Give It Away
Part 2: The Meth Lab-Cindy's Story
Copyright© 2010 by Jake Rivers
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 that fear, 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 much like myself 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 pick up 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 DEA 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 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. I looked her away with a glance 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!"
With that, she quickly stood up and ran out the door. Women. I was left alone with my indigestible lunch, and the throbbing pain in both my knee and my heart.
I tried to tell myself that it was good that she apologized. But then why did she run away? Women!
CRY ME A RIVER—CINDY'S STORY
When I got back to my lonely abode, I felt washed out. I was so tired and ... listless.
I was an emotional wreck and was smart enough to realize I needed some downtime. School was out of session so all I needed to do was call my partner, Tony Platt. He understood when I explained to him about Jerry.
"Sure, Cindy, not a problem. We have a design review coming up on the Talbot building but I can put that off for a couple of weeks. The specs are all in the Talbot folder so if you could just do a review as you have time go ahead and take two weeks. From what I read in the paper this morning, he sounds like quite a guy!"
I took a long shower and opened a bottle of the twenty-year-old Lustau Palo Cortado sherry that Jerry had given me last Christmas. I had meant to share it with him, but now ... it was a dry oloroso. Good sherry was one of my vices.
I poured a healthy glass and, putting a CD by Julie London on, I went to bed early. I listened to her singing, "Cry Me a River" and that's sure what I felt like doing—crying a river of tears.
As I lay there I realized I had put my ghosts to bed forever. Jerry had been hurt; he might have been killed. I felt his pain, but it was his pain, not mine. What hurt me was that when something actually did happen to him—I wasn't there to support him. When he needed me, really needed me, I wasn't there.
That was my shame and I had to find a way to make it right with him. I knew he loved me still—although I sometimes wondered why. I had been such a bitch. I had to find a way to make things right with him. It was going to be hard for him to leave his chosen life and I wanted to walk beside him on the journey, hand in hand, step by step.
Maybe it was the wine or maybe it was the new clarity of my understanding of what Jerry meant to me and how important his love was, but I slept soundly and woke up refreshed and feeling better about myself than I had for years.
I realized, of course, that it wasn't as simple as kiss and make up. It would be hard and take a lot of forgiveness from Jerry and even more patience by me, but we could do it. We had to.
I wasn't going to dump it all on him at once. I would show him my love, support him, and when he wanted to talk I would try to say the right things, the things I felt in my heart.
There was one thing I was going to be stubborn about. I stopped by Jerry's house, our house I said to myself positively. I still had the key to the front door and I assumed he hadn't changed the combination to the safe. I found what I needed and went to the hospital to see Jerry and to try to start putting our love together again.
MOVING FORWARD—JERRY'S STORY
Joe and Mary had stopped by—he had some ideas he wanted to run by me.
We talked about them, and then Joe asked, "I didn't like having to take you off regular duty, but you know I didn't have any choice."
"Yeah, Joe, I know. Sure, if I had my druthers I'd be there for roll call every day. Honestly, I don't know how I'll deal with it. It might be the hardest thing I've ever done or it might be the easiest.
"I've lain here thinking about it and what I will miss most will be the adrenalin rush that comes when we put it on the line. I like to think I'm more than a one-dimensional person. I would be very disappointed in myself if I couldn't step up and make a new life.
"What really hurts is that Cindy is not here to walk by my side in all this. I feel better about how she has handled things. I couldn't give up the law enforcement work voluntarily—even if it would have saved my marriage. Now? Hell, I don't know. It's been lonely and I ... well I've never stopped loving her. I just don't know, Joe."
Mary lingered to chat with me.
"Jerry, if I'm out of line, let me know. I don't know if you knew or not but I've been having lunch with Cindy fairly often since she—well, since she left you. I know how hurt you were but you do understand that she never stopped loving you, don't you?"
I started to explode with my first thought: "Well, if she loved me so much, why did she throw her ring at me and tell me to give it away? Why did she insist on a divorce?" I realized I was clenching my fists and had half risen up.
I leaned back with a sigh and relaxed. "Yeah, Mary, I know. That's the hell of it. She had this damn obsession with something happening to me on the job and it ate her alive. If she had just talked to me, or ... I don't know, Mary. Sometimes it was so hard to live with her but I never really doubted that she loved me."
Looking sad, Mary replied, "We talked a lot about her fears of your getting killed on the job during our lunches and I shared with her that I had the same fears. I told her how I had handled it—how having kids made it easier rather than harder. She cried when I told her that."
I nodded; Cindy not wanting children had always confused and troubled me. When I first met her she talked about having kids all the time.
"Jerry, could you at least be open to her; listen to what she says, see how she acts?"
Considering that, I nodded again, "I'm having some trouble believing anything will be different ... although I guess I won't be in harm's way anymore, though. Well, except for driving my car," I added with a wry grin.
"Mary, I won't go through what I lived with again."
"I know, Jerry. I really do understand; just give her a chance, okay?"
She kissed me on the forehead and walked out, leaving a lot of thoughts churning around in my head.
The doctor came in and told me that the remaining surgery couldn't be scheduled until my swelling on my knee had gone down and the damn thing had somewhat healed.
"It will be about three or four weeks before your knee is ready. Your insurance gives you two options. I can refer to a nearby short term care facility that can give you the necessary care. It's convenient but I understand it's not the same as being at home.
"Your other choice would be to go home and have round the clock nursing care. A company we work with can provide around the clock nursing care for you. I'll have someone stop by and explain the details and help you make a decision."
I lay there and thought about it. I guessed I had already made up my mind. I wanted to be at home.
Cindy came in with a smile on her face. She looked much nicer: her makeup was carefully done and she was wearing a pale blue blouse with a navy blue skirt. It was a new combination, not anything I'd seen before. My heart gave a lurch; she looked like she was still in college. My God, what a beautiful woman she was.
She came to the bed and sat down on the edge, leaning in and kissing me gently on the lips. I don't think she noticed how high her skirt had slid up her creamy white thighs—I sure noticed though.
She smiled, and asked, "How do you feel, Jerry? You look much better." She studied me for a bit, and added, "Yes, you don't look so drawn. Either the pain is less or they are giving you more of that happy juice."
She took my hand in her lower one, caressing the top of my hand with the other. I felt something hard and took her hand, holding it up in front of my face. She had her ring on, that beautiful ring Hiram had made those years ago. I looked at her, a question in my eyes.
She just nodded, and started talking, "How long do you have to stay in the hospital? Joe said there would be at least one more round of surgery, is that true?" She sounded more, I don't know, more sure of herself.
She seemed quite pleasant—like she had been when I first met her. I told her what the doctor had said and added the bit about extended care and what I had decided.
"Jerry, that's fine about the nursing. I know there are things that have to be done. I can design a house but I don't know anything about that stuff. But, I'd like to be there also. I can be there except during the day."
I looked at her, trying to figure out where she was coming from.
"Jerry, that is, well, if you want me to. If it's okay with you ... you know..."
She tapered off at the end—running out of steam, a hitch in her voice. I looked closely at her face. There was a hint of dampness in her eyes, a light tightness at the edges. She had taken on an air of quiet desperation. I could see this was really important to her. She wasn't nearly as self-confident as she had appeared to be.
I glanced down at her legs and could see a faint hint of what might be lacy, light blue panties. Or, it could have just been a gleam in my eye. There could be an upside to all this I thought. I didn't really have any objection and it did seem so important to her.
I smiled, and said, "Sure, Cindy. It would be nice."
Her face was instantly transformed by a wonderful smile and the tenseness around her eyes went away.
"Good! I'll go over and clean the house and stock the fridge and the pantry."
"Cindy, you don't have to..." but she was gone; the memory of her beauty caused a sudden discomfort with the damn catheter. I was at once extra glad that it was coming out later in the day. The doctor had the nurse put it in because he wanted as little movement the first day as possible from me.
I dozed off and when I woke up the nurse told me I could go home in two more days.
FORWARD AND ONWARD—CINDY'S STORY
I got to the house around noon. There wasn't much to eat so I called out for Chinese. I went through the kitchen making out a shopping list. I'd take care of that after I visited Jerry again.
Even though it was hot out—summer in Kansas can be brutal—the house felt cold ... and empty. I cleaned frantically, almost compulsively. During a break I called a hospital rental place and ordered an extra wide hospital bed. I dragged some of the furniture out of Jerry's office so the bed could go in there. I figured I could sleep in Jerry's room—the one that used to be ours.
I went up, took a shower and put on the clean clothes I'd brought with me. I dressed up nice for Jerry and went in to see him again. God, how could I have lived away from this man for four months? I was on pins and needles after just a few hours.
I arrived at the hospital around six. Jerry looked much better. His color was good and he didn't seem as groggy from the drugs. I walked over to him and gave him a kiss like I was his wife—which I was. He didn't complain about it so I figured he was okay with it.
He told me about his talk with Joe.
"His idea was that I teach part time at the KU Criminal Justice Department in Lawrence. With the disability retirement, money won't be a problem and I always liked it there. After all, that's where I met you."
He looked a little happy and sad both at that recollection.
"Anyway I think it's a great idea. I don't see myself sitting behind a desk. And, Cindy, you remember how much I like to write. Since you left," I winced at that, "I've written several stories. I called the school and I can start taking Creative Writing courses. I really want to do that. I thought I'd be feeling terrible about not being a cop ... but I guess I'd done enough of that and got it out of my system. I'm sure I wouldn't be feeling this way if my knee hadn't been messed up.
"Will I miss it? Sure! It's a great bunch of guys—when you have watched each other's back it forms a special bond. I won't miss working all hours of the day and night. It will be hard for me to get used to not being there for people that need help."
"With the things I've learned on the job I think I can help some guys stay alive by teaching them what really works—like how to raid a meth lab," he finished, laughing.
"That sounds wonderful Honey."
He didn't react to the honey bit. What he said made a lot of sense and I started thinking about what I wanted to do. I had an idea but I didn't say anything to Jerry until I had it all worked out.
I sat on the edge of the bed again—with a longer dress this time. God, I hoped I hadn't been too obvious yesterday; wearing that skirt so short that it would ride up my leg when I sat on the bed.
I was holding his hand while I was talking to him and he was absently turning the ring around on my finger. He realized what he was doing and looked at me kind of funny.
"Cindy, I just couldn't give it away. This ring was made for you. No one else could ever wear it."
I noticed a single tear hanging at the edge of his eye.
"I would want you to have it no matter what happened with us. Cindy, it's okay, but I have to know, why did you put it on?"
Here it was, our entire life together, right her, right now!
"Jerry, I know I told you to give it away ... could I ... Jerry could I ask you to give it back to me?"
I turned my head, looking at the twilight filtering through the shades. I couldn't look at him. If he asked me to take the ring off, I'd die!
I felt him put his hand up and touch my face.
Quietly, he said, "Yes, it's okay with me, Cindy."
We were both emotionally saturated so we talked of practical things: picking him up from the hospital, the nurses and their rotation, what he wanted to eat—all that stuff that actually makes life work.
When I left I gave him a kiss that turned kind of steamy.
I stopped and did all the shopping on the way back to Jerry's—dammit, our house. I put everything away and decided I didn't want to go to my place for the night. Tomorrow I would go over there and pick up some stuff I would need. I ate a small salad and took a long hot bath, then put my pajamas on.
I wandered around the house touching the mementos I had so harshly walked away from. There was a paperweight from our honeymoon. We had a nice dinner at a small place in an alley in Chinatown. We both had the Peking duck and it was almost mesmerizing it was so good. Afterwards we were walking in and out of the little shops and, while I was looking at some scarves, Jerry had purchased this, well, hideous paperweight of the Golden Gate Bridge.
It was painted some indescribable color between gold and red. When I came out of the bathroom that night in my peignoir, I saw it on my pillow along with the chocolate of the night from the hotel. It was just so ... ugly that I broke out laughing. Jerry laughed too and we rolled around on the bed tickling each other. That turned into the sweetest, most meaningful love we had made. It was such a wonderful memory.
My eyes were leaking a little as I walked into the living room. I sat on the sofa and looked at that special picture Jerry had taken of me. He had captured a piece of my soul as no professional photographer ever could. That picture, radiant with the best that God and nature could provide, had meant so much to us. The beauty of the bay, the breaking waves shattering the glow of the setting sun into so many millions of fragments—it was all there in front of me and in my memories.
I could hear the clanging of the bells protecting the sailors of the sea from the shoals of death. The lovely dinner, spoiled by my stupidity over the wine—who had I been? What awful demon had possessed my very soul? And I had told Jerry to just give the picture away?
What had I done to my Jerry? Oh, God, help me in my hour of need!
THE SWEET FOREVER—JERRY'S STORY
With a rush my life changed directions almost too fast to stay up with. Cindy brought me home and worked everything out with the nurses. This was a side of Cindy I'd never seen before. When I needed her she was there—maybe pulled to me by some atavistic instinct, I don't know.
Sometimes the pain made me grouchy and I wanted to be alone. Cindy disappeared ... but she was still there. I was doing some minimal therapy with the nurses but the hard part would be after the next, and hopefully final, operation.