Friday, July 20, 2012

neighborhood news (con't)

In the end, it was two impossibly-immaculate cops who put a period on the sentence ... the period that, like all periods in life, dissolves into ellipsis marks as life goes on. As they stood on the sidewalk in front of my front stoop, they reminded me of fire trucks in the fire house -- so perfectly clean as to be simultaneously awe-inspiring and utterly ludicrous.

The upshot was this ....

Two or three days ago, Toby, my 50'ish neighbor from across the street, had checked himself into the hospital to get dried out. When he finished at the hospital, he tried to check in to a long-term facility for addicts, but there were no beds available so Toby headed back to the blue house across the street where he had lived for years. But when he got there, his apartment key didn't work. Gloria, the woman had been overseeing the house since she got the owner, Herschel, moved into an old-age home, had changed the locks on Toby's door.

When Toby couldn't get in, he went next door to consult with Joe, my evangelical Christian neighbor who, like me, had his suspicions about Gloria's 'kindly' reasons for moving Herschel out. When Joe heard that Toby had been "locked out," he got furious. When he told me the story, I got furious too. Toby might be an addict and he might have had his scrapes with the law, but he had done no certifiable harm in the neighborhood and deserved better treatment. To top that off, it was illegal to throw someone out of their digs without a court hearing. Joe and I were pissed at Gloria.

In the morning yesterday, two cops (thanks to a call from Joe) arrived on our otherwise newsless street and confirmed that Toby had a right to enter the apartment, but Gloria -- a pint-sized woman in her 60's whose smiling and 'compassionate' exterior veils an interior of powerful self-interest -- was not around to be consulted. It was near sundown when the immaculately dressed second wave of cops arrived. They consulted with Gloria and then consulted with Toby. In the midst of it, they told Joe to remain on his property and basically keep his mouth shut.

The upshot, was this: Toby admitted to the second wave of cops that he had in fact told Gloria that after he got out of the hospital he planned to move to the eastern part of the state. According to the cops, Toby admitted that he had asked Gloria to save and throw away various pieces of his furniture and other possessions. From the cops' point of view, Gloria had done no more than comply with Toby's stated wishes. And since that was the case, any attempt on Toby's part to return to the apartment (to break in perhaps) would be viewed as a felony.

Joe and I listened to the immaculate cops. Joe tried to suggest that Toby had made his statements while in a deranged state of mind. I told him to put a sock in it: The cops weren't interested in speculative efforts at kindness, they were interested in ascertainable fact and the ascertainable fact was that Toby had shot himself in the foot. One of the cops was willing to tell Joe that if Toby sought refuge in Joe's house, Joe would be well-advised to steer clear. Joe conceded that he had no intention of doing that. The other cop went out on a limb and said that getting Toby out of the neighborhood would not be suchs a bad thing -- that getting the house cleaned up and getting in a less-unstable tenant would probably do the neighborhood some good. I bit off my inclination to tell him to grow up.

There is a period on the sentence now and with a new day, the ellipsis marks lay their claims. Joe's indignation and mine were chastened. I am strangely pleased to be chastened -- high dudgeons deserve to have their  reins pulled, even when they are mine. And there are some tragedies about which you simply cannot do anything. I do not know where Toby is this morning and if I did, what good would it do either me or Toby?

Which brings to mind my own words, a reminder I sometimes forget: "Just because you are indispensable to the universe does not mean the universe needs your help."

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