Note: This is part two of two. The First Part is called "Give it Away." Make sure you read the first part before reading this.
THE METH LAB - CINDY'S STORY
The call came at two in the dark cold morning. Jerry was in surgery at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
When we parted due to my fear of his being killed in his job with the Sheriff's Department, I quit my position with the architectural firm in Overland Park and moved to Kansas City. I was teaching part time at the University of Missouri Kansas City in the Architecture Studies program and had taken a partnership with a small firm near the school. My town house was also near the school and about eight miles northeast – and across the state line - from where Jerry still lived.
The call I received was from Lt. Joe McCay, Jerry's boss. I was no longer listed as Jerry's next of kin but Joe had been to our house with his wife a couple of times and, fairly often in the summer, Joe and Mary held a backyard picnic for the people that worked for him. It was actually Mary that had my number.
I had been meeting her for lunch every three or four weeks; she was a big help in understanding how Jerry felt about his job and how she dealt with the fear. The thing that she told me that caused me to look anew at my relationship with Jerry was when she talked about how she handled the demons of being married to a cop.
"Cindy, you had it backwards about having children. Yeah, Joe has a dangerous job. But if something does happen to him he will live on in our two kids. I will have them and my cherished memories to keep him close to my heart. Joe loves what he does and I could never ask him to walk away from that.
"Does that mean I never felt those fears, that worry that 'tonight was the night?' Of course I did! The times he was on stakeout or the year he spent on undercover work would keep me awake late at night, wondering. But I was also proud of him. He was doing what he wanted to do and was meant to do. Cindy, I married him for what he was. If I made him change, he wouldn't be the man I fell in love with."
At that time of night, it took me just twenty minutes to get to the hospital. Mary was waiting for me in the emergency room waiting area. We hugged each other, crying, unable to speak for a few minutes.
We moved over to the sofa and sat down.
"I don't know too much, Cindy. I believe it was a raid on a meth lab and there was some kind of explosion. Jerry is in surgery; I think there is some problem with his leg and a possible concussion.
She went to get some coffee and I sat there reflecting, remembering how I had screwed our lives up.
I knew how wrong I was within a month of my walking out on Jerry. The reality of the pain in my heart was much more than any pain I could have imagined even if Jerry had died. I cried a lot in my lonely townhouse. The empty bed mocked me at night. I thought about all the things we had fought about ... they seemed so minor now.
How many times had I picked up that phone to call my husband? I had insisted on a divorce but I really hadn't wanted it. Even though we have been apart for four months, I have remained faithful to him. I know how badly I hurt Jerry ... how could I have done that to the man I loved?
If I called him now, what could I say? How could he still love me? I guess I was afraid of what he would say. We were divorced but I felt we were still in a state of stasis – with nothing resolved except for some paperwork. I could fool myself into believing things would work out. I didn't like myself much anymore!
Mary came back from the cafeteria with coffee for both of us. The heat from the paper cup warmed my hands but at the same time my heart was gripped in an icy embrace of fear.
Later, Joe came in and told us more about what had happened.
"Jerry was on a stakeout at a suspected meth lab. We were concerned because it was in a high-density area of older apartments and homes with a lot of children and older people – many of them infirm - living nearby. About fifteen percent of meth labs experience a fire and/or an explosion at some point in time.
"Meth, a stimulant that has become the drug of choice in many parts of Kansas and Missouri, is typically made in small ad hoc laboratories. The object is to transform pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in many over-the-counter cold remedies, into methamphetamine. The production process requires several potentially volatile reactions produced when various chemicals, including brake fluid, lye and lantern fuel, are combined over heat.
"We had the house under surveillance for several days, waiting for someone to pickup a shipment. We wanted to see if we could get the distributor. When the guy we had been waiting for showed up and went in the house, we moved in. We don't know exactly what triggered it but there was, luckily, a relatively small explosion. One of the men in the building was killed and two more are over in the burn center, with serious burns.
"With the flash from the explosion Jerry, was blinded for a second and the buyer had dived into him trying to escape. His shoulder hit his knee from the side. This was a big guy, well over 250. When Jerry fell he banged his head on something. We got this from our guy who was right behind him. And, yes, we did get the buyer. It turns out the FBI has been looking for him for two years.
"They just finished the initial surgery. Jerry's okay, but he will need at least one additional operation. The head injury turned out not to be a problem, four or five stitches.
"Cindy, the doc said Jerry will walk again but probably always with at least a small limp. This is going to be hard on him – it looks like he will get a full medical disability. He will need a lot of support for the recuperation and therapy. He will need even more support for the impact of not being able to do the job he loves so much.
"I have to ask you this, Cindy. Do you still love Jerry?"
THE DAWNING OF A NEW DAY – JERRY'S STORY
I lay there, considering all that my surgeon and my boss had told me.
The doc made it clear that while I would be able to walk, my knee would never be able to withstand any major stress. Lieutenant McKay – Joe - had made it even clearer that my time at the Sheriff's Department had ended. Joe knew that I would never stay there with a desk job and hadn't even offered it.
"Damn! The god's have conspired against me this year; first Cindy breaking my heart and then that meth distributor breaking my knee."
I dozed off and awoke with the stir of someone entering my room.
"I gotta check you out, honey. When I finish, there is a real purty gal out there waitin' to see you. How y'all feelin'?"
When the nurse had sorted me out, Cindy entered the room. She stood just inside the door, tears in her eyes. I sensed that she wasn't sure if I wanted her to come in.
"It's okay, Cindy, come on in. I'm already being treated for pain, so a little more won't hurt."
She flinched when I said that and didn't move.
"I'm sorry, honey, come here."
I put out my arm and she started walking – running the last few steps – and sat on the edge of the bed, laying on my chest, and started bawling. There was no other word for it. I guessed she had been holding too much in for too long and she had to let it out.
The nurse walked to the doorway to see what was wrong. With a glance I looked her away and I lay there with my arm still up in the air and Cindy on my chest, shaking now as she cried her pain away. I dropped my arm over her back and patted and rubbed, trying to gentle her.
I tried to analyze how I felt – but I couldn't. Too much had happened ... I just couldn't ... I felt myself slipping away, realized the nurse had given me something to ease my pain.
When I woke from the light showing through the window I could see it was somewhere around the middle of the day. I could hear the clatter of the carts, as lunches were being distributed and eaten.
Cindy was asleep in the chair beside the bed. Her face was blotched from crying and her body was twitching, like a puppy having a bad dream. Her face was not a face of repose. I had the wry thought that maybe I could share some of my meds with her.
Still, twitching, blotches, pain and all, it was a beautiful face. The rush of love I felt for her humbled me. I was bitter, sure, but that didn't lessen my love for her. But I didn't think I liked her very much for what she had done. Not just what she had done but the way she had done it. That was what had hurt so badly.
The divorce had gone through faster that I wanted and I had tried dating but it didn't work for me. I wasn't in any hurry to find a new woman with whom to start the pain all over again.
The nurse came in with lunch and Cindy woke up, a bewildered look on her face. She looked at me, then turned and went into the small restroom, doing whatever women do when they wake up. That was one of the mysteries of life, like women's purses, that I had never figured out.
She came back and stood by the bed as I finished eating my lunch - chopped liver or something else as mysterious and tasteless.
"Jerry, how do you feel?"
"I have a lot of pain," I answered. Looking at my knee, I said, "There, and here," I continued as I put my hand over my heart.
If I could read the quick grimace on her face correctly, I could tell that she "got it."
She sat uneasily on the side of the bed.
"Jerry, I'm ... I'm sorry. Oh, so sorry!"
.... There is more of this story ...