Lasting First Impressions (Part 1)
When I was a little girl, I feared policemen. I can’t pinpoint why. I grew up in a law abiding home, so I had no real reason to be afraid, but for some reason, they looked scary to me, intimidating with their dark uniforms, big sticks and guns. Once when my mom got pulled over for speeding, I cried so hysterically that the police officer let her off with a warning. I think I may have scared him more than he did me. I wonder if I would feel differently if the younger me ever came across a police officer like my good friend, Don. Actually, I don’t need to wonder. I know.
I grow more fond of Don when he shares his experiences in the very uniform that used to scare me, so today it is my privilege to introduce him to you as he shares Part 1 of a tale you won’t soon forget. (Make sure and come back Thursday for the rest of the story.)
I can’t think of a better man to be the first to post for the SisterWives. ~Mandi
“Hello! Is anybody home?” I asked as I peeked my head through a wide open doorway.
“Who is it?” A woman yelled from somewhere in the back.
“Police, ma’am. Is everything okay in here?”
A woman I’d swear I knew from somewhere suddenly entered the doorway to greet me.
“We’re fine, officer; come on in, if you have to. Nobody here called though.”
She was correct that nobody in her apartment called for the police.
The call came from a neighbor who said she could hear arguing coming from this apartment. The caller told the dispatcher that it happens a lot and that she’s never gotten involved before, but it sounded particularly violent this time.
The woman who called asked to not be identified or contacted, but she felt as though she couldn’t do nothing this time, as she always had before.
Guilt is a bitch like that.
“I know you didn’t call, Claire. Somebody passing through must have heard some noise and been concerned.”
The woman standing in front of me wasn’t quite thirty years old and she was quite pretty, even dressed in gray sweat pants and a tattered, white Def Leppard tee shirt.
Some of her long brown hair was matted into her eye brows and long lashes that were unable to mask the fact that she’d been crying.
She deftly swept her hair from her eyes and looked up at me. She was maybe 5’3″ with her shoes on, and rail thin, but not scrawny. She was toned from working out or working hard, one or the other. As I was sizing her up and looking at broken glass and silverware all over the apartment floor, she spoke again.
“Nobody here ca…wait, did you just call me Claire?” She suddenly asked me, clearly surprised, but still sheepishly.
“I did. I’m sorry, isn’t that your name?” I’m usually good with names, but I started doubting myself for just a second. Maybe her name was Candace or Karen or even Kim.
I was pretty sure it started with a hard C sound though.
“I am Claire, but how do you know that? Does your car computer tell you that?”
Her question was serious, but the look on her face struck me as childlike just then as she spoke to me. I wondered who could hurt such a face.
“No,” I sort of laughed, “nothing like that.” There’s no magic in that computer. It’s a Panasonic.”
I smiled at her as I remembered back to a couple of years earlier when another officer got a call just down the street from the very same apartment complex where Claire and I were now talking.
On that other night, a woman riding by in a passing car called 911 to report that she saw a man in a car that was parked on the side of the road pull a woman out of the passenger seat by her hair, then drag her all the way around the back of the car, still pulling her by her hair, all the way to the sidewalk before he punched her in the face at least twice before leaving her in the bushes where she had fallen.
That wasn’t my call to handle, but I was close, so I stopped by.
I got to the woman first and she was still conscious, but clearly going to have a couple of black eyes and possibly a broken nose.
“What happened here? Are you okay?” I asked her as she laid in the grass and dirt.
She was woozy, but she was a tough cookie too, I could tell that right away. After she collected herself a little bit, she figured out who I was and then she spoke.
“Nodding habbened obbiter. I fell off my botorcycle.” Was her answer, the best I could understand through the snot and blood and spitting. She was crying a little, but not really as I’d expected her to be for some reason.
It struck me that this woman was tough or maybe she was simply used to absorbing this sort of beating, or maybe both.
I called her an ambulance as the officer handling the call arrived and took over.
As I stood in her kitchen two years later, I had no idea how that case turned out, but I remembered the woman because she was dressed in a stunning evening gown that night, as though she was out on a special date night.
She was a very attractive woman, a woman with some class, I could tell, yet there she had been, wallowing around in the dirt and grass all bloodied and beaten and crying and blubbering in what may have been a very expensive party dress. It’s not a sight you see very often in the area where I patrolled.
I remembered two things from that night. One was that she had said her name was Claire, and also that she kept saying how she was sorry for bothering me that night.
I was sort of lost in my thoughts about that earlier night when I noticed she was still waiting for me to answer her.
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
“We’ve never met before, officer…”She squinted her eyes to see my name tag. “Officer Don.”
“I was there when you fell off your motorcycle down the street a couple of years ago. You told me your name was Claire that night.” I said.
“I’ve never fallen off a motorcycle,” she said, semi-defensively. “I’ve never even been on a motorcycle. I think you’re thinking about somebody else.”
“I figured you didn’t have a motorcycle, but that’s what you told me that night we met. You said you fell off a motorcycle that you were apparently riding in an evening dress and that somehow had vanished into thin air after you hit the ground from crashing it.
“Ahhhh,” she sighed. “I remember that night now. I’m so sorry.”
She looked away from me and busied herself by picking up some Matchbox cars from off of the floor.
“Please, don’t be sorry.” I answered. “You didn’t do anything wrong that night, Claire. You were a victim tha….”
“I was just drunk.” She cut me off very abruptly. She softened her tone and repeated herself. “I was just drunk.”
I got this call to Claire’s apartment well after 10:30 PM, so I was perturbed as I arrived to her place. A call that late in the shift normally meant that I’d be late making relief at 11 PM.
That the call involved this particular woman had caused my mood to lighten immensely.
She was one of those people I’d sometimes thought about. I had wondered from time to time what ever became of her, and now here she was, alive at the very least.
“Same guy?” I asked her while making a gesture with my finger towards my own neck. As I waved my finger in front of my neck, I eyeballed the red marks, scratches and bruises protruding from under her tee shirt, just over Def Leppard’s photograph.
“Huh?” She was legitimately confused.
“Were you choked?” I asked, knowing full well that she was. “Was it the same guy tonight as the other time?”
“No, nothing like that. Nothing happened, officer, I swear it. It was just a misunderstanding about money.”
I shook my head just a bit and took a deep breath.
Nothing happened? I thought about those words to myself for a moment.
Ten years ago, I’d have shook her hand, told her good luck and hurried out the door to make my scheduled time off as close as possible. There were always beers to be had before the bars closed at 3 o’clock.
That was younger Don.
That was before blogging Don.