One time my partner and I were driving around late at night. We pulled down an alley that went behind a row of businesses and bars, right by the ocean. A car ahead of us was driving with no headlights and it meandered slowly down the alley, careening off of three or four parked cars, throwing sparks and sending shards of busted taillights into the air. We lit it up and as soon as we did the driver floored it. The sound of the engine roaring buffeted off of the backs of the buildings and mixed with the wild lights of our patrol car and gave everything a weird carnival kind of feeling. The driver’s door flew open and we watched as a dark shape rolled out of the car and sprung up, running like mad for the pier.
The car, abandoned, rolled off into Diamond Dave’s Lemonade stand.
My partner and I jumped out of the unit and chased the dark shadow down towards the pier. We were closing on him, so he turned west and ran towards the water. He jumped into the waves as we chased after him. He ran until a wave hit him, then he dove down and started swimming. We stood knee-deep in the water and motherfucked him in frustration. We expected him to swim out a little ways and then turn around and laugh at us, but he didn’t.
He just kept on going.
He swam and swam and swam.
We finally hauled out and got up to the pier. We ran out to the end of it, sweeping the water with the powerful beams of our flashlights.
Not a splash to be seen. Not a sound. Just the crashing of the waves and the far-off wail of our siren, the wash of the rotating blue and red lights. The dark sea.
I have done some bad things in my life. I won’t tell about them. Suffice it to say that it is some things I would do different. I never set out to hurt anyone, though.
I’ll stand by that.
You stand outside a thing and you look at it. You make a judgement. But that doesn’t hold anything like the truth. For that to happen you have to get on in there. You have to get your hands dirty. Then you make a judgement and it holds the truth but that truth can’t be taken back outside. It will die there.
It can only live in the air that give it birth.
You take it out and it’s a pathetic thing.
It lies there in the dirt and mewls in its dying like a sick thing.
It can’t say what it knows.
It can only make a sound like something you wish you could forget.
I have held the following in my hands:
A human heart.
I have stroked the fine and beautiful hair of a four year old boy as he lay on the stainless steel table in the Los Osos Valley Mortuary as Doc Walker made the wide and relentless Y incision across his chest and then set to work with him until it was nothing left but a hollow red and yellow shell.
I have not forgotten it.