I was scared. I’d never had the police at my door before. Ten seconds earlier, I couldn’t have predicted that I’d be standing in my towel, hair dripping wet on the floor, defending myself to a couple of police officers.
Jackson had been having a tough time falling asleep and was up late that night. We hadn’t lived in our apartment long, maybe a couple of months, so he was about three years old. He was generally a great sleeper and I put him down without incident. That night he was sobbing, while I was exhausted and desperately in need of a shower, so I told him he could sleep in my bed. I finally calmed him down and told him I was going to take a shower, and that he needed to go to sleep, pronto. I normally showered while he was sleeping but it was a damp November night, I’d had another crappy day at work, and I couldn’t wait any longer. I gave him a kiss on his tangled head of curly blond hair and said goodnight.
I had just turned off the water, when the doorbell rang. I popped my head out the bathroom door and said “Just a minute!” while I put a towel around me. I was about to pull on some sweatpants when he doorbell rang again, along with a knocking. I peered through the peep hole to see two policemen, so I opened the door. There’s nothing quite like seeing San Francisco Police Department’s finest on your doorstep. How quickly my brain worked, thinking of all the terrible news they could be delivering. My stomach started churning before a word was spoken.
“We’re here to check on a disturbance that was reported anonymously.”
I told them I had no idea what they were talking about, that I’d just gotten out of the shower.
“Do you have any children in the house?”
“Yes, my son. But he’s sleeping.”
My bedroom was right off the front entrance and the door was open. Jackson was sitting up in bed, staring at the men with guns holstered to their hips. One of the policemen turned on his flashlight and shone it into the dark room, onto Jackson’s red, tear stained face.
“Are you alright in there?”
I told them he was fine, that he’d just had a hard time going to sleep. They told me that a neighbor was concerned for his safety, as he’d been “screaming and crying for 20 minutes.” Twenty minutes? I hadn’t taken a twenty minute shower for at least three years, so that was bullshit. Maybe I’d lost track of time in the shower, daydreaming. Although I was impressed at how quickly the police could show up, if needed.
“Has there been any hitting going on tonight?” He asked in a conversational, almost friendly tone. It was as if he wanted to appear as someone I’d be at ease with, and admit to hitting my son. I hadn’t, and was suddenly terrified at the notion they thought I had. Once he laid out the allegations, the pit in my stomach grew to encompass my intestines and I immediately needed to use the bathroom. They were looking at me as if I’d abused my child. Jackson was too little to say anything convincing without also crying because at that point, I believe he was more afraid of the two policemen at our door.
I realized that my breath had quickened and I could feel my heart pounding in my throat. I held my towel’s knot tighter to appear that I had my composure about me, while inside my tightening stomach and twisting bowels were doing battle. I’d watched too many crime shows on television and knew that real panic in this moment wouldn’t serve me. I calmly and quietly asked, “Is there anything else?” They said something about “better to be safe than sorry” and started walking to their car.
I closed the door, barely making it to the bathroom in time. I sat on the toilet longer than I needed to, crying quietly, while Jackson stood on the other side of the door doing the same.