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Tethered

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Spinning, I'm spinning out of control

Tether me.

~”Tether Me” by Galleaux

He’s sitting at his desk, chewing on a pen, and contemplating something. Probably how to phrase a sentence in his report, or maybe the color of the shirt the little girl was wearing when they found her. He looks tired, as tired as she feels. The air in the precinct is heavy, thick, suffocating, and it’s so hard for her to breathe. She takes a sip of water, trying to neutralize the faint taste of the bile rising in her throat, but she hasn’t taken her eyes off him. He can feel it because he suddenly looks up as if she's called his name. His eyes are rimmed red, the inside of her cheek is raw from where she won’t stop gnawing at it, and they’re both spinning out of control.

He holds her gaze, locking them in a communion rite – a prayer, an offering of peace, and a plea for forgiveness and mercy.

Finally, he stands up and leans against the desk, waiting patiently for her to gather her belongings. He drives her home. When he stops the car in front of her building, he puts his hand behind her neck and gently squeezes twice. She knows.

Blink your lights when you get inside.

She acquiesces to his request, but she doesn’t leave the lights on. Instead, she sits curled up on in a chair, drowning in the tears of everything she doesn’t say.

He waits for the beacon and then drives away – not home but to a church. He sits in its shadow, heart heavy with his own frailty and all the things he can’t say.

Their silence has become a bad habit.


They fight so much. About nothing and everything. No matter where they are or who is watching, they’re always at each other’s throats.

He takes low blows about her being single, and she retaliates with jabs about his anger issues and failing marriage.

Some days they don’t speak at all because old habits die hard (or not at all). But when they lock eyes now, their telepathic communication stronger than ever, it feels almost violent, the derivation of displaced frustration. He’s usually the first to break, the weight of his body pushing the chair back so hard it nearly tips over. She steels herself against the ghosts of his internal torment.

He punches walls and lockers, she slaps suspects’ heads, throws them to the floor and kicks them one too many times. They both get rips from an entirely too forgiving captain.

He still backs her play, though, every time. And she does the same. When she gets too reckless and shields him from the potential fallout, he understands. He glares, slams a door, grits his teeth, snaps at everyone – and then goes in like a one-man army in a battle for her soul.

The frustration grows legs, and she’s running. She’s in another department and then she’s across the country, assuming a new identity but wearing the same face. She misses him – her home – because even when they didn’t speak, she was never alone.

Their silence is still a bad habit, and it’s consuming them.


They’re tethered by unspoken truth, agreement, and acceptance.

They take turns falling into an abyss, and each time, the ransom is paid by the other, a belayer who stands like a mountain.

On days when she feels like “the very people she’s trying to help are standing on her cape,” he reminds her that everything she needs she has inside. (He does this by wordlessly tapping at the space on her chest right above her heart.)

She feels fearless once again.

In the moments when he’s so overcome by cruelty and injustice and he’s had to carry yet another child away from the wreckage of their charred innocence, she holds his face between her hands and compels him to look her in the eyes.

His faith is momentarily restored.

In Perpetuum et Unum Diem (forever and one day), she whispers into the darkness of her empty bedroom.

Dum Spiro Spero (while I dream, I hope), he answers.

Their silence remains a bad habit, but they compensate.


Chaos. There’s the lifeless body of a girl, a nun, and a killer. An unholy trinity of mortal, saint, and devil.

She looks down at her hands. They feel heavy, cold. She smells it - the metal, the smoke - but it’s the taste she notices most. She doesn’t see the blood on her palms, her fingers.

His ears are ringing. There is something heavy and cold in his hand. He smells it - the metal, the rust - but he doesn’t notice the taste. He sees the blood dripping from his fingertips.

Fusion of thought and feeling is lost. He’s falling falling falling and there’s a dull tug in the center of his chest. He turns his head to the right and meets her eyes, wide in supplication. “Look at me.” He strains to hear the Prayer of Salvation she whispers in his ear, but all he can focus on is the death knell ring. She blinks once, twice, three times.

The tether snaps in half, and all that's left is their silence.


In the confessionals where he sits but doesn’t speak, he seeks comfort priests cannot provide, and he thinks it’s fitting. He knows that in Jude, God casts even angels into darkness, and that in 1st Peter, he did not spare them from justice but punished them for abandoning their proper abode.

She carries her grief - a shadowloss – not of life but in life. She learns about Thanatology, and that she’s in her Lilac Days, and that she will find her “new normal” some day. She’s angry all the time, but anger is an agent of change, and she gets stronger with each season. In many ways, she becomes her own death doula.

Staring at St Peters in Chains in San Pietro, he feels the familiar tug for the first time in more than two years. He stands strong and silently recites Psalm 91: Whoever goes to the LORD for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty can say to him, “You are my defender and protector. You are my God; in you I trust. He will cover you with his wings; you will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you.” Across an entire ocean, she loosens a bar on the metal bedframe and lies in wait.

Months later, at Our Lady of Međugorje, he sees a vision of not the Virgin Mary, but her. He collapses to his knees at the strain of the tug this time, opens his mouth to call out for her, but he is deaf to his own voice. On another continent, however, it echoes in her ears. She focuses on the sound of her name and goes limp, deciding not to fight and instead chooses survival.  

***

Now, as they dance barefoot in her kitchen to no music, they both understand their silence is no longer a bad habit. These moments are chosen – sacred - and in them they find their reclamation and their deliverance.

~finis~