My neighbor’s college age son and his friend take over the grill. The first round of food is done so it’s a little slower. I sit in a chair next to Darren who’s holding his infant son in his arms as he sleeps.
We talk in quiet voices about the chaos of the last few days. We share a bond from all of the calls that we’ve handled together. We take comfort in having a sympathetic comrade living just three doors away. The rest of our neighbors on our street are completely ignorant of the street life that we frequent in our working hours. They watched the news and saw the watered down version of what happened. Darren and I know the real story yet we keep it to ourselves as most people are uncomfortable with reality.
This suburban neighborhood is sheltered from the poverty and desperation of the inner city. With our manicured lawns, home owners association, community pool, and golf course weaving throughout the neighborhood we are a microcosm of self imposed delusion.
Darren and I are interlopers in both worlds; chameleons that quietly navigate between two realities. Blue collar workers living in a white collar neighborhood; our names stenciled on our uniforms, on a first name basis with the homeless, addicts, gang-bangers, and prostitutes of the city. Yet also the friendly neighbor who offers to take the garbage cans in from the curb, picks up the newspaper, and dog sit when others are on vacation.
Darren quietly voices concern for his children; wondering how he will impart the realities of life to them while protecting them from the very same realities. I don’t have a good answer for him, it’s a dichotomy that parents first struggled with shortly after the first city was settled and supported by the produce of the surrounding farms. Sitting in the shade watching the smoke from the BBQ, happy children playing, friendly neighbors talking, infant son asleep on Darren’s chest, we share a comfortable silence and a beer.