What would be best is if, when I parked on the street, a tunnel would appear, connecting the driver’s door of my car to the balcony door of my house. A two-way waste chute, really, through which I could rise and fall, unseen by neighbors. Neighbor. The one who, as I was walking up my front steps, pulled me into her tractor beam by shouting “you called CPS” and “I will punch you in the face” and “mind your own business,” though when your business is interrupted by the sounds of a child being beaten and screaming, it’s difficult to mind.
Nevertheless, when my roommate heard it, she shouldn’t have told me, who shouldn’t have called CPS, who shouldn’t have come to their door; the neighborhood commandment of “you should mind your own business” must not be broken. Oblivious to such an argument, or accustomed to it, a child tapped me. “You haven’t been outside,” he said. “Yes, I have,” I replied, almost adding “but I won’t be anymore.”
The morning after the confrontation, I left for a wedding in upstate New York, at an hour similar to the one before God created the universe. It was so early that, in the airport terminal, there was no light through the windows; they were like the fake kind on a big box store, opaque, dark, void.
“The system is just broken,” my fellow traveler, a friend who was abused as a child, said. “When a CPS employee showed up at my house, I just wanted them to leave, I was so scared of being punished. When a teacher asked me if everything was alright at home, I said yes, but I kept thinking, can’t you make it stop? Whether you report it, or you don’t, it’s terrible.”
“My father forced me to fight competitively,” a young man told me at the reception, arranging and rearranging the food on his plate, “and you have to maintain a certain weight, so I’m mindful of calories. I still eat like a fighter.” He was thin and smiling through a wiry beard and lipstick that matched the color scheme of his sister’s bridal party. I wanted to feed him.
“You did the right thing,” a friend with children said over the phone.
Blocks before the neighborhood, my heart pounds like a headache. At the end of the street, I try to see who’s on the porch next door. I park the car in front of my house. I keep my sunglasses on. I don’t look around. I look down. I look at my keys. I open the door.