As I mentioned in my previous story, I don’t live in a great neighborhood. There are obvious disadvantages to this (also mentioned in my previous story) but there are benefits as well. Here is an example of one of those (well, sort of)…
I went to bed happy the night before, because I knew I was flying home in the morning. I would be leaving this swamp (a swamp that I do love very much, but still a swamp nonetheless) and heading to the redwood mountains that I loved as a child. It was this image of nostalgic warmth that lulled me to sleep. And there I stayed, until…
BANG BANG BANG!
I woke up with a yelp of fright (I mean this literally, I have this weird thing where if I’m awoken unexpectedly by loud noises I unleash a pitiful yelp for help), and scanned the area for danger.
BANG BANG BANG!
No danger in my room. I realized I was okay. Then I checked the time. 6:20 am. Shit. My alarm clock was supposed to wake me up twenty minutes ago. I proceeded to fumble with my stupid clock, cursing its incompetence while trying to find the reason why it didn’t go off.
BANG BANG BANG!
Fuck. I had set my alarm clock for PM not AM. The classic blunder! I thanked God for whoever was making that infernal banging noise. If it wasn’t for that, I might have slept right through my flight.
BANG BANG BANG!
Who the hell was making that noise though, I wondered. Perhaps it was my roommate, locked out possibly, trying to get me to hear his knocking from all the way in my room.
Figuring that was exactly what it was, I go to the door in just my boxers, so I could surprise him with the sight of my hairy, pale/red body.
BANG BANG BANG!
I opened the door to find a team of SWAT police facing me. Guns at their sides, bullet proof vests on, the whole bit. And judging by their facial reactions I could tell they were just as surprised at the sight of me as I was of them. “What the hell is this white boy doing living in this ghetto, and why is he so hairy and pale and red?” they seemed to be asking.
After this initial awkwardness passed, the leader of this pack, a square-jawed, fit man who slightly resembled an older version of Deputy Junior from Reno 911, stepped forward and threw a picture in my face and asked me if I recognized the man in it. The picture was incredibly grainy, but despite that, I could still clearly see that this was a picture of my next door neighbor Emil. I could even make out the tattoo tear drop on his left cheek, a tattoo that always made me wonder about him. He seemed like a nice enough dude, but wasn’t that tear drop tattoo strictly for those who had killed someone? Is that why they were here? To arrest a murderer??
The SWAT LEADER repeated his question, had I seen this man? But all I could do was think back to the past encounters I had with Emil. He was always good to me. I recalled this one time when my brother was in town and he gave both of us a beer as we were heading into a taxi. I also remembered that he was usually a very horny young man. Whenever a girl came to the house, he would pretty much interrogate me later about if she liked to get down and if she had any friends. That always made me feel uncomfortable.
Now I was getting interrogated by this SWAT leader and felt even more uncomfortable. If I identified the man in the picture, would that make me a narc? Or even worse, a snitch? Wait, is a snitch worse than a narc, I wondered? I wasn’t sure… I knew that snitches get stitches, but what do narcs get...
“Hey man,” Deputy Junior interrupted my thought process. “if you know this guy and you want to do the right thing, just tell us.” He was using the good cop strategy on me, and it was working. Why shouldn’t I be honest with this cop, he’s just trying to do his job. On the other hand, I didn't want to die... with one foot firmly over each side of the fence, I responded: “Well, he might be this guy that lives next door, maybe you should knock on his door and see if he’s there…”
I needed to hurry. My wake up call and interaction with the New Orleans’ Finest had left me with just 15 minutes to pack before my cab was going to pick me up from the airport. I grabbed my suitcase from my closet, opened it up and then pulled out my list of things to pack.
As I looked at my list, I could hear the SWAT Team playing bad cop with the apartment next door.
-A week’s worth of socks.
“Where is your brother, asshole?!”
“Fuck you, I want my lawyer!”
- T-shirts, casual. And a few dress shirts.
“Where is your brother? Just tell us where he is!!”
- Hiking boots, Chapstick
“I’m not telling you anything!”
I’m not sure exactly when, but at a certain point I no longer felt like I was packing for a vacation home, it felt more like I was fleeing for my safety. I had pointed the finger at the neighborhood criminal element, and now I was going into the witness protection program.
As I threw in my good pair of jeans on top of the haphazard mess that filled my suitcase, another worry hit me. What if they hadn’t found Emil. I knew Emil lived with his brother next door. Was that his brother they were talking to, or was it Emil himself. What if it was just his brother, and Emil wasn’t at home? If his brother wasn’t the one they wanted, would they just leave him at his house, unarrested? If so, would he see his brother later that day? If he saw his brother would he tell him that he thinks someone put the finger on him? That someone in the building pegged him as the outlaw they were looking for? Would they put me in that group of suspects? If so, would they want to talk to me, maybe give some much earned stitching for snitching?
I zipped up my suitcase and waited for the honk of my cab, trying to ignore the escalating anger occur just beyond my thin wall.
“Do you want to be in a world of shit?! Because if you don’t tell us where you’re brother is, you will be in a world of shit!!”
Two minutes later I was throwing my suitcase in the back of cab, trying with all my might to use my peripherals to see if it was Emil they had in handcuffs, as I dare not look directly at the situation, that might have been enough to convince Emil or his brother of my guilt.
The cab sped away to the airport without me ever confirming whether the cops had found their man or not. As we drove out of my bad neighborhood, the driver looked back at me in the mirror and asked:
“So where you going, buddy?”
“anywhere but here man, this place is just too hot right now.”