You never know, with a fight.
I was walking down Congress Street to go grocery shopping a couple of weeks ago. It was raining hard and I stopped to take a picture of the big green linden trees in the rain. I heard two voices, fighting. Female, male. Coming from Clinton Street, which I was approaching. Soon I could see the altercation, still about 100 feet away, two people on the sidewalk facing off, shouting. And then he lunged, pushed, she fell back, and he went after her, very fast, fist raised and punching. I yelled as loudly as I could. HEY!
I made a big noise. He peeled off and headed towards Cobble Hill Park, and towards me.
I worried for a second that this guy might be armed. I didn't think gun, I thought knife. I really didn't want to get involved with a knife. I did not have my cellphone - it was back at home, charging. But he was walking away fast, looking at me and then at her, over his shoulder. Not taller than me, slightly built. I was more interested in seeing how she was than in taking off after him.
She was young. Very young. A kid. Skinny, with long, blondish-brown hair, a small, pretty face. Getting up from the wet tarmac where she had fallen between two parked cars. Her little white hotpants were muddied, kohl-lined eyes streaked, a gob of what looked like spit on her cheek. She cried and kept fussing with her hair, trying to tie it back up on her head. I held my umbrella over her and asked the obvious question. Are you OK?
And then she turned and began to walk away, after him!
Whoa! I called her back. Addressed her as sweetheart. Said she needed to stay put, that I wanted to know what had happened. Was he her boyfriend? N-o-o-o-o. Who was he? E-e-e-ex boyfriend. How old was she? 14. Where was home? Two blocks away. Were her parents home? No. But her friends lived nearby. I need to get you to an adult who knows you, I said. Shook her head. You don't want them to know? Another sad, wet shake.
By this time three other women had gathered, two crossing the road to reach us. A Muslim lady, scarf wrapped across her nose, a blonde, an olive-skinned woman. All three had been watching this unfold for about a block and had only now caught up. We stood around, tsking and discussing a course of action. The blond took charge and she and the Muslim lady took the 14-year-old between them, ostensibly back to the girl's friends' house in Brooklyn Heights. Frankly, I was relieved to be shot of it.
The third woman and I stood in the rain under our umbrellas and commiserated. I know her, she said, I recognize her from the neighborhood.
The reason I am telling this story now is that I saw them yesterday afternoon. The girl, and the boy. Together. Walking down Court Street in the sunlight, his arm draped proprietorially over her thin shoulders, a look of deep self satisfaction on both their faces. His red gangsta cap on a little sideways, an un-Hipster tattoo up his arm, a smirk on his lips. She looked like a cat that had eaten a very small, tasty canary.
I stopped. I turned and stared. I nearly took a picture, then mentally slapped myself. The owner of Pacific Gourmet watched me with interest from his perch on the sidewalk - something had cracked my aloof facade. I turned back and went in and bought potatoes. When I came out they were long gone.
I walked in their direction anyway, my phone ringing as I crossed Court Street, heading west and home. Vince, walking home from the subway, on Clinton. Where are you, he asked. About to go up Congress, I said. See you at home.
I crossed Clinton Street, the corner where the girl had been so wet and dirty in the rain, covered in spit. An old man and his small dog stood on the bluestone sidewalk, the man saying to his dog, Let's go home, now. A few blocks down Clinton towards well-heeled Warren Street, where the olive skinned lady said this girl lived, the high construction wall still blocks all traffic beneath the lightning-struck church. The steeple will be removed piece by piece until it is no longer considered a threat to public safety.