J is gone, and we lost our dog this spring, and both of those things would bother me and make me sadder than normal at any time in history. But right now? When losing my dog is still relatively new and J’s out of town? Being home alone is a little scary.
I admit that I’m an anxious person by nature, and I maybe do scare more easily than your average human. And of course, in the society we live in at large, ‘woman home alone’ is kinda scary. Because patriarchy and rape culture have created both a mythology and a reality that are super scary. I mean rape culture is real. And patriarchy is real. And that socialization has real consequences. We’ve all seen and heard the stories of abuse and assault and stalking and harassment from mass media and our close contacts. And I’ve seen Mind Hunter and The Ted Bundy Tapes. Despite my general sunny, optimistic view of life and humanity, shit can get scary out there.
And we don’t have much in common, personality and personal value-wise with many of our neighbors, which probably adds to the worrisome feelings I have at home alone when J’s not here. I got asked a question from a blog reader about the weirdest thing that’s happened in my neighborhood (probably to see if I’d ever written it into a story, but I haven’t), and I’m thinking about it a lot right now, because J’s away and because of the rotating news cycle. So I’m going to write about it. It might go a lot of directions.
When The Boy was in kindergarten, he was at school and I was home alone with our dog. I’d just gotten through working out and stepped out of the shower to see our dog standing up on our bed (which was abnormal for her…she was a calm, sweet, maybe even kinda lazy dog, usually). Our dog noticed some commotion…it sounded like the wailing of a dying animal outside, which is probably why she was on such high alert. I quickly dressed and peeked outside. It was not a wounded animal making noise. It was the adult son of a neighbor across the street (who has since moved away) in the middle of the street, screaming. Apparently, he’d been in his back yard screaming in a similar fashion and occasionally firing off guns he owned. Someone else in the neighborhood who is more alert/nosy/social with their neighbors called law enforcement, and they showed up and so at that moment, while The Boy still had 45 minutes to go in his half school day at kindergarten, they had managed to move him from his backyard into the street. He was screaming, ‘Shoot me!’ over and over again at the police officers about 20 yards in front of him. The officers didn’t draw their weapons. I couldn’t hear what they were saying back to him, because they weren’t communicating in the same high, intense volume and attitude that my neighbor was. I remember thinking that I hoped they calmed the situation quickly and nonviolently, and worrying about being able to leave to pick up my son at school in the moment. After about 10 more minutes of what I guess I’ll call ‘negotiation,’ the police officers managed to get our distraught neighbor into the back of a cruiser fairly peacefully and without any injury or property damage to anyone that I know of. And I picked The Boy up from school on time. And I only told J about this happening since it happened until right now. It was scary in the moment. And thinking back on it now, it’s still scary, but for even more, varying reasons.
If my neighbor firing guns off in his back yard and screaming at police in the middle of the street was black he’d be dead now. He’d have likely been shot in the street right in front of my house. Or maybe in his back yard behind his house. But police took him safely into custody without even drawing their weapons. I’m grateful for this but I can’t help but thinking about how much differently I can nearly guarantee it would have gone down had the young man been black or Arabic or otherwise non-white or speaking English with an accent or not speaking English or disabled in some way beyond maybe substance abuse or mental health issues, like mental capacity or hearing impairment. I used to think that was the worst thing I’d ever see in my neighborhood, but now, over the past several years, watching the news and speaking with friends from around the country, I often wonder how much worse it could have been…how much worse I could potentially still see if there’s ever a call made on one of my neighbors who is not white. And white people routinely call law enforcement on non-white, particularly black, people who are just…existing in life. Like in a gym parking lot making a cell phone call, or ordering waffles in a restaurant, or washing their car in their driveway, or just walking down a street. I wonder sometimes how often the young man the police took away that day when The Boy was in kindergarten made a cell phone call outside or walked down the street or ordered waffles in a restaurant and never raised any suspicion that he’d fire guns in a suburban back yard and scream, ‘Shoot me!’ at police in the middle of the street because he’s white.
Anyway…that was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen go down in my neighborhood. I’m glad I’ve never seen anything scarier. I hope I never do.