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          Three years after the murder, he received an email from an associate at the Custody Alternatives Facility. It was regarding a "Detention Report", a report that comes from within the jail, not a police report which is something a patrol cop notices and takes into mind. This was no longer his professional concern.
          The email described at some length the facts of the case, that she had been attempting suicide by setting herself aflame. It went on to describe her incarceration and subsequent efforts to improve her lot. She had become clean and sober and completed a behavioral health program in order to live a healthy, productive life. She was set to graduate the program and had asked his associate to track down the officer who took the time to help her in order to thank him. And to invite him to her graduation.
          The officer who helped her. The officer who saved her. Who risked his life to protect her neighbors from the inferno with which she threatened them.
          Two days later he responded. In masculine bravado he typed, "The chick who fought me while trying to blow up her house and gas lines at the neighbor's house. Kicked me in the gonads and then tried to claw my face while we fought in a pool of gasoline." Clearly, the anger lingered. He refused to commit an answer to the invitation, qualifying instead with an "I'll try", giving himself an out in the event he could not get himself to go. He reiterated how aggrieved he was.
          Ruminating, it occurred to him that perhaps he proscribed too much intent her actions, felt the only victim and did not allow enough credit to how much mental illness was to blame, making her a victim as well. Perhaps he was taking the coward's way out. It is harder to feel empathy than it is to hate. Going meant exposing himself to emotional growth. That was difficult. Avoidance was easy. Somewhere inside that ate at him, the lying to himself. Nothing invokes the conscience more than truth.
          He regarded his associate's empathy. A weakness? Years later, he would feel the same abiding empathy dozens of times over. This was the beginning. She tossed the stone into the waters that started him on a path he would not see until years later. Of the dozens of similar cases each week, why did this woman move him so? The subtle ripples started silent and deep; the Butterfly Affect.
          He received more emails: pleas wherein she appealed to his better nature, entreating him to take her hand and walk with her in her journey, forwarded by the colleague who had advocated for her.
          "... I was arrested by you. I am so grateful that you where there that day. My plans were to set my self on fire because I could not stop the voices in my head. I take full responsibility for my actions and I want to apologize for hurting you and for my awful behavior I also apologize for not being respectful. I agree that I was out of control and did not for one moment stop to think to control myself. I was full of hate and anger i did not care about anyone at the time I had been through so much and I realize that I was taking it out on people including your self. After six months in jail and well under control of medication I agreed to enter a program called (BHC) behavioral health court in a dual diagnosis program for two years, I will be graduating from this program and it would be an honor to have you on my graduation I understand that your time is very valuable and that you might be very busy and if you cannot attend I at least want you to know how I have changed my ways.Â
          "Being in this program I have learned how to control my anger and rage I have also learned how to deal with my mental illness and use coping strategies that will help me not to get out of control in my life. I have learned how to meditate to relieve my anxiety, I have learned ways to prevent relapse, and I have also taken (DBT) dialectic behavior classes to help with my emotions and feelings. I have been seeing a therapist three to two times a week since I was released from jail I have been consistent in keeping my appointments with my psychiatrist and health provider so that I have that extra support. One of the positive things that I have been doing because I enjoy it is volunteering for (NAMI) national alliance on mental illness Contra Costa for a year now I do outreach for the community and the Hispanic community since lam bilingual I do this once every week in their office and some Saturdays in the community and in this process I have learned a great deal about mental illness that I now want to help others like me, who are dual diagnosed i have taken a class called peer to peer from NAMI and took a seven month course at contra costa college called SPIRIT and received a certificate to be a peer counselor. With this certificate i can work for the county as a (CSW) County support worker. I do have interviews coming at the Putnam club house in concord and the Hume center that will open up in Pittsburg these are two recovery programs. I have spoken and had pre interviews with the directors of the programs who are just waiting for my record to get expunged.Â
          "I want you to know that I have an associate's degree in administration of justice, I once wanted to be an officer but because of my mental illness and disabilities I am not able to fulfill my dream. I also have been a sheriff's reserve for Martinez in the past I received training certificate for level one and two in hopes that I can at least finish level three and still be able to volunteer if the department will allow me to. I really appreciate all that your fellow officers do for our community as well as your self I admire everything your department does, the support we get here at BHC and I appreciate you all keeping us safe.Â
          "I want you to know my life has changed, the meaning in life changed for me, you were at the right place at the right time things had to happen the way they did so that I can be here today alive telling you my story and what I have gained in life and for you to know that I will help others recover.Â
"Thank you and God bless"

          Maybe she was lying, conning as only a manipulative convict can do, trying to convince him to come so that the judge would see a cop advocating for her, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome. He could simply choose to forget the date and time and curse the name of the fellow cop who refused to let him off the hook, doggedly begging for empathy for the person who had almost taken his life.

          All this he considered.

          He wore his suit. He didn't want his uniform to influence the judge at her adjudication before the graduation, and he didn't want to stand out as the cop in the room full of addicts in various stages of recovery at the following ceremony. He sat awkwardly, not knowing the etiquette of such an event. As they rose in turn to speak at the podium, he sat stoic, mindful of his expression and posture. Not wanting to display inappropriate body language, he chose to show none at all. Part of him must have known that in doing so, he sent a message about his feelings regardless.

          He surveyed the room. He knew the look of addicts. The skin, the teeth, the eyes, the hair of an abused body were so familiar to him that when his eyes fell to her, he was taken aback. She looked healthy, well, clear headed. She looked good. She was good.

          The ceremony ended and he formality melted away as refreshments were served. He maintained his stiff posture, and she and her therapist sat with him. She had a question about the incident. Her therapist indicated it would be healing for her to hear some of the details. He obliged. At one statement, her eyes grew wide and she was visibly shaken. She had been unaware that she'd been ranting entirely in Spanish. She hadn't spoken Spanish since childhood. She broke her gaze, shaken. Clearly a fight or flight trauma response had been triggered, and her therapist quickly closed in to ground her verbally and tactilely. He recognized something in her. Something he couldn't quantify but that he recognized. In himself? Perhaps but that required an inappropriate amount of self-reflection in the moment. He felt his heart open. The feeling confused him. She recovered and addressed him again.

          "I'll fix you a plate." An unexpected kindness, a surprising air of familiarity, an instinctive sign of caring.

          She returned with two plates, setting one on the table in front of him, and the other in front of herself as she sat next to him. The only other time he was this close to her she was fighting him, a cornered wild animal raging against him, trying to kill them both. In this new moment they were connected. He found this interchange soothing, intimate. The cognitive dissonance was disorienting and disconcerting. As they broke bread, he was awash with unfamiliar emotion. They ate lunch together with an ease he didn't know how to digest. The ripples in the pond were about to carry him away into a chapter in his life that he could never have imagined for himself.

          In retrospect, he is unsure who saved whom that day.



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