Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Musician and The Officer

Friday January 3rd 2014 approximately 1:15 am 

Two people remain in the front car of a Coney Island bound D Train, One A 6'2 Caucasian NYPD officer, the other… me … A 5'2" Puerto Rican rock musician with a missing front tooth and slight limp. Positioned at opposite ends of the car for 3 or 4 stops the thought of passing up this opportunity becomes ridiculous. I do what any forward thinking fearless (slightly drunk) freedom fighter would, I rise from my seat and begin to walk across the train. 

The first seconds are tense. As I approach his posture stiffens, instinctively his hand lowers to his pistol, it's subtle… he's trained for this but I have instincts of my own. I crack a smile and relax my shoulders throwing up my right hand as if I was flagging down my cousin across the street. I say "good evening" and the conversation begins.

"Officer, I'm sorry to bother you but I was wondering if I could ask you a question, You see, I'm a professional musician and one of the primary skills necessary in my work is to facilitate a connection between the audience and the art, with that in mind I couldn't help but notice how tense this car got when you stepped on, what I was wondering was in your experience what is the best way for a civilian like myself to engage an officer in a humanistic way?"

I was met with a blank stare…

"You mean like, talk?" He said simply, in a heavy, defensive captain of the high school team cadence.

"Yes! Exactly, how do we get past being fearful of each other?"

He paused for a second to think it over.

"The way you just did."  He said "Most times you see us and think something is bad but we aren't bad."

It was a simple answer with simple wisdom. A strange feeling came between us in this moment, we both knew I was the more "Intelligent" "Articulate"  perhaps even "Educated" person and he let out an honest revelation.

"If you didn't come talk to me I would have thought you were trouble."

"is it the outfit?"

"A few things, you were moving a lot and singing to yourself, you've got weird drawings on your pants… you don't look like other people and it's late"

"Fair enough, It should be easier than this shouldn't it?"

"What happened to your leg?"

"Cerebral Palsy, I've been like this my whole life. This is my stop sir, thank you very much for talking with me"

"Take care of yourself."

"Stay safe."

"Thank you."

As the doors closed and the train sped away I looked out to the other end of the platform at the staircase. It seemed so far away but I knew that reaching it would be as simple as walking, something of course thats never been all that simple for me. I put my head down and trudged forward through the slushy mud that New York City snow becomes. I'm sure it was cold on the walk home but I didn't feel it. We were humans together, that Cop and I. I got the distinct feeling that we both wished that happened more often.

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