Even having had that initial suspicion, it hadn’t really registered.
The simple interactions were held behind the fog of my own transition. The differences were noted but set to the side in the obvious face of the facts that I was coping with an existence devoid of speech.
I, as so many are prone to do, looked for what was there. I looked for what I wanted to find…for what filled in the blanks for the questions I wanted to answer. I didn’t pay enough attention to what wasn’t there.
All those small moments.
Even had it occurred to me – the gravity of how eyes lingered or didn’t, the way that words had been spoken, or not – I would have never guessed that it meant what it actually did. Not nearly to the full extent.
So when I sat there silently, blood stained hands with inky fingertips, two cops sitting across from me, the sad revelation of reality was some illusive entity. As substantial as the men behind the two-way mirror that I couldn’t see, but that I knew must likely be there – and so just as difficult to see or recognize.
If you’ve never been interrogated by the police, allow me to give you a quick breakdown of how this works. First and foremost, there is no good cop, bad cop; there are just cops trying to make you believe that they’re on your side.
Phrases like, “You’re gonna wanna get out in front of this, ya know?” “Being open and honest builds credibility. Judge sees that you told us the truth about what happened, it goes a long way to a better end result.”
Getting you to confess for the sake of confessing is an art form. No one cares if you’re innocent. If you don’t put your hands in their cuffs, they have to actually do their job and figure out how to put them on themselves.
I remained silent. The irony, of course, is that any good lawyer would have told me to do just that, and had it been…I don’t even know how much earlier…I might have found myself grabbing their kindly offered shovel and digging my own grave. “You dig it yourself, you can make it so it’s just the way you like it…maybe put in room for a minifridge…”
Time stretched as they pressed me. They had me dead to rights, so part of me couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. You find a man dead and another man in the house, covered in blood, holding the knife. You can’t get any more of a round peg – round hole scenario.
But things weren’t as simple as they seemed in my new reality.
When one of the detectives excused himself, I chalked it up to them trying some new angle. Go out so the other one could let me know that he was really on my side, but his partner…
Maybe the other would come back in with some obvious piece of evidence. Hold it up like a soiled doormat to a dog that had just pissed on it. “You see this? See it? You did this!”
I just hung my head.
Part of me wanted what was coming.
It was a dark, terrible train that billowed black smoke. It was coming right for me, lights shining so bright it hurt. All I wanted to do was lie down on the tracks and let it take me. Would it really be so bad? What use could I be in such a place?
It might have been the closest thing to salvation I could hope for.
But then the detective returned, walked over and leaned down to the other and whispered something.
They whispered back and forth for a moment.
“Bullshit…” one said.
They both left.
I expected him to enter. Some deus ex machina – pardon the irony – like Saul Goodman showing up to bail out Jessie Pinkman. In his possession, some file that pulled all the right strings in all the right directions.
Fate is a cruel beast. A monster. And hell is not so simple a master.
Looking back, I should have noticed how the cashiers didn’t have the same look. The way that people who I’d seen before – seen so often that there was an air of recognition – didn’t quite act the same.
I assumed it was situational.
But now the words echoed. “You know what? You’ll figure it out…”
As they marched me out of the room and held me in place, hands cuffed behind my back. The boy stood there, a tear streaked face.
“This man,” the detective said. “You saw this man when you came home.” It wasn’t given as a question.
The boy just shook his head.
The other detective knelt down, and I could tell what was being said even without hearing the words. “Did someone threaten you? You don’t have to be afraid, we can protect you…”
He shook his head again.
I looked to the side and found what little reflection of myself I could in a small bit of glass in an office door. To me, nothing had changed. I was still the me I’d always been. I had the sudden, unsettling fear that I had no idea who I was to the rest of the world. What face did they see? What fingerprints were my hands wearing?
Seventy-two hours later I was allowed to leave for lack of evidence. My fingerprints didn’t even match those at the crime scene.
I returned home like a man who had layn down on the railroad tracks and found that, by some odd circumstance, the train had merely gone over me and never made contact. I didn’t know if I was relieved or worried. Afraid or elated.
The answer came quickly enough.
The sharp scent of cigarette smoke met me on entry, along with what was – at that moment – the most ominous phrase I could have heard.
“You and I need to have a little talk…”