Part 1: The Anger
Michael Griffin sat motionless in his over sized truck in front of his neighbor Steve's house at 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday night. The anger stirred inside him like a sleeping giant. He inhaled the thick air deeply and exhaled it slowly. He inhaled again and allowed the intensity of the midnight to fill his lungs. The anger compelled him to unlatch the door and step out of the car.
He let go of any reason that he had left and let the anger take over completely. He marched up to the door and rang the doorbell two times. After a silent twenty seconds, he reverted to banging on the door.
"I know you're in there. Lori, I know you're in there. Open up the door so I can come in and we can talk, o.k.?" He grabbed hold of the door handle and rattled it wildly. After a few silent moments he banged more.
"Lori, come and open this door! I need to talk to you."
There were few signs of life stirring in the surrounding neighborhood save a few orange street lamps. Michael glimpsed at himself from afar and found a confused man in sweats yelling desperately at an anonymous house in the middle of a cold, grey night. He caught the flickering silver of his wedding ring in this corner of his eye.
"C'mon, Lori. We need to talk. Come on out, now!"
"Michael, go away!" a man's voice commanded. Michael paused and fell silent for an instance, but the anger made him move.
"Steve, I need to talk to my wife. Let me come in and we can talk about this."
"Go away, Michael."
"What, you're going to keep me from seeing my wife? Just what do you think this is?"
"Go away or I'm going to call the cops."
The anger pounded.
"Go ahead and do it, Steve. That's my wife in there that you've been screwing." He banged on the door in rage. He then threw his entire body on the door--one moment beating on it, and the next moment clinging to the doorknob like he could shake it hard enough to open it.
"Michael, go away and go home. She doesn't want to talk to you. You're scaring her. Go away and go home." The calmness in the voice inspired more anger in Michael.
"Steve, let me in this house! What's she been telling you? What has she been telling you about me?"
"Go away, Michael, or I'll call the cops!"
"Call the cops...."
"Call the cops!"
"Go on and do it then; let's see what happens!"
"I'm doing it, Michael, because you won't leave us alone. I told you to leave and now please leave! She doesn't want to see you."
The anger erupted in a surge of electric adrenaline. Michael kicked the door open and seized Steven by the throat. Steven flailed his arms recklessly and one of his fists grazed Michael across the cheek. The two men stood and faced each other now; Michael lunged at him. Steven dove in defense, but Michael tripped him and forced him to his knees. He jabbed at the Steven's face, but Steven successfully avoided the blow. He leapt towards Michael and managed to wrestle him to the ground. Michael shoved Steven in his chest, and quickly dove on top of Steven. Michael leaned over his body and punched him hard in the face three times, breaking his nose. Red blood spilled from Steven's nose leaving a crimson puddle on the white carpet.
Silence followed. Mike sat on his knees with his bloody right fist raised to his face. He rubbed the blood as if he we rubbing it into his skin The man he had beaten lie in front of him unconscious.
Something had ended. Life was different now. Some line had been crossed that separated him from what he once was and what he had now become. The line had been crossed and now there was no going back. The anger compelled him to move further.
Give up because it doesn't matter anymore. Tonight's the night and tomorrow everything will be changed.
The dimly lit yellow room at the end of the hall was Mike's destination. He knew she was there. She would not try to run away. She loved him too much to do that. Michael crept towards the door. "Hey, Lori; open up. I need to talk to you, now."
"Lori, just open up the door. I need to talk you, o.k.? We need to talk to about some things. Is that alright with you?" Michael's voice sounded barbaric, almost frightening in his own ears. Christ, it sounded anguished somehow.
No response and what seemed like a full two minutes of silence followed.
He tried to say something in a lighter voice. "Lori, you and I need to talk, alright?" "I've treated you horribly and I want to change. Listen to me, Lori. I want to change. I can change, all right. C'mon, Lori. I promise you this can work. Just come out here and talk to me." He struggled to plead his case more, but a pathetic squeak was all he could utter.
Newly drawn blood and fresh tears invaded his senses. He suddenly found himself weeping like an ignorant child. Frightened sobs could be heard from Lori from the other side of the locked door.
The anger suddenly blazed abruptly inside him like an enraged, violent fire. Michael grabbed the door knob and shook it menacingly. He finally slammed the door wide open with his shoulder. Lori screamed in fear and ran to the corner of the room closest to the bed. "What are you doing," he cried through tears. "I'm not going to hurt you. How could I hurt the person that I love so much?"
"Get away from me!" she cried. "I don't want to talk you! Leave right now!"
"What do you think I want to do to you? Do you think I would hurt you," Michael asked. God, he finally realized he was bawling like a madman. Several large teardrops crashed to the floor as he slithered towards his love in the dim light. Lori balled "No, no, don't come near me!" He inched forward, and Lori squealed again.
"I don't want to talk you! Get out of this house. Leave me alone!"
"What do you think I want to do? You're my wife, Lori. I mean I just want to talk and make things right between us. I love you so much! Just let me talk to you."
"Leave me alone. Get out of this house!"
She curled into corner of the empty wall tightly. "Get away! I don't want to ever see you again! Leave me alone. I asked you to leave, and now if you don't go then I will have to do something I don't want to do!"
Michael lowered his face in his hands and rubbed his blurry eyes. "What the hell is happening?" he said, his voice muffled and high-pitched. Lori huddled against the wall, her face flush and her eyes swollen from frightened tears. Michael approached her hesitantly. He could see her clearly now for the first time. Her mascara had ran, and her face and clothes looked damp as if she had been sweating perfusely. He knelt down and clutched her tiny shoulders gently. He looked deeply in her eyes, and he discovered that her love for him had been replaced with complete, white fear.
"God, I just want to apologize for all the bad things I've done to you. God, I'm so sorry that all this is so bad!" He placed his guilt-ridden hands from her familiar skin and laid them on the ground in front of her.
"Everything changes now," he said, looking down rubbing the alien, dimly lit carpet. He lifted his eyes, and looked up at his wife's lovely, familiar face. Her cheeks were blotched with wet, chalky make-up, and her dampened, bleached eyes quivered. Her small, bony hands were trembling.
"Michael, leave her alone," a voice commanded. Steve stood in the doorway gripping a baseball bat in his right hand. He stood there stern, his cheeks and nose crimson with smeared blood. Michael stood up and faced him. "Get out." Steven said. Michael walked past Steven and out of the bedroom.
Michael blindly exited the house through the door in which he entered. His thighs and knees fell numb upon his first step into the cold, harsh wakefulness of the dark. He could barely muster enough strength to crawl to his lonely truck.
Part 2: Awake All Night
Michael sat absently in his truck. 1:55 now. He couldn't leave. He couldn't leave this house. He couldn't leave this night like this with everything hanging dangerously in the wicked air. The empowering anger that had surged though his veins was now a debilitating, pitiful fear that paralyzed him into passive, weak stillness. There was a faint tingle of hope that he would just wake up.
More painful, emotionless tears arose from his eyes. He could not start the truck or even move his hands. Thoughts of retreat and self pity threatened his mind, but they dissolved as soon as they formed. It looked lonely outside the truck, and there was no one talk too and no where to go. Michael stared intensely at his clenched, blood dried fists. They could not be cleansed. These malevolent hands would be stained in dirty crimson until sunrise. He guessed it was colder now because some of the leaves on the lanky, trees began to sway with judgment. He did not know what would happen tomorrow.
At 2:31 some bright headlights appeared out of the dark, and a cop car rumbled up to the curb behind Michael's truck. Michael braced himself with a sudden rush of resentment. He watched the approaching officer with disdain. "Sir, would you get out of the car?" the policeman asked.
"Sir, would you step out of the car?"
"Does it look like I'm doing anything?"
"Sir, I'm going to ask you one more time to step out of the car."
"All right. You want to pin me up for something then that's cool. That's just fine with me," he barked sarcastically. He stepped out of the car and voluntarily stuck his back towards the cop with his hands placed behind his head. This is what you want, right?"
A second bigger policeman stepped out of the police car. He walked up to Michael and said, "Sir, could you step away from the car, please." Michael took three steps away from his gray Sedan. "Do you have anything in this car that could be used as a weapon, sir?"
"No," Michael replied, sounding irritated.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure."
"Could you hand me your keys, please?"
"There in the ignition."
Michael's righteous heart skipped a beat. The policeman opened up the door and carefully searched the front seat. He looked underneath the passenger seat, driver seat and in the glove box. He opened up the backseat door and methodically searched all the cloths seats and the carpet floor. He pushed some of the junk Mike had in the truck, a basketball and some papers from his work, to the leg space under the passenger seat. "What's this for?" he asked.
"Just some stuff from school."
"You're a teacher?"
He finished his process by slowly tracking the truck wagon from the back window to the back latch.
"Sir, have you been drinking tonight?" the big policeman asked
"Nothing. You didn't smoke a joint or even a cigarette earlier."
"No, man," Michael said impatiently. The policeman inched up close to Michael and told him to put his hands up. He searched Michael's waist and felt around his jeans.
"Sir, could you walk a straight line for me," the policeman commanded. Michael stood up broadly and walked the straight line in a scowl. The policeman looked at him contemptuously and said, "Hey, it's not very smart of you to have an attitude tonight. You beat up a guy in that house didn't you? You beat up a guy and threatened the girl inside and then you're still hanging around the scene of the action."
The big policeman looked at Michael. "Is that true?"
Michael looked away from the man talking to him.
"Yes, sir; you did all of those things. Hey, man; c'mon, I mean wasn't it enough? I mean, you beat up the guy you hate; why are you hanging around? Are you stupid or have you completely lost your mind. Are you waiting for us? Were you stupid enough to think the cops wouldn't show up.? I think we have a stupid one here, huh?" The other policeman stood still.
Mike said "shit" under his breath.
"You're a real cool guy right now, huh. You better cool it with all this cool stuff. It's not a good idea. Could get you in more trouble than you're already in. Yeah, guy, we do want you in the car and you better stop acting so cool. I don't think I like this little attitude you have right now." "Hey, guy, you're going to sit in the back of our car to see how it feels for awhile, ok?"
He stepped back and the other policeman led him to the back of the police car. Mike noticed the cuffs on the guy's waist and waited for tomorrow to explode. The policeman guided him to the backseat and sat him down inside rudely. The policeman leaned next to the closed car door. The guy watched the bigger policeman enter the house and looked back at Mike. He started talking through the window. "What the hell's the deal tonight, huh?"
Michael didn't say anything and snarled quietly.
"What was the problem? Why did you go off like that? You made a bad decision coming over here. You know that?"
"You going to talk or what? I'm giving you an opportunity to defend yourself here."
"Hey, man; talk to me. You shouldn't have come here tonight."
"Yeah, I know," Michael said finally. The policeman loomed next to the car, arms folded, and didn't say anything.
The leather upholstery in the car was black and the front seat was separated from the backseat with black bars. The starless night had turned shivery and still, but Mike was very aware of the keen, nocturnal movements floating around him. There were no specific thoughts running in his mind, but he was more alive than he had ever been. He covered his chest with his bloodied knuckles and noticed his shoulders were shivering.
He could see nothing in front of him but the black leather of police passenger seat. There were no sounds now, but the cruiser air was so intense that Michael could feel its weight on his bulky shoulders. He ran his large hands through his dry forehead, and he noticed his thick black hair was damp from sweat. What has happened to me?
The officer that leaned against him opposite the window next to him commanded Michael to roll down the window, "Hey, I want to know what happened tonight? What was the deal? I don't understand what happened here tonight. I don't want to see this happen to you. Why didn't you leave?"
"I don't know," Mike said quietly
"Why didn't you leave; it doesn't make any sense."
"Shit, man. I don't know."
"You have to have a reason for not going home. Why didn't you just go home?" He officer paused shortly and got nothing "Hey, why didn't you just go home?"
"Shit, man, I live like six houses down from here."
"I know that. That's not what I meant. Why didn't you leave and go somewhere? You had to know that trouble was coming. They said they would call the police. They told you that."
"I know, man," Michael's voice trembled and he sharply rubbed his forehead. "I don't know what the hell I was doing, you know? I just couldn't leave, you know, I mean she's in there and she's my wife, you know?"
"Why did you go in there and beat that guy up? What were your intentions of coming over here?"
"I don't know, man. I just wanted to talk to her. I mean, I love her. I just wanted to talk about all the stuff, you know?"
"No, I don't know. They told you to leave and you wouldn't leave. You force yourself into the house and you beat up that guy in there."
Michael interrupted, "Yeah, he was screwing my wife!"
"I know what he was doing. What were your intentions of coming here?"
"I just wanted to talk to them; that's it."
"Were you angry with them?"
"Yeah, well of course."
"That was obviously your first mistake." "Now, Mr.Griffin, right? My partner is going to come out here and he's not going to be as kind as I'm being to you. I just want to know: Why didn't you leave?"
"The first time?"
"The second time; after you beat up your friend."
"That asshole's not my friend!"
"Fine; that man in there that you hate. Why didn't you leave?"
"I don't know, man. it's just like...shit, man."
"Why didn't you leave?"
"I...shit..because what's the point?"
"What do you mean what's the point? You don't want to get caught by the cops do you?"
"Because what's the point! Just think about it. My whole life was in that house. She was in there and I was in there with her, ya know?"
"Think about it, man. I'm going to wake up tomorrow and my life is going to be completely different. Everybody's going to know about this night. Everybody's going to know what I did, and I have no way to justify my actions; absolutely no way! My wife screws another guy and I get labeled as this crazy stalker psycho which I am! I'm completely guilty of everything I've been accused of and I can do nothing to explain it or take it back."
"And she's in there, ya know? I love her, ya know? She's my wife for crying out loud and she screws another guy. God, everything's just messed up now. Everything's just so messed up." "Man, how would you feel if your wife screwed somebody else?"
"I don't know."
"Well, I do. You'd feel like hurting the guy she screwed. I guarantee it. You'd want to hurt the guy."
"That's not even relevant here."
"Yes, it is. What you would do is relevant to what I'd do. That's my point!"
"Well, you still did something illegal, and you can't take that back."
Michael fell silent, and the policeman turned his back to him. He walked away from the car and a little closer to the house. Michael noticed the backseat of the police car was actually very small. His long legs and feet barely fit in the foot space. The bigger officer walked politely out of the house and met with the other policeman. The big policeman closed a notebook that Michael could only assume he had used for recording legal information. Fearful thoughts of the sunrise sharply scraped at Michael's mind, and he crouched into his long legs in his hard seat space. The two officers seemingly discussed a few points and the bigger one approached the car.
"Sir, o.k., you can come out of the car now." Michael slowly pulled the latch tripped out of the car with his head down. "I've talked to your wife and the man inside, Steve Owens. They're going to file a report against you to be resolved in court. The charge is for assault and breaking and entering. You now have a criminal record, Mr. Griffin. Do you comply with this bit of information?"
"Do you understand this information, Mr. Griffin."
"Yeah." Michael spoke with this head down.
"You will attend this hearing?"
"The woman inside has also requested a restraining order on you in relation to her. In this order, you are not legally allowed to come within 100 feet of Lori Griffin. If you do, she has the permission, consent from us, and right as a private citizen to call us and we will put you in the local jailhouse. Do you understand? "
"God, I live about six houses down from here."
"That's right, and if you come within 100 feet of her regardless where you live she has permission to call the police and we will immediately take you to the police station where you will receive further information about the consequences of your actions." The policemen left Michael against the car and had another quiet discussion a few feet away from him.
"Mike Griffin, you know what you did tonight was illegal and potentially life-threatening to another individual."
Michael didn't say anything.
"You were asked to leave someone's private property and you would not do so, and then you busted into their home and brutally beat one of the owners of the home. You then proceeded to enter the room of the woman you had issues with and threaten her. Then, after all that, you stayed at the scene of the misdemeanor for reasons understood only by you."
Michael said nothing. He hadn't even looked up from the pavement when the officer retold the events of this fateful Wednesday night.
"Sir, your wife has given you the option to stay the night at your friend's house tonight. She said you could go to a friend that lived near by here. She's given you this option over spending the night in jail. Will you comply with this mercy she has shown you?"
Michael didn't look up.
"Do you want to spend the night in jail?"
"Will you go to your friend's house?"
"Yeah, I'll try to call him I guess."
"You will call him now."
"You will call him now and you need to watch how you speak. I told you the attitude could get you in trouble." The bigger policeman gave Michael his cell and Michael dialed the number of his friend. His friend picked up after six rings, and all Michael said was that he had to stay the night.
The officer continued. "Now, if Lori has any problems tonight then she will call us immediately and you will go to the jailhouse for the night. Do you understand?"
"Yeah." Michael sounded dismissive. The other officer started to speak.
"Why didn't you leave, Mike?"
"I've told you, man."
"Why didn't you leave, Mike?"
"Man, I live right there. You see that house with the red brick and basketball goal on the driveway. That's my house."
"But you still don't live here. Why didn't you leave?"
"Man, I told you. There was no point anymore. I was screwed. I had messed up. I was as bad as she said I was, and she was screwing that guy in there. That's why I didn't leave. I was screwed either way so I just said to hell with it."
"That was bad decision. That was a bad, bad decision."
"You think I don't know that? Can't you see that everything is gone for me now? Can't you see that?" The officer stopped talking and looked away. The bigger officer asked, "Sir, what do you do for a living?" Michael was still standing against the police car.
"I'm a school teacher."
"A school teacher you say?"
"What district do you teach for?"
"My kids go to elementary school in that district. It's a good school district and, quite frankly, Mr. Griffin, I don't know if I want you teaching in the school district where my kids are. The thought of a guy like you teaching my kids creeps me out a little bit. Let's pray your school will forgive you for this incident here tonight. Heaven knows I wouldn't if I had a say in it. If I knew where you taught then I'd be sure not to let my kids go there."
Part 3: Tomorrow
The policemen were out of focus, and Michael's tired limbs dangled heavily. "Mike," the smaller officer snapped to get his attention. "Mike." "You can leave now. "Go on to your friend's house." Michael mumbled, "yeah," and started to shuffle his feet. The policemen watched him curiously, sympathetically. The small officer touched his shoulder. "C'mon, Mike, you can go now. Do you understand to be at the police station at 8 a.m. tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I understand. I'll, I'll be there."
"If you don't want to drive there then maybe your friend can drive you there or something. If you don't show up, though, then we'll come looking for you."
"You will call in sick tomorrow at school."
"Yeah, yeah I will."
"What are you going to do after this?"
"Go to Jerry's house."
"What are you going to do after tonight?"
"I don't know."
"What are you going to do about tonight, Mike?"
"I don't know."
"O.K. Good luck."
Michael tried to focus his eyes and slowly fumbled over to his familar truck. He concentrated enough to turn the ignition and remember where his friend's house was located.
He looked over his left shoulder to the strange house and events that had tormented him. It was still there. It had been there the whole time. It looked just as empty and menacing as it did when he first drove there just two hours earlier. This night hadn't been a dream. The house was there, and Michael had been awake all night. He shifted the truck in drive and gathered enough strength to hope he would suddenly wake up and it would be a bright, next day. He took his foot off the brake and drove away from the house.