Falling for Captain D
I had never known the peculiar phenomenon of cop-love until it was my job to hold the sign. In my life, I have had many opportunities to explore the condition--I used to work in a coffee-shop, fertile ground for police/barista liaison--but never succumbed myself, making it habit to avoid such entanglements altogether. I had even been known to show disdain for coworkers and friends who exhibited the telltale symptoms: forced laughter, gratuitous free cappuccino, speaking-in-a-higher-pitched-voice-than-normal, chiding them with gruesome tales of Abner Louima and his baton-battered colon. But I had little choice when Captain D sidled up. We were experiencing the runoff of a hurricane, you see; the sign flapped dangerously and I couldn't move.
It is not my aspiration to be a blustery-day-sign holder or anything. I mean, I am in possession of a piece of paper that supposedly entitles me to other vocational options, and was just looking for potential karmic reward. But Captain D, in the first of many illustrations of profundity, found worth. He compared it to polishing a car. "Some people like to polish cars," he said, his strong swift hands miming the words, "you like to hold the sign." That I didn't, in fact, like to hold the sign was of no importance. Captain D's analogy touched me deeply and I was rendered mute by his eloquence.
The sign itself was covered with letters, which formed to make words, that when taken together signified an idea. The purpose of the sign was to then announce this idea, in a visual manner, to passersby, in hopes of instilling reaction or engaging thought on part of the sign-viewer. The sign-holder was already, one hoped, in general agreement with the sign itself. To this end the sign, and the others like it, was effective, and many onlookers remarked at their favorite representations in an excitable fashion. Suffice to say I was holding the sign. I was advocate. But back to Captain D.
He was a grey-haired Captain D with hunched shoulders and a shuffling way of walking. His eyelids fluttered like butterflies when he spoke. When he first approached I was wary--I mentioned my aversion--but not so much so, his innate copness masked in minor disabilities. A disarming ploy on his part. I remembered watching an investigative piece on the use of Tazers on The N___ H___. One cop interviewee had said that, rather than blast people with large amounts of electricity, police should instead work on their language skills and manner. Captain D had no such need; I was incapacitated by his charm. Plus I was holding the sign. Don't forget, it was windy and might have blown away.
Captain D disapproved of "slangs and profanities" and was thereby attracted to my sign, for he appreciated the absence of such. I agreed, it was a clever sign. He did however, looking around, lament the absence of those of a certain persuasion and leaned in--his closeness sending a charge up my spine and a flush to my cheeks, biting my lip, waiting, waiting--and mentioned the name of a certain Pat B___, a man who he seemed to hold in great esteem. Crushed, I mentioned to him that, in theory, those of the sign were not of any distinct affiliation, while the man he mentioned could certainly be perceived as having a distinct ideological thrust and would, as a result of that proclivity--I enunciated every syllable--be contrary to the spirit of the endeavor. He did not seem to follow my reasoning and I was devastated.
He went on to elucidate the complexity of said ideology on the basis of a desire for "good family," apparently something the people he encountered in his activities seemed to lack. He expressed his consternation over this and I marveled at his sympathy. I had, in fact, worked in the schools of the city in which it was Captain D's duty to protect and serve and could say from experience that it was a difficult environment and I jumped at the chance to say just that. Captain D beamed at me and went so far as to comment on the worth of my "soul." I felt beautiful and floated above the ground. I did not mention to Captain D my utter frustration in the face of my attempts to educate or my belief that the main flaws and root causes underlying the fruitlessness of such attempts were exacerbated by such men as Pat B___ and just smiled sweetly, not wanting to disappoint him.
Then it was time for Captain D to go. How he came to this decision I cannot say--there was no call on his radio, no harried tap on his shoulder--he just seemed to know. He moved his hand to shake mine and I raised it, praying with all my might it had not become overly clammy in the hours of sign holding, agonizing over the amount of pressure to exert, the delicate balance between strength and submission, remembering everything in that second before our hands met and when we touched... yes, my skin went alive, yes, melted even, yes, and I felt reprieve from my inadequacy and wondered if Captain D could sense my longing. He answered with a sly wink and turned his back to amble away. Watching him move into the crowd I was overcome with melancholy. I lost interest in the sign, feigned stomach cramps, and begged off early, fashed as I was by a new and infernal knowledge.
About the author:
Erik Wennermark is a writer of fiction and criticism living in Baltimore. His work is available at erikwennermark.com.