Friday, April 16, 2010

Character Study

Anthony looked in the mirror. The dim light didn't help, but there was no mistaking it. He was getting older. There were lines around his eyes, and his face was fuller than he had remembered. When had that happened?

His hair, cut short, was still mostly dark, but it was getting a little grayer around the edges. He absentmindedly ran his hands along the side of his head, pausing when they came together, clasped behind his head. He sighed, closed his eyes for a moment and tried to think of something other than his current life, but even there he drew a blank.

He thought he ought to be able to think of sandy beaches and palm trees and peace and quiet, but he couldn't quite turn them into pictures in his mind. He knew the concepts, but not the pictures.

The light above the mirror flickered and he opened his eyes, sighed again, and reached up to smack the light. Tony (to his fellow officers) was going nowhere, and he wasn't even going there very quickly. He brought together the front of his uniform shirt and began to button the shirt. Who was he fooling? The dark t-shirt made it less obvious, but it was getting harder and harder to button the shirt. He'd like to blame the cleaners, but that was one of the few luxuries he allowed himself -- he thought that his uniform ought to be crisp, pressed, respectable, you know? -- and the little old lady that ran the cleaners, and more recently, her daughter, well, they did a lot of the cleaning for the cops in the area, often at no charge, and there'd never been a complaint against them by any of the other officers about the quality of the work. Sure, he wasn't the only one that jokingly accused her shrinking their shirts, but they all knew the truth. After the academy, fitness was not a high priority. And all the hours behind the wheel or at a desk, all the greasy food, all the heartache and sadness they'd seen that they so often buried with food or drink, they all knew that was the reason their shirts didn't fit so well anymore. The bulletproof vest didn't help any, either. Even if they were spotless, perfectly pressed and always handled with obvious care and courtesy, no matter how many times they were covered with vomit, blood or worse. The things you had to deal with on that kind of job, and for what?

His mom would say that her "Ant-nee" was a good boy. He had had his troubles as a youth, but when the time came to make the decision for good or bad, he'd chosen the route for good, like so many of his uncles and cousins. Unfortunately, too many of the others his age had chosen a different life, so when their paths crossed, that too took a toll. It had also limited his options as well. He'd never had an opportunity for any side business. He'd stayed straight and true despite some of the dealings that had gone through his precinct over the years, something several Internal Affairs interrogations bore out. There had been some questions about he could not have known what was going on, but he had earned, if not the respect, the appreciation of his fellow officers. They had never brought him in on their dealings. By leaving him out, they had allowed him a long, if boring, tour of duty on the streets of the neighborhood.

They hadn't left him out entirely. He was welcomed at the local cop bar, he knew everyone in the neighborhood. He had friends, but none that close. And he'd never met a girl. He'd always figured some day he'd meet a nice girl, get married and have a few kids. He knew the picture in his mind was old fashioned, but that's what he knew, so that's what he held on to. But even that seemed to be slipping away. It was quickly becoming a concept as well. One he knew, but he couldn't picture.

He breathed on his shield and rubbed it with his sleeve before affixing it to his shirt. He smoothed out his pantlegs and then crouched down to put on his shoes. They were overdue for polishing, but he couldn't see it in the dim light of his bathroom. He pulled the laces tight, noticing a quarter down by the base of the sink in the grime. It wasn't going anywhere.

He stood up, walked into his bedroom and picked up his belt off the bed. Every year the belt got heavier. It wasn't just that he was getting older, but they kept adding more and more things that he was required to carry. He crouched down, pulled the safe from under the bed, removed his firearm, checked the chamber, checked the magazine, checked the safety and holstered his weapon.

Little did he know that within two hours, he would stumble into something that would change his life forever, that within a year he'd be testifying in front of a grand jury and within two years, he'd be sitting in the Oval Office waiting to meet with the President of the United States of America. Little did he know that within two hours, his life and the lives of everyone in the old neighborhood would be changed forever.