Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Vortex of Evil

I don't know what to write about tonight. I'm not sure I should write about the people outside the library, the other library where I go sometimes when I'm waiting for Nick to get done with karate. What is it with the libraries these days?

See, a few weeks ago, I had the problem of being asked to chase after a known meth dealer to see why he had walked away with an elementary school kid. That was my home library, a place where I know and like the librarians, where I run into friends. It was an effort to go back in after that episode. I've seen the girl around since then. She won't make eye contact with me. She's been with other people, but these people don't look so good either, like they too are on their way down the meth drain. Seeing this girl makes my heart ache, but I can't do any more for her than I did. My sister and the school principal told me that I shouldn't be more involved than I was. The results of the conversation with the principal are confidential.

Nothing significant is going to happen with that chapter of the story, at least my part in it. I did have a heartfelt conversation with the librarian who was there with me that day. She'd been worried about me. She's a wonderful woman. She shouldn't be exposed to drug dealers. She should be talking to people about books. I love the books she recommends. She shouldn't have to figure out what to do when the drug dealer arrives or worry about his impact on the children hanging out there. I suppose, when you think about it, we all have to be exposed to drug dealers, especially when it comes to protecting our children. I just didn't think my exposure would be this close or relating to elementary school children.

Today, I was walking into my other library. I had a movie to return, the new 'Red Dawn' which I didn't even watch because Mike said the original was so much better. I also carried my notebook, in case I wanted to get some work done, a magazine, and a library book I'd already checked out. I was thinking about how I might finish reading my magazine, 'The Week,' and continue reading a book I picked up about how your brain works instead of actually getting down to my work. This book is a pretty good book, but I don't like being seen with the title, 'You Are Not So Smart' by David McRaney. It's like being seen with the 'Software for Dummies' book or 'anything for Dummies' for that matter. I'm willing to walk around with McRaney's book because it's about how procrastination works, how your memory is mostly fiction, and how people in an emergency often underestimate the severity of their situation. I love books about how your brain works, or doesn't. I've read at least three books by Oliver Sacks already. So, I was thinking about McRaney's book when I walked into the library. I was wondering if I'd fallen prey to his description of procrastination. I was thinking I'd renewed this book twice, knowing full well that I wanted to read it and that I'd better get cracking because I wouldn't be able to renew it again. I'm an efficient procrastinator. You'd know that if you ever saw how beautifully I stack dirty dishes. So, I wasn't really looking at the people outside the library as I walked in. There are always people going in and out. It's a diverse and well-used library. Obscenities caught my attention though.

Now, I'm not offended by bad words. I hated giving them up when Nick was born. Some good bad words add emphasis to an interesting conversation. In high school, I was so annoyed by the saccharine-sweet girl who said 'piffle' whenever she got angry. I used to wonder how that was different than any other curse. The only difference I could see was that most of the best words ended with a solid stop. 'Crap' is a good example. Think about those other words. They're rock solid.

I knew I had to give up cursing, though, when Nick's first word was 'damn.' I'm embarrassed to tell you that. When they say that kids are little sponges, they aren't kidding. He was lying on his changing table, looking up at me after having peed in my eye and he was grinning. So is it any surprise that what came out of my mouth wasn't nice? Is it any surprise that he grinned even bigger at the look on my face when he repeated the word I'd just said? That put a stop to my colorful language, but I occasionally like the feel of it in my mouth when I'm around adults. So, obscenities tossed into normal language don't bother me a bit, but you can tell when something doesn't sound right. I was passing the bench where so much seemed to happen.

I've noticed the police near that bench by the entrance more than once. I'd seen them with the belligerent homeless man. I'd seen them with groups of agitated people. Once, I decided not to stop at the library because too much seemed to be going on and I wasn't up for it. Today, I didn't initially see much, but there they were as I walked toward the door. It looked like they were going to come to blows. Really? This is supposed to be a nice quiet town. What is the deal?

So, in my usual fashion, I did not walk past them into the library. I walked toward them. At first, I thought that the small woman was going to get hit by the large man bearing a number of tattoos. He was yelling obscenities at her and leaning in too much. He didn't seem quite right. I thought she'd be best suited to walk away from this guy, but she didn't. She kept yelling, throwing her own curses at him.

I held up my phone and began to get video of it. Okay, I know it's not so smart to join into what might become violent, but I thought that if this guy knew he was on camera, maybe he wouldn't hit her. I didn't get too close in case I had to run. I heard someone say something about the police, so I figured that part was already in progress.

As I stood there, I looked at the small woman. She was pissed! In fact, she didn't seem quite right either. And the man who stood just behind her looked gaunt and vacant under his hoodie like the pictures I'd seen of drug addicts. Oh man.

I should not be standing there visibly filming two addicts who were about to get violent. What an idiot.

Suddenly, the tattooed guy seemed to pop. Words flew out of him and his arm flashed out, but he backed up at the same time and didn't actually hit her. He was quick. I was not far enough away. Thankfully, he stalked away and I had that great excuse to pocket my iPhone and walk into the library.

When I went in, I asked the librarian if he knew what was happening outside. He told me the police had been called but that he'd go see if it was continuing. I found myself a table and had just evened out my breathing by reading more of McRaney's book when the librarian said that the police officer outside wanted to speak to me.

I see nothing. I know nothing.

I couldn't say that, now, could I? So, I gathered up my stuff and went outside, my heartbeat back up to speed.

Generally, I'm not afraid of the police. I met one on Long Island near New York City that scared the bejeezus out of me, but most of the ones I've met were good guys. That Long Island stop was a good story, but I'll tell you about that some other time. I just wasn't thrilled about going back out to the crazy vortex by that bench.

This officer was a good guy. I could tell by his easygoing manner. He was kind of cute too, like a kid who'd just graduated college. He stood facing me while tattoo guy gesticulated with his back to me and cursed some more. Did I really want that guy to turn around and get a good look at me?

No, I did not.

The officer excused himself to come talk to me and I felt tattoo guy looking in my direction. In my peripheral vision, I couldn't see any fury aimed at me but I didn't turn my back on him though. I told the police officer that I'd seen the guy arguing with a small woman and that another, smaller man, stood behind her with his hood up. I didn't say that he was a poster child for meth use. He asked if I had called 911 and I told him I hadn't. It was embarrassing, but I told him that I'd used my camera as they yelled at each other. I said that words were exchanged, but nothing physical happened while I watched. This got me a nod from the officer. I added that their conversation wasn't exactly child-appropriate and that got me another nod. He said he'd work on that. I also managed to tell him I'd like to see less going on near this bench. In other words, I didn't have anything useful to tell him, except that there was a vortex of evil that existed around this bench and he was one of the few who might be able to vanquish it.

Afterward, back at my table in the library, I thought about his calm demeanor. It is a true gift in a police officer, when everyone is escalating, to be able to bring the energy down to quiet again.

I should write a note to the police department about this stuff happening at the bench. I should bring my video to a town meeting and talk about the time I drove past the library after seeing yet another group of derelicts being lectured there as a couple of cruisers waited with with their lights flashing. I'd never be able to live with myself if Nick or one of his friends started to look like those people at the library by the bench.

I should get involved, but I'm not sure I will.

I have family pictures to scan, work to procrastinate, a house to clear of rummage. I have to plan for the merit badge counseling I'm going to do with the Boy Scout troop this summer and the reading to do with my student at the elementary school. I'm busy volunteering at the middle school library, scheduling work in my yard, and finding a painter for inside and out. I really don't have time for this. I really don't.

I really don't want to have time for this, but maybe McRaney is right. Maybe I'm already in the middle of a shit storm and I don't realize it yet.

Thank you for listening, jb

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