trash, police, and the infinite universe

“I feel like riding bikes. Anybody want to go for a bike ride?”

“You’re always so hyperactive after you eat,” Scissors said. He and Karlsson had spent the day cleaning up the place, and Garfield had made a big dinner–vegetable casserole, salad, soy chunks, and sorbet.

“I was thinking about a bike ride too,” Garfield said, rolling a cigarette. We got our hoodies and we got our bikes and we headed toward the farm fields just outside of the university campus. On the way out we passed the university trash depot (where the big trash lives). Sitting on the grass between a hand cart and a university security car sat Top Hat.

We stopped and pedaled back. Turned out, Top Hat had been on his way out of the trash depot with a cart of some junk electronics for one of his steam-punk, mad-scientist inventions and some paranoid university employee had seen him and called the police. When he got to the road a security guard was waiting to tell him that the police were on their way. Garfield biked back home to get tobacco, and I waited with Top Hat for The Man, who showed up five minutes later, two in their green and white patrol car, one in brown, one in blue.

“Someone saw him carrying some stuff out of the trash depot and called me,” the security guard explained.

“Where’s the stuff?” Officer Blue wanted to know.

“He put it back.”

“And what about her?” he asked, pointing at me.

“Nothing. She’s not involved.”

“What do you mean nothing?”

“I was biking past,” I cut in. “He’s a friend of mine and I stopped to see what was going on and to keep him company.”

Officer Brown and Top Hat walked back toward the entrance to the trash depot to do some sort of police crime scene shit. Officer Blue was still looking at me. “To keep him company?” He sounded kind of incredulous. Like keeping someone company while waiting for the police was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard. “Well, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. You don’t need to hear what happens here.”

“Excuse me?” And by “excuse me” I meant, “So you don’t want any witnesses in case you decide to kick his ass?” And “You’ve got to be kidding me.” And “What is it you are trying to hide WILSON.” Because Wilson was Officer Blue’s name. It said so right on his shirt.

“Please move away.” He repeated. I wrinkled my eye brows. “But they both just left. There’s nothing to hear.”

He looked over his shoulder. “Well, alright then,” he said, and followed Top Hat and Officer Brown across the parking lot. Rage was already swelling up in my stomach and exploding through every cell in my body until I felt like I was going to throw up. That’s just how people on uniform-fueled power trips make me feel, even the smaller uniform-fueled power trips. History has proven over and over and over and over and over and over again that all most police ever do is intimidate and harass and suppress people, and every interaction I’ve ever had with them–except for the friendly Irish cop in the sketchy park in Dublin who left us all bewildered and confused and saying things like “I’ve never actually liked a cop before.”– has ended with the lesson, don’t trust the police, ever. And yet somehow they still manage to run the whole “friend and helper” PR line with a straight face. I’m not sure what’s worse: that they pretend to be good and helpful or that most people believe them.

I shook my head as he walked away. I guess I looked pretty pissed off. I guess Security Guard felt kind of guilty about all of it. He looked at me apologetically. “I would have just let him go, but they insisted that I call the police. The guy who called was really insistent. I would have just let him go. I mean, he put the stuff back.”

“What he take anyway? It was probably just trash, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t matter. This is private property. There’s a fence.”

“Oh, I understand the law. It just makes this all a little absurd.”

He didn’t answer. Instead he took out his cell phone to call his sweetheart, who he told in broken English that he was going to be late.

They came back to write down names and addresses, and Officer Blue got back in his car to call in the info, or whatever it is that police officers do in their cars after they’ve taken your information. He came back, and two overweight white guys showed up. One was The Caller. He’d brought a friend, too, but Officer Blue didn’t ask his friend to leave. They took a few more notes and came to some sort of conclusion, and Officer Brown looked over at me. “Do you live over at the wagenplatz too?”

“I’m not sure how that’s relevant.”

“Well, we’re going to take him with us, maybe you could take the handcart?”

“Wait, where are you taking him?”

“Just over to the wagenplatz to take a look at his ID.”

“Alright, yeah, we’ll take the cart.”

“I’ll walk the bikes,” Garfield offered, and we started off, the green and white car passing us with Top Hat in the back.

“So are the police actually allowed on the property?” When it comes down to details, I have a pathetically hazy grasp of the law.

“Well, they’re allowed to come to the door, but they aren’t allowed inside without a warrant.”

“Yeah, but what is the door at our place? The house door? Top Hat’s door?”

“Top Hat’s door.”

The police were gone by the time we arrived. Everyone had come creeping out of their wagons to find out what had happened, and we all stood around outside telling “that time the cops showed up” stories, which turned into “that time that crazy guy showed up” stories, which somehow turned into a conversation about infinity, the size of the universe, and whether or not humankind’s ultimate goal should be to populate the solar system.

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