Friday, October 5, 2007

two-story house with a short chain-link fence around the lawn. and the lawn was patchy.

He didn't try to deny it. He didn't play games with the police. He didn't threaten anyone else or himself. He just handed over the razor to the arresting officers, one of those barber's razors that folds back in on itself, with the blade maybe three quarters of an inch wide.

When they asked him, "Did you stab him?" he just nodded. And then said, "yeah, I stabbed him. I stabbed him."

"Why? Why'd you stab him?" The officer was tall and white and his bullet-proof vest made him look even more impassive.

"I don't know. I don't know, man." And then he started crying. He wasn't pleading with the cops. He wasn't trying to make a scene. He didn't wipe his nose or blot his tears with that grubby white undershirt. The tears just ran down his cheeks over the stubble and down the neck that had more wrinkles than five years ago.

And his shoulders shook, which made it awkward as they put the handcuffs on his wrists, behind his back. "If y-," he started, but had to swallow, sniff and swallow. "If you take me in there," he said, "I'm gonna die." And then the tears returned, and that genuine intestinal sob resumed.

They bundled him towards the waiting car, right past me where I stood on the sidewalk. He was trying to walk slowly, as if he wanted to preserve some dignity, and the cops didn't seem to mind it at all. They gave him plenty of space, one officer with a firm grip above his elbow on either side, letting him set the pace.

And right as he passed me, he looked over at me. "I'm gonna die," he said to me, and his voice was hollow. And his eyes made my skin crawl, my stomach turn, and a cold sweat spring out on my back.

They loaded him into the back seat, a firm hand guiding his head beneath the doorpost. I looked over, afraid that his eyes would still be fixed on me. But he was staring straight in front of himself. The door closed, and I saw his lips move again. "I'm gonna die."

And two days later, he was dead. I wonder why they never read him his Miranda rights. Maybe they did that inside.

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