by Dawyn Henriquez ’19
He was stocky, built more like a fridge with a magnet on its chest than a man with a badge. I didn’t even notice him walking into the pizza spot until he was in front of me. He stood what he must’ve considered a safe distance away. I saw his lips move, Cole coming from my headphones muffling whatever he was saying.
“What was that, officer?” I asked through a mouthful of fry, as I took the buds off my ears.
“Where ya comin’ from, chief?” he repeated, his hand creeping toward his holster. The gold and silver badge pinned on his uniform stared at me, reflecting the passing headlights into my eyes. Badge number 656. Badge number 656. Badge number 656. I froze for a second. Maybe a second too long.
“D-down the street, officer,” I sputtered.
“Oh, you live around here?” he asked, taking hesitant steps toward me, as though I were a dog he wasn’t sure would bite. I was coming from nowhere he needed to know, but I, of course, could never say that.
“Uhh, yeah, right on this street, officer,” I said as I tried not to grit my teeth, my heartbeat echoing through my arms and legs.
“Right. Do you have a gun on you by any chance?”
“No, officer.” My blood began to boil.
“Mind if I pat you down?” he asked. “Just wanna be sure.” It wasn’t so much a question as he was already in my personal space. Of course, I would mind. Of course, I wanted to say no. But of course, I didn’t say anything.
“No problem, officer,” I said. I got up slowly, hands up like every black and brown boy has been trained to do. The moment didn’t have to be anything more than it was. So long as I stayed calm, everything would be fine. He nudged me into the wall. His hand burned at the touch as he gripped my forearm. His fingers dug into my armpits, into my hips, into my thighs, in between them, and into my pockets. There was nothing there. Keep calm, keep calm, keep calm. My heart kept humming until he stopped.
When I turned back around his face was that of a kid who didn’t get what they asked for on Christmas morning: eyes placid and detached, lips pursed into a close-mouthed smile. It was familiar. It was confirmed innocence. It was another day survived.
“Sorry, you fit a description,” he tried to justify. I let the silence settle between us. My heart felt as though it wanted to punch through my ribcage. Heat seeped into my lungs. My knuckles warped and tensed as the tendons in my fingers balled.
“No problem, officer,” I spit at him as he started towards the exit.
I slammed myself back into my seat and ripped chunks out of my BBQ chicken sub.