What Joe Talked About At Coffee

Joe tells me and the lieutenant a story while we sit outside of the coffee shop at the start of our shift.

It goes: “So I walk into this apartment on a call and the second I walk in the dad takes a razor blade and slices his throat from ear to ear in front of me and his family, kids and all.”

And then I say, “Oh fuck.”

And Joe continues, “Nothing I could do, both sides cut like that, right? I mean, one side… you got a shot… maybe if someone can pinch the artery closed. I couldn’t even see where to pinch though.”

Joe tells us more while displaying a stare on his face that’s increasing in range towards that 1000-yard distance people always talk about. He tried to keep the family from losing it completely, but everyone was screaming despite his best efforts. He assured them the paramedics were on the way. He applied fruitless pressure to stem the hemorrhaging, and blood was “fucking everywhere”.

Joe says, “He died right there. Nothing I could do.”

I assure him, “Nothing you could do, no. Unless you’re a priest.”

Joe chuckles half-heartedly which makes the lieutenant and me do the same and then there’s this awkward silence that occupies dead space in conversations among workers of specific professions. I take another sip of my coffee and so does the lieutenant.

Every few coffee conversations at work tend to have a batshit crazy story shared, probably like one in seven. It’s part of the trade. Usually the stories are funny, thankfully.

I take one more sip because it’s something to do. I’m trying to find that sweet spot of a caffeine buzz before it turns into full-blown anxiety. The former is helpful for the shift ahead. The latter is not.

Joe doesn’t have a cup to occupy his hands, because he only drinks energy drinks. Coffee “beats around the bush” is how he puts it, I think. How he maintains that sweet spot, I’ll never know.  

A few beats later I tell him, “That shit is gonna come up later.”

Joe asks, “What shit? The guy who cut his throat?”

“Yeah, that. One day like fifteen years from now you’ll be in your house doing the dishes and then next thing you’ll be shooting the dishwasher with a .38 special and then it’ll become suddenly clear why you heard the SWAT team outside yelling at you over the loudspeaker.”

Joe says, “That’s specific.”

To which I say, “It happened to a friend’s dad, a retired guy in SoCal. He’s doing dishes one minute and killing the shit out of his kitchen the next. Nobody got hurt though, so that’s good.”

Joe says, “Yeah, that’s good.”

More silence. I take a sip and so does the lieutenant. She opens her mouth to say something, but Joe interjects.

Joe says, “Won’t happen to me though; know why?”

“No, why?”

“I don’t own a dishwasher.”

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