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Fragment: Notes on Police

2011, 9 January, 10:30 pm. Home, NYC:

Boom, boom, boom.

Is it always a closed fist, held vertically against the door like a hammer making three we-mean-business raps when they come?

“Does someone teach them that?” I think to myself as Francisco says, “Who is it?”, knowing, already, who it is.

The neighbor has been robbed and do we know anything about it? [No.] Did we hear anything between the hours of 3:30 and 6:30? [No, but we heard something at 9:30.] What are our names? [I’ll just give him a business card; that’s easier.] He glances it and smiles.

“A writer. Can you write something for me? I’ll call you.”


2010, Summer. Street fair, Mid-day. NYC:

The police don’t come but if they did, how many stories would they hear?

Mine: I was checking my Blackberry and holding the baby and pulling a bottle of milk out of my backpack, so I didn’t see anything but what I know with stake-my-life-on-it-certainty is that my husband did not, does not, would not steal.

Francisco’s: I was looking at what she had for sale and I reached into my pocket to pull out a tissue so I could blow my nose. That’s when she accused me of stealing. I don’t steal, and even if I did, she didn’t have anything worth taking.

The vendor’s:  You know, I’ve been robbed so many times by black men. He was looking at cell phone cases and I saw his hand go into his pocket. “Again?! No way another one’s going to fuck me over. I screamed. ‘Thief!'”

The vendor’s assistant:  I didn’t see a thing, man, but I heard my boss scream so I just told the guy to put whatever he took back on the fuckin’ table.


2007, December. Early afternoon. Home, Puerto Rico:

I had just finished cussing her out. In Spanish.

I told her I was hasta mi pelo with her mierda, that I’d been quiet for two and a half years but that when I heard her, through my window, yelling at our friend Freddy, telling him he was black Dominican trash and he wasn’t welcome in our building, that I could not and would not be quiet anymore.

I let her have it.

“I’m going to call the policia,” she said to me, turning on her heel, and as she left and I let Freddy in the building I told her she could call God if she wanted to because I just didn’t give un carajo.

Then, she opened my apartment door like she owned the place and behind her, two officers in chalecos de antibalas, sweating. “She threatened to kill me!” the neighbor screamed to the officers, pointing at me. “Que va?” I said, “I cursed her ass out, but I didn’t threaten to kill her.”

He laughs.

An officer comes in, the black one, and he says he needs to take a statement. He asks me why I have a knife on the dining room table, a big one. A long one. I move my hand across the living room. Boxes and tape. I tell him I’m moving and I’ve lost the scissors. I am believable but he still needs my statement.

He has no pen, no paper. No notebook.

“Un momento,” I tell him, and I disappear into my office, returning a minute later with a sheet of white typing paper and a black pen. I write down everything and keep writing for a long while. “That’s enough,” he says, though he hasn’t read a word of it. He folds the paper up unevenly and puts it in a pocket. He looks at my pen. He puts it in a pocket, too. I don’t say “That’s my pen.” I say, “Go ahead. Keep it.”


2006. Afternoon. Old San Juan.

Someone has broken into the rental car and they’ve taken the radio. We have to make a report. There’s a single precinct and it’s near the cruise terminal and it’s next to the cigar shop. The officer on duty is cutting his fingernails and he’s listening to reggaeton and he doesn’t have a pen either. He takes the report in a notebook with cartoon characters printed on the front.


2011, 11 January, 9:45 am. Home, NYC:

Boom, boom, boom again.

I look out the peephole. There are two of them in suits.

I open the door. “There was a robbery here. Do you know anything about it?”

I tell them what I already told the officer who wants me to write something.

The detective takes a pen out of his pocket. He has a white sheet of typing paper that’s crinkled.

He writes my name on it.



13 responses »

  1. Wow. Intense, beautiful, and revealing.

  2. I’m intrigued by your racist neighbour.

  3. Love the recent-incident framing. Great structure.

  4. Beautiful and moving. Also painful to read.

  5. Beautiful writing which also makes me soooo mad as a black woman!
    This presumptuousness and racism that just doesn’t want to go away.

  6. I love this! Tight and compelling – inspiring writing

  7. I agree with Reeti and Lola…….lovely writing, painful story. So sad that ignorance and racism still exists, so frustrating that those who are supposed to enforce the laws and keep peace can be so ineffectual.

  8. So powerful when events are written this way. Maybe a way to create change.

  9. This piece reveals so much without spelling it out in a condescending way. I love it. I love that you’ve assumed the reader is smart enough to understand what the world is like for some people without actually saying it in basic words. I don’t love that this happens and that you’ve (or anyone) had to feel any of it, but it is crucial that you have written it because it reveals something that many readers would not otherwise have any idea about. I don’t believe people are inherently unkind or unfeeling, but I do believe we are much more blind than we realise simply through circumstance and this kind of writing helps us to see a little more, bit by bit. Kudos.

  10. :0) Your Spanglish is del carajo. Delightful though.


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