I laid back on the cold tiled bench with my arms as my pillow. I looked up at the gray ceiling without anything in my thoughts.
I was bored to death for the last five hours, locked up for punching my boss in the face. He hit his wife in front of his car repair shop where I worked as a mechanic--well, used to, since he just fired me. Who was in the fucking hell hurt women if not some losers like him?
I didn’t like people hitting women because they would look misogynistic. When I saw him yell at his wife, my fists developed brains on their own. Whatever she did, that didn’t give him the right to hit her. He could confront her privately, but he was an asshole. My anger took over me. So, I punched him before I even realized I did it, which resulted in me getting arrested for physical assault.
I didn’t enjoy seeing women being abused, bullied, and men thought that made them stronger. Women were born to be loved and respected unless they deserved to be treated the way they were. Still, there were so many ways a person could do other than hurting them.
Still, I was not to judge that. What goes around comes around.
I ignored the footsteps. I was still staring at the tedious gray ceiling. For the whole year, my life was fucking is black and white. Or maybe, it was completely black, like my soul. Who cares? Nobody.
A clinking sound of keys in the steel bars caught my attention. A 40-year-old, medium build man wearing a blue police uniform unlocked the cell door.
“You’re free to go, Matthews. Don’t come back. You don’t deserve to be here. There’s a lot ahead of you, young man. Get out, and enjoy your life while you can,” the police officer said. He inspected me from head to toe. I was still lying, immobilized.
He didn’t have any idea what happened to my life. My life was worse than being locked up and worst than being in hell, literally.
I stood up lazily, yawned, and stretched out. “Who came here to bail me?” I was not expecting anyone, especially my parents, and certainly not my friends because I didn’t have anyone in my life since last year. My grandparents would probably let me rot in here if they found out I punched someone because life was unfair.
I followed him as he walked towards the claim desk.
“The old man dropped the charge against you,” he explained while staring at me. “Take your things, son, and go home.”
I stopped by the claim area. He gave me my things back--wallet, keys, and my bracelet.
“Thank you, officer.”
I read his name on his uniform.
“You’re welcome. Do you need a ride? I'm leaving, anyway.”
My brows creased. A part of me still wanted to stay in the cell because I still had to think about looking for a job tomorrow.
Then, here was this good man trying to help me. I couldn’t believe he offered me a ride, even if he was aware that I just punched someone in the face.
“It’s okay, officer. I can get a cab from here. Thanks, though.” There were still few good people in this world who helped someone in need. But I didn’t need him, and I certainly didn’t deserve his help.
“Come on, son. Where do you live? I’ll drop you off there.” He walked ahead of me.
I had no choice but to follow him out of the police station. “Really, sir. I don’t want to bother you more than I already did.”
He waved off his hand. “You’re coming with me. Now, get your ass in my car.”
I hid my smile while he motioned me to get in the passenger’s side. I couldn’t remember the last time I smiled. It was foreign to me anymore.
I got in. The first thing I noticed was the smell of strawberries.
“My daughter loves that air freshener,” as if he reads my mind, he said before he drove us out of the parking lot.
“So, what’s your story, young man? Aside from what you did today?” Officer Ward asked me, giving me a few glances when I chose to keep my mouth shut.
This was what I was scared of, people wanted to read me and know me. I’d been successfully avoiding a conversation like this. It wouldn’t only hurt me, but it ripped up the wound open. The older it got, the more it rotten me slowly. I wished I just died that night. It was still taunting me whether I was wide awake, in my sleep, or with nightmares.
“Don’t answer me. I’m just a nosy old man.”
Something deep inside me chuckled. I swallowed hard. I had to blink rapidly to push the memory of that night.
He might see me as the kind of guy who shared his feelings with a stranger, but I’d rather keep the past where it was.
“I’m sorry, Officer Ward. I’m a sophomore in college at Hillston. I want to take biology. Then maybe, one day, pursue Medicine specializes in Neurosurgery.”
I was so not comfortable telling everyone about my life, about my plan. Since last year, after the horrific accident, I had kept myself away from people. I ignored everyone, including my parents. I’d never been with anyone, just my grandparents, who were very considerate enough to look after me when my parents should have.
I couldn’t even look at every girl’s eyes. They would only remind me of her. I’d been an ass and cruel to everyone who thought they knew me, my pain, and my loss, but they didn’t have a fucking clue why I became who I was today—the cold and callous Percie.
“You surprise me. I couldn't imagine you choosing that field.”
I chuckled. I knew what he was doing. He knew I have had built walls, and he tried to get into those walls.
Considering that I’d never shared this with anyone, I admired his tenacity. But I still had a lot of time to change plans or maybe not plan at all.
“Call me Percival, sir. That's just a plan, Officer Ward. I could change my mind anytime, but that was my first choice, though.”
He pulled over at the intersection. Whenever I passed by in a place like this, sometimes, it became too much, too nostalgic. I wished I could rewind at least 10 seconds. I could probably avoid that to happen.
I closed my eyes and released a shuddering breath.
“Have dinner in my house, Percival. It’s almost dinner anyway. I’ll send you home after.”
I stared at him incredulously. This man was impossible.
“Officer Ward, you really don’t have to do this. Why are you even inviting me to your home? You don’t know me. I could be a bad person.”
He glanced at me in disbelief, seemingly taken aback. “Are you, Percival? A bad person?”
I sighed in defeat. “Fine. Don’t blame me or put me back in jail if I plan on stealing your collections or your gun, then run away.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, I’m not worried about that. First of all, call me Keith. Second, I don’t have collections, and third, you can steal my gun, but I doubt if you even know how to carry this,” he says, pointing at his pistol still tucked in the holster of his belt.
I shrugged. “I watched Wild Wild West movie.”
“Don’t depend on what you see. Youtube is one of those things you should avoid when learning something new. I don’t think you can even think of pulling a trigger. I may be old, but I doubt you are violent, Percie. You may have had difficult times, but I know you are just trying to be distant and try avoiding people to get into your life. That doesn't mean you are a bad person. You still have a good heart.”
You don’t even want to imagine what I’ve been going through.
“I don’t have a good heart, Keith. You definitely have no idea who I am and what I did.”
He stopped the car in front of a blue-grey two-story house.