Everything I know about police stations comes from watching classic cop shows. Like Hill Street Blues. Or The Wire. Or The Killing. So I kinda expected to see tranny streetwalkers chewing bubble gum while being escorted in handcuffs to get their mug shot taken. Or deranged meth heads resisting arrest. Or, if I was really lucky, a trench coat wearing flasher. Oh man. That would have made my life complete. But this is Israel. More specifically this is Ramat Gan. And I’m glad I hadn’t been mugged. Or flashed. Or sodomized. Because the police station is up on top of a steep hill. And I was out of breath just getting there.
I locked my bike to a pole. Now that I think about it that seems superfluous. Who’s gonna steal a bike from a police station? Right next to a sign, with pictures, designating an area where one should safely unload his or her weapon. I should have felt comforted by the illustrated safety precaution. But I wasn’t. It’s like a sign at the entrance to an operating room walking the surgeon through the various steps of open heart surgery. Not very reassuring.
There’s a man in his forties, an elderly lady in her 70’s and me. And a flat screen TV airing a promotional recruitment video for the police. The sound is off but I can see what they’re going for. Forensics specialists checking prints under a microscope. Detectives interrogating a perp. SWAT teams storming a house. Nice. I’ve always wanted to be one of the guys that yells “clear!” Motorcycle cops on hot pursuit. Talk about production value. It made Serpico look like a home video. And finally, just when I was ready to sign up comes a quick segue to traffic cops on the Ayalon. And it’s like the coldest of showers.
And I wait there for almost an hour even though my number, 413, is the next one. And there are police officers in each room seemingly doing nothing. And the nice elderly lady takes a candy from her purse and gives it to me. It’s one of those sweet candies that old ladies carry in their purse and stick to your teeth for hours. And the guy in his forties is talking to his wife about the grocery list. She wants him to get broccoli instead of asparagus. Fair enough.
I finally get called into a small room and the uniformed officer waits for me to start talking. And again I don’t really know how to explain what exactly I need. So I start. “My wife was here and gave her testimony regarding a case…” Wait. He says. And he stops me there. “What’s her ID number”? So I recite the number. And he types it in to the computer. And shakes his head. “The case file has been moved to the State Attorney. I can’t help you. Have a good day”. And I look at him like a deer in headlights. And he again wishes me a good day. And he’s impatient. Even as I stare at him blankly. “Have a good day.”
But it wasn’t a good day. Not for me and not for M. My day sucked because I saw her when I was taking out the trash in the middle of the day. One of the downsides of working from home is that I’m always looking for stuff to do that’s not work related. Like laundry. Or watching videos on YouTube. Or napping. Or in this case taking out the trash. And I saw her. But she didn’t dare look up at me. But I kept staring her down. As if by some Jedi mind shit I would force her to acknowledge me. And she did. Our eyes met and I nodded my head. I don’t know why. And she nodded back. And then feigned a smile. And I could tell she wanted to ask me how he was. But she didn’t dare.
M. saw her at the butcher’s shop once. She’s a sensitive person. M. couldn’t bring herself to go in if she was there. So M. walked out and waited for her to leave. But yesterday M. was on the bus and found herself sitting across from her as the bus plodded down the congested bumper to bumper traffic on Abba Hillel Street. M.was about to have an anxiety attack.
She lives in our neighborhood. One street over. In a small apartment house with a little toy wooden boat out front. And I pass it every day when I pick D. up from day care. And when I go to the park for a run. And when I go to the playground with D. I’m forced to think about her and what she had done on an almost daily basis which is a peculiar and inhumane form of torture.
The signs were there almost from the beginning. M. saw them. I was oblivious. Fucking oblivious. And I know I shouldn’t blame myself but I often do. Because I rationalized everything, I felt sorry for her. Her husband had just passed away. She was a mother. Of small children. Evil doesn’t come in packages like that. Or so I used to believe.
I never believed M. She would call me at 7:30 AM. Crying. Hysterical. Telling me she heard her yell at them. Scream at the top of her lungs. Like a madwoman. Deranged. On the verge of a mental breakdown, She heard her curse the kids. Call them awful names, I call them kids but they were infants. Toddlers. And I didn’t even believe her. Not even when D. had black and blue marks right next to his clavicle. Like someone had grabbed him and led him forcefully somewhere. He probably just got it playing with the other kids. But he hadn’t. And I was an ostrich. My head was planted firmly in the sand.
M. came forward last December along with several others, including members of her own staff who had witnessed the alleged abuse first hand. And she was finally removed from the nursery. But she wasn’t fired. She was reassigned to another state run nursery in Ramat Hasharon. Because it would have been too costly to fire her. And our neighbors look at us like we’re the monsters. Like M.’s in the wrong for ruining this poor woman’s life by going to the police. She had just lost her husband and now this? What kind of people were we? No one believed that she could be capable of the things that she had been accused of. No one.
I don’t know what the right greeting is or should be to someone who may or may not have abused your child. I don’t know if making her acknowledge me and my resentment is productive. Or whether M.’s strategy of avoiding her is healthier.
All I know is that we have to see her almost every day and relive that awful experience anew.
And I don’t wish that on my worst enemy.