A few years back, when a recently elected Philadelphia Judge was then an Assistant District Attorney, he called and left a message on my answering machine:
“Have you ever considered moving?” he queried as more of a recommendation rather than a matter of curiosity.
I had long recognized that this ADA was a graduate from one of the numerous law schools where the ticket for diploma is merely the lack of a conscience. I was impressed when he remembered to show up in court with his fly zipped, and his socks matching. But, indeed, he apparently didn’t remember that my deep and meaningful liaison with ‘trouble’ is the only relationship that has never divorced me.
It wasn’t any of his doing that got the pedophile, who pursued my older young son for three years, sent away for 4 years. It was my doing. And my future ex-wife’s.
I fought the tall muscular behemoth physically, emotionally and finally legally. That is, armed with years of documentation, I told the DA’s office that it better ‘finally’ take this case or I, along with some hearty assistants, would be taking this reprobate to some deep tomb for unknown miscreants.
Now this ADA was calling. His message was that the 6-foot-four-inch, two hundred and 40 pound pedophile had spent his entire four-year sentence lifting weights. And rejecting any rehab. And he was determined to come back to return to his old hunting grounds in Philadelphia.
Where is he imprisoned? I asked
And after the ADA informed me, I made a call to one of my heavyweight professional boxing friends. I asked simply if he and one of his even larger palookas would be willing to take a trip with me and deliver a ‘Come-to-Jesus’ speech.
And so we did. And while, admittedly, I was not in the room at the time of the sermon, I will tell you that the other big boxing pug recounted fondly, on the long drive there, his manner of reshaping people’s criminal, if not merely annoying, recalcitrance.
“I like to make them bleed a little,” he said, exhaling with great taste licking at his lips. “Not too much. But not too little.”
He must be very convincing. Because after their private discourse the gnarled-fingered pugilist offered me a bent smile as he related: “He’s decided to move to California.”
Hmm… I must remember to inform the ADA that he was wrong. On a day of his last weeks of incarceration the convict went through 4 years of rehabilitation.
Now that’s what I call a wonderful school of psychotherapy. Over years of writing and viewing the world from a front row seat I have discovered there’s no better advice than a good scare. It’s like a scar – mental, emotional or physical.
A scar, even metaphoric, is a glorious reminder. It’s a great communicator. There is much less misunderstanding. And it serves as a memento that there are always consequences… for the past, the present and what’s-to-come.
Hmm… The bloody lawyers may have kidnapped justice and hid it in the cellars of the law. But I wasn’t seeking anyone’s permission.
Which is what I was seeking to explain to a psychiatric social worker yesterday. Much like that rather pedestrian ADA of previous years, this social worker called to inform me that the man from whom I have been renting the house’s top floor was about to be released from his ‘mental’ vacation at his institution.
You may recall this is the same tall gentlemen with a big belly and small feet who has trouble – at times – keeping his ‘balance.’
And some 17 days ago he apparently went off his pills, terrorized the neighborhood again, annihilated the house and killed his beloved cat. Then he came at me with a machete-size kitchen knife and hammer.
Did I happen to mention I am not a brave man. I have already died a thousand deaths. But with so many exes, my only possible escape – I call it my pension plan — is to one day step in front of a speeding furniture truck.
That takes much bigger bowling balls than the ones my over-circumcised winky rests upon. So in the meanwhile I practice, practice, practice to hone the ‘right stuff.’
So, while I was ‘practicing’ my chutzpah with an armed Pete the cops finally arrived on a neighbor’s call.
And guess, what? Since I wasn’t a relative, and there were none about, they couldn’t commit him. So I asked, after the haunting experiences with my ex-wife (who now seems to have been Pete’s transgendered twin, by the way): “What if this was domestic violence?”
That, to them, was clear cut.
So, I said I wasn’t the boarder. I said that…and then this. And I was as straight-faced as a lawyer begging for the court’s mercy because his client, who killed his own parents, was now an orphan. I said that I wasn’t the boarder… I said: I am Pete’s lover.
At first the police, especially the one with whom I’ve shared cigar smoke, were a tad overtly skeptical. But to tell you the truth they really didn’t care anymore than I did. If that’s what it takes to move the system towards benefiting the victim, then so be it. They just wanted to know if I would be willing – if need be – to testify to that.
I simply shrugged. I don’t care, no more! Besides, at my age it could only enhance my reputation.
And that was this and that.
Now over two weeks later this social worker is telling me that the psychiatrist at the center where Pete has been a guest, is stipulating that Pete is perfectly okay to be released to come home.
Fine, I said. But besides me, I wondered, who will accept or suffer the consequences?
I had to explain that if Pete’s psychiatrist was wrong – like apparently a number of psychiatrists before with Pete – then was the discharging doc capable of accepting the consequences. I mean, besides sending my family the ceremonial posthumous ‘regrets’.
The social worker didn’t seem to comprehend. All he could muster had the same echo of the cheap advice from that Judge when he was an ADA:
“We did advise you to move.”
Then he admitted that this was our first conversation but that he had suggested to another caller to urge me to change residences.
I said I am in the process. But I am not fleeing!
“When does the victim ever stop being victimized?” I asked the insouciant young voice on the other end of my cell. “No one has inquired as to my wounds. Or my state of mind. And now you want to further victimize me like some abused spouse. You want me to seek any shelter from the storm.”
At that I explained a tad stridently that I refuse to be a victim! I will not be victimized. And therefore if matters are placed in my bailiwick then I will adjudicate. It may not be exactly kosher. Someone may bleed a little… or a little too much. But so be it!
Then I suggested he put the discharging psychiatrist on the phone. Or he should relate what I have spoken. That is: Consequences will resonate. You can’t hide behind the bureaucratic wall. There isn’t enough lamb’s blood you can spread on your doorposts.
If the world – and especially our government’s blatantly vague laws – is going to drive us all crazy, then it is going to have to accept the crazy, and perhaps bloody, repercussions. If no one draws a clear picture, then matters get awfully abstract.
I am happy they are releasing Pete from the hospital. But I’d be happier if I knew that someone – the cops, the courts, the social workers and docs — recognized that something is eventually going to happen. Whether in the time remaining that I am still there, or at another time or another place. Like Newport Connecticut. Or a movie theater in Colorado. Or from someplace on high, like from a drone. Or from a guardsman at Kent State or Jackson State. Or merely like a windshield on a bug. And they all stand around stupidly muttering in the madness: “Nothing like this ever happened ‘round here before.”
And then there is somebody like me who is just bloody fed up with the incompetence that rules us, then mugs us. Much like the cavalry that comes charging out of the hills, waving its shiny cutlasses to assault the wounded.
I will not be a victim. I will not abide by some insane rules created by insane people who refuse to recognize the insanity reflected in their own bathroom vanities.
Like I told Pete that night he came at me armed, dangerous, and with the possessed eyes of something ugly: All I know is how to kill, or die trying. Anything in between is not on my resumè.
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…