Officer D knows that I am fascinated with possessions and that my passion is not policing, but rather clutter. As we were partnered up during long summer hours patrolling our city, he generously allowed me to chatter on endlessly about it. I believe that our possessions have power. Sometimes that power is empowering, and propels people towards their future and their desires. But sometimes that power latches onto us like a chain that traps us in the past – I call those dangerous possessions “Accidental Talismans.” As I went on about my clutter theories, Officer D told me his curious tale and he has given me permission to share it. The most curious thing about Officer D? He really has few possessions, and we were both interested to realize that sometimes the lack of possessions can be an Accidental Talisman all by itself.
Officer D, has been living alone in his house since 2008. But being the comforting soul that he is, he knows many people. Officer D will always come through for his friends, whatever the need. In 2016 a young man, whose father was a friend of Officer D, was accepted into our municipality’s police department. The thing is, our department has a residency requirement, which obviously the father couldn’t meet. Officer D immediately agreed that the young man could move in with him. Officer D had a spare bedroom complete with a bed…albeit a set of bunkbeds he had purchased for his son, but mattresses were fairly new and the room was clean.
The young man didn’t care, he just need a place to sleep with the right zip code, so he moved in with one duffle bag of clothes and some recruit uniforms. Officer D didn’t see the young man much. He was busy at the academy and out and about with his young friends at every spare opportunity - the way young men often do. Things were going well for the young man in the academy, and Officer D lived his life mostly as he always had. Although, things went to hell and a handbasket when the fire department called.
For reasons I will never understand, lots of young men think that it’s much cooler to be a fireman rather than a police officer. So a lot of young men apply for the Fire Department in our fair city and are placed on a very long waiting list. So it’s common for these same young men to also apply for our Police Department. These young men enter the police academy and wait out the fire department waiting list with the police until they are finally called to the fire department instead. Such was the case of Officer D’s roommate. He was even luckier. He hadn’t even finished the police academy when he was called to the Fire academy. So the young man resigned from the police department. He still needed the residency though. The fire department is very particular about that - very, very particular.
They sent an inspector to check on the young man’s residency. In accordance with their standard operating procedures, they come by the home at a pre-arranged time and verify that the candidate is actually living where they say they are living. They usually make themselves comfortable in the kitchen or living room and briefly ask questions about educational transcripts and former drug use while they subtly judge housekeeping skills. After visiting Officer D and his roommate, the poor young man was subsequently fired. And not only did they end both a fire department and police department career for this young man, the fire department sent a letter to the police department urging them to fire Officer D! Because the fire department’s inspector had determined that neither the young roommate nor Officer D lived in that house.
Officer D has been a police officer for over 20 years. Not only that, he grew up in our city, in the same neighborhood he lives in now only a block and a half from his parents and conveniently located only 15 minutes from our district police station where we work. Of course he lived in that house! Everyone in our district knew that! Why would that inspector from the fire department say such a thing? Well, maybe it might have something to do with the fact that one of the only pieces of furniture in Officer D’s house were the bunkbeds that young recruit crashed on.
In 2008, Officer D had a bitter disagreement with his wife. Officer D’s father owned the house next door to his and had been using it as a rental property. However, when the last tenants had decided to move, the house had remained empty. That house was larger than Officer D’s classic raised ranch, so the wife wanted that house. Officer D was very proud of his little raised ranch, and he didn’t much like the idea of just taking over his father’s property. But his wife wanted that bigger house. She wanted to be wealthy and apparently, calm and comforting Officer D just wasn’t rich enough or good enough. Officer D’s wife moved into the larger house next door to her in-laws and when she moved she took everything. She took every piece of furniture and every single picture was removed from the walls. There was one thing she left behind though, besides the nails from the pictures – and that was Officer D.
When I got to see Officer D’s house this year, his refrigerator was still decorated with alphabet magnets and a few drawings from his five year old son (who is now 14).
There were some similar drawings in his son’s bedroom (the bedroom where the young roommate had dumped his one duffle bag of clothes), along with a few forgotten stuffed animals and a beautiful sculpture hanging from the ceiling light, made by tiny hands in a children’s art class.
By 2016 the only thing that Officer D had purchased was a set of bunkbeds for his son. His wife though had made the edict, “he will never sleep there. That was stupid.” There was a TV and a beat up frat-house style couch that one of Officer D’s friends and made him take so he would have something to sit on if he or the roommate watched the TV. The walls remained empty though, decorated with only nails. There were no new pictures of Officer D’s son anywhere in the house. It was frozen in time – that house. It was frozen; set forever in 2008, the scene of the crime – the day his wife of 20 years left him and took his son.
His house told this heart wrenching story when Officer D allowed me to see it for myself. I ached for Officer D. I wondered where his wife and son were now and how often he got to see his son. I was in for a bit of a surprise there. You see, I had no idea that she had only taken their son a block and a half away to the property next door to his parents. He saw his son all the time. He could in fact see him every day if he wanted to. And yet there were no new pictures, no new art work, just the same nails left on empty walls.
Officer D’s house really is pretty clean. He doesn’t actually have a lot of clutter just two significant areas. Officer D showed me his little den area, in it there is a couch where he sleeps and a desk over flowing with clutter. He said that it got so cluttered that he moved his bills and things to the kitchen table, which is now also overflowing with paper.
“I need to file it,” said Officer D.
“Uh-huh,” I commented.
Where Officer D’s clutter lives is significant. His wife apparently walked out on him because he wasn’t wealthy enough for her. Oddly, now, Officer D owns four houses. His parents passed away in recent years and he inherited his father’s house, his father’s vacation house in Michigan, and the rental property where his wife lives with his son. Officer D owns all of that in addition to his little raised ranch and all of the properties are completely paid for. And yet Officer D chooses to bury the paperwork acknowledging his wealth. Officer D’s desk is an Accidental Talisman. It says, “I do not deserve to be wealthy.”
The table is also interesting. I asked Officer D where he eats and he answered, “Standing over the sink.” Over the sink is a fine thing for a rushed young man to do every now and again, but a cluttered table ensures that no one would be able to join Officer D for dinner at his home, ever, even if they wanted to. Officer’s D’s new desk, the table, is also an Accidental Talisman. It says, “I will not share my life, with anyone, ever again.”
It became clear to me, seconds after entering Officer D’s house that he is unwilling to trust people. He knows that he is dependable though. He is very sure that he can be counted on; it is just simply a part of who he is. It is one of the character traits that makes him such an excellent officer. Officer D had always wanted to be the police. It was the only thing he ever wanted to do. Even though my primary passion lies elsewhere, I do agree with Officer D that what we have chosen to do is not just a job, it becomes what you are. We are the police. We have heard people’s horrible nightmares. We have seen people through crises (that sometimes have nothing to do with a criminal act). We have taken injured stray dogs to emergency veterinary clinics. We have held people in our arms covered in their blood as we waited for emergency medical services to arrive. We have cleared apartments for lonely elders when they are scared by the creaking of their floors. And we have risked our own lives, struggling to handcuff violent criminals so that justice may be served and the community protected. Officer D and I both have been sworn at, spit on, punched, and much, much worse. But whatever you may think of us, doesn’t matter - no matter what, we will still come for you. Whatever your need, criminal or not. If you call us, we will come. Because when the chips are down, you can count on the police. We always show up, for better or for worse. You know that we will be there. We pride ourselves on that determination – that reliability to show up. Not only are we there for our citizens, we are there for each other, for all of our brothers and sisters in blue. Civilian citizens refer to the police devotion to one another as “The Blue Line.” It is meant to be a derogatory term but I for one am exceptionally grateful for that line.
Like Officer D, 2008 was a significant year for me as well. I got very sick. I had vertigo so badly that I couldn’t walk. My eyes drifted in separate directions, rendering me legally blind. Obviously I was unable to work any job, let alone serve and protect. For almost two years no one could figure out what was wrong with me. Any other occupation would have let me go, but the police department kept me and saw me through the final diagnosis of thyroid cancer. I am forever grateful to my department. They were there for me when no one else was. “The Blue Line” fed me and my child when I was unable to give them anything in return. But most officers don’t require a gigantic tumor in their necks, cutting off the blood flow to their brains to understand what “The Blue Line” is really about. It’s a given. We will always come, for better or for worse, and we will take care of our own.
Officer D may not trust people, but he does trust that Blue Line. The only deviation from the 2008 timeline in his house is the line of blue police uniforms decorating his hallways.
Officer D has at least three full closets in which to hang his clothes, and yet he chooses to adorn his hallways with his uniforms. He has given himself a physical blue line. Those police uniforms remind him of one thing he can absolutely count on. But that line of uniforms in the hallway is another Accidental Talisman, because that line cannot hide the fact that the whole house is a time machine, set for 2008 – the day his wife left him and took his son. It doesn’t matter that they live down the street, they might as well be a million miles away.
The one question I get asked most about Accidental Talismans is how one can transform them. Basically, people are asking me “How can I keep them?” In my opinion, you can’t keep them. You have to let them go. Getting rid of them is the only way to transform all that negative energy that’s been dumped into them. You cannot transform a message like “I do not deserve to be wealthy,” you can only abandon it. If you are constantly surrounding yourself with the message, “I will not share my life, with anyone, ever again,” there will never be room for something else (or someone else) to take its place until you are willing to let go.
In most cases, I recommend donating them to charity. A person who finds your Accidental Talisman in a second hand store will most likely be thrilled to have it. One of my favorite sweaters came from a second hand store. I love it, but the person who got rid of it, had their reasons for not ever wanting to wear it again. No matter how negative it was for her, my joy of it is what fills it now. And I think, that joy filters back to her a little.
In some cases it’s okay to sell some Accidental Talismans, but that takes time - time where the Accidental Talisman will continue to drain you.
In some extreme cases, I recommend returning these nasty magical buggers to the elements. I mean elements in the archaic and mystical sense which are regarded in the Western spiritual traditions as air, fire, water and earth. Burning things is my personal favorite and flushing things down the toilet (hello water element) is a close second. Biodegradable items can also be released to the wind and of course burying things can be an excellent option. Burying things closes doors in our western minds, because to bury something is to put it in the grave once and for all.
I told Officer D about his Accidental Talismans. I relayed the negative messages of his desk, his table and his representation of our Blue Line. But then I told him that his entire raised ranch is one big (albeit empty) Accidental Talisman. I told Officer D that his wife is still living in his house. It isn’t his, it belongs to her, in 2008.
It might be interesting to note that Officer D’s house really does belong to his wife. It’s in a trust in her name only. Legally speaking, the raised ranch is all that does belong to her. Everything else she calls her own was paid for in full by Officer D. He even still pays her credit card bills. If I was an extremist…I’d recommend that that little raised ranch be burned to the ground. Officer D is too good a police officer and too good a person to be trapped in 2008.
EpilogueThere is no need to worry about Officer D’s failed fireman roommate. He is now a police officer in another municipality and crashing at the apartment of his current girlfriend. He has yet to come back for his duffle bag of clothes still in Officer D’s house.
As for Officer D, I know our municipality well and I’m pretty sure there was a secret investigation of Officer D by Internal Affairs where they discovered that Officer D has absolutely no secrets.
Incidentally, he decided to retire this year. He wanted to buy a motor home and tour the country with his son and spend some more time at his property in Michigan.
He recently sent me a text with a picture of his table, which he had cleared. I pretty sure that might be an invitation to join him for dinner...how sweet.