Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Boy hits girl, girl goes back to boy

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.


  1. We've had three altercations on our corner this year between men and women. I call the cops. They came twice, time lapsed enough to miss the action.

    The action seems to be aware of this. They go just in time. I get plates when cars are involved. I get real worked up. Always disturbing even though we don't exactly live in a "quiet" neighborhood.

    The cops don't like the male-female disputes. We've all seen it -a crowd finally breaks it up and she chases him. Or, like you, you see them together soon enough. Public displays of bad behavior, male possessiveness, poor judgement, reckless physicality, and the passion for a fight.

    I watch for cues to get involved and always call cops in case I must.

  2. I'm not sure why we did not call the cops. It was odd that not one of us suggested it. It is my usual reaction, too. A couple of years ago on Smith Street a guy hits a woman, I call cops, and follow. Within a minute they're surrounded. Cops hate it because inevitably the woman will not press charges.

  3. yep, that's what some say about a 'bad' neighborhood near my own: the police (it is rumored) won't even respond to 'family' disputes because no one will press charges.

    Coincidentally today I was in the corner liquor store getting an empty box, and saw a woman whose face was clearing of black and blues.

    Do what you can do. There are other ways to get involved that will help (within the community): support community members OF those families- the folks who can spread examples of preventative measures etc.

    Meanwhile, fie on those green tomato worms, and lorb Vincent and your beeg, blag, Dominican cad. I can't get enough.

  4. We should have called the cops. She's a kid. Her parents either have no idea or are part of the problem.


  5. You did the right things. And unfortunately, it gives you more experience in handling these situations...for next time. Always be careful...and yes, call the cops.

  6. Marie,
    Your heart was in it, but sadly, it's a losing battle.

    I made the mistake of getting involved in a public domestic abuse situation a NY Ranger game at MSG!!!

    The rage on that young man's (animal) face, as he told me to F off and mind my own business. I thought he would kill my husband.
    The pretty thin gal ran after him crying and begging after he punched her in the face in public.

    It's a sad situation and I never understood how women go back to these types. It's epidemic, and we need to teach young women that this behavior is not acceptable EVER.

  7. It may take a long time, but this young woman will realize that she was helped by a number of women when this happened. That may be a first for her.

  8. Marie, I am glad that you acted in her behalf; now she knows that not everyone finds this behavior acceptable.She also knows that sometimes caring individuals will get involved and offer her help if she is willing to accept it. Maybe next time she will. You rock :)

  9. wow that is so so sad, and she is just a child at 14. Good job for stepping in. If enough people do that and yell "HEY" she'll see that her relationship is totally not normal and not okay.

  10. It's sad but true that the woman usually doesn't press charges. Fear prevents it, yet it is fear that got the situation thus far. A knot that cannot be undone without great courage. I know this.

  11. God. So young and already in a pattern of abuse. Heartbreaking.

  12. How sad. Very glad that you're OK, & weren't hit yourself. Around here, once the cops come, it doesn't matter if the woman presses charges. If physical evidence presents itself, the arrest is made. It's a scary thing, to leave an abuser. Unless a person can leave town & become anonymous, she can be in graver danger than if she stayed :(

  13. You write so beautifully I felt like I was with you on the street. You were so brave by the way because I don't know how many people also saw what you saw and chose to keep on walking. Have faith in knowing you did the right thing no matter what the outcome.


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