Posted on Tuesday 11 October 2011
it happened quickly, so fucking quickly he was halfway down my block before i realized that he had ripped my earbuds out of my ears and had my phone in his hand. this is not at all like i imagined getting mugged would be; i imagined being menaced with a weapon in a dark, unfamiliar neighborhood. in reality i was 50 feet from my front door, in Center City Philadelphia, and it was early evening. the streetlights weren’t even on.
i didn’t even bother giving chase. i had sprained my ankle the week before and was wearing wood-soled cowboy boots that, though giving a solid clop every time i set my foot down, were not meant for any kind of running. instead i screamed down my empty street at the retreating figure.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
i walked to my front door. by then i was shaking, and by the time i shut the door i was sobbing. not for my lost phone, really, but because i felt so unsafe. right before he came up behind me, i was thinking how much i loved my little neighborhood and my quiet little street and its quirky mix of occupants.
D called the police. i called my mom and told her to suspend service on my phone. about 10 minutes later, a cop knocked on my door. i had expected that he would take a statement in the house and then leave. instead, he told me to hop in the car. we were going to find the perpetrator.
i didn’t bother telling the officer what a waste of time this was. i had barely gotten a look at him. to be perfectly honest, i can’t even say for sure it WAS a him, though he was dressed like a guy. i could not really tell gender, race, or age. i had the barest impression of a black hoodie. he was slim and maybe 5’9″. i berated myself quietly for this – i can’t tell you how many times i have memorized the features of someone on the street i was sure was going to end up fucking with me, but never did. i am the ultimate paranoid urban walker, always hyper aware of where i am, who is around me and where the next safe place will be. not this time. i was too zoned out listening to Marketplace on NPR.
we rolled past a small group of kids. “any of those?” he asked me.
i sunk deeper into the uncomfortable plastic of the cruiser’s backseat. “no.” i said in a small voice. i wanted to disappear.
we continued south, and then onto a diagonal street. i knew it was either Grays Ferry Ave or Point Breeze Ave, but was too tired and out of it to care. we stopped at a precinct and it was then he took down my information. when he asked my age i felt strange telling him. 30 year olds are adults. they own houses and have kids. they don’t get mugged walking home from work.
from there, it was down to another police building, to give a statement to a detective. Tasker, Morris, then Snyder, Jackson and finally to Wolf. we were driving through one of the worst parts of the city. watching it all go by i felt vaguely, uncharacteristically horrified.
the detective that took my statement was a tall, statuesque woman, her strawberry blonde hair swept up neatly in a bun. i first saw her leaning over a filing cabinet before she came over to me. she was a wearing a pink blouse, which contrasted oddly with the gun holstered to her hip.
she had a strange but graceful way of typing. name. address. social. age. phone. she paused for a moment when her iPhone chimed sweetly, gently sweeping her fingertip over it before pinching the top to turn it off. it had a lavender case. she murmured sympathetically when i berated myself for not being more careful. it happens to a lot of people. she had me look over the statement before instructing me to sign and date it.
“five weeks.” i said ironically.
“i’ve only been here five weeks. well, i mean, i lived here for eight years before i moved to Massachusetts for grad school, but yeah. i’ve only been here five weeks. this is first time this has ever happened to me.”
she smiled a bit. “yeah, Philly will get you like that.”
the officer who had driven me around was still waiting for me, and kindly drove me home. as we passed the point in my street where i had been mugged, i expected to feel something. mostly i was just tired. as he opened the door in front of my home, he admonished me to be careful and to call him if anything else should happen. i said that i would.