By Nathania Zevi
The fifth floor of the Brooklyn Family Court looks like a soccer field before the game begins. Two teams confront each other. On one side of the room women sit together, chatting and cuddling their tired kids. The opposite side is filled with men lying on their backs and yawning. Their faces show detachment and forced self-confidence.
A phone rings. “Yeah, yeah, very normal slow day,” a police woman says, chewing her gum loudly and staring at the ceiling.
A little boy runs is running back and forth and pretending to fall down.
Nobody looks at him. He tries crying. Nothing happens. He cries louder but there are no tears. “Stop that now Jack,” says a young woman. She looks too skinny to be the mother of two; her infant daughter lays in the stroller next to her. “Mommy is tired and can’t take this now.”
Meanwhile, two people who were once a couple step outside. She grabs his arm. He shakes violently.
“Don’t be clingy,” he says looking at his father who joined him in court. The woman starts crying. The father and son walk quickly towards the exit chatting about the Yankees when the woman’s mother appears.
“You should be ashamed,” she tells the man’s father. “They are your grand children as they are mine, and you couldn’t care less, what kind of man are you?”
At the elevator, a police officer stops them. He advises them not to leave just yet.
“You might change your mind and decide to give more money to the kids,” he says. The father and son laugh.
Inside, the women who will spend hours waiting to appear before a judge chat, bitterly, about men.
“Today is the thirtieth time I have drag him here to convince him that he has to act like a man,” says one. She points without looking toward a blond, muscular man sitting on the other side of the room.
The others nod, as if to say they understand her lament.
“Were you married?” asks a young mother sitting just behind her.
“Thank God no,” she replies. “I gave birth to his kid but I am not that dumb. No, no, he tried to put that ring on my finger and you know what? I ran.” “They are just diseases, aren’t they?” says a husky older woman who is sitting with her skinny daughter. “But what can you do, that’s the only way to get our little angels.” Her daughter smiles.
The blond, muscular man overhears the conversation. He shakes his leg nervously, rises and walks over. “Why don’t you just shut the fuck up?” he says. “Why do you have to say shit to people? I can’t believe you keep on making things up just to impress people. Nobody listens to you bitch”.
The man, it appears, had paid child support, but is now out of work. The young woman laughs at him. He comes closer.
“You can’t intimidate her,” says the police woman. “Step back. I said step back, mister. I am not going to repeat it again.”
The young woman laughs louder. The man steps back. The woman’s face momentarily brightens into an expression of satisfaction – with a hint of disappointment – for her small victory.
“And how much do you weigh now bitch, how much? Like 50 pounds?” he yells. “You are a fucking skeleton.”
“103,” she replies. A light crosses her eyes. She stands, turns and shows him her bottom and if she knows he’ll watch.