“I think these should do – what do you need gloves for?” Our town’s Chief of Police was handing me a thick box of bright blue latex gloves.
“Oh, just to clean the bathrooms…” I muttered. I took the weekly job of cleaning the police department back when Alex and I started dating, and even though it’s been months, I still feel *really* out of place wandering around amidst wanted posters and uniformed officers. You would think that being married to one of the officers would eliminate such woe, but I guess I feel all the more self-conscious. I’m still learning how to be a good ‘cop-wife’. People maybe don’t think there is a lot to it, but there is, at least the way I see it.
“Good. They should be tough enough, they’re the kind we use when we need to handle decomposing bodies.” He smiled and then walked away.
The kind we use when we need to handle decomposed bodies? See- right there, cop wife fail #27, I feel like I should press him for further details, or ask about the rate at which bodies decompose, or have anything running through my mind but this horror at death and decomposition. Never did I think I would hear those words said with such matter-of-fact-ness. Decomposed bodies? You never really forget statements like that, or, “You know, on every traffic stop we are supposed to walk up behind the car and press our right thumb against the back light so that if something were to happen, and we die, they have our print on the car that ‘did it’.”
If something were to happen and we die?
Every night my husband walks down our frightfully narrow flight of stairs and just before he closes the front door behind him, he turns and looks at me one last time. I usually say something old-hennish like “Stay safe now, Alexander.” or better yet, “Stay warm now, hon.” and then he smiles at me. I freeze that moment in time and hold it closer than I hold any single one of my breaths until he is safe back home again. I go about the night, I do my school, I do my dishes, I fold laundry or knit or bake cookies and in the end fall into an uneasy sleep and all the time that picture is in the back of my head, perfectly preserved, his last smile before he heads out to save the world. A part of me ceases to breathe until he is by my side once more.
I talk like an old maid, a grandma, a mother, half scolding, “Stay warm now, stay out of trouble.”
What I mean to say is, “If something were to happen to you, I think I would die. And not just *die* in one terrible seizure that ended life once and for all. No, it would be a pulsing thing, moment by moment, beat by beat, never ending. Remember, dear one, it is not just your own life you carry with you out of this little, angled home, not just your heart you bear beneath that bullet-proof vest. Stay warm.” A prayer, more like a groan, more like a cry than any I’ve ever uttered, “God keep him.” It’s not a dangerous little town, but there he goes, out to find any danger that might develop.
Cop wife fail #28. Being totally unwilling to give my up my husband for the greater good of mankind. Oh my. Between that sentiment, and the fact that I obviously seem to tend towards the morbid and slightly cowardly, we have a first class fault. Of course I want him to be The Good Guy. Of course I want him to chase his passion while chasing bad guys. Of course, when he gets himself all decked out in his uniform he looks like he could face death and hell and troublesome teens all in one night and still be home at dawn to kiss me good morning, and I have every confidence that he would, and will. The thing is, I love the man inside that uniform. I love the man that sheds his duty belt and then holds my hand while we watch movies at night. When the badge comes off at the end of the shift, the heart beneath it is warm and full and loving and all mine. In my failing, cop wife way, I just can’t help but think that if everyone could see the man I see, there would be no need for fingerprinting taillights.
I can’t make people good. I can’t make them see reason, or make life deal me lighter blows than most people have come to expect, but there are things I *can* do, things like not missing that last smile, or never taking that moment when I hear his keys in the door for granted.
*That*, dear reader, will not be one of my failings.