No one you know
I left the building to go find food, and I never heard or saw the crime myself. It went down while I was gone, and I was gone for a while. Doing simple things like looking for something to eat in the neighborhood always had the potential to make me wander. I could walk for hours. That day though, I didn’t wander long. I wasted only 45 minutes before I settled on what I knew I’d settle for: some Chinese food from a clean place a few blocks away. It was a cool night, and that was a relief: it was too hot inside the little tenement, and hotter inside my little room.
Approaching my street as I got back, I couldn’t believe my eyes: cops everywhere. Cops and cop cars everywhere. Parked all over the big fat trashy sidewalks of Bushwick. Crowding up the entire length of my own block on Chauncey, grinding and gushing on the other side of the street, I spied a multitude in dark blue. They were all cops, maybe there were thirty, thirty-five or forty. A lot. How best to describe them? The were like someone had just poured them out of a serial box across a kitchen table: messily running around, to and fro, milling like crazy ants, clumped in some places and scattered in others, full of engery. Whatever it was, it was urgent.
I stopped to gape and try to count their number with some of the other neighbors who had come out of the tenements to take a look for themselves. We were all silent, all on our phones; all of us had big eyes like dolls. Something big had gone down this particular night to bring half of Brooklyn’s police department over to the block. A few moments passed this way.
I was calm because I was curious and stupid. My sister would later angrily sermonize about stray bullets. The neighbors were interested too but not interested enough to get closer than the wide circle they had formed around the building where the cop-crowd seemed to be concentrated (their forms shown up by the greasy neon light of a corner store not far away). The cops for their part seemed slightly like people attending a distant friend’s barbecue. I couldn’t hear exactly what they were saying, but it seemed innocuous in tone. On leaving the scene of – well, whatever – and walking towards my place on the end of the always-filthy block, I noticed the true number of police present: all of them. I counted no less than 18 cruisers inserted at wild angles over any piece of land available. It was then that I caught sight of the helicopter.
There it is, I thought, lifting my head. The light swept over me for a second.
Thop thop thop.
Yes, that is a police helicopter.
Of course, as soon as I got inside my house I went on the internet. No media reports of police raids, no reports of shootings, and no the president was not visiting Bushwick. No reports of anything. I looked out my window for verification. Commuter cops from Staten Island were milling directly outside my second floor window.
No, it’s definitely real.
Therefore I reported the whole series of events to the Facebook æther, because that seemed the right thing to do. I went out again, and took a few videos of the strangely menacing presence of police everywhere, helicopter (still there), and now bunch of big vans with huge bright lights on them that looked like sinister ice cream trucks. In the pitchy dark I knocked my fist against the side of one evil ice cream truck parked oddly near the community garden.
Yes, real enough.
Now definitely convinced that I wasn’t insane, I turned off all the lights in my little rented room and watched from the window: this was only show on tonight in Bushwick. Cops were questioning all gawkers; I listened hard and heard the huge walkie-talkies. I heard the words: “investigation, shots, “ and “collection.” White cones were removed from one of the ice cream trucks. They were strewn in many places, and a police officer took pictures with an hilariously antiquated camera. It was gigantic, clownish, absurd, and made a ridiculous PSHHH flash sound when it took a picture. The camera had apparently been borrowed from a 1940s paparazzo.
Bullets were dropped into little plastic baggies before my eyes, and it all became said and done for the cops, at some point. The cops all converged like a big strange family in uniform, and joked with each other – asking about kid’s birthdays, and best slices of pizza. I learned they had to stand in the middle of the street, to stop us gawkers from messing with their evidence.
Well I didn’t plan to. I thought.
They all had crazy accents as well: New Jersey, Staten Island – lower middle class people who say oawganisms instead of organisms. Not that it matters so much to me; I was and am poorer than they are, and at the time I was also much less well armed. Most of them were white, but not all. The police party continued for an hour or two, no drinks were served, and after it was certain (absolutely certain) that not a single stray bullet, not a single severed human finger, nor a single cocaine-filled condom had gone astray and unfound: they left. They got in their cruisers, ice cream trucks and motorcycles, and sped away to the next scene, strangely happy in their Mad Maxx Water Cooler kind of way.
I was watching from my window above the street again days later when I saw the memorial go up. It was were that tight knot of police had been in the night, dimly bathed by the Rainbow Market’s sleazy night neon lamps. Keron Garvey, 24 years old, from Trinidad, shot in a gang-related shooting. On the memorial, it said he liked to sing.