Henry L. Weinstock knew from birth what he would be in life: a cop. His father was, grandfather was, uncle was, and God knows how many others - I never knew the final family tally. All I knew was I lived down the block from him and for whatever reason he took to me right away. His opinion of me always exceeded my own but the funny thing was when I was around him he got me started to believing it too. It makes me feel like a missed opportunity.
I've had time to think about it now and maybe it's because neither one of us ever found our identity. His had been force-fed down his throat while I drifted aimlessly. Henry, I believe, would have bet his life on my so-called potential. To him it was as real as the sun. Maybe I represented his own unfulfilled promise. I'll never know now.
On last July 4th, our traditional time of holiday, Henry put a gun up under his policeman's chin and pulled the trigger. It has been wrestling on my mind this tragic event. Not only because I knew the man but something more. It's that something more I have to find out. Maybe writing about it will help.
I intentionally never made myself part of Henry's running pack. The Cop and I don't mix. I never felt comfortable over at his house with its gun culture and limited outlook on the world. It was like stepping inside a pigeonhole world with all sorts of undeclared enemies. A natural nonconformist I found myself wanting to say things like, "Isn't it better to hug criminals than shoot them?" and "If we can reform criminals we can reform cops!" Dear God, I wanted to rattle their rigid cages!
Stepping out of their black and white house back into the world of color must be how a prisoner feels upon release. "I'm a realist!" Henry’s father would declare repeatedly over the years. Bugged the hell out of me. Finally I realized the only man who's a realist is the man who realizes he's not. Maybe Henry sensed my internal liberation from his father and that's why his face always lit up when he saw me. Ah, but I have prisons of my own, dear Henry.
What I regret the most is what most people regret: that I didn't say more. I was scared of Henry's father just like he was. But I thought if I spoke my peace, that his father was no realist, I'd somehow set off a chain reaction of events that would land him Henry trouble. "Who put these ideas in your head?" Then his father would come looking for me. Fear and pain are the gods of this world. Guilt is their godforsaken child.
But I suspect my never voicing approval was alone enough for Henry and oftentimes he'd confide his doubts in me. I wondered if I was the only one since in many ways we were not that close as friends. I was both honored and a bit burdened by his telling me of his true wishes, of hoping to escape his fate as future policeman of the planet. But he felt he was in the position of having to prove himself worthy of another endeavor before being allowed to pursue it. But how can that happen if you're never allowed to first pursue it?
"They make you feel small,
"By giving you no time
"Instead of it all."
- John Lennon, "Working Class Hero"
"That's just self-pity. What a loser. You can make time for anything." I was crushed by Henry's reaction to my playing of the song. I thought he'd relate and take succor in Lennon's truthtelling. Henry's livid anger shocked me. Not until years later did I realize his were the words of a boy who'd given up. He had to believe he had time - even without time available. He could never go against his father's wishes. He was steeling himself for a lifetime of lying and "decided" he would be happy. But it's one thing to make lemonade from lemons, it's another to squeeze blood from a rock.
In high school our paths seldom crossed. I heard about him. He was a bully, getting into trouble. I always imagined he was acting out his rage against his father, forcing his victims to act happy when pained. Magically, his reaction to me stayed the same, always with the bright smile. Still silent, I didn't tell him we were in enemy camps. I hate goddam bullies. If anyone had asked me, I'd of said he needed help.
But Henry by virtue of his genes was strong and good looking. He got girls though his relationships disintegrated. He was considered a "winner" by high school standards. Girls and good athleticism make you a god in those times so his bullying was chalked up to just "boys being boys". I ended up taking (for no reason) accelerated courses while Henry was just happy to graduate. After graduation, he entered the police academy. I washed dishes and worked part time as a fry cook.
So guess who gets pulled over in Henry's rookie year? It was the only time I'd seen him nervous around me, writing me up in front of his senior partner. It's like Henry was afraid I was going to spill the beans and yell out, "Henry doesn't want to be a cop!" I sorted of wanted to but by now I was already stuck in the cowardice of my ways. I pretended not to know him as he pretended not to know me. Neither one blew the other's cover.
In the forced march of his life, Henry had much that I envied: stability, status and a steady income. I was living on the edge, buying cars for $200 that would last two weeks before throwing a push rod to enter the car graveyard. Without a car, I was forced to beg rides to work. Vacations, savings, health care - these things were the furthest thing from my mind. Eating was all I could hope for. I've thought many things of this world of ours, but to trust it was never one of them.
Henry, I found out, had moved into a very nice townhouse. I knew this because for a while I was his paper boy. I never let him know this and thanked God in Heaven he paid through the paper's office so I didn't have to collect in person. To me, his house was the Versailles Palace. And maybe since I'd never experienced it I just assumed since he was living the American dream, he had somehow made peace with himself and righted the ship in ways I never could. "Maybe there is no price to selling out," I mused.
But now I can fit all the pieces together if I may. I mean to judge him not, but only seek a deeper understanding. I know that to many people those are one in the same so I pray you keep your misunderstanding (and hate) to yourself. It seems clear to me Henry never made any peace with himself, his father or the world. When I heard he was moving from Amarillo to the big city of Forth Worth I'd have bet money at the time Henry had made it at last, no fucking doubt.
Truth was, he was running away from his father. From what I understand they never spoke again after his leaving Amarillo. I don't know what the pretext of their falling out was but I feel the real reason was Henry's deep unhappiness with his life, that he was on a runaway train hurling him closer and closer over a cliff. I'm sure if I said that at the time I'd be accused of over-analyzing and seeing ghosts in the shadows. "He has a house and a car and hot women. He's fine, ya stupid schmuck!" It's true: we artists are spies.
Henry's secret life was telling a different story. Like many who try to compensate for a failing inner life he tried by pursuing greater outward success. Steeling his heart, he moved up into the Fort Worth vice squad, a big city operation. That was 1997, and there he wheeled and dealed for the rest of his next 15 years. Amarillo is a minimum wage town with minimum wage prospects. With the dot com collapse of 2000 I too found myself in the DFW area scrounging for work.
Temp jobs eventually stabilized into a steady paycheck for me working in computer libraries around the area. Finally able to come up for air and breathe it suddenly hit me I lived a mere half hour away from Henry and yet it never crossed my mind to look him up. Not knowing any better, I figured his success would cause him to look down on me as a bum. Yet even I get tired of my cowardly ways and I picked up the phone to see his reaction.
Man, did he sound happy I called him! Sure, I'll come over this weekend. But the person I found here was not Henry. Or maybe I should say it was Henry unmasked.
The same bright grin he gave me at the door was the same but this was a darker creature, a man scorched and ravaged by the flames of hell. Right away I felt the same sense of strict uneasiness of possession I'd felt around his father. And I still felt the same urge to rebel. "Hey, you're just like your Dad now!" spewed my wicked mind. So it was more than a little curious coincidence Henry's being obsessed with showing me his possessions.
I got the deflating grand tour of a house that made me wonder just how much a vice cop makes. His landscaped backyard complete with hot tub, a three car garage housing a restored 69 Camaro SS, and an interior of lavish electronics were all dutifully laid about before me by Henry much as a prosecutor would making out his case. "See? Can't you tell I've got made it? I've beaten my father!" He seemed to think if he could convince me of that then it must be true.
But that was just part of his putting me on a pedestal, I thought. Something was bothering him, I couldn't tell what. We spent a short while discussing old times in a tip-toed sort of way but the weight of our facades was too much and we both were eager for it to end. I never stopped thinking about him from time to time, like when I'd see a cop show on TV, but we never saw each other again after that 2007 meeting. I wanted to keep my illusions about him and he, I.
The newspaper article laid both our souls bare. Henry's suicide followed on the heels of a massive indictment of police corruption. Henry had been skimming drug money for years. I very easily could picture him doing it as a way to "get back" at his father. "Just because you're a cop doesn't make you a good man, Father!" Henry's anger never went away. It merely became bribed and driven underground only to erupt like a volcano on that fateful July 4th holiday.
Henry had hurt a lot people. Leaning on people for cash, knowing society would look the other way on the fates of drug dealers and pimps. He too bought into his father's myth of good guys and bad guys to perpetuate his lifestyle. Henry the good guy could never be wrong hurting the bad guy criminals. He tried to tell himself he was doing good as a cop. "Taking on the criminal element, protecting people." He treasured like gold letters of thanks he received. But good deeds alone don't get you into Heaven.
I've heard him spoken of as a good cop gone bad, that he got greedy. Henry was never greedy, that was just his cover story. His unresolved childhood hurt he never escaped, turning him into its slave, self-sabotaging his life in blind defiance until finally, in the end, simply anger for anger's sake.
Among other things, Henry's marker says he lived from 1969 to 2012. But I don't think that's a true statement. I think he came and went without ever living. Jesus Christ, what is the point of this world we've created? Who was Henry L. Weinstock?