Even if I had not answered the phone call from my family, Christmas would still have had drama courtesy of my neighbors.
As I sat down for my morning coffee and internet browse, I heard yelling out in the hall. At first I thought it was the usual "fuck you!" "No, fuck you!" followed by a slamming door that usually punctuates the end of a private fight; but no door slammed and the yelling continued.
After a minute, I went to my door to listen. The fight seemed to be about her family not respecting him, but he didn't "give a fuck what those muthafuckas think. Those n---as don't respect me, I don't respect them." I started to get tense. "Maybe they are on their way out," I thought, imagining them taking this spat down the elevator, through the lobby and out to the car or bus stop. "Or perhaps they are on the way in," I considered. "Of course, if they are standing outside of her family's apartment, isn't this a little rude?" My parents used to get into pretty much similar fights in the car outside of places they were visiting, so either scenario didn't seem that unusual.
The yelling continued, with no sign of resolution, so I peeked out. The man was standing in the hallway in his jeans and no shirt. He looked to be about six feet tall or more -- I'm a horrible judge of height, but he stood much higher in relation to his doorway than I did in mine. The women was in the hallway in shorts and white t-shirt. They looked as if they had just gotten out of bed.
Her voice had gone down by this time. I think she said something about wanting to make a call, but he had her phone. She said that she would go down to the lobby and use the phone there. She walked toward the elevators, pushed the button and waited. He went back into the apartment. When he returned to the hall, he yelled something like, "Fine! Here's your phone! Here's your phone! Come get your goddamn phone!"
Then he threw it at her. It smashed on the floor.
I backed into my apartment. By this time, I wondered if I should call 911. Had it escalated enough to call the police? I didn't want to be the white girl calling the police on a black man; but I also didn't want to be the person who stood by and let a woman get beaten. Should I call someone affiliated with the apartment complex? Then, I saw the list of "numbers to call" issued by management. One had a number for "noisy neighbors." "Perfect!" I thought. "They will come up to check out the situation and maybe it will calm him down."I dialed. Outside, the yelling had stopped.
The woman who answered took time to tell me "Merry Christmas."
"I think we have a domestic violence situation up here," I said. I told her that the neighbors were in the hall having a fight, that he threw a cell phone at her, and that it had been getting worse.
"Where are they now?" she asked.
"They've gone back into the apartment for now," I said. "But isn't that when things get worse?"
"Well," she said. "If they've gone back in, then they have probably settled down. We can't do anything about what people do in their apartments."
Before I could find a polite way to say "bullshit," the yelling started up again outside. With the phone in my hand, I stepped out into the hall.
"He's started up again," I said. "I think she might be in danger."
"Yes, I hear yelling," the woman on the phone said.
"Yes, they've started fighting again," I repeated. I stepped back into my apartment because I couldn't hear the woman on the phone over his yelling.
"Oh, it's stopped," she said.
"No, it hasn't," I said. "I'm back in my apartment."
"Well, if it's stopped, then the fight is probably settling down," she said. "Give it 15 more minutes. We don't want to have to call the police."
"Thank you," I said to her, and hung up. "The next call is 911," I said to myself. "She was useless."
During this time, I had commented about the proceedings on Twitter. Prof. Susurro gave me some good advice about being careful in case weapons got involved and on bearing witness if the cops came since the couple involved were p.o.c. Believe it or not -- especially considering my stories about my family -- I hadn't even considered the weapon angle.
I took my phone and went out into the hall again. I wasn't sure if I should go up to them. Part of me wondered if the woman would consider my interference helpful or if I would just be a nosy white lady who couldn't mind her own damn business. Most of me, however, was afraid that the guy would hurt me. Instead, I opted to stand there in the hall with my phone in the hopes that a witness would make the guy calm down. I heard and saw some of the other neighbors peek out of their apartments, too. I hoped that they would come out and join me, but I couldn't catch anyone's eye. I hoped that they called the same number I had, or the police.
The guy certainly thought they had, and that didn't phase him a bit. "I know someone's called the police on a n-----," he yelled at the woman. "These white bitches, Sarah Palin muthafuckas spying on us."
Sarah Palin? That hurt.
"Sarah Palin would bring out her shotgun if she were here," I thought.
At this point, the guy was standing in his doorway yelling back to the woman, who was now inside of the apartment. He started yelling at her about how "bitches" were the abusive ones, taking all of men's money and smoking the hall up with "bud" (now I know where it's been coming from) and then crying "abuse" when the man put his foot down. "I'm the abused one here," he shouted.
At this point, she seemed to be trying to leave, but she had his cell phone. He wouldn't let her leave and demanded his cell phone back. Then he told her that the "white bitches" were watching. "Yeah," he yelled, "the neighbors are all out in the hall watching our asses."
She poked her head out and looked up and down the hall. I waved and held up my phone, hoping she would take that as a friendly, helpful gesture to her. I kept wondering if I should interfere, but was still afraid that this guy would hurt me or retaliate later. I knew calling the same number as before wouldn't do any good. That woman couldn't even attend to the part about "noisy neighbors," which was her job. Nor did she seem aware of the fact that our leases say that illegal activity is forbidden inside of the units, and beating your girlfriend falls under the category of "illegal." Yet, calling the police still seemed too extreme; and, again, if I called the police, this guy might retaliate.
"Dammit," I thought, "this guy is intimidating both his girlfriend and me."
The woman seemed to be pleading with the guy to go back into the apartment so that their disagreement wouldn't be public. Now that I'm thinking about it, she probably had already been doing that, using the threat that someone might call the police, which was the reason he brought up the police in the first place. The guy kept resisting her, but his voice gradually lowered. Finally, he went into the apartment and I heard the door close.
Their apartment is the next one over from mine, but a stairwell separates the walls. If anything happened inside of the apartment, I couldn't hear. I heard nothing else for the rest of the day or since.
I'm pissed. I'm pissed at him for acting like that, for intimidating his girlfriend, for yelling, and throwing her phone. I'm pissed at my neighbors for not stepping outside like I did. If we were all in the hall, we might have used the force of our presence to shut the guy down (or he would have just yelled at all of us, too). I'm pissed at the woman who answered the phone for being lazy, dismissing my fears of violence, and for not at least doing something about the public fight.
I'm pissed at some primal feminist core, too. The day started with a neighbor threatening his girlfriend, and ended with the stories about the gun-freaks in Texas and my nephew playing a game in which he beats on prostitutes. I see a direct connection between my nephew and this guy yelling in the hall. I see that the men in these scenarios all have some sense of entitlement to violence -- especially violence against women. This entitlement is tacitly approved of -- or at least feared by -- by-standers precisely because it involves violence. This entitlement is passed on from one generation to the next because "it's just a game" or "boys will be boys" or "I was treated this way to, so it's no big deal" or "it's my Constitutional right." I'm pissed that I've always known this.
No, I'm not pissed. I'm furious.