just as I passed the old church on Westerville Road: the one that I imagine has some sort of architectural significance but has gone unnoticed amidst the infection of car dealerships and porn shops in the area.

It had been a while since I heard that song, several years in fact. I think the last time I heard it was that night at friend Jeff’s place on Hollister next to school. It was either a Friday or Saturday evening.

Jeff’s roommate John was a big fan of Phish, the Greatful Dead, and Bob Marley, and since none of us were tired we turned the stereo up as loud as it would go, opened the windows and watched as the events proceeded on the street below. The neighbors, it seemed, had been fighting. The lady, who was at least 7 months pregnant, had thrown her husband, a local drug dealer, out on the street.

He spent the majority of the evening banging on the door and screaming, “Let me in woman!” at the top of his lungs. He screamed like a football coach or a man with a bullhorn. Sometime later she let him back in and the muffled screams of their constant fighting continued to fill the dark streets for quite some time.

The police arrived in the middle of the night. The officers approached and when the man opened the door he was no longer screaming. He was cool and collected. He calmly and professionally addressed the officers as “sir” and “m’am,” for one was a man and the other a woman. When the officers asked their questions, the man calmly and professionally answered. He didn’t want any trouble, his voice told the officers in cool, submissive tones. The problems had ceased for now.

The night was dark and restful.

But the problems had not ceased. The officers asked to enter his house. He calmly and professionally declined. They insisted. He calmly and professionally stepped into the street and slowly closed the screen door behind him. He calmly and professionally drew a pistol from his pocket and, almost apologetically, shot the policeman in his chest.

He then sprinted away into the night.

The officer’s partner did not shoot. She drew her gun but the street was dark and the man was quick, and she couldn’t quite see clearly enough. She opted for prudence, and focused her attention on her fallen partner.

Police descended upon the neighborhood, blocking off the streets and alleyways; shining their floodlights around every corner, every nook and every cranny. They located him in a nearby park, hiding beneath a bench with his face in his hands. They put him in the back of a cruiser which returned to the scene of the crime. He watched with almost clinical disinterest as the paramedics attempted to revive the officer he had so recently shot.

The paramedics decided that since they were so close to university Hospital they would try to move the officer here where he would have a better chance at survival. As they loaded him onto a stretcher, the woman, the pregnant lady, screamed for the police to let her husband go.

“He ain’t do nuthin’” she screamed over the policeman who had responded to her cries for help. “Why you takin’ him. Why you takin’ him?”

And again: “He ain’t DO nuthin’!”

As the ambulance hurried to the hospital and the cruisers rolled towards the, Bob Marley wailed from the stereo in the living room. “Everytin’s gonna be alright. Everyting’s gonna be alright.”

The police officer didn’t make it. The bullets were too deep and the distance to the hospital was too far. Too far by leagues. The husband was convicted of murder and is now likely among friends in the Hamilton County Correctional Facility. Or someplace similar.

This is assuming that he has not yet passed away, himself a likely target for violence in prison from either a vengeful guard or an insane inmate. There are plenty of each.

The funeral for the fallen police officer took place next week. He was an officer in Cincinnati but he was born in Columbus, Ohio. A sea of white and blue police cars from all across southern and central Ohio, including a hefty number of civilians, followed the procession of family members as they escorted their husband, their father, their brother, their son to his resting place near his home in Columbus. The procession stretched for what felt like an eternity along Interstate 71.

I sat parked on the side of the road, watcing the procession as Bob Marley played his simple, sweet chorus of heartache and loss.

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