|By C. Dempsey|
It was sometime after lunch when I heard the noise from outside my office. I work in construction as a project estimator which means I spend most of my days scouring blueprints with a scale rule alone in absolute silence. This has allowed my hearing to over compensate due to the dulling of the other senses. The office is the converted ground floor of a residential building right in the heart of the bustling borough of Queens. I work with the door open, weather permitting. I am well educated on squirrels and their feeding habits, birds of all sorts, postmen and their uniquely squeaky trolleys and the laughter of various kids that play hooky.
This sound was different.
Upon walking out the rear entrance to the side lane to investigate I was confronted by an NYPD Officer gingerly making his way down the same lane towards me. He had already been defeated by his hard soled shoes. He drew his gun and pointed it at me. “Put your hands up” he shouted repeatedly until I did. I reacted as only a person who has never had a gun pointed at them before can react. “Stop pointing your gun at me” I said. We argued briefly back and forth until he shouted convincingly enough that I should turn around and put my hands on the wall and I did. “Stop pointing your gun at me” I continued. He didn’t.
Seconds later a dozen officers noisily flooded into the rear yard and surrounded me while the first officer asked me who was inside. “Nobody, I work alone” I explained not realizing how incriminating that sounded. They frisked me twice before asking me to get some identification. I went inside and pointed to my jacket which they would not allow me to touch. When my expired drivers license confirmed who I was they relaxed. I didn’t. After they explained that they had been called out to the address as a mistake I realized that they should have been at the other corner house. There is a big drug problem in the neighborhood and everybody knows about the other corner house. The initial officer pulled me aside and gave me a textbook apology. I followed him out to the street beside two police cars and a police van to fill out some paperwork while surrounded by a horde of bored cops. I joked that they should have known I wasn’t a criminal because I was too handsome to commit crime, some of them laughed. It was a stupid joke but I needed the silliness. Deep down I was just relieved that the whole thing was over.
I went back to work and tried to forget about it but felt uncomfortable for the rest of the day, and for many days afterwards. I joked about it with my boss, in a strange way it was exciting. It was a funny story to tell my mates but I left out the part where for a very brief moment I was terrified. Then I felt guilty for the lie, it wasn’t funny or exciting anymore and I couldn’t shake it. Two weeks later when I was alone in the apartment I suddenly became incredibly angry at the memory of it, teared up and flattened my knuckle punching the wall. Somewhere downstairs my landlord stopped shouting at his wife. There was silence, and I felt I had control over something again.
– August 2012
* New York Shots are those small moments that happen while living in New York. They’re so small that they are rarely mentioned yet take up considerable space in various notebooks I carry around with me at any given time. This blog was started as a writing exercise and I thought this would be a nice way to write shorter snippets of life in NYC. They won’t always be interesting but I don’t want them forgotten either.