I’m there alone – again – and it’s only a matter of time before someone asks.
The day was long, it’s still not over, and the hours of single parenting are wearing me down.
I sit quietly. The breezy small talk isn’t coming easily to me today, but I smile as the other parents chat.
And then, the inevitable: “Where’s your husband? I haven’t seen him in a while!”
I answer cheerily, the same response I always give, and the conversation turns to other things.
But my mind lingers on the words.
“Where’s your husband?”
I don’t know where you are.
Are you sitting at a desk filling out reports, drinking coffee and trying to stay awake after working 27 hours straight?
Are you running down an alley, chasing a man who cares more for drug money than for his life or yours?
Are you talking to that homeless woman? Her mind is too ill to hold a job or save her money, but she knows your kind voice and always wants you to stay with her.
Are you standing on the side of a bridge, speaking calmly, reassuring a desperate man that his life matters, that there is good still here for him? Are you praying that your words reach his heart in time, and are you feeling that surge of relief when he finally turns to grab your hand?
Are you driving frantically to another officer’s aid?
Are you searching for that missing grandmother?
Are you the one putting cuffs on the man who did unspeakable things to his own child?
Are you holding a mother in your arms as you tell her that her baby died? Are you trying to erase the image of that tiny body from your mind? You can’t erase it. It will be seared there forever, just like all the others.
Are you fighting with the man who is made almost unbreakable by the drugs running through him? Are you seeing crowds gather all around, phones held high to watch you struggle, as they secretly hope that their video will be the viral one tomorrow?
Oh my love, is your heart tired? Are you standing somewhere quiet all alone, wondering what your sacrifice is worth?
Are you kneeling in the street, pressing your hands to a gunshot wound, whispering the lie, “You’re going to be alright,” watching that 12-year-old’s face fade into death? Are you angry again, seeing all the blood, a child’s blood? Another child lost to the endless cycle of violent crime in his own town.
Are you standing in line for your meal, your first food in 12 hours, hearing the woman behind you mutter about the “lazy pigs getting paid to eat?”
Where are you?
Are you in the station house, laughing with other officers? Are you driving to answer a call? Are you knocking on the door of that elderly woman who keeps calling because she hates to be alone?
Are you kicking in a door, stopping a robbery, breaking up a fight, pulling a husband off his battered wife?
Are you standing somewhere with your gun drawn, your heart beating fast, your voice loud, your body tense, your mind screaming: Don’t make me do this!!
Oh, my love, where are you?
Are you on the radio, your voice fading, the dispatcher trying desperately to bring you backup? Are you thinking of me right now, of your babies? Are you remembering all the things we planned to do, all the promises we made, and all the love we have yet to share? Are you thinking of our last kiss goodbye, and that you told me you’d always come home?
“Where’s your husband?”
I do not know.