She expelled another banshee moan. Head tilted towards the ceiling, legs spread across the hardwood floor, hand clasping the glowing screen. Her energy was that special blend of fury and focus. She chucked the phone across the room without looking. Fortunately, it hit the bed. Her head snapped back into reality at the distinct sound of the cheap, foreign-made plastic case thumping against her worn out, European linen sheets. She was the only thing in the room Made in America. In five minutes she would reach for her cell again and call The Irresistible Motherfucker (Tim) back.
The handsome bastard, piece-of-breathing-shit who had just proposed to her four days ago, who forgot to buy his fated plane ticket. So now she was alone, screaming on the phone in a room full of packing boxes that taunted her like open graves. She was crying, scoffing, and screaming over a man who had been inside her, but had never been inside of her apartment. The asshole that she drove across the United States for, having made three trips to Seattle from New York in the past five months. She loaded up one more bowl of sweet, sticky bud and reached for her phone. She exhaled a deep mix of smoke and sadness when he picked up. The curl of white, dank marijuana wrapped itself around her head like a crown. She was Queen of Falling Apart.
“Words mean nothing, Tim!” she spoke before he could get out a hello, trying to fill up the space between them with her stoned monologues. “Actions are everything and that’s why when a baby is born, you hear it cry and you say, oh he’s upset. He’s cranky. His actions define his personality because he can’t talk. Words mean nothing. All the words that you keep saying to me mean nothing and now I’m here packing up my entire fucking life alone while you’re there just giving me more useless words!”
She didn’t find it ironic that she was the only one speaking. She was too high, drunk, and heartbroken to consider it. The pain was what needed to be communicated through the decibel range of the screaming. The action of hurting him back was her aim. It isn’t that hard to destroy people when you love them. You know what makes them sick, what they’ll respond to, and what they will never forget. You have filed away the worst moments of their life several times over. She could paint a picture that would sear the inside of his eyelids every time he laid down his worthless head to sleep at night.
“Yeah you’re right, it was a good summer. We went on picnics and you went down on me in the park. We went to the beach and took edibles and you covered me in shells. We got drunk and stole a bunch of cookies from the co-op. You proposed to me in the elevator of the fucking Space Needle! These were all actions and they meant something. If you would have gotten on that damn plane to meet me here and help me pack my apartment up so we could drive back home and be together then that would mean something. But your bullshit words mean absolute fuckall and you’re a liar and a coward and the spawn of some stupid cunt in Seattle who couldn’t raise a son worthy of SHOWING A REAL ASS WOMAN REAL LOVE!”
She threw the phone again and it cracked against the wall; its metallic intestines glittered across the fading hardwood floor, proving once and for all that the bullshit protector had a fundamental design flaw. It lay there for a while so she could pour another shot of Jameson. Her mother once told her that her father was part Irish, but she lied all the time so who knows. The shot glass was a pacing mechanism so she could extend her drinking long enough throughout the night to continue calling him back. She didn’t want to pass out with an empty bottle and unfinished business. The three cell phone parts stared up at her, waiting to be reassembled. She liked looking at things more broken than herself. She took the shot thinking, at least something that she allowed into her body was there for her tonight.
The laptop lay open on the bedside table, she clicked again on the IG Story rant that she’d posted an hour ago. Only nine likes; three co-workers, three girls from her dance class, two random creeps, and her cousin Karl in California. She felt annoyed. She would have to remember to Tweet about it and get more hearts. Anonymous attention made her feel alive, a part of something bigger than her misery.
Wearing an old faded t-shirt and black lace panties, she belly crawled across the room to put her phone back together. To call him. She would have kept calling had she not heard someone knocking on her front door. The mix of booze and bud was like being underwater, she could feel the vibrations of the knocks more than she could hear them. All substances made her move like a gorgeous, hairless sloth. She thought about getting up for a full five minutes while the knocking continued, interspersed by the occasional doorbell chime. She sighed, grabbed a robe, gazed at a mirror in the hallway, and slunked off towards the noise.
For a millisecond, she allowed herself to think that it was Tim. That this whole night was a part of some elaborate pre-wedding hoax. As if that was something that quirky Americans in love did. That he had bought a ticket on the plane right behind hers, or he had ridden there with her, hidden in first class underneath a copy of the Times. Outside her door, there might be a group of train performers that he’d lured to come above ground and serenade her. He would be holding pink orchids and a bottle of Moet. They would share a glass, cementing their very adult choice to remain in a monogamous relationship for the rest of their lives.
“Hello?” she made sure to speak clear enough to be heard without having to open the door. She wasn’t expecting anyone. She was from this hood but still felt anxious whenever she went outside .A slew of old heads called out to her. Some to say hello, some to ask "for only 50 cents", and some wanted to enlighten her on "Where we go when we die." She only spoke to the ones that didn’t seem to want something from her. She didn't know how feel about this.
“It’s the police. We’re responding to a reported woman in crisis. Is this Shauna Jenkins?”
She opened the door because she was pissed off and wanted them to leave so she could call Tim back and maybe smoke some more. Maybe she should delete that video…
She must have been staring off into the void of their black-blue uniforms, which blended into the night. One of them clapped his giant bear claws in front of her face. Rude!
“I am Shauna Jenkins and I’m not a woman in crisis.” She motioned towards her apartment as if it could stand as evidence of her mental stability and health. Behind a couch covered in cat hair was the dull, tangerine chair that her beautiful mother had died in three months ago. Her body sat there for days while Shauna was visiting her boyfriend. She had hung pictures of her mother all around it. In front of The Chair was a glass coffee table with a big green bong, three Playboys from the 80s, remote controls, a bowl of dead batteries, and a pizza box. Three very serious officers looked at one another, making the silent decision to pursue this house call further. Shauna thought about how old that pizza box was and if there was anything left in it.
“Ma’am,” said the shortest one. He looked sort of Irish and like a small child with lumpy, ruddy features. “Your cousin Karl called us and said that he was concerned that you were depressed and suicidal. He saw a video of you slurring your words and screaming. Can I ask what you’ve had to drink tonight or any drugs, illegal or prescribed, that you’ve injested?” The eager rookie behind him took out a notepad, ready to write down one of the many controlled substances that he’d memorized. The one who spoke took out his little flashlight and assaulted her naked eyeballs. She shrank back into her apartment and regretted having answered the door. She wished she hadn’t left her phone in the bedroom. She wished she had never left her bedroom.
“Only some rose. And pills, but the normal amount. Not like a Monroe handful, I have trouble sleeping alone. And a little whiskey.Three shots in the last hour. I’m fine, I don’t know why my cousin called you or why you would listen to him anyway. He’s all the way in California, what the fuck does he know about me or my life?” She had used air quotes when she said Monroe. Despite this sophisticated flair, she could sense that she was losing them in some way, even though she was saying all the right things, all the sane things. They looked at her like she was something to be solved.
The third one, a Caribbean woman who had not spoken up until now, pushed past the two neophytes and entered Shauna’s home. There was only one way to respond to a suicide call, and that was with swift force. She had the other two in experience by a decade and resented being asked to train them. Especially in such delicate matters as an emotionally shattered young woman.
“Shauna, have a seat.”
The female officer motioned to The Chair, not knowing that the last person who sat upon it had expired. It’s not like Shauna 100% believed in ghosts but she had to imagine that her mother was pissed off when she choked on a fish bone, alone in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon, her only ungrateful offspring several states away fucking some anonymous white boy.
Shauna looked at the chair as if the stained orange seat had teeth. She instead pushed past the officers and power walked back to her room, where she had another lock on the door. By the time the officers had realized what happened, she was safe again in her bed, underneath the covers, calling Tim back.
“Now the NYP fucking D is in my apartment trying to take me away. Look at what you did! YOU DID THIS! Missing that flight set off a chain of events that I don’t think you’re prepared to handle the downfall of.”
A loud interior knock interrupted her.
“Ma’am, we’re going to need you to unlock this door.” The cops positioned themselves in a line as if they were on queue for the bathroom in a busy Bed Stuy bar.
“Go away!” Shauna screamed from beneath the safety of her comforter. “I know my rights. You can’t take me away from my own home without a warrant or my consent. Just go!” As she shouted, she burrowed further down into the swaddling cloth. She behaved as if there were somewhere magical to escape to, like that movie that she loved when she was little. The one she used to put in the VCR and blast every time her mother started yelling at her step-dad. The one about the British kids and the soft spoken lion, who was really Jesus or something, and a really mean witch and a gigantic antique wardrobe.
Through all that wishful thinking, she had forgotten that Tim was on the phone. He was a mumbler. The truth was that... he was a bit of a pussy. But a very sexy, rich pussy. And a pussy who liked eating her pussy. But still, too much of a pussy to hang up on her. A long dial tone would have been merciful. Instead, she glanced at the screen to read a cruel “call dropped”.
She threw the phone again.
There was a soft rustling outside her door. “Ma’am, what was that noise? We’re coming in.”
As they broke down the door, she heard the muffled sound of sirens outside. One of the little piggies must have called for backup. She became irate. She sprang from the bed as they entered her room, picked her phone up off the ground, and began to film them.
“THIS IS POLICE BRUTALITY. MY NAME IS SHAUNA JENKINS. I LIVE AT 22...” As they wrestled with her, trying to cover her half naked body with a nearby terry cloth robe, she continued to shoot the scene from various confusing angles. At one point, she kicked the pudgy one in the shin while belting “THEY ARE USING UNNECESSARY FORCE. I WILL PUT THIS ONLINE FOR THE NAACP TO SEE!”
“Calm down, Ma’am. We’re not going to hurt you.” The Caribbean woman rolled her eyes as the taller cop tried that soft power bullshit. They had all transitioned into serious police work once they entered the girl’s home. She knew that there was only one way to deal with crazy and possibly violent people. Making decisions for them. So fast that they would still be rolling their shifty eyes back into their sinning skulls before they knew what hit them. Back on her small island, she would have slapped the brazen bitch across her pretty yellow face a long time ago. But under the constraints of her new home country, all she could do was avoid being hit, bitten, or scratched by this bloodclaat maniac.
“Sweetie listen. They just want to take you to the hospital, check you out, and if everything is fine and they decide that you are no longer a danger to yourself or others then they’ll release you.”
Shauna glared into the woman’s lying lace. She was now cuffed, subdued, and seated on the edge of her bed. Now the officers were so close they could read her tattoos, the one in red ink on the inside of her left arm. It read “beautiful little fool” in old typewriter font and it looked like it was bleeding. She still tried to salvage any last hope she had left of staying home tonight. She used a voice that Tim would have used.
“Officers, lend me your ears. Do I sound suicidal? Do I look suicidal? Do you see any guns, knives, ropes, razor blades, or full bathtubs around? I do not need to go to the hospital in the middle of the night just so they can watch me fall asleep, ask me a few questions, and then send me home with hundreds of dollars in medical debt. I have been through this before. I am still paying off my mother’s bills, and she’s dead now. My boyfriend just left me and sure, that means I’m a little sad. But everything is going to be okay.”
She had them by the ears. They were standing around her in a crescent of rapt silence. It seemed as if she might be able to persuade them. She may come out of this night with a shred of dignity left.
Just then, her cell phone rang. All four of them looked around the room, trying to follow the sound. The woman reached over Shauna and answered it. A soft murmur quickly spoke these words into her ear:
“Hello. My name is Tim McCade. You need to take my fiance to the psychiatric ward. She is a chronic self harmer and has a long family history of mental illness. I missed my flight, but I’m coming in early tomorrow morning. Thank you.”
A few minutes later, the snow fell and disappeared onto another screaming white ambulance in Brooklyn. Shauna, wrapped tightly in a robe and wearing flip flops, was shuffled between two middle aged policemen. The squat woman was scribbling the last few illegible notes onto the official report. A report that no one would ever read or pay for.
All of her neighbors stared down from the privacy of their overpriced dwellings. None called out to her. They all knew her face and which parked car was hers. Some had known her mother back in the day. A few had even been inside her apartment to pass a blunt or gossip. The only words of comfort that Shauna Jenkins heard as she was strapped down to a gurney were the hungry mews of a few bodega kittens.
The red and blue lights bathed my apartment living room in a sleepless hue. It was the one right above hers. I had heard everything through the thin, rotting wooden staircase in the hall. I didn’t say anything. Would that matter? Was I expected to run down and vouch for the sanity of a stranger who I had had less than six full conversations with over the last year and a half? Was that question generational? Had anyone ever been a good neighbor in this neighborhood before?
She still looked beautiful, even though her face was contorted in that way Black women win Oscars for.
She came back a day or two later to pack up her stuff. Everyone poured in and out of her apartment all day, carting away furniture and boxes of dishes with these huge, inappropriate smiles on their faces. Some had come over with miniature plastic cups to pour goodbye shots. I helped her drag an orange chair to the curb; it was gone in 15 seconds. The hipsters swooped in to make off with the best stuff, like vintage vultures. I think a lot of it had belonged to her dead mother.
No one ever saw her fiance. Shauna moved to Florida, where every New Yorker I’ve ever met of any age dreams of escaping to.