On a swelteringly hot August Saturday in 2005, Other Bill and I set out on a shopping trip to our favorite discount store, Big Lots, in search of cheap cookies.
Pulling into the parking lot, we encountered a cruise alert: a seriously well-built young man in camo pants, a tight black t-shirt and a nylon skull cap. Like any good homosexual worth his salt, I looked at his face and nether parts as we slowly drove past him, ignoring the urge to reach out and pinch him, which I easily could have done. He had a dark, scraggly beard and looked tough. In other words, a fantasy playmate for me. I uttered my standard, “Woof,” at him, which I am sure he did not hear.
We parked and got out of the car, and Other Bill said, “Looks like your new boyfriend is going into our store.” This prompted salivation and anticipation of more opportunities for sizing him up in the cheap cookie aisle.
I turned around to grin at Other Bill, and it was then I heard a scream and turned back around and saw my tough new boyfriend pulling a purse out of a woman’s hands. A man was calling my new boyfriend a son of a bitch, which I had to admit was appropriate, and I immediately assigned my new boyfriend to the Ex List.
The tough guy ran into the parking lot, not far from us, and being a police department employee, my first instinct was to get back in the truck and run the son of a bitch down. Then I realized I was not a sworn officer, but rather an office boy, so sanity got the best of me. From out of nowhere came a big bruiser of a guy in a black polo shirt, who chased down my new ex. We figured we had better bite the bullet, officially declare ourselves as witnesses, and chase after them so we could get a front row seat to the action.
The bruiser chased my ex across the street into the K-mart parking lot. The suspect looked perplexed at the crowd that was tuning in to this docu-drama. Words were exchanged between the two men. My ex pulled something out of the purse, then threw the handbag down and quickly ran away.
Several people by this time had already called 911, and the bruiser, who we later learned was the Big Lots store manager, returned the purse, sans wallet, to the victim. The crowd disbursed, leaving only the victim, her husband, Other Bill and me under a tree that barely made enough shade to cover us all. We saw two police cars speed by, and we hoped they would stop and talk to us, but apparently they had better things to do, like capture the robber.
In less than 20 minutes, several police cars showed up, told us they had caught the bad guy, and they asked if we would be willing to go and identify him. Since one cop was, how you say, exceptionally handsome, I agreed to ride with him. Other Bill went with the victim and husband, and I got a spot in the un-air conditioned cage in the back of the police cruiser driven by Officer Hottie.
Courteously, I tried to carry on a conversation with him, diligently trying to ignore all the similarities between this situation and countless cop porn movies I have seen. It was a tough challenge, and I decided it is much more comfortable to be an audience member in the bedroom than an actual actor in the un-air-conditioned movie I was now co-starring in.
At last we arrived, and from a distance we identified the criminal, who now was shirtless and soaking wet, as he had tried to escape by swimming in a canal under the interstate. I have to say, even though he was a criminal and a son of a bitch, he looked stunning wet and shirtless. I pondered taking him back and finding him a modeling career.
The four of us then followed an officer to the police station (not in the jurisdiction where I work), where we sat in a lobby for almost three hours, waiting for the detective on call to arrive. Once there, the victims gave their statement to him, followed by Other Bill, then finally, me.
So that pretty much shot the whole day, and the desire for cheap cookies had waned, overtaken by the need for a big lunch, which we promptly found.
Weeks went by, and we heard nothing. Finally we were called to the public defender’s office to be deposed.
Let me insert here that, although I work for a police department, I know nothing about the law. I never watch lawyer TV shows. Not LA Law, nor any of the thousands of versions of Law and Order. The last law show I ever expressed any interest in was Perry Mason. Because I don’t really pay attention to the legal system, I never comprehended that the person I was about to give my deposition to would be the defense attorney for my scumbag, yet sexy, ex.
Before the deposition started, she asked me about the shopping center, and she emoted about how it was one of her favorite places and could spend hours there. “It’s a great place,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said, “if you don’t get robbed.”
She didn’t much like me after that and stuck to the questions. It wasn’t until after I left that I realized that my robbery crack could have been offensive to her. But then, I don’t understand the lives of public defenders. I picture that 99% of their clients are guilty criminals with the moral ethics of something you would scrape off of your shoe with a stick. I don’t understand how you sleep at night knowing that you are trying to set free someone you clearly know should not be walking the streets of your city. She also dressed sloppily and cheaply (Big Lots attire? I wondered.) She had perspiration stains under her sleeveless blouse that did a lousy job of hiding her bra. I suspected she burned out in the workaholic, cut-throat world of making partner in a real law firm and had ended up as a public defender. So that’s how I came to justifying my insult: by defacing her profession.
Other Bill gave the same basic deposition while I waited in the lobby. We said the same thing, because we basically share a brain. Even while in different rooms, when we were asked how far we were from the defendant when the crime took place, how many parking spaces away, we both answered, probably 5 spaces, perhaps 50 feet away. I am sure the public defender thought we coached each other on how to answer the questions, but the truth is, although we may have two separate bodies, our brains have the same server. There are very few times in life when we are both not thinking the same thing or have the same tune stuck in our heads. There have been at least two occasions when we discovered that we dreamed about the exact same thing on the same night. Although this would be frightening to most people, we have grown to accept it as an unfortunate by-product of spending so many years together. The only thing different Other Bill told the public defender was this: When she asked him why he took such careful notice of him as we drove past him, Other Bill told the truth: “Because he was really hot.” I said something similar but not so blatantly outish: “Well, it was so hot, and I wondered why he was dressed like it was winter.” Both answers had the word hot in it, so we were close. Brain cloning, after all, has not been 100% perfected.
For months we waited for a resolution to this drama. Every thirty days for fourteen months we were served with standby subpoenas that reminded us that the case was still active and that we should be prepared to come to court to testify.
I didn’t see why this crime series was not just canceled. There were 3 very close eyewitnesses who saw it all and were stupid enough to volunteer as witnesses all in the name of civic duty. I figured that the criminal would just plea bargain, then proceed to rob people to cover his crack habit and gym membership, and life would return to normal.
Finally, a year and three months later, I got a call from the state attorney’s office, summoning me to court the next day. Other Bill was not called. Immediately upon learning that he was not to accompany me to trial, I started to worry.
I thought: Maybe they don’t want two men living in the same house to testify. Were we, as registered domestic homosexual partners, less credible witnesses? Whenever handed a situation I don’t like, my knee-jerk response is always homophobia. Then I summon up a worst-case scenario. In my brain, I played out a cross-examination scene worthy of a Worst of Perry Mason TV Anthology.
Is it true, Mr. Wiley, that on August the 20th you got such a good look at the defendant because you were aroused by his physique?
No, I got a good look at him because he was dressed too warmly for the season. I wondered if his thermostat was off or something.
Really, because I have a deposition from your illicit homosexual lover stating he thought the defendant was, and I quote, ‘hot.’
So are you telling me that you, as the passenger in the truck that drove by the defendant — a passenger who was so close that you could have reached out and pinched the defendant — you’re saying that you didn’t think the defendant was, as your admitted homosexual lover stated, hot? You’ve already stated you and your homosexual lover share the same brain, so would you not share the same opinion as well?
(At this point I start to squirm and sweat, and the crafty attorney in her sweaty, bra-revealing tank top knows she is about to land me.)
Public Defender (to the judge):
Your honor, in order to prove a point, I would like to ask permission for my client to stand and remove his shirt.
Judge (to defendant):
You will do as your counsel instructs.
(It is then that my defendant/ex removes his borrowed suit jacket, silk tie, and crisply starched white shirt. Underneath he is wearing a sheer nylon athletic shirt, slightly sweat-soaked in all the right areas. Revealed are his meaty brown nipples at full attention underneath the damp garment. His wide shoulders and bowling-ball biceps look like they belong on a sculpture of a Greek god, and the public defender commands him to remove the undershirt. He does so, putting his hands behind his head and flexing. His downy-soft armpit hair glistens with sweat. He changes his pose, accentuating his mountainous pecs and rippled abs.)
Public Defender (peeking at my crotch):
Your honor, I would like to enter into the court record that the witness is sporting a raging boner at this time, thereby admitting his true sexual identity, and as such cannot be trusted to—
Me (jumping to my feet, tugging at my constricting tie):
YES! YES! IT’S TRUE. I SNATCHED THE PURSE. I DID IT FOR, FOR, what’s your name?
ALEJANDRO. I DID IT FOR ALEJANDRO! I ONLY WANTED TO BE TAKEN IN HIS STRONG ARMS, TO TASTE THE SWEAT OF HIS LOINS AND TO…”
At this point my mind came back to reality after nearly rear-ending an enormous black Hummer on my way home from work. I wondered what Bill was thinking then. Surely there had been some kind of disconnection of service, which tends to happen when we are not in each other’s company.
Of course, that courtroom drama never got aired. I arrived at the prosecutor’s office on time. He’s the one, I reminded myself as an uninformed law know-nothing, who would be breaking down the defense of the lady I insulted during the deposition over a year ago. You know, the one would make me confess during her pit-soaked interrogation.
The prosecutor handed me my 5-page double-spaced transcript of the statement I gave to the detective on the day the crime took place. Details that I had forgotten long ago re-emerged. The attorney gave me pictures of the defendant taken the day of the crime, after he was fished from the canal. Shirtless pictures. Shirtless, very hot pictures which I tried not to drool over before handing them back. The prosecutor then warned me that the defendant would look differently in court. The accused had, he said, shaved the scraggly beard and gotten a nice haircut.
“May I see those pictures again?” I asked, desperate for one last look at Scruffy Criminal as opposed to Makeover Criminal, who wouldn’t be as appealing to me today. I wondered how I could smuggle these pictures out of that office. I suspected it would not be appropriate to ask the lawyer if it would be possible to have them scanned and e-mailed to me.
I took my time looking at the smooth, muscular chest, the canal-soaked pants, the tough facial expression. I released a small drop of pity.
“What if I don’t recognize him today with his cleaned-up appearance?” I asked the prosecutor. He told me to just be honest, that it was really the cop’s job to inform the jury that I was one of the people who identified the defendant on the day of the crime.
The prosecutor also told me that at age 23, my ex was a career criminal with seven priors ranging from burglary to firearms charges.
With all my questions answered (except the picture scanning question, which was, regrettably, never asked,) I returned to the waiting room and reacquainted myself with the sweet victim and her husband. I then smiled, remembering I might be able get copies of the pictures by filing a public records request. I sat down next to the painfully handsome Officer Hottie, the one who had taken me for a police cruiser ride through a porn flick. Naturally, he didn’t remember me. I’m sure he makes dozens of those films every month.
When the time came, three cops, the victim, her husband and I were ushered toward a courtroom. We were seated on a rock-hard pew outside the chambers. It was then when I learned that as a witness, I was only allowed into the courtroom to testify. I could not, like in the Perry Mason episodes, be in the courtroom to see other parts of the trial. I could not sit behind the defendant and hope he would turn around to look at me, so I could sensually paint my lips with my extended tongue and wink at him. Nevertheless, at least I’d get to sit in the witness box and get a good look at the new, improved, cleaned up robber.
There were three thugs sitting outside the courtroom as well. We had been shown to seats far away from them. The prosecutor told us that they were friends of the defendant, and we should pay no attention or talk to them.
It was then that I started to worry about what could happen to me as a witness. I instantly locked in on a mob drama where witnesses are executed in retaliation for testimony. I pictured Makeover Criminal, released on a technicality, and his band of mobsters shooting out all my windows in a drive-by frenzy. This right after I, in an act of financial desperation, just upped my homeowner insurance deductibles to $5000. Would windows cost more than five grand, I wondered. If I filed a claim, I’d lose my 20% claim-free discount.
Sometime later, the prosecuting attorney approached us and told us the outcome was good. The defendant pled guilty and would have to serve at least eighteen months in jail. Sentencing would be in sixty days.
Maybe I’d be able to see him then. I miss him already, and suddenly I wish I knew more about the law. For example, to whom should I speak regarding conjugal visits?