Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I have opened the front door about 10,000 times in my life. For at least half those times, the door wasn’t even locked in the first place. Thursday night I had an experience that has forever changed my relationship to the front door.
Just after dark, about 9:30 PM. Two guys in masks, the first one put a knife in my face, and pushed me backwards. He shouted “This is real!” I think, is this a swat team, but there aren’t enough of them, the uniforms are wrong. Way too many tattoos, and that knife is not what the cops usually use. Reset – This is about drugs. I remember thinking I could die in the next few minutes if I am not careful. “Lie down” I get down fast.
Knifeboy says roll over, and the second, bigger guy shows me a black baseball bat. Knifeboy ties my hands with zipties. He has done this before - the first one loose, so the second one can loop through, then he pulls the second one very tight while telling me that I am not the one they have come for. At this point I think there is a reasonable chance I am going to survive this encounter.
“Where is the money and the pot?.” My housemates have a few grams of pot, and when knifeboy discovers I am alone in the house he tells me to get up and show them where the pot is hidden. I give up the stash under the bed, and then knifeboy asks me where the money is. I tell them I don’t know (the rent is due the next morning and I have all of it in my wallet, but they aint going to get that).
“Where is the money” he says again. That knife was carbon steel. At least a six inch blade, and it was sharp, so sharp I didn’t register I was cut for a few minutes, even though later I could recall the experience very clearly. The blade went into my bicep about 11/2 inches deep. I think it could have gone a lot deeper without very much effort. I told him I didn't know where the money was -- maybe he figured I was hiding something.
The brightly painted thugs both left immediately after knifeboy drew blood, making no search, but apparently grabbing a laptop on the way out.
As soon as the door closed I got up, and went to find some scissors to cut myself loose. Fortunately I had been unpacking all day (I just moved in) so there was a sharp pair of scissors very handy. I cut myself loose (they had tied my hands in front) and then I noticed I was bleeding quite a lot so I tied a towel round my arm.
Pretty tight, I hadn’t actually seen the wound at this point and I tied it off a bit low. But that was good, cos it did stop the bleeding, and when my friends arrived a few minutes later, I got help putting some tea tree oil on the cut, and a big bandaid. I started bleeding again, so I put the towel back on.
I was up for walking to the hospital and making up a story, but my friends wanted to call the cops, so I sat down and waited. The cops were there in less than five minutes.
One of the cops talked to me until the ambulance guys showed up, and then backed right off until after the medics had finished with me. I guess that is the protocol, cops don't interfere with the medics. My brother was an ambulance guy, the medic with the authority to administer drugs -- he does dispatch now, but that’s another story. The medics were really professional, and very pleasant people. I think they respected my declining the pain killer. (The cat scan guy was pleased with the quality of the needlework these guys did – still working fine several hours after I stepped out of the ambulance.) My blood sugar was 95 – (damn good) and I forget the numbers, but the blood pressure she said was “perfect”. Gotta love that yoga.
In the hospital the senior doctor says they have to do a cat scan to make sure the vein wasn’t punctured (god knows what that’s going to cost me – I shudda said, Doc, there's no bleeding, and there hasn't been any bleeding for a couple of hours. That knife was very sharp, I think he had sharpenend it as part of his preparations for the event, so the blade was reasonably clean, and the cut was very straight. I heal very quickly due to years of practicing meditation and yoga. Why don't you just put me in the corridor for a few hours, and if there's still no bleeding, clean the wound and sew me up. I cannot afford a cat scan. But there's no paycheck for shoudda.)
I reckon knifeboy just knicked the vein. I practice vipassana meditation, and soon after I put the towel on my arm I was working on healing the cut. People who know me can attest to the fact of my rapid healing. It’s not magic – it’s applied science and technique developed over years of practice. The stuff works if you do the work. Despite my many faults, I somehow manage to do the practice. May my teachers be blessed with great happiness.
I had a nice chat with Doctor Susan, she was impressed with my pain tolerance so I told her about when I hitch hiked home from the hospital with thirty six stitches where it really hurts. She said she was half way through a four year residency – I said WOW, I bet you have seen some serious bullshit in here in that time. “Never a dull moment”.
After the scan the doctor got an expert to view the slides, I guess that means it was too close for her to call. So the cat scan turned out to be even more expensive, and even less useful than if it had conclusively ruled out (or affirmed) vein damage requiring surgery.
The Doc said I was in pretty good shape for someone with my condition. I told her I did yoga every day and rode a bicycle. I didn’t give her my usual medical cannabis talk, cos there were all these cops hanging around, and I didn’t say anything to the cops about the weed in the house (although they clearly knew).
The cops didn’t ask me about weed, in fact they didn’t ask me about much of anything, just my name and DOB over and over, and they asked me to describe knifeboy and batbuddy over and over. Could I pick ‘em out of a lineup – no chance. Interview over – name, DOB, address, phone number, I am Detective so and so, nobody left me a card. I don’t know who they all were.
The cops asked for my shirt - one of my nice yellow ones, although I don’t think my laundry detergent could have made it wearable again. So now they have my fingerprints, DNA and blood. And a bunch of photographs. The police photographer took about six full face shots and one shot of my stab wound. I mean – no attempt to be subtle – the cops now have a fat file on me. Four cops interviewed me, so that’s four reports right there. I am certain I have not heard the last of this. Maybe I need a lawyer.
Home invasion is the official name for this class of crime. And I reckon these dudes were not virgins. Lousy actors – tried to pin the blame on some other dude – kept claiming to have been sent by this dude. Thing is I know the dude, and there’s no way. Nah! somebody else put these guys up to it, or they were working for themselves, and they wanted to send the cops running after the wrong dude – payback for something else I reckon. Either that or my first reaction was right. These guys were cops and the whole point was to gather intelligence.
If knifeboy hadn’t cut me, there would have been no cops, therefore knifeboy or his employer wanted to bring the cops down on somebody. Everybody else, possibly including me, is just collateral damage.
Welcome to Baltimore.
Dr Susan, Nurse Joy Lee and Evan the nursing assistant were all busy dealing tactfully and skilfully with the very sick, the badly damaged, and some dude who smashed himself up in a car. (I think he might have been drunk.) He got loads of visitors. And his arrival caused my bed to be wheeled out to the nurses station.
I was out in the nurses station for most of the time – maybe four hours, quite a while, anyway, so I got an overview of what was happening in the emergency room all night.
Doctor Susan was very thorough with the wound cleaning. In fact she did it twice, cos the first time she had to stop and go deal with some serious stuff. By about four thirty am all the bays were full – they couldn’t send any more patients - so the Doc finally had time to sew me back together – she did internal and external stitches. I lost count, but it was double digits. I could tell she had lots of practice. My first stab wound ever.
Pain is getting less. I'll be back doing yoga on Sunday. And I am putting a serious chain on that front door.
My brother, Raymond, was born on my birthday in 1960.
Best birthday present ever.
Alas. I am parted from my golden wonder child.
At nine years old her tiny energetic frame was crowned by tumbling golden locks that brought elderly ladies gushing to watch and touch.
Even her stunningly beautiful smart and sensible older sister, was cast in shadow by that brilliant light.
She almost believed it.
That night there were fireworks on the pier, and right outside our fifth floor apartment there was an eleven piece soul combo that started rockin' the place about 10:00 PM.
The four kids (7, 9, 11 & 12 yrs old) watched from the window while I served gin and tonic to elderly relatives who were recovering from five fights of stairs).
Shortly before midnight elderly relatives tottered down the stairs, and I stood on the steps in front of the house, until the rear lights of the taxi disappeared up the winding lane.
In front of me was a crowd of several hundred people. Lots of them were dancing.
I bounded up the stairs. “RIGHT KIDS LET'S PARTY!!!!” I bellowed.
“Daddy, It's Midnight!” said 12, sensible and smart. 11 Looked thoughtful, going out at midnight was kind of cool. 7 remained asleep. C jumped up ready to go.
Three of us went all the way down to the steps, at which point 11, seeing the huge crowd, and the noise, decided that she had made it outside, and that was triumph enough to share with _ when she got back to London.
C dances pretty good. (And I'm a goddam legend). So we worked our way right in front of the stage.
It was like a scene out Bollywood. The three guys on saxophones were copying her dance.
The band was gigging on my kid, and the whole crowd around us was gigging on my kid.
I was dancing and laughing and crying all at the same time.
And right at that moment, my little brother, Raymond, was sitting in his car in a desolate parking lot, with a hose pipe running from the exhaust in through to the cab. The window was sealed with duct tape.
We didn't share any more birthdays.
I dialed the number and described the scene in the kitchen. The woman at the other end of the phone asked me a series of questions. I think she was reading from a script. I answered the questions truthfully for a minute, maybe two, but I was anxious to get off the phone and she encouraged me to hang up when I said I was worried about being discovered.
The telephone company, as part of their regular billing process, provided my father with the date and time of the call, and from there he was able to deduce that the culprit was either myself, or my younger brother Colin, who was thirteen at the time, but as he was writhing on the floor, doing his best to limit the damage from the severe kicking he was getting, he wasn’t actually able to make that call himself. Raymond, another possible culprit, even though at only eleven years of age, such a calculated act of defiance would seem to be quite extreme, was trapped by furniture and unable to avoid witnessing the accustomed horror.
Had my father asked, I would have told him it was me. But I think he felt justified in hating all three of us, for, after all, it was our “bad behavior” that had brought these embarrassing and infuriating do-gooders to plague his life. I am sure he never considered the possibility that he might have been in the wrong. When they finally let go of him, after two years, during which time he had to refrain from some of the usual violence in the home as he was being “investigated”, he had a lot more pent up anger than just one of us could absorb.
He tossed all three of us out of school at the earliest possibility. In the case of my younger brothers, this was at age sixteen. I was seventeen, and half way through two years of college prep.
I was grounded for something or other, probably coming home late which I did a lot – eleven instead of ten-thirty kind of stuff, but my old man thought he could change any behavior with the right kind of punishment so I was under some kind of household arrest for an extended period, and on Sunday night I was home alone with my baby brother Geoff asleep upstairs after my parents went to the local pub for their weekly gathering with various relatives. My brother, being familiar with my parents’ schedule, arrived with his girlfriend to take advantage of the lack of adult supervision. I went out for a walk.
I came back an hour later, completely unaware that in the interim father had returned to collect a leash for the dog and discovered my disrespect for the boundaries of my prison. On Monday night, between arriving home from work, and heading out to the rugby club, father informed me that I was going to have to pay rent if I wished to continue living in his house. This would entail my leaving school and getting a job.
I was academically gifted, and, although I wasn’t enthusiastic about homework, I paid enough attention to score well on exams. I also engaged with extra curricular stuff. I was secretary of what passed for student government, for example, and my headmaster told me at my exit interview that I was short-listed to be a prefect in my senior year. This was despite a complete lack of interest or competence in any sport whatsoever. On the other hand, I was reading Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, Robert Graves and Fyodor Dostoyefsky in my free time while concentrating on Math Chemistry and Physics for schoolwork. I took every opportunity for stage performance, singing, dancing whatever I could get, both at school and in more than one amateur drama group.
I had always expected to complete a baccalaureate degree before going out into the real world. I was totally unprepared mentally. I had given the matter no thought at all. And suddenly I am sitting in the unemployment office explaining that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do – “something constructive” I think I said.
More than two decades later I was standing in a pub on Christmas eve with my older brother, David. My surprise was genuine when David told me that father was still trying to find out who it was that dubbed him in to the RSPCC so many years earlier. I had totally forgotten making that call, because, as far as I was aware at the time, nothing had happened as a result. It was an event without consequence, and so I never had cause to think of the matter again.
As David described a situation where father had been the subject of a two year investigation it came rushing back to me. If only Colin and Raymond could rush back also. But by the time of this conversation both of those boys were dead. And they had both died deliberately, efficiently and alone.
There is a painfully exquisite entanglement of coincidence that binds these and other events together with some things of consequence on a far larger scale.
I call it my life.