By Terry Baynes
A young black woman cradled her pregnant belly in her lap, partly exposed by her tight blue T-shirt.
“He didn’t touch you, did he?” her mother asked with a thick Caribbean accent.
“No,” the girl whimpered in between gasps. She had the sound of someone who’s been crying for hours, whose breathing has gone into spasm. Her right knee quivered up and down. She periodically raised a hand from her stomach to wipe away the tears rolling down her cheeks.
To her right, her mother watched her through glasses beneath a furrowed brow. To her left sat an older black man; the couple had the look of Sunday churchgoers. The woman wore a colorful flowing shirt, her hair done up in an old fashioned style with a pink flower to match. The man sported slacks and pointed shiny leather shoes. He rested his beret atop his knee while thumbing through his cell phone.
On the wall above their heads were five portraits, members of Brooklyn’s 70th Precinct. The white men in uniform and identical poses smiled vacantly over the scene below.
“I asked him what’s wrong. He just gets mad at anything,” the woman explained to her mother. “My baby needs a father. What are we going to do if there’s stuff like this?” She ran her hands over her stomach. Along her arms were dark spots that looked like fingerprint bruises.
Her mother interrupted: “But why did he call the police?”
“I don’t know why he did it,” the girl responded. “He’s so angry.”
Her mother continued to ask questions to make sense of the facts. The young woman emphasized that she never asked him for anything, for money or clothes. She admitted to yelling at him for messing around with someone else. She mumbled something about what happened before, with a restraining order.
A young, ruddy faced officer walked up to the older woman: “Are you Rosemary, the mother? I can talk to you now.” The two of them walked out of the front doors of the police station to talk on the steps outside. Families of Orthodox Jews in black skirts, suits and hats walked past them on the sidewalk below.
Inside, the daughter and man stared straight ahead, with no words. Eventually, the man stood up and began to pace.
“Father?” another officer asked.
“No,” the man replied.
The mother returned after a few minutes, and the young policeman took her daughter back for questioning. The mother stared off into space. Her male companion leaned in, but she continued to face away.
A shrill phone rang out from a back office and only stopped after seven rings. Young male officers joked and laughed in the background. Occasionally they cheered as if someone had made a basket in a trashcan.
When the daughter returned, she was crying again. As she sat down, a young white woman in a nurse’s uniform entered the station.
“My brother called to tell me he was here about an hour ago,” the new arrival said. An officer behind the desk told her to wait. She called her mother on the phone and spoke to her in Russian. After a few minutes, the officer returned and said, “He’s not coming home tonight.” She asked to leave him a plastic bag containing five dollars, a sandwich, and some water. Before leaving, she asked what happened. “DWI,” he replied. The woman nodded silently and left.
With the temporary distraction of the nurse, the pregnant woman had stopped crying. The threesome soon returned to their own lives. “But why did he want to go to the police?” her mother asked again with no reply. She shook her head and sighed. “He’s not talking to his father, to his brother. He’s not talking to no one. He doesn’t even come with you to the doctor.”
The young woman nodded. “He’s ignoring the truth, the reality. I don’t know what to do.” She dropped her head, continuing to cry and wait.