When you first see your husband in handcuffs at the station house, tears build back so far in your eyes, it seems they are filling your sinus cavities. You blink, but it does not break the dam. Instead, your body is consumed by trembles. Your hands grab the tails of your navy blouse, and you wind the soft cotton around your fingers like a glove.
You see the blood pouring out of a cut above his right eye. You can’t see the eye, because it is swollen shut, but you have been married for five years and gazed into that eye for six years before that, so you know that under the lid, under the bruise, under the blood, it is brown. The blood leaves bright red streaks on his pale skin, as it races toward his black t-shirt, where it disappears into the darkness. You want to kiss him, tell him it will be OK, but a policeman is leading him toward an ambulance.
You ask what is happening. Your voice is soft, a reedy whisper, because it is all you can manage.
“I am very sorry, ma’am,” the slender cop says, and his face and voice are gentle, so you see he means it. “Your husband was punched in the face by a cab driver.”
You gasp, then you frown. “So why is my husband under arrest?” you ask.
“The driver accused him of keying his taxi,” the officer replies and sighs. “We saw some scratches, but we believe they were made defensively as the vehicle backed up toward him.”
You will not have time to process how fucking absurd this is before the officer looks away from you toward the ugly brown and orange ceramic tiles covering the precinct wall and then says, “This should not have happened. I’m so sorry. Please follow me to the ambulance. He’ll be issued a DAT and be released at the hospital. Don’t worry.”
And even though you do not know what a DAT is, you nod because you are happy that they will not separate you from him. And that this is a mistake, and it will be over soon.
You climb into the ambulance, sit next to your husband on a cushioned bench. You touch his leg and try not to grimace at the red blood and purple-blue bruises hiding his handsome, rectangular face. You try not to cry, to be brave for him. You, of course, fail.
You smell body odor and realize it is your own. You had run half a mile from your apartment when they called to tell you they had your husband at the station, but not why, and can you please come immediately? You had run as fast as you could through the thick wet air of a sweltering August night, and only now you realize your blouse is soaked through with sweat, and you think they are the tears that were stuck in your head.
Your husband turns to you and his lips curl into a thin smile. “My uncle was an auxiliary cop in Long Island,” he tells the officer. “You guys have it tough.” At this you almost laugh because you know that your husband often describes the NYPD as aspiring dictators who could barely graduate from community college, but he is playing the game, currying favor. He is good at this game. Much better than you are. He does not seem concerned about what will happen next.
Despite this, you are still terrified that he will somehow be sent down to central booking. You imagine a group of men with gang tattoos surrounding him. You continue wringing your hands in the tails of your shirt and smile shyly at the cop in the ambulance, because that is what nice white women do. You have to use your fear to make him feel bad; you have to play the game, too, to protect your husband.
You eventually even joke with the officer who is stationed outside your husband’s room in the ER, and he allows you to sit in the room even though it is against procedure. While you hate yourself for it, you only think about when your husband can come home with you, and what would have happened if you were people of color or had no money or connections to attorneys who will yell at the shift lieutenant to make the charges disappear.
The world is unjust in so many ways, you will almost say. But you don’t.