I Called 9–1–1 This Year

“Take me home!”

The yelling woke me up. It was a little before 1 a.m.

I was pretty sure it was a woman yelling right outside my house. As she continued I realized it was an argument between her and a man that I soon learned was her boyfriend. There had been a party at his cousin’s house and it was winding down.

“Just take me home! I don’t know where I am!”

She was loud, and clearly upset, walking back and forth in the middle of the street. The boyfriend was putting on a big show of being unimpressed with her.

After a while, she switched from pleading to threatening. “I’m fucking done with you! I’ll fucking kill you if you don’t take me home you fucking bitch!”

She continued threatening him. Calling him a bitch, calling herself a bitch, promising that she didn’t want to fuck his brother, and begging him to take her home. This went on for fifteen or twenty minutes before he finally replied.

“I don’t give a fuck what you want. We’re done. Get yourself home. I ain’t driving you anywhere.”

She didn’t like that. Her cries grew in anger and desperation while he grew more aggressive. She starting adding “I only ever wanted you!” and “I want to fucking die!” to her repertoire, coming back around to begging for a ride home every other line.

She seemed angry, but also hurt, alone, and frantic. He seemed like an asshole.

After half an hour, which included a few blessed breaks while she gained her breath, I decided to go downstairs and get involved. No one else was intervening and the conversation seemed to be escalating. He was yelling back at her now. He had supposedly taken a knife away from her at some point and she wanted it back. It was a bad scene.

I didn’t want to call the cops. I’ve seen that go wrong before and I wanted to live by my belief in community alternatives to police. I wanted to believe that my neighbors would also care. That they would have my back. Maybe if I went out there, it would stir them to action as well.

I also didn’t want to call the cops because I thought she was probably in an altered state. She kept looping back over the same talking points, refusing to leave him alone until he gave her a ride home. She kept repeating “I want to die” and talking about her knife. Involving police seemed like a terrible idea.

I dressed and went out on to my porch. They had been yelling at each other in the middle of the street for the better part of an hour. None of my neighbors had come outside. There were no lights on. No blinds open. I couldn’t tell that anyone else on the street cared at all. I felt alone and suddenly afraid.

I sat on the porch, hesitant to get involved but not willing to stand by while the situation escalated. I told myself if I waited a little longer, it might resolve itself. Maybe I was overreacting. Maybe someone else would come out of their house and we could convince the boyfriend to leave. We could get her home safe and get back to sleep.

Then everything changed.

She started shoving him. Not violently, but more like a child when they’re throwing a fit. Whatever she had taken was affecting her motor skills. He was never in real danger, but the shoving was enough to set him off.

He threw her to the ground, grabbed her by the leg and dragged her down the street on her back, threatening her.

I came off the porch, furious. The fear was gone for a moment. I wasn’t going to stand there and watch someone get beaten outside of my house.

“Hey! You need to get the fuck away from each other right now!” I heard myself yelling in a deep, macho voice that I almost never use.

He swung around as I walked up, holding up his hands and backing away. He was a short guy and as I crossed the distance it became clear I was much larger than him. She moved around behind me.

At first, he looked shocked and afraid. He claimed he was defending himself and I told him none of that justified his actions. I felt like I had control of the situation in that moment and I believed everything might work out for the best.

Then he seemed to realize I didn’t want to hurt him. I was not an immediate threat to his safety. If he thought that, he was right.

Suddenly, he was in my face, stretching up and posturing to compensate for the height difference.

“Hey man, this is my business and I’m handling it. This doesn’t involve you,” he said.

My confidence began to crumble. I could only imagine how willing he was to hurt me, and how unwilling I was to hurt him in return.

I knew I was doing the right thing, but I also knew I was about to get beaten for it. I started to back up.

“I get that you think it’s only your business,” I said. “But you’re doing this in front of my house. That makes it my business too, and what I need right now is for you to get away from her.”

“I don’t give a fuck about your house,” he replied. “You should go back inside and let me handle my business, unless you wanna fucking GO right now.”

He mad dogged me. I don’t even know how to mad dog someone. The situation was slipping out of my control.

Suddenly I was the one who looked shocked and afraid. I was the one with my hands up.

My neighbors were still inside their houses. No lights turned on. No windows opened. I resented them.

“No. I don’t want to go,” I said. I let my posture drop so that wouldn’t look so tall. “C’mon man. I’m not trying to fight you, but I can’t let you beat someone in front of my house.”

The someone in question chose that moment to rejoin the argument.

“Oh my god! Don’t beat the shit out of some random guy who’s trying to help!”

She ran at him and shoved him again.

At least I picked the right side of the fight, I thought.

He lunged at her and I stepped back between them. He threatened me, and she threatened him in return.

He lunged again and I moved to block him. We went back and forth a few times like that.

It was terrifying. I felt like every time I snatched his attention away from her, I moved closer to him deciding to put me in the hospital. It was pretty clear I was insulting his manhood and he wasn’t going to tolerate it much longer.

He got back in my face one last time. He was so close I could feel his breath. “You need to walk right away now, or this is happening,” he growled.

I backed off. It didn’t even seem to be a decision I was making. My legs carried me slowly back toward the house. She wasn’t helping the situation and there didn’t seem to be a way forward that didn’t involve him attacking me.

My partner and her friend were standing by the front door, watching the whole scene. They had woken up and come outside. At least there would have been witnesses to my beating.

I started dialing 9–1–1 as I stepped onto the porch. I hated doing it, but I couldn’t think of another option. In that moment if felt like my only two choices were to get them away from each other, or wait for the violent conclusion. I was furious at my neighbors for not leaving their homes. For not coming outside and standing with me.

The yelling and threats continued as I walked inside and spoke to the operator. I described the woman, her boyfriend, and his car. I said that I felt concerned about her safety and that he had threatened both of us. Then I heard his car start.

I walked back outside to see the two of them driving away, weaving drunkenly down the street. The operator informed me that an officer would check the situation out.

I went to bed, feeling defeated and unable to sleep.

An hour later, the boyfriend’s car returned. He got out, but his passenger was gone. I heard him bragging to his cousin that “the cops pulled us over and arrested that crazy bitch.” I wondered where his cousin had been the whole time, and why she hadn’t felt the need to help out.

He made a big show of his return, projecting his voice so that everyone on the street would hear his happy news. His “crazy ex” was arrested for possession and he walked away with a interesting story. Then he went inside where “nosy fucking neighbors” wouldn’t bother him anymore.

I felt crushed.

That night, I stood on my street and faced a drunken brute who was willing to beat his girlfriend in public, along with anyone who tried to stop him.

I stood by myself because none of my neighbors stood with me.

I don’t know how much I hurt that woman by calling the police, but I’m confident that I did.

I called the police because I was scared. Because I felt alone against someone much stronger than me. I was terrified for her safety, but I was too scared for my own to keep trying to help her. She seemed too out of her head to get away on her own.

I called the police trying to protect someone from harm and I have to live with that decision. I knew it was probably a terrible one when I made it.

I don’t want to stop confronting problems on my street. I don’t want to be a bystander. I want to keep going out there, and I want my neighbors to join me. I want us to make the hard choices that are safer to make as a group.

I don’t ever want to call the police again.