Emma had been my anchor and now with her gone I was adrift again. Just like after the accident. Hopeless. Dead inside. Only this time there was no one to repent to; No one to beg for forgiveness. Emma was gone. My Emma.
I sat there in the station, waiting to be called back, replaying the days events. I tried to understand what I could have done differently. I picked apart every little detail, as if there was something I could find that would bring her back. As if some nuance of memory might allow me to rewind time and I could fix that one thing that brought about her death. There was nothing. She was gone, forever.
If I could just beg like I had before, when we were strangers, me the perpetrator and her the victim. If I could just have a moment to ask for her forgiveness and she live again and I take her place, I would do it, without hesitation. If I could not be sitting on this bench, waiting to be called back. If I could be anywhere else but here, in this purgatory, being asked to relive the hell of seeing my Emma beaten to death right in front of me.
An officer eventually showed up. His voice was deliberate and monotone. "Mister Cooper", each syllable clearly enunciated. "Follow me." Which I did, like a robot, never lifting my eyes from the dingy tile underfoot, shuffle, shuffle, turn, shuffle, shuffle, turn. He ushered me into a poorly lit room, "Have a seat. Someone will be with you." So I sat, like a good little robot and prayed that I could just drift away into the darkness of this room before anyone showed up. But someone did show up all to quickly.
The door opened and closed and a man with a pad sat down across from me. "Mister Cooper, I'm the police sketch artist. When you're ready I'd like it if you'd tell me about the person you saw today." The man's voice was almost a whisper. It matched the tone of the darkness of the room. It was as if he were disembodied, since the single light in the room only illuminated the table top and none of the surrounding area, like an interrogation room in an old movie. I could only see the faintest shadow of him, and the reflection of the light off the spiral of wire of his pad. A ghost was interrogating me, asking me to relive my horror in intricate detail, eyelash by eyelash and freckle by freckle.
So I relived that moment. In horrible detail. I heard his pencil racing across the top of the paper as I spoke. He'd ask a question here and there; Race, face shape, scars, hair style, sometimes circling back and asking again or getting more specific. It started to wear on me. I didn't want to see those eyes again. I didn't want to see the rage of that face as he beat my wife to death, or the joy he had when he saw me coming to her defense. But I had to keep reliving that moment over and over as he asked question after question.
"Could we just take a break?" I asked.
"We're almost done. Why don't we talk about something else while I fill in some details," the ghost asked. "Tell me about anything good Emma. Anything else."
I tried to remember anything else anything good. All I could remember was our first meeting. I told him about it. The stench of the hospital. Emma laying in the bed, paralyzed from the waist down. My hands sweating around the plastic sleeve holding the flowers I brought. It was my fault, my drunken, careless fault. The lump in my throat threatening to choke me to death right there as I tried to apologize. All she did was smile at me and forgive me and it made me want to die all the more. I'd taken her legs from her and there wasn't an ounce of hatred in her for that.
"So drunk driving huh? Did you get time for that? I mean considering you paralyzed her and all." There was almost a sneer to the sentence, but I expected it from a cop. They probably see drunks all the time.
"I got probation. There were other circumstances in the crash. I was drunk, but she was speeding, she didn't press for anytime or compensation."
His pencil scratched furiously across the paper. "Was she running from something?" Such a weird question. What was she running from that day? A failed marriage, a lost child, no job, despair. What was I running from when I ran into her and put her on the path to her death? A dead end career, loneliness, bad habits, just running to be running.
"I don't know. It was just circumstance." I told him as his pencil zigzagged in a tight pattern across the pad.
"So then you she just married you, after you broke her back?"
How had that happened. I took her legs and she forgave me like it was nothing. Like I'd done her a favor. She said once, when I was particularly depressed, that while I might have taken her legs I'd turned around and given her wings just in the way that I loved her.
"It was just circumstance. Just... I dunno... She was getting out of a bad relationship, we only had each other. It just sort of happened." I told my ghost as he scrawled.
"A bad relationship." He said, almost silently. It was hard to hear his already soft voice over the pencil. He must have been filling in the background of the page because the pencil sounded furious and hard across the page. Short quick strokes.
"Are you almost done? Is there anything else I can give you?" I asked.
His pencil stopped abruptly and the silence just hung there for a moment. Then he snickered. "Can you give me anything else? Can you give ME anything? ME?!" The snicker turned into maniacal laughter. It was piercing compared to the last few minutes. "CAN YOU GIVE ME MY WIFE BACK?!" The ghost screamed at me, propelling us both up out of our chairs, and sending his pad and papers flying.
The noise must have drawn attention from outside because the door flew open, temporarily blind me with the light from outside. An officer stood like a shadow just inside the door, looking toward my interrogator. "Hey! What the... YOU are NOT supposed to be..." The officer looked at him, looked at me, looked at the papers strewn across the room and said "Oh SHIT no!"
I looked down at the papers and each one had the same face. Not the killer's face, but a beautiful face, my Emma's face, smiling and radiant. Each a different angle of her, in great detail, but with crazy scribbled backgrounds, jagged and sharp compared to her softness. It was just a moment, just a reprieve to see her face in such detail again and be anchored to this world. Then the officer shouted for help and tried to block the door, his arms outstretched and full attention on my wife's killer.
The ghost in the light looked just like I remembered him. All that rage and all that glee in his eyes as he looked at me. "I beat that bitches wings right off didn't I Coop. DIDN'T I?! She's not gonna fly anymore." He raved. He was mad.
I could hear shouts outside and people running toward the room. The killer, lunged playfully at the officer at the door, taunting him to do something. Without even thinking I used that moment to avenge my wife. Grabbing a pencil from the table and plunging it deep into his eye, hearing his laughter turn to screaming as I snapped it off and began beating him against the table, despite every effort the officer could make to pull me away. By the time enough people got into the room to pull me off of my tormentor, I'd pummeled him into a bloody, dead, mess.
They pulled me a way, cuffed me, even hit me a few more times for good measure, but even so, the day was looking up. So I smiled and held my head high as they took me away. "I hope that gave you your wings back Emma. Fly free. I love you."