Discussion of violence.
My face is pressed against a blood-splattered restaurant menu while I am handcuffed flat on the floor of the restaurant. On the pink paper there is a drawing of a sushi roll on an open book, the logo of my favorite restaurant, Storybook Sushi.
All I did was defend myself with a stupid jujitsu move I learned watching the Black Panther movie. How did I get here? Everyone has a backstory, the reasons behind their actions. But the only thing that mattered was what happened, not how it came about.
That night, I was at Storybook Sushi picking up sushi for me and Moms. Moms did not want to cook and there was nothing in the fridge anyway. Shrimp tempura roll, unagi, spicy tuna, even the simple California roll, I loved them all.
Like all restaurants now, with the Covid precautions they are take-out only. The few chairs were stacked up and pushed over to one side. I put in the order, but the guy said they were backed-up. Two other customers were in the small restaurant, a big guy, all belly with a dark complexion, and a skinny white teenager, pale and jittery. He looked just like Steve Rogers before he buffed up to be Captain America. Feeling claustrophobic, I headed to the comic book store next door. Walking out I felt my Nike's sliding slightly outward on the greasy floor. It was gross and hadn't been mopped in ages. Some of my friends make fun of me for liking comics so much. Say a black kid like me should be into sports. But I am who I am. If I didn’t have my comics and Avenger movies I would have lost my mind during the pandemic shutdown.
When I walked back in was when all hell broke loose.
I was just Living while Black. Everyone knows the system is stacked against a black man, but of all places, I didn’t think I would be caught up in any drama in a sushi restaurant. The cops knee on my back and the handcuffs squeezing my wrists proved my story doesn’t matter.
Whose story wins out? What is the truth?
Thanks again for being my Sponsor. They said I should call you if I had a problem.
-No, no! I made it through the week, no drinking! But, I was at this sushi place and well, I picked a fight.
When I feel trapped, all the stress comes back. Many of the guys in our Group can’t handle loud noises. I'm fine with guns or tv show explosions, probably because my hearing is shot. But, if I get in a physically small space, I lose it. I didn’t tell you this, but in the smog shop last week I exploded at the guy when he said my car didn’t pass. The new battery screwed up the records or something and I had to wait a week for a re-check. A week! It was the tiny office that got me going. After the mess I made in his little office though, I can’t go ever back.
It was hot, and people kept crowding into the small restaurant. I was breathing to stay calm, I tried to text you, but my damn phone was cracked. To type I had to press hard on the screen so I gave up. Then there was this guy shouting in Arabic, throwing chairs. I panicked like I was still in combat again in Wanat. 10 years out, and the visions flooded over me as if I was there. I don’t understand why he just couldn’t speak English.
My grandmother was an immigrant, my family has been in California for over 100 years now. Just because he is an immigrant, he don't deserve any special privileges. She and my grandfather had to work the fields. Now the illegals are coming, bringing in drugs and criminals, taking jobs from real Americans!
A skinny white kid, all tattooed up, walks up the counter and gets his food like he owns the place. I might have been invisible! He is just twitching and sweating, stabbing at his food like a woodpecker, a meth tweaker if I ever saw one. I know some guys in my group like that, can't trust them when they are hopped up!
That is when the black guy walks in and cuts the line in front of me. He is a gangbanger, for sure, in black baggy pants. I could tell just by looking at him.
My whole body was sweating, in this small space, I felt anxiety crawl over me. I closed my eyes to calm down, with the banging and yelling I could have sworn I was in Afghanistan.
So, when I heard the boxes falling, there was no conscious thought, I turned toward the noise ready to fight. A blond woman in the corner was spurting blood from her forehead and the black gangbanger right there. I knew he hit her!
I snapped and rushed him. In my head it was 10 years ago and I am strong and quick..
But, I am just a drunk.
I grabbed him, but he was fast, twisted his body and I was already slipping on the floor when I fell back. I hit my head hard. Staring down at me, I was waiting for him to pull out a gun. I don’t know what got into me.
But then a cop, a black woman rushed in. In a flash she had the black guy on the ground. I feel bad now, but I kicked the guy for making me fall down.
I was too out of breath to say more and started coughing. I went outside to get fresh air, and then came to my senses and left.
-The black guy? I don’t know what happened to him.
Thanks for listening, I needed to talk to someone. I’ll see you at Group next week.
Hey Bro, I had the craziest night! I was at Storybook Sushi and there was a fight! Oh, man let me tell you. You know the spot? My guy Joe works there as a cashier. I'm there once a week at least, Joe always gives me something extra.
When I went in, I skipped the line ‘cause I hadn’t eaten all day and my body was shaking from the chemo meds. Joe knows my issues and hooked me up with some potstickers while I waited for the rest of my order. Those potstickers were so good! But the cheap plastic fork broke right away, leaving only one tong. But I figured out if I stabbed the potstickers hard and quick I could grab them. I was like a jackhammer, bam, bam, bam!
I tell you, I knew right away something was going to go down. There was this thick feeling of stress in the air, four or five people standing around, all of them mad, waiting on their food. This old guy in an ‘Army Strong’ shirt was looking at his phone and cursing under his breath. He looked up at me and just stared, like he wanted to fight me! I could tell he was ex-military, those guys are all nuts. I gave him my stone-cold stare, but the meds were making my eyelids blink and twitch. Finally he looked away. Joe told me the computer was down again, so going to be even longer.
Their system is always bugging out, and Joe is always trying to fix it.
Suddenly an old man started cussing out Joe, in some foreign language, and then turned around and pointed at me, no idea why. I gave him my stone-cold stare too. He was waving his phone around at Joe, screaming. Joe had the Cook call the cops. I was thinking maybe I should just bounce, when, out of nowhere, the old man started slamming the chairs around. Somehow he slipped and fell sideways.
This black kid in the corner was near me, and I saw him looking at the boxes stacked to the ceiling all along the wall, and just when I realized what he did, pushing on the chairs would make the boxes fall- Boom!
All those boxes stacked along the wall crashed over everyone! To-go containers, plastic cups, soy packets, menus- all flew everywhere! One of the boxes hit this white lady square on the forehead- blood started pouring from her! I grabbed what I could, a handful of paper menus and gave them to the lady to stop the bleeding. Not that anyone else was paying attention. The Army Strong guy, out of nowhere, just ran over and attacked the black kid! Suddenly I saw Army Strong’s legs flying up, and the kid stood over him, flexing. That skinny kid must have been a boxer, he knew how to throw a punch!
That is when the cop showed up. Everyone was pointing and yelling at the kid, and she had him on the ground in one motion. He did not even do anything!
I bounced then. The cop arrested the wrong guy, but it will all get worked out, right?
I’m just mad I dropped my potstickers!
I needed the order to be ready.
“It's not ready- come back.” The cashier at Storybook Sushi told me.
I needed to make this delivery quick. My rating for this App is below the minimum, much longer and the App will deactivate me. It is not my fault, these restaurants are too slow!
The App keeps lowering my fee, and since the COVID no one tips! The App pays me $2, plus tip for a delivery.
$2 plus no tip is only $2. The App tells the customer ‘On the Way’ when I haven't picked up the order yet! Customers get made when I am late, and then they do not tip.
I needed the order to be ready.
I worked 8 hours today, 13 days in a row driving for different Apps.
After 5 minutes I went back to the cashier, showed him the phone, the screen said ‘The order is ready for pick up.’
I pointed, ‘Naraa, naraa!’ (See, see!)
But he did not look.
“Bismaillahir, Rahmanir, Raheem!”
(In the name of Allah, the Gracious, The Merciful)
I needed the order to be ready!
He shook his head, you have to wait he said. I knew he was lying.
The small restaurant was crowded, the stacked chairs were in my way! I grabbed one and lifted it up and slammed it down. The noise and the bang echoed my frustrations. I did it again and again and again.
“Bismaillahir, Rahmanir, Raheem!”
It felt good to release my anger.
I needed the order to be ready!
I reached for the chair again and slipped on the slick floor. No one helped me!
I grabbed a chair to pull myself up and-
Suddenly there was a bang, the boxes stacked nearby fell, crashed on all the customers.
I see a woman’s head bleeding.
Two men are fighting, silhouetted against the blue and red lights flashing through the window.
A police officer came in and ran straight to the men fighting. I walked out behind her.
I canceled the delivery on the App. I need to rest.
That was a sign from Allah.
-Yes, Officer. I am happy to help you out. My name is Quinn.
So I normally go to Shimzu Sushi, near my house, you know, but it closed through the COVID, so I thought I would try out this Storybook Sushi place. It had good reviews on Yelp? I had put in my order online, but when I walked in, I felt the tension, something was wrong! I should have just left, no reason for me, a woman, to put myself in danger. But I was hungry and thought it would be quick. Anyway that is what I told myself.
I asked for my order at the counter, When he gave me a concerned look, I thought it was because of my bandage, see, on my forehead. It was from yesterday when I fell, this Mexican boy on his bike just ran into me!
But this man did not care about my injury, he wanted me to wear a mask! After I ignored his stupid mask comment, he let me know there was computer issue, and the order wasn’t ready.
I remember looking around and there were two men, middle eastern, or Mexican, or Latins, and then the black man. He was glaring at me, I just knew he was trouble!
-Where are those Mexicans now you ask? I do not see them, they must have left.
And then I saw a white boy, with tattoos? He must have left too.
Anyway he was eating, so I asked, ‘He has his food, why can’t I get my order?’
I know how to handle these service people, you need to be firm with them, or they will run right over you. ‘When will my order be ready?’ I said in my deepest voice.
When he said 20 minutes, I told him it better be no more than 10!
Then I went and stood as far as I could from the other men, but there really was not a lot of room. I ended up near the black man, and look what happened!
Ever since Jenny had her purse stolen, or did she leave it in that bar? I pay attention to who is around me. I gave the black man some more room, got my purse onto my other shoulder and moved as far as I could into the corner, which was hard considering all the boxes stacked up there.
I was checking Facebook when one of the men just started yelling, I have no idea what about! He was waving his phone around, and yelling loudly in some foreign language. I thought he was a terrorist!
Somehow he fell over a chair, flopped like a fish on the ground. I saw him try to get up and then, out of nowhere I had this sharp pain, right where I fell! I saw the box that hit me fall to the ground. My bandage slipped off and the cut opened up again, bleeding everywhere, it was even worse than yesterday. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the black man lift his hands toward me.
I know he did it, he hit me on the head to steal my purse!
The nice white boy was right there, and had some paper to put on the cut. While I am standing there just bleeding, it got worse. There was a fight! Thank goodness, you showed up.
And that is what happened, Officer.
-Oh my head, it's fine. It looks worse than it is.
It was a particularly bad beating. Hate to see a woman with injuries like that. Boyfriend, was young, 20’s, however already had made all the wrong choices. The fight between him and Girlfriend had been going on for a while before the neighbors called it in, longer still before we arrived in the Black and White. His strength and the alcohol took over and she is going to need stitches up the left side of her arm, shoulder, and face.
Boyfriend was drunk, raging when we got there and not listening to anyone, especially me, a black woman cop. They teach you how to protect yourself at the Academy, but in practice you know your sparring partner will only go so far.
Out of control, ‘King of their Castle’ fights in their own home was a different ball game. Billy of course didn't help at all, asshole.
“You got this Seis,” he said, letting me take the collar, and the fight. Billy was still mad that I didn't pick up his shift last week. His veteran cop post-arrest analysis was that I went in too soft. Which is how Boyfriend was able to get in that punch to the back of my head. I can still feel the large lump. Billy reminded me of the Academy training.
'Go in fast and hard, and take control of the situation before it takes control of you.'
I was right around the corner when the call came in for a disturbance at a restaurant on Grand. I was solo, as Billy stayed behind for the paperwork on the Boyfriend so I left the flashers on when I walked in. I heard screams and shouts, so I did a quick scan. A black guy is standing over an older man, who is on his back. Looked like he was knocked down or pushed. Boxes and trash were everywhere, and overturned chairs. A blond woman is bleeding from her head, and a tatted-up white guy is helping her. The cashier looks relieved to see me, he must have called it in. An older middle eastern man, looking on with wide open eyes, moved behind me. OK Seis, follow the process and control the situation!
I have been in a battle already, and am not going to let this one get out of hand. I go for the most likely perp, the black guy in the threatening poise. No one is getting the better of me this time. Moving quickly, I kicked his legs out and pushed him down. I listened for the grunt as his breath gets knocked out of him, just like at the Academy.
“Police,” I shouted. I got a knee in his back and he was still struggling!
I pulled my cuffs and yelled, “Stop or I'll shoot!”
He stopped struggling, and I got him cuffed. “Ok, who can tell me what happened here?” Kneeling on the perp I looked around.
“What is the story here? What is the truth?”