Belief by Troubleshooter Copyright 2000 all rights reserved.

Chapter 5

It’s another Monday morning. I suppose lots of people hate Monday mornings, what with it being the start of their work week and all. I did shift work and weekend work most of my life, so Monday mornings never meant anything to me.

I guess I’ve gotten pretty far off the story I’m supposed to be telling. Jules and I talked about writing a little bit this weekend. We decided to go into the city Saturday morning and stay at the apartment she has for us in the Quarter. We had a good time.

We walked around and looked at all of the shops. Jules loves to shop. I’m the pack mule, which is fine by me. Besides the view is great. I get to trail along behind her. Jules has a really nice ass. Her mother and father are coming in tonight. She and her mother can go shopping until they drop.

I’m not much for shopping. Seems like a giant waste of time mostly. And some of the stuff they have in those shops in the Quarter.... I’ve come into contact with a whole lot of people being a cop. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that would buy some of that stuff, unless you wanted to piss off a relative or something.

We went to this place called Snug Harbor for dinner. They’ve got great steaks and great jazz. Then Jules wanted to go dancing. I like slow dancing better than the fast stuff, probably because it’s another Jules contact opportunity. We went to this little place called The Treasury. It’s a mixed bar and it turned out that they were having a drag show. It was actually pretty good.

A lot of lesbians I’ve met don’t like drag shows. I’m not sure why. There was this one that was really good that used to be held at this bar on the corner of Decatur and Esplanade. The two guys that put the show on were phenomenal performers. They didn’t do the standard drag thing - put on a gown, makeup and a wig and mouth a song. Their little skits required you to think. It was more like performance art. Plus, you’ve got to love the names those guys come up with as their stage names.

My favorite one was the live Patsy Cline/dead Patsy Cline skit. I remember the first time I saw it, I was amazed. One of them would come out on stage dressed as Patsy Cline and do a fairly decent rendition of Walking After Midnight. Then, when it was over, the lights would go out, and there would be this combination of music and noise that would come over the speakers. It wouldn’t register at first what it was, but if you paid attention, you could figure out that it was the noise of a plane going down and crashing. Then this, I don’t know, I guess an angry disco version of Walking After Midnight would start and a spotlight would light up on stage, focused on the other guy. He was dressed in a black pantsuit that was torn and ripped and had makeup bruises and fake blood on him, like he had been in a plane crash.

I couldn’t believe that a lot of people didn’t get it. I thought I was reading too much into it. It seemed to me that the portrayals were about life versus death. The sweet, almost innocent, version of the first song, then the anger of the second. I got a chance to talk with them one night, so I asked. I wasn’t reading too much into it. They meant to do that.

I couldn’t sleep, and so after Jules drifted off, I got out of bed and sat on the balcony. There’s always something going on in the Quarter. It’s like no one ever sleeps here. And if there’s a weirdo out there, they’ll find their way to the Quarter.

I spent a lot of time on patrol in the Quarter. It’s my favorite district. Everything’s so old here. Some tourists find it dirty. I guess it is, but if everything was shiny and sparkling clean, I think it would lose something. I like the sense of history I feel. It makes me feel like I belong. The cracks in the’s like you can see the defects, see the stress the buildings been under, but it’s still holding up. I think the cracks are beautiful. It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t an architect. I’d starve.

My favorite picture of Diego and Jules was taken a couple of blocks away from here. It was taken on February 24, 1998, which was Mardi Gras Day. For a cop, Mardi Gras isn’t that much fun. Mardi Gras here in New Orleans isn’t just a one day celebration. It runs for two weeks before the actual Mardi Gras day. Every officer is pulled and there’s massive reassignments during those two weeks. You work between twelve to fifteen hours a day and by the end of the two weeks, you’re a walking zombie.

I had the fortune of getting an assignment to the Mounted Division, actually the DDD, which was the Downtown Development District, in the late eighties, which meant that I got to patrol the downtown area on horseback. I did that for four years. I was one of the Department’s experienced riders, so every year I pull Mounted duty for Mardi Gras. In my opinion, it’s the best duty you can get. Usually, you’re assigned a parade to ride in front of, then you’re assigned to a corner on Bourbon Street. There’s between six and eight officers assigned to each block of the parade route, as well as each block on Bourbon.

Jules and Diego came to visit me on Mardi Gras day. During that time, that’s about the only way I got to see them. We kept the horses behind barricades on the side streets off of Bourbon. You’d be amazed at what drunks will try and do to your horse. I had put Diego up on top of Sabu, the horse that I usually rode. He was a gorgeous gelding. Part Arabian, part monster. He topped out at sixteen and three-quarter hands. He was almost copper in color, with a flaxen mane and tail, and a white blaze down his face. And could he move a crowd.

One of the newspaper photographers that Jules knew was wandering around in the crowd and stopped to talk to Jules. He had his camera with him and talked Jules into getting up on Sabu with Diego in front of her. He took a picture of the three of us, me standing on the ground next to them. The looks on their faces were pure joy. Great smiles. I think I look goofy in the picture. Jules tells me I look proud.

I am, you know...proud. Proud of them both. That I would have ever been given two treasures in my life like was beyond anything that I could ever imagine. I need to remember that. I get so caught up in my own shit sometimes. I don’t want to lose Jules.

We ended up talking late Thursday night. I told her some of it. I didn’t tell her a whole lot. Just that I had seen Diego die. I don’t think I can tell her all of it. She doesn’t need to know. It will just hurt her more. Hasn’t she been hurt enough?

At that moment, I never felt so powerless in my hopeless. It’s my nightmare every night. I will never forget that. They could remove my brain and I’d still remember. It’s a memory of my heart and soul.

Jules asked me last night what more I could have done. I didn’t have an answer. There should have been something. I go through what happened and I find my mistakes. My mistakes...they’re uncorrectable. I had one shot.

That mother fucker laughed when she pulled the trigger. Our boy was crying and calling for his mami. Calling for Jules. I told him how much we both loved him.

How can I tell Jules that? How can I tell her that those soft brown eyes were staring at me and filled with terror? Pleading with me to do something? And I couldn’t. I couldn’t get away from the two men holding me. I had lost too much blood from the gunshot wounds. My left shoulder was dislocated, the arm broken. My eyes almost swollen shut from the beating I had endured. My body failed me and I failed him.

When she turned the gun on me, I wanted to die. I prayed that she would kill me. Praying never works. I think she meant to kill me, but she didn’t. As she fired, my last thoughts were of our boy going to Heaven. Jules would see him one day, when she died. I wouldn’t. I would be joining Catalina de Quintanilla in Hell. I couldn’t wait for her to join me.

It’s the eye for an eye story, as old as time. I killed her son, Vicente. She killed mine. Revenge, pure and simple. It didn’t make a difference to her that Vicente was the scum of the earth and trying to evade capture and kill police officers while doing it and that Diego was an innocent child. I thought it would make a difference that she was a mother. I pleaded and begged with her to let him go. It made no difference to her. She said that all she wanted was to see my face, my pain when she killed him. To know that I knew what it felt like to lose a child before she sent me to be judged by my maker. I tried to deny her that satisfaction, but I don’t think I did.

How can I tell Jules any of this?


Good afternoon.

I went out and bought Damian a camera this morning. One of those really nice ones with interchangeable lenses, zoom, auto-focus, practically anything you could want on a camera.

I got the idea when we were in the Quarter this weekend. I bought one of those disposable cameras to take some pictures. She hates having her picture taken. I took one of her in front of the Joan of Arc statue at the Place de France where Decatur, St. Phillip and North Peters streets meet. It was like talking to a child. “Damian, stand up straight. Stop fidgeting. Smile...please.” She finally gave me the most adorable little smile. I hope the pictures come out.

We have a nice camera and one of those camcorder things, but nothing like this. She’s always taken good pictures, often from very interesting perspectives. Mom and I were talking in D.C. last week and she suggested that I get Damian interested in something. I figured photography would work. At least she could build a darkroom. If I don’t get her interested in something besides building things, we’re gonna need to start clearing more land. How much deck do we really need? It’s gonna be bigger than the house soon. And my dad’s coming in tonight. More trees will give their life so we can have a Guiness Book of Records size deck.

When I gave the camera to her, her eyes lit up. I could give her a bag of dog poo and she’d be excited. I’m not sure if it’s because of the prospect of taking pictures or if it’s because it’s a new toy she has to figure out. I hope she doesn’t break it before she gets a chance to use it. She never reads directions. I always tease her and tell her that her father must have been an engineer.

The first time I did that, it did not go over well at all. She was putting together a barbecue pit we had bought. I was about to go crazy watching her. We were having people over in an hour for a little get together and the main attraction was in about a hundred pieces on the patio in the back yard. I tried to interject a little humor into the situation, mostly to make myself feel better and to see if she would take a hint about reading the directions.

It didn’t work. The hint flew over her head, I definitely didn’t feel better and she got angry. We were a little late.

She’s gotten much better about that. The teasing, that is. Not the directions thing. So if the camera survives her initial inspection, I imagine I’ll have some beautiful pictures to see.

Damian was unusually quiet this weekend. I think what happened on Thursday night really took its toll on her emotionally. Emotional things just exhaust her, and she’s had enough of that in the last several months to keep her tired for the next five lifetimes.

I was kind of glad that she was quiet. What she told me really shocked me. I...I’m not sure if she had said more that I would have been able to respond. I did make some decisions this weekend, though, thinking about it.

I would think that it would be less painful for me if I didn’t know what happened. But I want to know, if only because I think that if she tells me, that at least some of her pain would lessen. We aren’t married in the eyes of the church or even the law, but my commitment to her, for better or for worse, won’t allow me to do any less.

I also realized how far we’ve come along in putting our lives back together. Damian’s been there for me so much while keeping everything inside. In the long run, it’s probably best that it happened that way. She’s so much stronger than I am. If she had told me about seeing Diego even a month ago...I don’t know what I would have done. I wouldn’t have been able to handle it.
It’s her turn now. I feel stronger, and even though the pain hasn’t lessened, it doesn’t come quite as often. I feel like I can handle things a little better now. I need to, for her sake. She’s been bearing the burden alone long enough. I need to thank her for that.

There’s so much that I need to thank her for. I want to spend the rest of my life doing that. I’m really trying to make a conscious effort to find the good that will come out of what happened. It isn’t always easy. I think Mom and Dad coming will help. I know that Mom’s little heart to heart with me helped tremendously.

I also thought a lot about what Mom had to say. She’s so good at pointing things out that I can’t see. It’s the forest for the trees concept. You’re so deeply involved in something that you miss other things. I’ve been pretty concerned about what’s going to happen with Damian’s career. Being a police officer is so much a part of who she is.

We haven’t talked about what she wants to do. She’s on disability leave right now. I don’t know if she can go back to it, both physically and mentally. And frankly, I don’t want her to. The thought of it terrifies me. If it’s something she wants to do, though, I’ll find a way to deal with it. They could offer her a desk job, but that’s not Damian. She’d be miserable.

We don’t have to worry about money, which is another gift from my father, although it’s a worry we both could have lived with, because it would mean that Diego is alive. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but my father’s in insurance. If you’re the child of a man who’s sold insurance your whole life, you’ve got more policies than you can imagine. I think we even have insurance on Maya and Arabella.

He advised us to buy life insurance on all of us, whole life I think they call it, for investment purposes. When Diego died, the life insurance paid off, as well as the disability policy on Damian and some policies she had through the Department.

Damian hates the money. She won’t even do anything with it. I understand how she feels. I hate it, too. My parents sat us both down and had a little chat with us about it. I felt so guilty doing anything with it. So did she. They urged us to at least use what we needed to take some time off and put our lives back together, then we could give it to charity or whatever we wanted.

We talked about it. She lets me handle the money. We both still hate it, but at least it’s giving us this time to heal without additional worries. We haven’t gone crazy or anything with it. We were on a pretty tight budget to begin with and we really don’t require a whole lot. We’ve kind of maintained that budget. We decided to invest the money and use the proceeds to donate to various non-profits that deal with children. I think Diego would be proud of it. I think that he would be proud of us.

What I wouldn’t give to see his smile one more hear him say, “I love you, Mami.”

I need to leave. We’ve got to go get my parents from the airport.


“So how many did you take down?”

I stared at Jules’ father, trying to burn holes into him with my eyes. He kept pounding that damn nail into the board. “Eleven,” I could feel the anger ignite. “Not good enough.”

“You’re alive.”

“Not good enough.” I barked back.

“What would have been good enough?”

I could feel myself start to shake as the flames of my anger licked at my heart. What would have been good enough? Bringing Diego home, alive. Having my little boy...our little boy, safely cradled in Jules arms around both of them. Absolutely nothing else would have been good enough. Little boys shouldn’t die when they were ten.

“Have you talked to Juliana about this?”

“She knows what happened.”

“No, she really doesn’t. She hasn’t heard it from you.”

I kept staring at him. I couldn’t hit him to shut him up. He is Jules’ father. I just had to stand there and take it.

He finally finished pounding that damn nail in and looked up at me. My stare didn’t seem to bother him a bit. He stood slowly, and lifted his shirt up to display a large scar on the side of his chest. “’Nam. 1962.” He snorted at the look on my face. “You believe everything you read in the papers? We were over there then.”

I didn’t know what to answer, or even if I was supposed to.

“I won’t bore you with the details.”

I watched as a look of sadness came over his eyes. He dropped his shirt back down. “Absolutely nothing helped but speaking to Marilyn about it when I got home. Not the shrinks, not my buddies. Nothing.”

He stared at me for so long I wanted to squirm.

“You love a Hayden woman. God knows, she loves you. They’re a tough breed. Marilyn still kicks my ass every single day.”

He dropped back down and picked up another nail, then he looked back up at me. “Love tolerates many things, Damian, but not secrets. Neither do Hayden women. She’ll get it out of you eventually. Make it easy on yourself.” He chuckled at his last words, as if remembering something.

I went back to pounding nails into the boards. I was so angry, it was only taking one swing of the hammer to drive a nail in. I know he's right. I just don't want him to be right.

We compared scars later. I often wonder if I had had parents, if they would have been like Juliana’s. I know my mother wasn’t. I doubt my father would have been. She’s really lucky. I’m lucky by default. She came with them. Her Dad’s pretty cool. Her mother scares the hell out of me.


They are so weird. Damian and my father. I looked out the back window and they were both practically naked and pointing to the various scars on their bodies. I called for my mother, who joined me in looking at the display.

“What is wrong with them?”

“I don’t know. Badges of honor or something. There are just some things that I’ll never understand about your father, no matter how many years I’ve been with him.”

I muttered back. “I know what you mean.”

She laughed. My mother has a delightful laugh. “I can’t wait until they start fighting over who’s going to flip the steaks on the barbecue pit tonight. Want to make a bet on which one’s gonna win?”

I chuckled. “As long as there’s no bloodshed, I don’t care who does it. Maybe I should go buy another pit.”

“No...if it bothers them enough, they’ll build another one. How many truckloads of bricks did it take to build the one that’s out there now?”

My eyes moved over to the brick pit Damian had built. “I have no idea.” It looks like a miniature house.

“You could put a whole cow in there.”

I shook my head. “I know. When she planned it, she said it was just going to be a small little thing. I should have known better when she dug the hole for the foundation. I thought she was putting in another pool.” Who knew a barbecue pit should have a foundation?

It felt so good to laugh and talk with my mother. To commiserate and grouse about Dad and Damian. It felt so normal.

I turned and looked at my mother. I hope I look like she does when I get older. I’m almost an exact copy of her now. “Thank you,” I offered softly.

“You’re welcome, sweetheart.” She turned and looked at me. “Damian looks a lot better.”

“We’ve talked a little more. She’s starting to open up a little.”

“My guess is that she’s as stubborn as your father.”

“More, I think.”

I received a groan of sympathy.

“Come on, let’s go outside and get them before your father has heat stroke. Damian may be used to this heat, but he’s not.”

I happily followed my mother outside as my thoughts wandered to that skin she was showing.

I really don’t know what came over me. The closer I got to Damian, the more I wanted her. My mother caught me staring at her. She gave me a knowing look. I turned beet red. Damian and my father looked confused.

My mother dragged my father into the house, scolding him about staying in the heat too long and telling him that he needed a shower before dinner. She kind of looked over her shoulder at me and nodded slightly. Oh my God! My mother was telling me that she was going to keep my father occupied for a little while. I turned red again.

Damian was looking at me, puzzled. “Jules, are you okay?”

I waited until the door closed and then practically flung myself at her. I never was one to waste an opportunity.

“Jules...mmmpfff...honey...your parents....”

My lips were busy keeping hers occupied. It made it a little difficult for her to talk.


My hands went to her breasts and I heard a guttural moan. I love when she does that. I love that I do that to her.
She broke away from me. “Juliana Lee Hayden!” I love when she gets indignant.

I put on my best little pout and batted my eyelashes at her.

“Your parents are gonna come out and catch us.”

“No, they won’t.”

“How can you be so sure? What has gotten into you?” Her eyes looked over nervously at the back door.

“Mom’s going to keep Dad occupied for a little while.” I didn’t know how, and I didn’t care.


My eyes searched around the backyard for a place where we could make love. Seclusion would be good. Behind the barbecue pit? It certainly was big enough to hide both of us behind it. Hell, we could probably both get inside the damn thing. No. Not good. The pool. Excellent choice! “I’ll explain it to you later. We don’t have a lot of time. Get in the pool and get naked.”

“You have lost your mind.”

I leered at her. “Yeah, ain’t it grand? Now get in that damn pool before I throw you down right here and sit on your face.” I was certainly in a mood.

Those blue eyes went wide, but she started backing up to the pool. I think she was scared that I would have really done that. I don’t think I would have. I think.

It was fast and furious and wonderful and then I couldn’t get her out of the pool. She didn’t want to stop. Neither did I, really. But how long could my mother keep my father occupied? I finally had to resort to a little white lie. “Is that the door?” I whispered as she plunged her fingers inside me.

“Didn’t hear a door.”

I bit her shoulder to keep from crying out when her thumb brushed over my clit. “I think that was the door.”

“Just a little bit more time, baby. You’re so close again.”

She gets so focused. Someone could have drained all the water out the pool right then and she wouldn’t have noticed. And she was right. I was very close. I stopped with the door comments for a few more minutes.

When we went back inside, my mother smirked at me. My father asked me why my hair was wet. I told him we jumped in the pool to cool off. He asked me if I did. Damian said no as I said yes. I turned red again. I hope my mother didn’t tell him what we were doing out there.

This is the first day. They’re going to be here until next Monday morning. We’re gonna look like prunes before they leave.


Ed and Marilyn went to meet some friends for lunch in Mandeville, so we have a little time to sit down and write. Jules is sitting in front of her computer. She keeps looking over here at me. I don’t know what’s gotten into her. Not that I mind it. It’s been fun. A lot of fun. Kind of like we’re being bad kids and sneaking around doing something we shouldn’t. I think my shoulder’s going to need some ice on it for the bruising. Every time she comes, she bites down on it. I’ve got to tell her to switch shoulders. Equal opportunity bruising.

We haven’t been this relaxed in a long time. It’s just the thought of her parents being in the house that kind of freaks me out. I don’t really know why. It’’s...they’re her parents. I don’t think I really need to say more.

I’ve gone back and looked at some of what I’ve written so I could figure out where it was that I left off in our story. It’s a good thing I’m a cop and Jules is the writer. I’ve jumped around all over the place. So let’s see if I can get back on track.

I think the last thing I really talked about that didn’t jump all over was Diego’s surgery. That scared me. A lot. Jules was so good about all of that. She’s so very patient with me and she’s got this way of treating people...of asking questions. They talk to her. You can’t help but like her. She’s got a really beautiful smile. Understanding, kind eyes. Her face is so expressive. Honest. Sincere. She’s not a good liar. You can tell in an instant when she is.

She talked to every person she could get her hands on about the surgery and ASD. Then she explained it all to me. It’s not that I’m stupid or anything. I get really impatient. I want answers now, and I guess I can be a little abrupt when I’m asking questions. Jules says I intimidate people. I have to acknowledge that I tend to do that on occasion. I also hate when they don’t answer me directly. The doctors either talk to you like you don’t know how to tie your shoelaces or you’re Albert Einstein.

Diego looked so small in that big hospital bed, hooked up to all that machinery. I think Jules and I actually suffered more than Diego did after his surgery. That little sucker bounced back so fast. Kids are amazing.

I don’t know who’s worse at qualifying their answers...doctors or lawyers. We were dealing with lawyers, too, after the surgery, trying to start the adoption process. We finally found this lawyer who was a children’s rights advocate. Harry Becnel. What a trip this guy was. He said to us, “I’m not like most lawyers. I’ll take your money. Probably a lot of it. But I get results.”

I liked him immediately. He was a no bull shit kind of guy. We found out later that what he made from paying clients he used to finance the cases for clients who couldn’t pay. He drove an old, beat-up Ford pickup. He came to Diego’s memorial service, still driving that truck.

There are special people you meet in your life, the ones that make an impression. It’s usually the ones that don’t try to make an impression. They just are who they are. Harry Becnel was like that. He died a month ago. The world will be a little poorer without him. We went to his funeral. The place was packed. He must’ve helped a lot of people. How come you don’t hear about people like him in the news?

Jules is like Harry. You can’t come away from an encounter with her without feeling like your life’s been touched for the better in some inexplicable way. Diego was like that, too. He was such a happy boy, in spite of everything that had happened to him. I used to tease he and Jules about that. “Like mother, like son.”

I mean, I know that they weren’t blood related. There was just so much of Jules in Diego. He was bright and energetic. He had a certain patience that you wouldn’t expect of a little boy. And he loved life. Both of them...the things that we got to do with was incredible. There’s this picture we got someone to take of the three of us in Disney. The fireworks were exploding and it was kind of a semi-profile shot. The expression on our faces...we all looked like kids.

Joy...pure, unadulterated joy...that’s what Diego made me feel. That’s what Jules makes me feel. They’re the only two who ever did.

Those initial was so wild. I was in love for the first time in my life. The only time. Diego eventually got out of the hospital, and with Harry doing a little bit of legal wrangling, and me pulling a few strings with some contacts I had in Social Services, we got Diego placed in a foster home with some people I knew. Jules and I weren’t really living together at the time. We ended up being together as much as we could, though.

I think I drove her crazy sometimes. I always took my responsibility as her “baby sitter,” as she called me, very seriously. No one I’d ever worked with had gotten hurt, and with Jules and our developing relationship, it became triply important. We had gotten some breaks in the case. There was this family that had an operation set up. They smuggled drugs, guns and people. The Quintanilla family. They’re all dead now. As it should be.

We went on another raid the first night after we made love. There was this container ship that was coming into port. It was supposed to have a little bit of everything on it - guns, drugs and people. I would still get pretty aggravated that I couldn’t participate fully in the raid, what with Jules tagging along. We secured the ship. Generally, you don’t get a fight from the crew. Most of them don’t even know what’s on the ship.

We started checking the containers. They were using dogs. One of the dogs found something, so everybody started moving in that direction. We stopped, Jules and I, kind of off to the side of the container. As they were opening the doors, this idiot dropped a bolt-cutter. I had no idea at the time what it was. All I heard was a loud bang. I dove on top of Jules and she kind of hit the deck. Hard. With me on top of her.

We found some guns and drugs. Well, they did. I ended up having to take Jules to the hospital to be checked out for a concussion. She was a little out of it there for a while. I told you it was amazing we didn’t kill each other the first few months.

Sitting in the emergency room, waiting for them to finish examining Jules...I think that was the first time I really thought of what I did for a living. I had been on the force for fourteen years. I had seen a lot of things. Experienced a lot of things. I hadn’t shot anybody, but I had been in a lot of confrontations. Been in some dangerous situations. Almost got killed once when I was in Vice. You put the badge on, and it comes with the territory.

But I never had anybody to worry about before. Never had anything to live for before. I remember sitting there thinking, “Boy, this is going to take some getting used to.” Feeling like I had a responsibility towards someone else was...strange. But I liked it. A lot. And I had two someones to take care of.

My job’s never been an issue with Jules. We’ve talked about it. I’m pretty sure that she doesn’t like the idea of the risks that the job entails, but she accepts it. It’s what I do. Part of who I am. I don’t know anything else. I did get a chance to go to college. One of the schools here has a criminal justice program. Cops get a break on the tuition. I went part-time and ended up with a Master of Criminal Justice. Ed’s brought up private security work. I don’t know if I’m cut out for that.

I’ve been thinking about going back to the Department. Joe Duncan’s told me he’d take me with him, get me a job as a fibbie if I want to do that. I don’t know what I want to do. I miss it in some ways. In others, I don’t. get a chance to do some good out there. Help some people out. Or at least try. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I think the best assignment I ever had was foot patrol in the Quarter. I loved walking a beat, being able to be in contact with people. Jules would laugh hysterically if she read that line. It’s not that I’m a people person. I was always pretty much happiest when I was alone, until Jules came along. I can’t imagine my life without her.

It’s the being on the street...on the ground...not riding in a car. You got to know people. See them for more than just the first impression you get if you jump out a patrol car answering a call. You figure out that they have problems and you help where you can. Sometimes, all they needed was someone to listen. Tell ‘em they were worth something. It really pisses me off that nobody in government can get their act together so we can get more cops on the street.

Take the City for example. Everybody bitches about there not being enough money. About two years ago, the Mayor got on TV and threatened that the city was going to be paralyzed because the tax money from gambling that they were relying on wasn’t coming in. Over half of the employees at City Hall were gonna be laid off and they wouldn’t be able to hire any new policemen or firemen.

The politician’s answer? Raise taxes. There was a big campaign and a vote. The people ended up rejecting the taxes. Guess how many people lost their jobs. If you guessed nobody, you’d be right. What a bunch of crap. Jules wrote a great article about it. She’s not the Mayor’s favorite reporter.

Somebody should take a walk through City Hall. For every one person that’s actually doing work, there are two people watching. It’s sad. Most people don’t care. They don’t have to deal with City Hall. As long as their lives aren’t affected, it’s a non-issue. But as soon as their lives are affected, the world’s supposed to stop and everybody’s supposed to make it right. There was this woman one day, on the steps of City Hall, with cameras and reporters from the TV stations surrounding her. She was bitching about some tragedy that occurred to her when she was trying to get something done at City Hall. She made a statement about being appalled.

I’m always appalled. Things have gotten less appalling over the years. That bothers me. It’s like you become desensitized to it. Begin to accept it as the norm. I don’t think that’s right.

Most of what bothers me is really common sense stuff. Take the drug smuggling for example. We spend billions of dollars a year to fight it. What’s the results? Loss of life, both from the use of the drugs and the battle over them. Addiction. Crime from feeding the addiction. How much do we spend on keeping the drug smugglers behind bars? This doesn’t even begin to touch on the ramifications.

What’s the ramifications of legalizing it? Make it cheap. Even free to those who can’t afford it. Didn’t we learn anything from Prohibition? Will you still have addicted people? Hell, yes. You’ve got ‘em now. Will you have any more? Probably not. Addiction’s a disease and right now, we don’t even know who’s afflicted. Will more kids try it? Probably not. If you think kids as young as ten or twelve aren’t taking drugs or drinking alcohol, you’ve been living under a rock. If they want it, they get it. No law stops them.

Hell, living with a bunch of nuns didn’t stop it. There was this girl at the home, Chrissa. She was twelve. I was fourteen. She got moved into our room. She used to keep Bourbon stashed in a Holy Water bottle in her dresser drawer next to a little bag of marijuana. Poor planning and poor imagination on her part. If you were gonna hide alcohol in a Holy Water bottle, at least use something like vodka or gin. At least those were clear, like Holy Water. She got caught. Big surprise. The nuns weren’t always that up on everything, but even they didn’t buy that the Holy Water had gone bad. They also didn’t buy the potpourri story either.

I never understood it. I didn’t do drugs. I tried marijuana once and threw up. That was enough for me. It’s supposed to have anti-nausea effects. They forgot to tell me. Jules has done some drugs. Experimented with marijuana and cocaine. I don’t get it, but then, that’s just me. She doesn’t do them any more. Not since college.

I did smoke in high school. Quit when I was twenty-five. Started smoking again after everything happened. Jules hates it. I don't know why I started again. I need to quit.

Will there be other problems if we legalized drugs? Probably. But the real question is, what set of problems can we deal with better? Illegal versus legal? Knowing what I know, I’d have to say legal.

Don’t get me wrong. Humans are so inventive. Most likely, someone would come up with something else that was illegal, and we’d be battling about something else. This drug thing is just a battle that’s impossible to win. When they tell you that we’re winning the war against drugs, they’re lying to you. For every kilo of coke that gets confiscated, a thousand make it through.

Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to get on my soapbox. It makes me angry that there are thousands of people who put their lives on the line every day when they don’t have to. Maybe, if drugs had been legalized, the Quintanillas wouldn’t have been doing what they were doing, I wouldn’t have killed Vicente and Diego would be alive today.


Good morning. Late morning actually.

I’m having so much trouble staying focused today. I think part of my problem focusing is because I feel so relaxed. I haven’t felt like his in a long time. I’m almost giddy.

I want to grab Damian and play with her. Just do silly things. I keep looking over at her, and she’s so focused on her writing. She does this cute little thing with her tongue when she’s thinking. The tip of it kind of sticks out. And her face...she gets all these different expressions on it.

It’s another one of those little things I learned about her. Her facial expressions, her voice, her posture...if she’s uncomfortable in a situation, she has no expression. People talk about masks. If there’s such a thing as a full-body mask, then she puts one of those on.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that she’s writing. It’s really a miracle to me that she’s actually doing this. I wasn’t kidding when I told my mother she was stubborn. I’ve learned never to say “Damian, you shouldn’t...” or “Damian, shouldn’t you...” because she’ll do the exact opposite, just because. Like when she has a headache. I can tell because of this little pained look she gets and the way her brows knit. A “Honey, why don’t you take some aspirin?” will get me a “Don’t need any.” But if I get them for her and hand them to her without a word, she’ll take them.

In some ways, dealing with Damian is like dealing with a child. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s one of the things that I love about her. How she grew up, where she grew up...I don’t think she had an opportunity to be a kid when she needed to be a kid. If I can give her back a little bit of that childhood, I’m not going to complain.

We were talking about things from our past one evening. Well, I was. It’s when I found out that she grew up in an orphanage. We were out on a date. Damian still blushes when I refer to them as dates. She says that’s so old-fashioned. But she is old-fashioned about some things, in a very good kind of way. She opens doors for me. Says please and thank you. Believes strongly in fidelity. In commitment.

I got into a story about a couple of my friends from childhood, talking about things we did, slumber parties, tea parties, riding the bus to school. Everything that I thought was a part of everyone’s childhood. You know how you can be talking to someone and they’re agreeing with you or saying “Yeah, I remember that” or “I know what you mean.” And you know they have no earthly idea what it is you’re talking about. There’s always this politely interested yet clueless expression on their faces.

She was wearing that expression. I couldn’t figure out why. I asked her, “Didn’t you ever go to a slumber party? Put someone’s underwear in the freezer?”

“You put someone’s underwear in the freezer?” A note of disbelief colored her voice.

“Yeah...that’s what you’re supposed to do at slumber parties. Freeze underwear, talk about the boys, put makeup on each other...all that stuff. What did you do at your slumber parties?” I still didn’t know her well enough to immediately note the signs that this was making her uncomfortable.

“Um...I...well, I didn’t go to any.”

“Why not?”

“Sisters wouldn’t let us go,” she mumbled.

I was confused. I didn’t think she had any siblings. And she said “sisters.” Plural. Being the journalist that I am, I inquired further, “Why on earth wouldn’t your sisters let you go?” Visions of Cinderella came into my mind. I was starting to not like her family and I hadn’t even met them. Her sisters...they were probably like the mean step-sisters in Cinderella. Good thing I’m dating the beautiful, kind one.

“Not my sisters...nuns.”

“Nuns?” I was really confused then. Was this some weird offshoot of the Catholic religion where nuns directed your activities? I didn’t know that much about Catholics. I’ve never cared very much what religion a person was. I knew Damian was Catholic. I found out one day when we were driving down Canal Street in Mid-City and we passed a cemetery and she made the sign of the cross. That’s a dead giveaway that you’re Catholic. That, and the small gold crucifix on a chain around her neck. “Why would nuns tell you what to do? Other than if you’re in school, I mean, that is, if you went to a Catholic school.” I tend to think aloud sometimes. It can be good and it can be bad.

Her eyes dropped to the table and she played with the silverware. “I...uh...I lived with them.”

“You lived with nuns or your sisters?” I wondered if I had drank too much wine with dinner.

“Nuns...I don’t have any sisters.” Her eyes flickered up to mine, then dropped back down. She sighed. “I...I grew up in an orphanage.”

I was glad it wasn’t the wine. I wanted to be fully alert for this. It was one of the first glimpses into her past that she had allowed me and I wanted to know more. I wasn’t really sure what to say. “Here in New Orleans?”

“Yeah, off of St. Charles Avenue. A place called St. Vincent’s. It was run by the Daughters of Charity.” She raised her eyes to look at me. It was almost as if she expected me to reject her.

I returned her gaze and hoped mine reflected warmth and affection and acceptance. “Did you live there all of your life?”

“From eighteen months until I was eighteen.”

Pieces of the puzzle started to click into place. She clearly wasn’t very comfortable discussing this. I wondered what had happened during the first eighteen months of her life, but didn’t want to press. She can shutdown so quickly. I was fascinated by her. I still am. If we live to be a hundred, I’ll still be fascinated by her. “What did you do when you were eighteen?”

“Joined the department.” She seemed a little relieved that I had moved on.

I remember going home that night and climbing into bed, my body still tingling from that hormonal surge I had experienced as we kissed goodnight. I laid there for quite a while, trying to read, but my thoughts kept wandering to her. Thinking about her and the things that I had learned about her...she’s probably the richest story I’ve ever read.

I have a friend, Ellen, from Virginia. We met when I was in fifth grade and she transferred in. We still talk and see each other. She’s living in New York now. Married this really great guy, Vincent. He can cook a mean lasagna. She’s one of those earth least I call them earth people. She has this certain wisdom about her. Always has. She just knows things and has a way of explaining them that’s simple...matter of fact. No pronouncements of great pearls of wisdom or truth, but she is always so very right.

It was 1990 and I had just come back from South Africa where Nelson Mandela had been released. We were having dinner...the first time I had Vincent’s lasagna. I was relating an incident I had observed. Which one...I can’t remember right now. It evolved into a discussion about life and its trials and tribulations.

Ellen told me that she viewed life as a sine wave. I cringed. Mathematics had not been my favorite subject. I can balance a checkbook, perform the necessary mathematical functions in daily life, those kinds of things, but the esoteric concepts of mathematics always eluded me. She laughed at the look on my face.

“You know what I mean, Juliana.”

It was my turn to laugh. “You seem to be forgetting the mathematical prowess I demonstrated in school.”

“Oh, yeah. I won’t bother with the theories then.” I could see by the look on her face that she remembered. “Well, you know the the wave goes above and below baseline?”

“I seem to vaguely recall something like that.”

“I like to look at life like this.” She made a motion with her finger, drawing a sine wave in the air. “Since the wave is....” She searched for words my un-mathematical brain could comprehend. “Well, it goes equally low and equally high. If it goes to, say, a minus five, then the part above the baseline goes to positive five.”

I nodded. “I’m with you so far.”

“In essence, as low as you go in life is as high as you can go. I think as much pain as you experience is as much joy as you are capable of experiencing. People who don’t experience a whole lot of pain...who don’t take risks...they...don’t ever get to go that high.”

I’ve always tried to remember what she told me that night. It’s served me well. I thought of that the night Damian told me about growing up in an orphanage.

I could easily lose my heart and soul to her, I remember thinking as I lay in bed. I had never risked that before. Was I capable of taking that risk? Did I want to take that risk?

She hid her depth so well behind that full body mask. I had heard comments others had made about her. Some not so kind. She was a loner, people said. Hard to get to know. Quiet. A little too intense. The made people uncomfortable. Yet I had seen her in the light. The softness...the gentleness...the tenderness...the kindness that so few I had met possessed in such quantities. And the pain...the depth of pain in her eyes I had seen in those rare, unguarded moments.

Oh, yes, my mind decided. I could certainly...would willingly...give her my heart and soul if she wanted them. I sensed that the woman’s life had been a sine wave of a much bigger amplitude than I could fathom, and if I was that lucky...if there were any deities smiling upon me...she would want my heart and soul and I would get to ride that sine wave with her.

The best decision of my life.


part 6

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