Lazily squinting, his eyes flutter than open to the realization that he was at least 2 stops further than he wanted to be, as he quickly reached-out to pull the cord, informing the City Bus driver that someone wanted to exit at the next stop.
He stood and was already headed for the rear-exit, as the bus was coming to a slow, yet determined halt. As he pushed open the double doors and stepped out into the bone-chilling “Hawk” of a wind, he wondered if Michelle's father would still be awake. He was way too tired and emotionally drained for a confrontation tonight. He had just returned from visiting his friend James. He had been shot in the stomach at point-blank-range earlier that week, during a scuffle with another youth, over a dice-game
As he walked, he fished in his pocket for the cigarette pack where he had several joints stashed. He found one and lit it. He had about a third of it finished when he checked his watch and realized the time. Shit! it was almost 9:30 now and he wouldn’t dare call-on the young girl after that. She (and her Dad, the local High-School football coach) had made it clear that he was NOT to come around the house after 9:30, no excuses.
So, after snuffing-out what remained of the joint, returning it to the cigarette-box and thrusting it into his coat pocket, he now broke-into a slow jog, as he rounded the corner. He was less than a ten-minute walk from her house, so he’d surely get there in a few minutes at his current pace. As he did, he could hear police sirens in the distance, their whining-blare increasing as they swiftly closed-in on the area. Crime in this City never stops, he mused; Damn. It’s Sunday, for God’s sake!
oooWerr - oooWerrr – oooWerrr! Whoop-Whoop! Suddenly, sirens screeched and stopped behind him and then in front; he was being surrounded. Blinding lights from the BPD cruisers destroyed his night-vision as he squinted through the harsh white glare, instinctively raising his hands to shield his eyes.
“Lower your hands, and do it NOW!” a disembodied, authoritative voice spat from the cruiser’s loudspeaker. And before Mark had time to fully understand what was happening, he was being rushed and then tackled by two Patrol Officers and forced to the ground, while yet another held him at gunpoint. Knees, elbows and hardened black Department-issued steel-toed boots violently pushed and then pinned him to the concrete, as he tried to ascertain what was going-on, and why? Why him? Why now? What had he done?!
“Keep your hands where I can see ‘em and don’t move! You hear?! Where’s the gun?! Huh? Did you throw it somewhere? You threw it in the bushes, didn’t you? You’d better start talkin’, fast, or your Black a-- is going to jail!”
“Get the F--- off me, man!! What gun?? Ya’ll got the wrong person! I ain’t got no gun! Shit!” Mark yelled, his voice strained and muffled by the two burley BPD Officers who now had his slender 17-year-old frame pinned to the asphalt. As he pleaded for a Hearing, the officers began to roughly search his person while continuing to hold him down, kneeling on his lower back and pushing the side of his face into the grimy asphalt. “I told you I ain’t got no gun!” Mark snapped again.
“That’s ‘cause you threw it somewhere, right?! In the bushes back there, maybe?” He motioned silently to the ever growing group of officers that were on the scene now, just standing there, hands resting on their holstered service revolvers, like cowboys prepared for a shoot-out.
His head, still being forcibly pinned to the asphalt, was beginning to pulsate with a crimson-rage, and he could feel the wet warmth of his own blood and sweat, as it began to ooze over and mix with the dust and grime of the city street. He watched with one eye, jaggedly breathing through livid thoughts and clenched-teeth, as a pair of boots broke-away from the others and hurried-off to his right.
He could make-out muted flashes of soft-white light, floating and weaving over the ground from the corner of his eye, as the patrolman combed the shadows for a discarded weapon.
“And around the corner too! Go back at least a block or so!” The officer was yelling now, every emphasized word causing his weight to shift and press violently on the youth’s supple frame. More boots break-away from the crowd. More muffled white lights displace the dark. More Crimson, more Rage.
“All right, so let’s start talkin’, Boy. Where were you coming from in such a hurry, huh? What were you running for?!”
“I was goin’ to my girl’s house, and I wasn’t runnin' I was jogging! If I was runnin', you Fucker’s wouldn’t have caught me!”
“Yeah? That’s the attitude you wanna take?!” Mark could hear him sneering, as he shifted his weight to press-down harder on his lower back.
“Uugggh!” the boy gasped and squirmed under the weight. “F--- Ya’ll! GET OFF ME!” This was met with an equally painful kick to his upper-thigh, as a heavy boot now stood on his left-hip.
As his world begins to softly hum, he can see more boots falling into line all around him. Flashlights being clicked-off and returned silently to their places on the officer’s utility belts. The Officers would report to the sergeant that they couldn’t find a weapon, and that maybe, they had the wrong guy. ”Fuck that!” he would return, “Keep looking! I saw him throw something, we ALL did, you understand?! Now keep lookin’!”
More muffled voices, float above him. More bright lights, questions and prodding, but the night was turning soft and warm, and he was getting sleepy. Just rest a while, he thought. It’ll all be over soon. He was so tired now, but at least the pain was gone.
* * *
Minutes earlier as he lay on the cold ground, yielding to the weight of the officer’s red-hot adrenalin and fiery rage, he could hear more sirens approaching. Having lived in the City his whole life, Mark was able to distinguish between the sirens of the different agencies that were sworn to “Protect and Serve” the People of Baltimore. So now, he could tell that both another Police cruiser as well as an ambulance were approaching the scene. The ambulance raced past him and the others, but the cruiser stopped, lights and sirens still ablaze. Mark could hear the newly arrived Officer informing the others, that the “assailant” was seen about four blocks North and headed East, on foot. The voice continued that there were reports of “…one down and one injured” at the scene, and that the Medical Response Team was on the way.
As the officers slowly released their grip and began to untangle themselves from the pile of bodies one at a time, they carefully held him at arms-length after regaining their footing, as if they were releasing a wild ‘gator back into the Bayou.
“Sorry, ‘Yo.’ - looks like it wasn’t you after all… You can go now. You’re O.K., right? No harm, no foul? Hey can you hear me? Hey - Quit pretending you’re hurt and get up! You hear me?! GET UP!”
* * *
As he stood, he looked down upon himself, crumpled and disheveled, a scowl frozen on his lips for eternity. But he was, confused; how could he possibly be looking at himself from this angle? It just didn’t make any sense. Something, somewhere in Him wanted to scream, to cry out to Himself that this wasn’t right. That He should get up and leave.
It’s Okay. You can get up now. Come-on, I’ve got you. There you go.
He couldn’t see it, as much as he could feel the presence of the glowing apparition. An angel perhaps, but he couldn’t be sure. It was all happening in slow motion, and without sound. He was no longer apprehensive, or confused, as he slowly reached-out to Himself, to wipe-away his own tears.