One evening last week a stranger walked up to our house. Over six foot tall, she said she was out of gas and had heard we might have fuel, because of the tractors and all. Ranch Boss went out with her to the shop to get a gas can. I watched from the house because I wasn't sure about her intentions. When he went to her vehicle, which was in front of our driveway, stopped by the gate, I saw a man get out. That's when I opened the door to listen to the tone of the conversation. It sounded all right, but I wasn't actually at ease until Ranch Boss returned.
He said she had bought a vehicle but didn't realize until she was out here that it was almost out of gas. He told her that when he put in the gas that someone had pried open the flap. So maybe her gas had been siphoned out.
She said her boyfriend, the man I saw, wanted to go to the house; but she said out in our area, a man coming to a house when it's dark is apt to get shot. That's not actually true as we have had a lot of stranded drivers (been there myself more than once) as this is a long way from gasoline or car repairs. Still, when it's dark, you really don't know what to think with any stranger, who comes to your door. This is both a very safe and a very dangerous time.
How do we live with that? It's distressing to know that one time we might help someone and they will be grateful. The next person might attack us. It's even worse for the police, who get accused of being too quick to shoot. But when they don't, they can end up dead. How do they live with something that is so much worse for them than the rest of us-- as when we run away, they run in.
Years ago, I wrote a contemporary romance, Evening Star, where the hero was a police officer. There is a scene in the book that I think suits how we have to live with what our society is going through (for instance, where a man taking his son to buy his first car ends up with both senselessly shot to death by a stranger). We have to live with the randomness of this world and somehow find peace with it. The following is from Evening Star.
You know," he said as they climbed the stairs, "there are times I understand why Jack wants to quit."
She looked up at him with shock. "I can't believe you said that. I thought you were the little boy who grew up wanting to be a cop."
He smiled faintly as he opened the front door with the key she'd had made for him. "I have my good and bad days. I want to think I'm out there--protecting the public, but half the time I'm coming in after everything's over, and the people I'm trying to help see me as the bad guy." He gave a bitter laugh. "Sometimes they aren't far wrong."
They put their still wet coats over the hall tree, and she took his hand, leading him to the sofa. "You're tired," she said. "It makes everything seem gloomier." She pushed him down, then settling onto her knees, began to massage the tense muscles of his back.
"I know I'm feeling sorry for myself," he said, grunting with pleasure as she found a particularly tight muscle and began working it until it began to loosen. "Sometimes the hardest part is I feel like I'm part of two different worlds. When I'm in one, the other doesn't exist."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm here where it's warm and peaceful. The tape deck's got Bach on. Mitzi's playing with a string. There's a fire's in the fireplace, maybe candles, a woman's soft voice asking what I want to eat. I walk out that door, and I'm on the street with some guy yelling--so strung out on acid he doesn't know night from day. I hear a kid gurgle his last breath before he ODs. I stop at a Mom and Pop store and see an old man who was beaten and robbed of his last buck. You tell me which is real?"
She kept up her strong, massaging motions, rotating the shoulder muscle, then working the taut neck tendons. "The awful thing is they both are," she said.
"Like Monday..." He stopped and seemed to reconsider.
"Don't you dare stop. I want to hear whatever it is. You've shared so little of your work, and I'm beginning to think it's been deliberate."
He sighed. "I thought you didn’t want to hear."
"It isn't going to make me less afraid to be ignorant." She hoped that was so.
"All right... Monday, Jerry and I walked into what was supposed to be a barroom brawl, but in the middle of the room there's a guy waving a knife like a machete and yelling how he's had all he's going to take. At that moment, the world narrowed down to him. I could feel the adrenaline rush when our eyes met. I knew all I had to do was draw my revolver--the guy's dead. It might even be it’s what he wanted.”
“What do you mean?”
“Suicide by cop isn’t unheard of.”
She had known about that but hadn’t thought what it meant to the cop pushed into that situation. Randy went on. “I could have shot him and justified it, but I had another choice. I could try to disarm him. I couldn't think about you then. If I had, my judgment would have gone to hell."
"What did you do?"
"I edged up to him while Jerry circled him. I lunged for his arm, came close to breaking it. Jerry knocked him over the head, and he collapsed long enough for us to get him cuffed. Nobody died, but you know there are always questions-- like why didn’t we use a taser? The reason was they don’t always work as you hope. Questions are always raised of police brutality in any case like that one."
"You could have been stabbed," she said, coming off her knees and taking the chair opposite him. "You didn't say a word when you came home. All week, you've said nothing. Why not?"
"Do you like it better now that you know?" he asked. She didn't answer. "I didn't tell you because when I got home, I could hardly believe it happened. You had a jazz CD playing. You'd waited up. Remember?"
She did; she remembered taking him in her arms, fixing him a light snack, making love in front of the fireplace and going to sleep wrapped in each other's arms. She'd had no clue that he'd faced death before he faced her.
"I needed it to be like that when I got home. Can you understand?"
She shook her head, sure she didn't understand any of what he was telling her. In the real world, people didn't face death, and yet she talked to people everyday who had, victims who had barely survived brutal attacks. The so-called real world had many sides.
"You're my grounding, Marla," Randy said. He didn't make a move toward her, sitting back on the sofa, the expression in his eyes doing his only asking. "I need you to have music playing, to be thinking about one of your briefs, to kiss me, to be the way you are. Can you understand that?"
"I suppose so, but I don't like knowing something dangerous happened, and you felt you had to spare me."
"What if I’m sparing myself?” She glowered. He grinned. “So maybe we compromise. Sometimes... I'll tell you, but sometimes I need you to just smile at me, look at me like I've just come home from a day at the office."
She smiled as she rose from the chair. They met in the center of the room. She held him tightly against her, knowing all they really had was that moment. It was all anybody had.