Eli is pretty street.
Maybe that’s because he went with me, in utero, to, I don’t know, a dozen or more homicide scenes. We rode together in a police squad car. Took a trip to county jail. We attended a shoot-out together.
I told you this wasn’t a parenting advice blog.
As for the homicide scenes, once police arrive, they feel pretty secure. I’m not completely naive. Nothing is totally secure any more. Not even a school full of children, or a movie theater.
The ride-along. It was a slow evening. I did witness the arrest of a drunk man named Kenneth. He was sitting outside of a McDonald’s, wasted. The officer put him in the squad car and took him to county. Kenneth said he hadn’t eaten for two days and was hungry. I’m guessing that’s why he sat by McDonald’s. He kept swearing and the officer kept reminding him to watch his mouth because “There was a lady in the car.” Kenneth did not believe this. He couldn’t see me, even though I was in the front seat. The officer worried Kenneth would barf in the back seat. It wouldn’t be the first time. Kenneth wanted to talk to his mother. Then he remembered she was dead. He didn’t mind so much going to jail; he just wanted to eat. On the way into the jail, Kenneth walked straight into a glass door. Nobody laughed.
County was crazy. Two small officers were checking in an alarmingly giant man near my officer, Kenneth and I. Blond twins sat on a bench, handcuffed to a metal rail. A female county employee messing with the jailed folks’ stuff was giving every officer who walked in a hard time, just bustin chops. A bunch of women in a glass room stared at me. I went and sat in the squad car after less than five minutes in there. The big man was too free for my taste.
The shoot-out wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds. It was called a shoot-out over the scanner, but it turns out it was a hostage situation. No bullets were exchanged between a man in a home and officers outside. The media were kept far back. I stood behind an ambulance, just in case. There was a little girl being held hostage in the home by her father. She lived. We later learned her father shot himself before officers had even arrived. I breathed a sigh of relief when the little girl ran out of the home and into the arms of an officer. He put the child in the outstretched arms of her mother. The dead man’s mother wasn’t so lucky. Her name was Wendy. She grieved hard.
My pregnancy bonded me to my interview subjects at times.
The nicest grieving family I ever met invited me into their home and insisted I sit down, drink bottled water and take a giant plate of Middle Eastern food home with me. I was not getting out the door unless I had a plate of food. The family’s son was killed in the parking lot of Target. A man shot him during a road rage incident. They were devastated and they wanted to talk. His mother clutched his photo and let me take her portrait like that. They were American, but from Palestine, which America does not acknowledge as existing. The man who died was young, in his early 20s. He had a young son himself. The dead man’s father had flown in from Jordan and was at the house. Dad did not speak English, but the grieving relatives were talking to me in English. That’s how his father did not yet know his son was dead. Family members told him his son was in the hospital as to not upset him too much for the long journey over. After I left, they were going to deliver the news. Actually, I don’t know if they were being this nice to me because I was pregnant or because this was just their custom with strangers. Either way, they were glad I showed up to ask questions.
The mother of a man who died days after police officers cracked his rib as they arrested him was tickled she guessed correctly I was going to have a boy.
“He’s sitting real low, mmhmm,” she said, smiling. Her son died alone in the hospital, of pneumonia. The department neglected to tell them he was there, the family said, a claim police refuted. Mom was outside of the police station to protest the handling of the investigation, along with other family members,friends and an attorney. Some of them wore T-shirts with the man’s picture and the words “Cover up.”
I was a strange creature, a weird amalgamation of life and death, growing a baby, chugging out copy on violence.
Eli is a tough little fella.
I started a You Tube account to spread awareness about cystic fibrosis.
I guess I bring all of this up because as I perused royalty-free tracks in iTunes, the one that caught my ear was called something like “urban baby beat.” I thought it represented our time on the streets together quite well.