One of the toughest jobs in the world is being the spouse of a cop -- you never know when disaster may strike. And even though Profaci is seen as the doughnut-toting Radar of the two-seven precinct, his wife has the same fears of every other policeman's wife...and a few extras, as Callie Ward points out.



The Policeman's Wife
By Callie Ward


It's already dark out when her shift is over, and when she goes to the phone to call home, there's no answer. But that could mean anything; he could be on his way home, or he might have gone out to the corner store to pick up milk. Did she remember to ask him to get milk this morning? She can't remember.
She walks to the subway to go home, because although they're a two-career household they can't afford two cars, and anyway, she likes the walk. She doesn't like the subway so much, and neither does Tony -- he worries -- but it's one of those things where you have to apply Grandmother's maxim: "If it can't be helped, don't complain".
They had met "on the job", as they both call it. Over the body of a junkie OD-ing on meth and suffering from a gunshot wound. Tony was hovering over the junkie as the paramedics brought him in, fussing around the stretcher and getting in everyone's way.
"If you'll excuse us, sir?" One of the nurses snapped.
He ignored them.
"Sir, you'll have to wait outside," Shirley said. "We'll bring you any consent forms we need you to sign."
"Oh, I'm not next-of-kin," he said. "Is he gonna make it?"
"If you'll let us do our jobs --" said a nurse angrily. "Just wait in the waiting room, please."
"You won't let him leave without telling me?"
"He's been shot. I doubt he's going anywhere. Do you know who shot him?"
"Me."
Shirley's head snapped up to look at him. "Marla, call the police," she said to a nurse.
He held up a badge. "I am the police. He's a murder suspect."
"Great," Shirley said, returning her attention to the junkie. "Go wait in the waiting room. Marla, get OR Three ready for him. He could start going into cardiac arrest any second."
Tony had been pushed away from view, then, as they went into OR Three. When she came out, he was waiting. "How's he gonna be?"
"It's still touch and go." She pulled off her mask and gloves and tossed them into a nearby trashcan. Her scrubs were stained with blood. She'd have to go change.
"But he'll make it, right?"
"Why the hell do you care?" It had been a long day.
"Because if he dies before I've got the paperwork done, my boss is gonna kill me."
"Good for you," she said.
"What? You have something against cops?"
She looked at him, then, and smiled. "My father was a cop. Twenty-eight years on the force."
"What precinct?"
She shrugged. "We moved around a lot. It varied. If you'll excuse me, I have to go change."
"Okay," he said. Then, "Wait."
She stopped, and turned to face him. "Yeah?"
"You free for dinner sometime this week?"
"I don't even know your name."
"Detective Tony Profaci," he said. "With the 27th. Homicide."
She offered him her hand. "Dr. Shirley Mazzini. ER." They shook. Shirley smiled again. "I do have to go."
"What about dinner?" he called after her.
"How about tonight?" she yelled back. And that had been their beginning.
The subway's crowded, tonight (but then, isn't it always?) and someone's trying to beep her. The code says it's David Parker, the hospital administrator, and she can only hope that it's not urgent, because the trains are running late and she doesn't have time to find a phone.
She's on the subway and halfway home when she remembers that she left that cardiology article she had wanted to read in the doctor's lounge. Oh, well. She'll read a novel or something, give her brain a rest. Tony doesn't like it that she works so hard, it worries him. He's always telling her, "You know, we could make it on just my salary. It'd be hard but we could do it. You don't have to work."
She always replies, "We could make it on just my salary too, you know. Why don't you quit?" It's not the fact that she's working so hard that bothers him, she knows that. It's where she works. Ever since that thing a year ago when a guy came into the ER brandishing a knife, Tony's been pushing her to quit. If she were a pediatrician, or an oncologist, he wouldn't be worrying.
It is, she supposes, the privilege of men to worry over the safety of their wives. But it's also a wife's privilege to worry about her husband, and that worry she never speaks aloud, because you don't discuss it. Her father was a cop and she learned from her mother they don't discuss their work. They won't talk about it. Her father spent two years in homicide, and in those two years the only things Shirley ever heard him discuss relating to work was, one, a coworker's funeral, and two, the wake.
It's the same way with Tony. Her mother warned her, when they got married, "He won't tell you anything. And you'll spend your days in constant fear that something will happen to him. Anything. That he'll get shot, that he'll get stabbed, that he'll accidentally drive off a bridge or get popped by some lunatic when he's buying a sandwich at the deli."
Shirley had dismissed her mother's fears then. After all, her mother had been a housewife, a traditional cop's wife, with nothing to do but stay home all day, raise the kids, cook and clean, and worry. Shirley was a doctor, she was educated, she was strong. She had better things to do than fuss.
She hadn't known then. She hadn't known what it would be like. The all-encompassing worry, tangling itself in every aspect of your life.
She and Tony have been fighting a lot lately, about stupid things like his hours, her hours, someone forgetting to get the olive oil in the last supermarket run. She knows what they're really fighting about, in every one of those little fights, and sometimes they even fight about it, The Big Issue. But she can't say what she's yearning to say:
A cop came in yesterday, Tony, a young guy, maybe twenty-five, twenty-six, and the bullet was in his brain and we didn't know how much damage it has done. And his girlfriend came out to the hospital and she was just sitting in the waiting room, crying and screaming, and when she saw us come by with the stretcher she tried to run to him, to hold him, and one of the nurses had to hold her back. And she was begging God to make him all right, and I honestly think that the only reason she didn't go insane is because she didn't know what we were saying, she didn't know the meanings of things like "internal hemorrhaging", "upward trajectory", "corkscrewing". She didn't know what we were saying, she didn't know that we were saying that maybe he'd be blind, maybe he'd be mentally impaired, or maybe he'd just plain die.
And every time they bring a cop in, Tony, every time, I stand still for a minute with my hand at my throat, thinking: Please, God, don't let it be him. And I don't know what I'd do if you were shot, Tony, because I would be sitting in the waiting room and I would hear the doctors and nurses talking about what had happened to you, and I would know, Tony, I would know what they were saying. And I don't know if I could handle that, I really don't.
They can't discuss this. They just can't discuss this. Her parents have been married for what? Forty years? And they still have never, as far as she knows, discussed it. They live in Palm Beach now, and some of her mother's worry has eased, but Shirley is finding it harder and harder, now, to pretend that the worry isn't there.
The subway stops and she gets out on the platform. She checks her watch. He should be home by now, unless a case is running late. Maybe he'll have remembered to start dinner. She hopes he has, because there's a reassuring feeling to that, to walking in the door and smelling dinner baking. It means he hasn't had to stay late at the office. It means that he isn't sitting at his desk, staring at grisly photographs of some poor person's dead body, and trying to figure out who killed them. It means that his gun isn't in a holster on his hip. It means that he isn't out there, where someone could kill him.
She walks two blocks to the apartment, a nice brisk walk. It's getting dark out and she hurries her steps, because he worries when she's out too late. He worries about her more than most of her friends' husbands worry about them, probably because he's a cop and is faced every day with the dark side of human nature.
When she unlocks the front door of the apartment and goes inside, she sees him sitting on the couch. He springs up at her approach; she locks the door and takes off her coat.
"You should have called," he says. "I'd've come picked you up if I knew you were going to be working later than I was."
"I'm okay," she says. "See? All here. Safe and sound."
He hugs her, then, and holds her close for a minute.
"Is supper started?"
"No, but there's pizza in the freezer. I wasn't really hungry."
She doesn't ask why, just goes into the kitchen and pulls out the pizza. He follows her.
"No, I'll do it, it's okay."
She smiles and lets him take the pizza, retreats to the other side of the kitchen to lean against the counter. He watches her for a minute.
"You been thinking about what I said yesterday?"
"Yeah, a little."
"I mean, we're not getting any younger," he says.
"I know."
"So you think... maybe...?"
"Give me a while to think on it," she says.
"I've got five siblings, y'know," he says. "Two people in a home, that seems kind of empty to me."
"We could get a dog."
"Come on, Shirl."
"The timing's bad," she says. "We're short on staff right now. I'm not sure if I could get maternity leave."
"Shirl, we don't need you to work," he says.
"I want to. It keeps me honest," she says. "But in a few months, maybe. I'll talk to some of the administrators, give them some advance warning."
"And then?"
"We'll see."
He crosses the kitchen to take her in his arms, and for a minute she can forget it all. They're just Tony and Shirley Profaci, two young marrieds about to start a family. Nothing else. The worry can wait 'till later.

end


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