He said my name. My legal name. A name I have never truly gone by for any extended period of time, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s still my name. So the natural reflex was to turn towards him. To make eye contact. It was a quick glance. I immediately turned back away. And immediately regretted having every looked.
I had seen him a few moments earlier. As I came off the Amtrak platform into Union Station he stood in the middle of three uniformed officers. They had an appearance that they were waiting for someone. For whatever reason, it never crossed my mind that I could be that someone. I was multiple states from home. I am a nobody. What could they possibly want with me. I merely kept my place in the masses, made the turn into Union Station, and headed to my left.
That is when I heard my name. That is when I made the turn. The glance. That is when my plan came to an end.
He called my name out a second time and I knew my options were few. I could run. I had more or less been running for the better part of 24 hours. However, the lack of food, liquids or sleep were clearly taking a toll on me. I could just act like I wasn’t the guy. Like I had just turned out of curiosity. But something told me they had already seen it in my eyes. That these were professionals, and they knew I was their man.
So instead, I turned to them and pleaded, “Seriously? Here? In front of everyone? You’re just going to embarrass me like this?” As if there was some form of embarrassment taking place in front of the passing throngs of people who wouldn’t know me from Adam…less a person or two who had been with me on that god forsaken train for the past 9 hours and might recognize and gawk.
“No. We don’t want to embarrass you. We just want to talk to you. We can go in here.” And they led me through some glass doors clearly etched with the words Amtrak Police Department. With full uniforms including badges, tasers and guns, they were daunting enough. Amtrak police have the full authority of local police. I was more or less dealing with Chicago Police officers. Chicago. Not Po-Dunk USA. Real cops in a major US city. And the only real thought going through my head was, “How am I ever going to kill myself now?”
They asked if I had any weapons on me. They asked if they could search my duffel bag. They asked if it was okay to contact my wife and let her know they had found me. They asked if I needed anything to eat…maybe some McDonald’s. I just stared. Stared off to nowhere. Because all I wanted was to go to sleep. And to never, ever wake up.