Photo by The US National Archives
“I was robbed in front of my apartment on Thursday night,” my ex told me the other day. “The guy said he had a gun.”
“What?” I squawked, genuinely surprised. It was the week of Thanksgiving. We were meant to be discussing favorite trimmings alongside the turkey, not armed robbery. “So you’ve lost everything. Keys, wallet, phone, etc?”
“No, he just took the phone. He said give me your phone or I’ll shoot you.”
In his mind the story ended here, but for me it fell short of so much. “Tell me every detail. It’s the most exciting thing you’ve said in weeks!” Realizing my voyeuristic delight had unsubtly revealed itself, I added: “Exciting in a bad way, obviously.”
He obliged me. “I was listening to music. I opened my gate, went to the mailbox, heard it close again, looked up, the guy goes “give me your phone I’ll shoot you.” I said “pardon”. I was stunned so he said it again. I’m like “fine” and took it out and he kind of ripped it from me. Then he was gone.”
I was amazed. I had never felt unsafe in his neighborhood or in its surrounding areas. He lives in Bed-Stuy. His nearest subway stop is Nostrand Avenue where the food choices are a fried chicken lover’s delight and the vibe is jostling and purposeful. There’s nothing particularly endearing about this strip of fried food joints, the Laundromat, the tired-looking liquor store and the stream of pedestrians and traffic, but I was fond of the streets further north where his apartment is snugly nestled. Stray in that direction and you’ll find the mood changes; it grows sedate, relaxed and more salubrious. The streets are broad and exquisitely sleepy. The neighborhood is gloriously settled and at ease with itself. Somehow it feels less gimmicky than Manhattan. Even the trees ooze age and wisdom. In the past I had wanted to perch on a step, sip my coffee and become a part of the scenery, although perhaps that wasn’t so wise hearing his story.
“I don’t think he ran away fast,” my ex was saying.
“Thank god he didn’t want your wallet too,” I was trying to console him, but he was still stuck on pace.
“He must have walked fast.”
“Where’s the mailbox?” I was trying to picture the scene with limited success. I lived more centrally and I didn’t own two cats that liked to jump on people while they were sleeping, so we had almost always stayed at mine while we dated.
“Right in front of the apartment.”
“Did he walk up the steps?”
“No, it’s before the steps.” He explained the set-up. “The landlord used to have a slot for everyone by the top of the steps, but now there are separate slots for all three of us at the bottom.”
“So did you have any mail?”
“No, if I hadn’t gone to the mailbox this wouldn’t have happened.” He paused for a moment before adding:
“You’re the first person to ask me that question, it’s a good one.”
“Well it adds a whole new layer of pathos to your story.”
It was too bleak a thought to linger over so we discussed whether he should move neighborhoods and if so, where? We drifted on to more random topics. We were flitting all over the place, discussing work, weather, whether it’s ever acceptable to wear socks during sex. And because he was no longer talking about it, not wanting to dwell on it, I was certain that he would move.