I’m a Cop, sure. I think that all the time, out in the street here. I’m just a Cop, walking my beat. I walked the beat all my life, but—these days now, it’s all just mirrors. It used to be a regular town but now nothing’s real, it’s just all mirrors to run into and go around and run into and go around and all the time you see yourself coming at yourself, all the day. There’s no one that’s not you. There’s nothing that’s not yours. In the beginning every person you saw was a real person who if you dared touch them would have a soft shape and move and react, saying, Why are you touching me why are you touching me, why, but now every person you see is you and every I that I see is me and everyone’s just all smooth slick glass reflecting back at you and in that way they keep you alive, they feed you that way, so, I’m a Cop today again. I walk the beat. I walk the beat and now it’s— it’s not me I touch, it’s glass and it’s someone but it’s not me, I haven’t seen anyone that’s not me in an age, it’s not me, it’s someone else; and when I see someone else it’s time to talk action. That was in the book I was taught. That was in the book long ago they leafed me through making me a Cop merging with the book from the front and I came out the back through the cover all transformed and all in uniform, and, then I knew I was a Cop—but now is now—he mustn’t get away; there he is again; but God he is just glass, and there he is again, but he’s just glass, and—here he is again just glass but he’s holding up a tiny old yellowing portrait photo in a corroded fake gold frame and from both sides of me together, from further into the mirror maze, comes the voice and the person in the mirror before me lip-syncs perfectly along with the words someone else is saying loud and fast from wherever they crouch hiding back behind the person in front of you.
Have you seen my Mother, officer—this is my Mother, it’s an old picture but it’s the only one I have. Have you seen her, I left her alone in our room, and then like happens about half the time I left and walked and walked and forgot why I left and also I forgot how to get back. Lost in this town am I, like the town’s a mirror maze where every place I am able to get into, they remember I was there before but I don’t, not at all, it’s very maddening—
I nod and nod and tilt my head slapping my nightstick into my palm soundlessly, as he goes on like he’s trying to get out of himself, he’s somehow riding the words trying to be heard, or at least he looked that way as he said, You are a policeman. Thank God I have found you. I need a policeman. Yours is to protect and serve. No? Yes? I need protection and serving, so, I would guess, if you, of course, agree, that we were made for each other; some soul mate of the brain thing—protecting and serving, you know—but have you seen her? No? Yes?
Whoever you are, fella, calm down and keep your hands visible; I see your little picture and I see you, so calm down, step out and—there—he stepped out to the side, and I looked back at myself from the mirror, damn, but my back turned to my front, and I looked in the mirror at a large pile of tatters standing there with a great dirty round wide face on top with neatly trimmed hair. I could smell him but his hair was neatly trimmed so, but; no hands showed—I said, let me see your hands, fella—let me see. And out of the bush of tatters pushed two filthy hands, one held the same rusty yellowed aged picture I had seen before, so, yes; it had been real as the words flowing at me filling the mirror box I stood in, covering my shoes, my calves and my—yes officer, I see you now too, I am very calm now, here are my hands, here is the picture. So like I asked before have you seen this woman, my Mother? Or will I never see my mother. Tell me the truth. Your uniform said that when you joined up and got your blue costume and put it on, you swore to be noble and tell the truth. Tell it before, now, next, and way past the next moments—so, how about doing it now?
Easy, boy, I said. Let’s go slower. Take a deep breath, stand there, and slowly oh slowly produce some identification—and, oh yes, he looked suspicious, up to something, playing some kind of made in the USA song from someplace inside the tatters. As the music blared all the mirrors quivered and behind him, where the mirrors went on and on one after the other and there were a million of him behind him but all with his back to himself, he sang along. I stood in a waist deep deepening mix of noise. And I knew this couldn’t be, so I made up a test in my dimmed down head and it was, will this guy next ask, Am I being detained, sir? You never said if you saw my mother, but all I can say before we go on is, Am I being detained, sir? Or can I go? I got to get out of this maze before I can’t tell anymore which person is me, and plus, sir, I have to piss so bad, so—protect and serve. Yes? No? Protect me please, protect me, Yes! Take me where I can legally pee. Protect and Serve. Yes? No? I don’t want to pee my pants, that would be a crime that you could have prevented, because you are to protect and serve, so I need protecting and serving and to be led to the potty quickly, to get pissed and do the big brown dump maybe too, all legal in the very next white pretty bowl in some small private room and them we can talk down to every grain, but look behind there behind yourself there in the mirror, I suppose, is your back. Your back and front look exactly the same—two-faced you are, two-faced. Here, let me help you; he raised his hands and came toward me, but I stiff-armed him away. Almost had to, that is. That is.
I said it’s good your hands are visible, fella, but come no closer. ID please. I need your ID. Then, if God decides so, from where he is inside of me just like he’s inside of you, you will be free to go someplace legal to pee. Or piss. Or whatever. Come on, hand over the ID.
But, oh, sure, yes. Here it is.
As he pushed out the ID there were a million Cops with my face stretched off on every side of me; damn these mirrors, don’t see them, focus; something is emerging in his hand. A card, a little white card. I took it and he let it go. His fingers were sausages, but they did the job. The card said simply, SHOOTING SCHOOL, SEA ISLAND–and under that, Jon Kent; NCSA certified instructor. Well, yes—if this is truly what the bag of rags before me is, or was, he has come down in the world, but—this is not ID. I say to the rag bag man, sorry, but this is just a business card. It’s not legal ID. Do you have something else sir, sir, let’s see, Jon Kent—Jon, do you have something else more legal? A driver’s license? An insurance card? How about a couple of major credit cards? Don’t you have something else? I mean, this is something, but it’s not really anything. Do you know what I’m saying?
Oh yeah, he said, as a hand pointed out of the mass of filthy rags. It’s just as well it’s not, because it’s really not, because I found it in a Porta-Potty downtown where they’re housebuilding someplace somehow someway. Nice card, though—nice crest there, don’t you think? Nice horse rearing in the crest there, don’t you think? Sea Island Shooting School, Jon Kent, certified instructor, he might not be me, but he still is very lucky. Mom tells me all the time, I ought to get a job. But all I do all day every day is search. The search takes time. The search for her, here—and he pushed the young woman’s picture at me again—here she is, have you seen her? Once I find her, officer man, I promise I will get a job and a real ID and then I’ll look you up and get it to you, but you need to let me go so I can do that, you know. It’s the only way you’ll ever see ID from me. If I don’t find my Mother, then she will never have been. I’m starting to wonder. If she never has been, then—no one bore me either. It will just pop away to nothing like a hallucination before your very eyes—and you’ll never see no ID.
I—hey, listen. Keep things simple. How about a real ID? Right here, right now. Yes, or no.
Do you think I am just a hallucination, sir? Here, come reach in the dark and put your hand in my side. Maybe then, you will believe. I know that’s true, because I read it in a book once. I used to read you know. Where Mother is, there will be books. Mother spends all her free time reading holy books, you know. Holy books written by haloed people of all shapes, ages, sizes, sexes, and faiths. You know what I mean do you know what I mean? But you got to let me go soon. Outside this mirror maze, everything’s mist. It’s getting colder, colder, and if we’re here too long it will freeze around the place and we’ll be living in here with these mirrors forever—but maybe that won’t be so bad. I can see you in the mirror, and think that you are me. You can see me in the mirror and think that I am you. It won’t be so bad, some kind of a game—okay, it’s a deal. At least when the whole world freezes over, we will be warm safe and still alive. You know, officer, yes your idea is great. Just keep asking for the same thing you know I don’t have over and over again until it’s too late to get out of this place. Stuck in a mirror maze. Shit. Who dies in a mirror maze? Nobody does, is the answer, and, if the answer is nobody does, and we are the first to do so, then we are nothing; never were, never are, never be here, because no one can die here. Gone forever we will be; probably actually never have been, we will be; and, thank God, I will be free to duck into the Dunkin’ Donuts shop down the road and finally let go my pee and maybe a log or two. So that’s your deal, Cop? You needed to do the necessary plan in your head for me to go out of here legal and finally get to pee? So do the last thing quick, please. The drops of wet are coming in my shorts now. You need to act fast, Mr. Cop. If you don’t soon, I’ll just open her up pull her out and point and go right here, right now. And, officer, you will be sorry after you find yourself standing in my little hot yellow puddle that it will really be your fault to have created, but maybe—
As he goes on talking, I ride his voice. To a long time ago. I got called at night that there were punks in the woods dealing hot hard drugs to kids, and that I should be there. It was hot humid heavy summer. I took the car to the woods out a dirt road. I got out and shone my light and found the path; I could hear young boozy voices in the distance, all yelling, all laughing, but— I stopped right there, dead; dead in my tracks.
The biggest widest most perfect humid hot Florida nighttime spider web blocked the width of the trail, and a blood red huge as a hand horrid big spider sat in the center waiting and snoozing for somebody to touch the web, and then—
It looked right at me.
It did. God.
Look, I hate spiders. I turned away got on the car and went on the radio talking, as the sounds of the party further in the woods filtered at me through the web, I told the dispatcher, Nothing out here, they must be gone. No, found nothing. Okay. Out. And they yelled more and more loudly past beyond the web, but for me it was all the web, and the big Mother of the web set in the center, waiting, as I waited now here in the mirror maze for the rag bag man Jon to stop talking; which he almost immediately did. Copies of him in the mirrors all around said, So then, since it is a deal, before I go to go I’ll ask one more time again; have you seen her?
Spider in the center.
Turning I ran. But the mirrors slowed me. This man Jon was not real. This man Jon must, yes, has to be is, just in my head. Out of the mirror-maze, I stumbled, running from the terrible web, but; there was no boardwalk, no other rides, no families, no music, no fun house; the street was under me. The cars went by both sides, honking. I—I felt it, though. The card came up. I had the card though none of it had been real. Here, look; SHOOTING SCHOOL, SEA ISLAND– and under that, Jon Kent; NCSA certified instructor. So see, though it didn’t happen, it did; and it didn’t and did, and didn’t and did too, and—there’s a tap on my thigh. An officer says, no loitering, pal. Keep moving keep moving, no loitering, Franklin. Keep moving, Franklin. If we didn’t all know you and how you are, and who your Mother was, I’d arrest you. But no, just keep moving. Dodged a bullet, Franklin. Dodged a bullet. Your life is dodging bullets. You got the nine lives of some cat. Go on, keep looking. And there’s no need to show me. I’ve told you I don’t know where she is, about a million times, and probably will another million more. So move on now, right now. Great. That’s a good boy. See you again. Take care.