I was driving the Hyundai again. An old, white, beater with white and black striped tiger seat covers. Except I wasn’t driving it, I had it the shop.
There were office areas at either end of this shop. They were connected by a covered garage-like area with open doors on one side. So the place was flooded with natural light.
I was there in casual clothes, but with my gunbelt and weapon, my OC spray and baton, my badge, my brilliantly shined name badge. I waited for a mechanic or someone to come tell me what was wrong with that Hyundai I’ve not owned since the mid 90’s in Denver.
While I waited, bad guys dressed in blue coveralls and hidden behind black, protective face masks — not ski masks or the like, but actual protective masks designed for sparring partners or hockey players or something — slipped into one of the two office areas. They took everyone hostage.
I remember my heart rate slipped up through the stratosphere. I remember my skin got hot and sweaty, that my stomach lurched two or three times.
And I remember that when I headed toward the second office area to call someone to do something about the bad guys, more bad guys had already taken those people hostage.
So I stood in the in-between, hands shaking, mouth dry as the desert in which I grew up, absolutely terrified. I had no idea what to do, or if I should even do anything. I had no idea who to call, or even if I should call anyone.
Should I race in, gun blazing, rescue every body? Should I try to negotiate? But more to the point, could I even trust what I was seeing? Was it actually a situation gone south? Or was I misinterpreting because I didn’t have enough information?
LuAnn didn’t bat an eye when I told her. Anxiety, she said. Nervous and uncertainty. Lack of self-confidence. You’re not sure you’re going to know what to do when it’s all up to you.
Right now, she said, you’ve got 71 other newly minted officers, as well as 10 or 15 instructors, all standing there watching everything you do. Making certain, in other words, you do the right thing, make the right decision, think things through slowly and certainly. And role-players in each of those scenarios — wearing those black face masks and wearing blue coveralls — who you absolutely know will not hurt you. They may push, but they’re not going to suddenly shoot you or beat you bloody.
In other words, you’ve got a safety-net right now. But you’re almost done, she said. Pretty soon, you won’t have all that back-up. It’ll be you and a squad car, save a few weeks with a field training officer. You won’t have 71 classmates or a handful of instructors or anyone else.
You and — since you’re a county deputy with officer back up better then 10 or 15 minutes away — you alone.
And now you’re dreaming your anxiety: that you won’t make the right decision. Worse, than you won’t even be able to truly recognize the situation to make a decision.
The pity is: she’s right.
This has happened to be before.
Back in Denver, when I joined a writers’ group headed by Edward Bryant — a legend in the speculative fiction field — I was terrified. But I was also a fan of the Denver Nuggets basketball team.
How does that matter? Well, I had a dream that I had joined the Nuggets but that they wouldn’t let me ride on the bus with them. That I was so bad I had to take a separate car to the games. Ed was on the bus, as was Dan Simmons and Peter Straub and others.
But not me.
There was another Nuggets dream later. It’s fairly foggy, lost to the twists and turns of memory, that involved me riding the bus but unable to sink any free throws.
So this is what my brain does when I’m unsure. It feeds me dreams where it illustrates in graphic detail my own perceived failings.
Yeah, thanks for that, really appreciate it.
LuAnn’s fairly certain I’ll have more of these. And she thinks they’ll all be dressed up in criminal situations that will be mostly gray, where nothing is quite what it seems.
And they’ll come, she and I both believe, because I’m getting close. As of 39 minutes ago, as I write this, it has been exactly six weeks since I started this particular journey.
Which means exactly what?
First and foremost, that there are just a couple days less than six weeks left, and right now, that’s about all I can see clearly.
Obviously, my subconscious is looking further down the line. It’s peering down past the academy and past my FTO days.
Yeah, I’ll have a supervisor on every shift I work and if I get completely in the weeds, that super will get me back to a manicured lawn, but still and all, it’s mostly my decision — a decision based on correctly reading what’s actually going on as opposed to what seems to be going on.
And as much as I like to be in control, this kinda freaks me out.
But it gigs me, too. Part of that dream was watching myself contemplate busting ass in there and saving everyone. Just like when the chemo dreams started and I kept dreaming I wore Indiana Jones’ hat and saved everyone all the time.
That was all about beating cancer. This, I suspect, is about beating my own self-doubt.
Great, just what I freaking need. More navel-gazing and intellectual sparring with myself…’cause I’ve NEVER done that kind of thing.
In my fiction, the main guy almost always just yanks the steel and gets to blasting. Somehow, I don’t think they’d let me do that now….