The first thing I heard was the screaming.
I was walking down Fulton Street this morning and as I prepared to cross Broadway and go into my office building, I heard a shriek that shook me right out of my Monday morning stupor.
I looked to my right and there were two cops, one male, one female, wrestling with an African-American woman.
She was sitting on the ground right outside the subway entrance and the cops were trying to pull her to her feet, but she wasn’t cooperating at all.
I never did get a look at her face, so I can’t say if she was young or old, but she seemed to have a lot of energy as she fought with the two police officers.
As the three of them struggled, the woman screamed louder. Her wig tumbled off her head at one point and lay on the ground like roadkill. The male cop pulled out a cannister of mace and squirted it into the woman’s face. She turned away, but kept on fighting.
It was an ugly, bizarre scene to witness on this chilly morning and naturally I kept watching. When the combatants moved out of my line of vision, I crossed Broadway to get a better view.
The morning rush hour crowd spilt into the gawkers who openly watched the proceedings and the selectively sightless who acted as if they didn’t see any of the mayhem spilling out over the pavement right next to them.
“Stop resisting!” the female cop shouted. “Stop resisting!”
It did no good—those words rarely do. The woman kept on fighting. The cops kneeled down on her, snapped the handcuffs on one of her wrists, and fought to get the other.
People started pulling out their smartphones to record the drama and I felt compelled to sneer at them for being so crass. They were groundlings delighting in someone else’s misery, while I, on the other hand, was a keen observer of the human condition.
But the truth is I probably would have done the same thing if I could figure out how to activate the video camera in my phone.
I finally turned and walked into my office. The show, at least for me, was over, and there was nothing more to see.
One of my co-workers arrived a short time later and told me she had seen the woman sitting in the back of an ambulance. I hope somebody retrieved her wig.
I wonder what had happened to her, what went so wrong in her life that she ended up rolling on the freezing concrete with two cops. I wonder how far any of us is from being in her place. A couple of bad breaks, like losing your job or getting sick, and any one of us might end up being hauled down to the psych ward.
I'd like to think that this woman will be okay, that some friend or relative will help her find food and shelter. Thats what I'd like to think, but I have my doubts.