They are celebrating. Another case closed, another psycho off the streets. It was a hard one this time. Six dead bodies, but no obvious common MO, because of that it took us a while to figure out we were dealing with a serial killer. The cases were not assigned to a single team and so we were all involved with it in one way or another... or they were. I keep forgetting that I am not part of the team. I am an observer. Funny how I could forget about that with Simon repeating the words "You are not a cop, Sandburg!" at least a dozen times a day.
What does it say when they are celebrating but we solved the case? Am I including myself where I don't belong or am I excluding myself from where I belong? I want to believe I was able to help, that I contributed something, even if I'm just an observer. After all, that is what I do. I have been observing people ever since I can remember. At first it was the families, then the towns we lived in, and then I graduated to observing whole cultures... observing all those things that provide people with a sense of permanence, a sense of belonging that enables them to say "This is who I am, this is my place in the world" with a certainty I have never known.
I am leaning against the wall, and they are celebrating. It is not a big event, just a spontaneous gathering at a bar, a few beers shared between friends after hours. I am here because my car is in the shop. I am here because I came to the station with Jim today, so I'm waiting. Waiting and watching. Jim is talking to Simon, H is flirting and they are all having a good time. I can wait, I'm in no hurry, and maybe my presence will enable Jim to loosen up a little. I didn't exactly volunteer to be a designated driver, but I'm here and I'm not drinking.
Without realizing it I have retreated to a corner, out of the way. Suddenly I feel a tap on my shoulder and Joel is there, handing me a beer... and I am an observer no more.