It’s never a dull moment here at the Jello Manse. Sunday night, Unnamed Partner and I went out to dinner with our friends around the corner. A lovely time was had by all, despite my efforts at being a stick in the mud because it was, after all, Sunday night. We had a wonderful dinner of carryout Indian — mmmmm, chicken korma! Which was followed by several rounds of Rock Band. I worked up such a thirst drumming on “Float On” (Modest Mouse) that I had a third beer! Yes! On a school night!
We played one more song — I think it was something by Jane’s Addiction, I was talked into it — and then decided it was time to head home.
Well. It’s a 5-minute drive, at the most. Except, when we drove 2 blocks to the main road, we saw police cars with lights aflashing to the left and to the right. Uh oh. Unnamed Partner wondered if this was a sobriety checkpoint, but then we remembered that there are normally about 2 patrol cars in our district and no — there’s no way these guys are sitting here doing a checkpoint. As we drove up the main road I saw a yellow police tape across a side street and realized something must have gone down, like a shooting. Unfortunately not as unusual as it should be. We live in the city.
I was about to make the right turn onto our street when I saw a police van parked to block the street. Good thing I saw it — it didn’t have lights on and there was no one in or around it. So we drove on down to the next street. No van there, so we turned right.
I don’t know if you can picture it, but as soon as we turned right, there is an alley that would connect us back to our street. Well, there was nothing blocking the alley, so I turned right. Of course, it was a sharp right so I had to stop, back up, turn the wheel — it was not a speedy process. It was clunky enough to disturb a black cat which darted out in front and then turned around and stared at us. Unnamed Partner saying “Sue J, go on!” and me saying “This is not a good sign …”
Well, the cat took off so we proceeded to our street again. I parallel parked, we got out, Unnamed Partner hustled on up to the porch, and I was just locking the car door when I heard a voice say “How did you get in here?”
I turned to see a police officer approaching me. It was dark, but I could see his uniform and the telltale sign of a radio antenna on his shoulder. He had a limp as he hurried toward me.
Now, here’s where Louis Gates and I differ. I immediately went into “Yes sir” mode. I explained how we came up the alley (all the while trying not breathe into his face, aware of the three beers I’d had). He seemed to accept that explanation, so I asked him what was going on. He was eager to tell me that there had been a shooting up the street, and that the gunman had apparently run down the alley across the street from our house.
At this point, I said “Well, we’ll go inside and lock our doors tight, then!” And you might think he would be on his way. But you would be wrong. Because the next thing he said was, “Where do you work?”
I told him where I work, and agreed that yes, it is a long drive. The he tilted his head toward the porch where Unnamed Partner was sitting waiting for me and said, “Who’s that?”
In what seemed like an eon of time, I thought to myself, what do I say here? I don’t pretend to know what a black man in American society, feels but I know what a gay woman feels — and it ain’t always great. I have to say, though, I kind of surprised myself by deciding so quickly that the truth was the best answer, so I simply said “That’s my partner.”
Well, now. There’s six ways to Sunday that he might have responded to that statement of mine, but I sure never expected this one: “What’s she do?”
At this point, you might understandably think this was a pleasant exchange and what’s my problem. But I hasten to remind you: there’s an armed gunman running around the neighborhood! So I really was not in the mood for a chat about work! I know, I know. I have wondered whether he was tryiong to surmise whether the person on the proch was in fact the gunman and I was being held hostage or something. But then I think about the fact that he was wandering around our street in the dark, by himself, while all the other officers were up the street.
The name “Barney Fife” has occurred to me …
I guess this is life in the big city. It’s the payoff for having the library, the 7-11, the mechanic — all within walking distance.
But sometimes I wonder …