i can’t hear you.

sylvester stallone gained forty pounds for his role as a sheriff in the underrated, though uneven, film cop land. during the climatic gun battle, a blast leaves him temporarily deaf, and the audio is muffled so that viewers experience his loss vicariously.

though the diminished hearing in my right ear was not caused by a stream of bullets — it was a sinus infection that handicapped me — i feel a sort of kinship with freddy heflin, the lone voice rising against the corrupt new york city cops bent on turning his small new jersey town into a sort of playground for crime.

i’ve always pictured myself as smaller than i am, in both stature and bearing. in high school basketball, i pretended i was the guy dribbling up the court with one hand in the air to determine the play, stopping to take a three-point shot or making a behind-the-back pass to a teammate in the paint. instead i merely stood under the basket and leaped for rebounds, elbows flailing. similarly, for a long time i described myself as an awkward boy fumbling for his keys in the rain, although in reality i’m not nearly as pitiful.

i like the idea that good, however feeble, can prevail. for instance, this afternoon i had a job interview, where i began by making excuses about my hearing. i positioned my good ear toward him, still asking him to repeat some of his comments. in all honesty, it wasn’t really an interview as much as it was an information exchange. he was interested in my experiences, in an attempt to refine the strategies he’d already formed. he detailed his plan for the business, with me straining to hear his responses. at one point, he said, see sheriff, i got a sticky problem. my jurisdiction ends, in a sense, at the george washington bridge. but half the people i watch live beyond the bridge, where no one’s watching. he asked if i would consider helping him with the venture.

i told him that i was watching.


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