Right where I belonged (Dylan)

Right where I belonged (Dylan)

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Oh fuck, I thought, as the police started to lead me out of the apartment. I looked back over my shoulder, saw her still standing there against the wall, a cop next to her. She was sobbing, and met my eyes with a look of longing mixed with fear. I would have done anything to erase the fear. But there was no going back. She’d seen what I was capable of. I’d seen what I was capable of.

Randy, or whatever the hell is name was, had already been carried out by the paramedics before they arrested me. But I couldn’t clear my head of the vision of him, slamming her up against a wall, one hand over her mouth and the other up her skirt as she struggled.

I didn’t care if I went to prison. I hoped the son of a bitch was dead.

As they shoved me into the back of a patrol car, a wave of exhaustion and nausea swept over me. Was it really only three hours ago that she whispered the words in my ear, I’m losing my virginity tonight. God, I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to kick my way out of the back of the car, run back to her and throw my arms around her, protect her, love her, take care of her forever.

But, I’d screwed that up to.

So, instead of doing any of those thing, any of that exciting, dramatic, capable stuff that I’d like to do, I sat there in the back of the car, for what seemed an eternity, while the police continued to do whatever it is that police do.  Onlookers on the street walked by, glancing in the back of the car, where I was exhibit A for the guy you do not want your daughter to fall in love with.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

I was there for maybe thirty minutes before the police car finally pulled out. Two officers drove, a male and a female, and neither of them said a word to me at first, until we got stuck in traffic.  Finally, the male officer, sitting behind the wheel, said, “If you care, dispatcher says it looks like the guy you beat up is going to live.”

My hands, still wrapped behind my back, were hurting like hell, especially the one in the cast. I suspected I’d done more damage to my hand. Worth it.

I shrugged in response to the officer’s comment.

“Why’d you do it?” he asked.

I looked up at him. I guess conventional wisdom says I should stay quiet until I saw a lawyer. But what difference did it really make? I wasn’t going to fucking lie to anyone. Yes, I’d gone way too far. But the fact was, I was protecting her.  If I had to go to jail for that, so be it.

I finally answered. “He sexually assaulted my girlfriend. I intervened.”

The female officer winced.

“I call bullshit,” said the male. “I’m guessing she was getting a little on the side, and you got pissed off.”

I had to swallow the surge of rage I felt. Do not respond. Don’t do it.  I finally said, “I don’t think I want to talk to you any more.”

The officer burst into laughter and slapped the steering wheel.  “You hear that, Perez? He doesn’t want to talk to me any more. Fucking college kid punk. I tell you what, he ought to be in the fucking Marines learning some discipline, instead of fucking around at penthouse parties on the Upper West Side.. You hear that?” he shouted at me. “I fucking hate rich kids. All of you. Think you can do anything, get away with anything. I bet your dad’s lawyer will be pounding on the front door of the police station before we even get there.”

Perez, the female officer, leaned over and whispered something, urgently, to her partner. Whatever. I shook my head, turned to stare out the window. He could think what he wanted, it didn’t make any difference to me.

The abuse continued for a little while, but I tuned it out, concentrating instead on the growing bloom of pain in my right hand.

The problem was simple.

I was no good for Alex. I wasn’t even any good for myself.

Hopefully, after tonight, she recognized that. But what if she didn’t? What if she went on, in some misguided belief that she could somehow heal me? There wasn’t any healing. What happened in Afghanistan was part of who I was now, and if I thought about it honestly, something like tonight was bound to happen again.

I’d kill myself before I ever laid a hand on her. But I’d seen what happened to couples over the long term. I’m sure, once upon a time, my parents had that bloom of love and happiness. But too much alcohol, and too much stress and anger and hate finally turned them into a perfect caricature of the abusive couple. It wasn’t until my Mom got clean… and kicked his ass out … before she finally got her life together.

No way in hell was I going to put Alex through that. And it would happen. It would happen sure as the sun was going to rise in the morning.

I blinked back tears. Because I was going to have to figure out a way to let her down easy, to say goodbye, and disappear into my own world, this time permanently. Like I should have done in February, when the bomb meant for me killed my best friend instead.

At the jailhouse, they booked me in, which took forever. Fingerprints. Search. It was humiliating.

That was the point where my escort, the cop from the car, finally muttered something, when he got a look at the mess of my leg.

“What the fuck happened to you?”

“Got blown up in Afghanistan,” I answered.

He grunted. I guess that was all the apology I was going to get.

They confiscated my wallet and everything else, and into the jail cell I went. Probably right where I belonged.

The holding cell was packed, and then some, with about ten guys in a tiny little space. I took up a station near the door, and eased into a sitting position. No one looked at me or said anything and that was fine with me.  The cell itself was small, maybe ten feet long, with long benches down each side which might have once served as beds of a sort, but now each seated four or five guys, most of them slumped over, trying to approximate sleep. Closest to me was someone who stood out: a man in a suit and coat, though his tie and shoelaces were missing. He looked more like a banker than a hardened criminal. He also looked terrified, and huddled on the end of the bench as if his life depended on holding on to it. It was dark, the only light coming in through a narrow grate in the door, and the floor was damp.  At the opposite end of the cell from the door was a toilet with no seat.

This hole wouldn’t have looked out of place in Afghanistan. In fact, some of the accommodations we provided prisoners over there looked considerably more humane than this.

Where was Alex? I wondered if they’d taken her to the hospital for an examination, or had the police questioned her? I didn’t want her to have to go through any more trauma than she’d already had to deal with tonight.

Except, I thought, I was going to be the one to deal the final blow.

For a moment, I had second thoughts. We loved each other. There was no doubt. Could that survive all of this? Could we overcome whatever challenges we had? Could love heal the fucked up state of my heart and mind and soul?

Yeah, right. Not likely.

Hopefully I wouldn’t be in here long. Crazy as it sounds, I had about thirty thousand dollars left in the bank. A year of tax-free hazardous duty pay, plus my infantry signing bonus, all my paychecks for a year, had been sitting in the bank, pretty much untouched. I didn’t need anything in Afghanistan, didn’t need anything in the hospital. When I moved home, my mother insisted I hold on to the money, not spend it on anything at all, though I’d been sorely tempted to buy a car. Not that I could use one here anyway. So the money sat and earned interest, and now I was going to end up using to bail myself out of jail. If they let me make bail. If there was anyway for me to access the money.

The sad thing was, if they ever gave me the phone call rumor says you’re supposed to get from jail, I didn’t have anyone I could call. Sherman, I suppose, but I didn’t have a clue how to reach him. And if I called him, he’d probably be with Carrie and Alex. And I didn’t want to drag them into this. Not any more than I already had.

My eyes pricked with tears, and I turned away from the other men in the cell.

Tears because I was going to miss her. Tears because even though I knew I was doing the right thing, it was breaking my heart all over again. And I knew it would do the same to her.

It would have been better if Roberts had lived. It should have been me.

I closed my eyes, and pictured her long, lush brown hair, her deep green eyes, the tilt of her lips, her cheeks and neck, her beautiful spirit and loud, free laugh. And I thought that if I had to live without her, I didn’t think I wanted to live at all.

This is first draft material from a new story I’m working on. You can find the  beginning and contents of the story, here.


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