“Colin, please!” Joshua begged. He reached to try to grab Colin’s sleeve as he paced their living room, but Colin jerked away.
“Leave me alone, Josh!” he snapped, then grimaced and shot his husband a contrite look. “I’m sorry, baby. Just let me work through this. Go to David and Nate’s house. Just let me…,”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Joshua said, then he sighed and bowed his head. He’d never seen Colin this distraught. Seldom seen him this beside himself with rage. He had been seething with white-hot anger for hours, ever since he heard the news from Minneapolis.
Joshua had tried repeatedly to calm him with no success. Finally, he simply sat and watched as Colin strode through the rooms of their house, cursing and venting his fury. Joshua said little other than to murmur his understanding and support. He knew there was little else he could do. Colin had to work it out. He had to process his wrath in his own way and in his own time. Eventually he would wear himself out. This kind of intensity couldn’t last forever.
“Jesus!” Colin spat out through clenched teeth, still stalking through the rooms of their house, unable to cease his relentless pacing. “I want to fucking beat those bastards within an inch of their worthless lives!”
“I know, honey. I know. But you can’t. You can’t do anything. They’ve been fired. There’s an investigation going on. They won’t get away with it.”
“You don’t know that!” Colin spat out. “We’ve seen it before, Josh. Cops – well fuck that, I won’t call them cops because they’re not! They’re not cops. They’re not police officers! They’re murderers! And that’s how they need to be treated!” He wheeled to face Joshua, his teeth bared in rage. “We’ve seen them get away with it!”
“These guys won’t,” Joshua said, trying to keep his voice level.
Without warning Colin jerked to a halt and stood stock still, his eyes fixed on the windows leading to their front yard and the Rivanna River beyond. For several seconds he was silent. His breathing slowed. His face twisted into an expression of profound grief and Joshua saw his beautiful honeyed-green eyes fill with tears. He rose slowly from the couch and approached Colin with measured movements. “Colin?” he whispered, taking his arm. “Honey, come sit down with me.”
Colin stumbled to the couch and sank down beside Joshua. The volcanic rage had suddenly drained away leaving only a crushing storm of anguish which roiled in his chest like a ball of fire. A pain he could barely contain, barely endure without crying out.
“Sweetie,” Joshua whispered. He reached to brush the tears from Colin’s cheeks. Colin was still staring straight ahead of him, silent and motionless. Gazing into their unlit fireplace while tears tracked down his face in a slow, steady stream. He seemed only dimly aware of Joshua’s presence, totally focused on some excruciating inner vision.
Joshua felt his own eyes burn. Felt his own throat ache and tighten. Colin’s obvious agony was almost more than he could bear. “Sweetie, please talk to me,” he murmured, pressing his forehead to Colin’s shoulder.
“I keep thinking about Jerry,” Colin whispered, his voice shaking and thick with tears. “He died being a good cop.”
“I know, baby,” Joshua whispered, reaching to stroke Colin’s hair, struggling to hold back the sobs which threatened to overwhelm him. Jerry Burgess was a campus police officer and Colin’s friend. He was killed in the line of duty only a few short months ago, and Colin had summoned every ounce of strength he possessed to stand honor guard at his friend’s casket.
“He could have done a lot of things the night he was killed,” Colin said, his voice shaking. “He could have drawn his piece and shot the guy. He could have pulled back and called for backup which would have escalated the situation out of all control. But he didn’t. He tried to reason with the perp. He tried to be one of the good guys. He played it by the book. And now he’s dead and his three kids have no daddy.”
“Colin, god, honey, please don’t do this to yourself,” Joshua moaned. Again, he reached to brush his fingers across Colin’s damp cheeks. “Please, honey. You’re going to break my heart.”
“I hate those guys, Josh,” Colin ground out, his teeth once again clenched tight. “I fucking hate them! Do you know what guys like that do to cops like Jerry? Cops like me?” He lowered his head and swiped his sleeve across his face. “They make it twice as likely that people won’t trust us. Won’t come to us. Won’t listen to us. Won’t believe us.”
He leaned back and raised his face, staring at their ceiling with its oaken beams. “They make it twice as likely that we’ll end up dead.” He sat up and wheeled to face Joshua. “D’you know why I love being a cop?”
“I know some of it,” Joshua replied.
“I love being a cop because it’s an honorable profession. You fight for what’s right. You fight for decency and justice. Serve and protect. That’s what we do… or at least what we’re supposed to do.” He lowered his head and Joshua’s hand fell away. “Where the fuck was the honor in what those assholes did? Where was the decency? The protection? The service? The justice!”
“Colin,” Joshua said, once again cradling his husband’s face in his two hands, “there was none of course. They are the worst of the worst and you’re right. The damage they do to honorable police officers like you – like Jerry – is incalculable.”
“It’s like he died for nothing.”
“No. He did not die for nothing! Colin, listen to me!” Joshua once again held Colin’s face between his palms and forced him to meet his eyes. “You have to fight, Colin! You have to keep fighting for what you believe in! You have to keep on being the decent, honorable man you are! You can’t ever stop. You can’t let animals like those guys turn you bitter. You can’t let them defeat you. You have to fight for Jerry and all the other cops just like him who are good, decent men who would never ever engage in that kind of brutality. You have to keep being Colin Campbell. Don’t let them change you, Colin. Please don’t.” His last words were choked out between breathless sobs and Colin quickly wrapped him in his arms and held him close.
“You,” Joshua whispered against Colin’s shoulder, his voice still quaking with sobs, “are the warrior. The perfect line which never wavers.” His arms tightened around Colin’s neck, clutching him close. “Please, please don’t let the ugliness of the world change that, I’m begging you.”
Colin nodded then breathed out a soft laugh. “Well, not so perfect maybe.” He drew in a shuddering breath and leaned back. “I guess I had to get past the rage,” he mumbled, his fingers brushing across Joshua’s damp cheeks.
“Five stages of grief,” Joshua murmured. “For you anger usually comes first.”
“I’ll tell you something,” Colin said, wrapping his arm around Joshua’s shoulder and drawing him close. “On this one I will never get to acceptance. Not fucking ever!”
“I wouldn’t want you to.”
Colin nodded, then kissed Joshua’s cheek, before rising from the couch and moving toward the dining room.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to call Lenny,” Colin said. “I want a meeting. I want a union meeting. I want a discussion about this. I want the guys at the station to have a chance to talk about how they feel.” At the dining room table, he turned and threw Joshua a wan smile. “Not everyone has their own personal shrink to help them through this kind of thing.”
“I can have a couple counselors come to the precinct to talk with any of the cops want to see them,” Joshua said. He rose and walked to Colin’s side. “Grief counselors. There are probably a lot of cops who feel the way you do. They need the chance to vent. To talk about their feelings. Tell Lenny I’ll send some people tomorrow if it’s OK with him.”
“Will one of them be you?” Colin asked, holding his phone in his hand.
“If you want me to be there, I’ll be there.”
“Do you even have to ask?” Colin said, then hit the speed dial to talk to his boss at the campus police station.
Joshua returned to the couch and fell onto it while Colin spoke to his Lieutenant. He felt as emotionally drained as he knew Colin felt, but he also felt a glimmer of hope. He lifted his eyes to the ceiling, then closed them, drawing in slow, even breaths until he felt Colin sink to the couch beside him.
“He’ll call the meeting,” Colin said. “And he said to bring the counselors.” He half turned on the couch and drew Joshua close in his arms. “Christ, Josh, I feel fucking exhausted.”
“Let’s just stay home today and watch TV. Something easy on the eyes and on the emotions.”
“Whatever you want, honey. I can’t even think straight right now.”
“How about ‘School of Rock?” Joshua suggested. He turned sideways and gazed at his husband. Colin’s face was pale. His lower lip still quivered, and his brow was furrowed. He was still struggling with the pain and anger. He was still fighting his way back to the end of grief’s journey… acceptance. And though Colin would never ‘accept’ what had happened in Minneapolis, he would achieve an acceptance of his role in this ongoing story. He would do what he could. And Joshua would be by his side.
Colin glanced at him and gave him a small smile. “School of Rock sounds good.” He wrapped Joshua tight in his arms, holding him so close that Joshua could barely breathe. “Thank you,” Colin whispered, his voice once again thick with tears. “I love you so much.” He released Joshua from his embrace and swallowed hard.
“And I love you,” Joshua replied, then grabbed the remote. “A little Jack Black?”
“Good for what ails you,” Colin murmured, then settled next to Joshua, one arm around his shoulders, holding him close against his side. He turned his head and buried his face against Joshua’s dark curls. Then drew in a deep breath and allowed himself to relax against his husband’s body. Peace was a long way off. But it was coming. Colin could see it, like a glisten of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It was there. Steady and unswerving.
And it had a name.