I saw my officer this morning, bronzed and burly as he scolded an errant driver on the side of the road. I don’t know his name, and I’m sure he wouldn’t know me. But we made a brief connection a few years ago and so he will always be my officer.
We’d been standing in the quiet street behind my home, watching a trickle of blood meander the roughened pavement, past a slippery clutch of tissue, probably the boy’s brains. A hit-and-run driver neatly culled the boy from his sister’s care as they walked the side of the road, sending him flying onto his head. He died that night.
The driver would turn herself in, be sentenced. The neighborhood would finally prevail in its drive to add sidewalks, moving bus-decanted children off the street. And I would forever slow my car on the drive home, mindful of the unspeakable, irretrievable act of killing a child.
But right then we still had hope, and so the officer and I stood together, waiting for miracles. His hands clenched and unclenched while the sister screamed, the parents sobbed, and the paramedics labored.
I looked into his eyes, saw them brimming. In that moment, he became my officer.
“Fucking drunk drivers,” he snarled. He leaned over to pick up the boy’s shoe and take it to the boy’s parents, the rage flowing from him in waves.
In the weeks to follow, my officer would park on that street and clock passing motorists. He’d stop the speeders, pass out tickets, explain that one of their number had killed a boy just a few days before. (My neighbor Rick was one of his victims–until my officer stopped him, he hadn’t known of the boy’s death)
I never knew if his superiors had assigned him the task, or if he did it on his own. All I know is that while he was there the drivers slowed down, the children were safe. When the county installed electronic speed gauges, he stopped, and I didn’t see him again until this morning.
I pulled in just past my officer, stopping at the tiny neighborhood farmers’ market. I bought olives preserved with smoky almonds, loaded up on kale and butter lettuce, bought some special olive oil for a friend’s housewarming.
I wondered what the boy, a passionate high school farmer who’d sold me vegetables at the downtown market, would make of the early session lettuces and eggs and flowers. His enthusiasm for his craft had shone bright–I still use the recipes he gave me, only now on someone else’s vegetables.
My officer roared past in his squad car, chasing another speeder. And I packed my purchases into the car, moving slowly, safely to the rest of my day.