The above sentence is what my wife sent to me recently in the subject line of an email while I was still in England. Even if a person is in the same country or town, a line like that from his wife is attention-getting. But when you’re in another country, it creates a little panic. Here’s what happened.
In the weeks between his college graduation and his leaving the country to teach literature in an Episcopal high school in Honduras, our 22-year-old son lived at home. One of his life-long traits is that he talks loudly. When he talks on the phone, he’s even louder. Also when he’s on the phone, he paces. And he picks up stuff and sets it down elsewhere, absent-mindedly. And he swings his arms a lot, gesturing as he talks, paces and yells.
So late at night, when he wanted to talk on the phone, rather than keep us awake, he would go outside and walk the streets. And apparently keep the neighbors awake.
On this particular night, he called his girlfriend on his cell phone, then stepped outside. Just before he walked out, he grabbed a toy machete that he had recently used in a movie shoot. (He makes good stuff. Ever see Nazbo Rap II?) A neighbor apparently heard a loud voice in the street and saw this madman talking to no other visible person and swinging a machete. My son apparently was mesmerized by the shadow he cast under a streetlight, and, according to the neighbor, said something along the line of how cool it would look in the shadow to hack someone with the machete. The neighbor didn’t know my son was making a reference to a movie effect.
Alarmed, the neighbor followed my son and saw him walk through our unlocked door. That’s when the police were called.
My wife was asleep when my daughter came into our room. “Mom, we’re okay, but the house is filled with cops,” she said. My wife opened our bedroom door and there was a police officer in the doorway. There was another one in my daughter’s doorway. Several more were in the hallway and entryway. Another was in the kitchen. And one more was in my son’s room, looking at my son’s ID.
“Is this your son?” asked one of the officers. My wife looked at my son. Everyone looked at everyone else. It was VERY tense. She briefly considered denying that she knew him. “Yes — what happened?” she said. The officer began telling her about the neighbor calling about a lunatic swinging a machete and entering our house, when another officer saw the weapon on the floor. “Is this the machete?” he asked. My son said it was. The officer picked it up, realized it was a plastic toy, and then said, “Did you just go to Comic-Con?” The answer was yes.
Then the tension eased and the conversation turned to Comic-Con. As my wife held the door open for the exiting officers, she noticed that the street was filled with squad cars.
In a later email, my son told me that he was tempted to quote Henry Louis Gates Jr. after his recent arrest near Harvard and say, “You don’t know who you’re messin’ with!” Or even the now-tired but still funny line, “Don’t tase me, bro!” But even he can dial it back when the circumstance warrants it.
As soon as the police left, he called his friends to tell them about the excitement. This time he stayed indoors.