Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Just Another Night in Harlem

My aunt, uncle, and cousins live in Harlem, NY. They're pretty well off (two story, 3 bathroom, 3 bedroom apartment in the city is not an easy task) so it's on the outskirts, and I wouldn't say I was ever scared or nervous being there before. I remember my cousin saying something like, 'the neighborhood is safe until it's dark, then it's just Harlem. No matter how inoffensive you want to be, sometimes it's a shitty place with shitty people.'
One weekend about 3 years ago, I went up to stay with my aunt while my uncle & cousins were away. We both LOVED Harry Potter and the last movie had just come out in theaters. I decided to come up so we could see it together, then I'd stay over and go home the next day.
That night, I stayed in the living room so I could watch TV without waking my aunt. I was texting my boyfriend at the time, and we ended up getting into an argument. He called me, and during our stupid fight I decided I needed a cigarette. Her apartment was in a shared building, so you had to be buzzed in or have a key to get back in from the front. They had a back yard, so I went out there. What I didn't know was, the door locked automatically from the inside.
I finished my cigarette, and the argument, then turned to go back in. Locked. In denial, I tried again. Locked. Definitely locked. Okay, no problem, I'll just ring the- Oh right. I'm in the backyard. I knocked, but didn't want to make too much noise because it was about 1AM and she had neighbors. No response. Did I mention I also didn't have my aunts phone number?
I was standing on the top of the stairs that led down to the backyard. The street that ran through the back of their building was blocked off by tall gates you needed a key to unlock. However, the main streets on either side were completely visible, as was I, high up on the little porch. Also, they had a motion light right above the door that kept coming on because I was standing there. I was starting to get nervous, so I called my brother. He woke up my mom and they took turns calling my aunts cell phone (which we later found out was on silent, of course) and house phone, which I could hear ringing. No response from my snoozing aunt.
After about 30 minutes since I realized I was locked out, I heard voices. I looked over towards the main street and saw a group of men walking by. They stopped near the gate and it looked like they were checking something out on the ground. Suddenly, their voices increased to shouts and they started beating what I then realized was a man, presumably homeless or something of the sort, that had been sitting on the sidewalk. I heard barking and saw the man's dog jump up on one of the attackers, only to be shoved hard to the ground. I watched the dog bolt off down the street as they continued the beating.
Still on the phone with my mom and brother, I shrank down to sit on the steps, and my movement caused the motion light to turn back on. I had been quietly relaying what was going on to them, but didn't think I was in any trouble. That was when I heard "Hey! HEY! We see your light! You see me?"
I stopped breathing. The man yelled out again, "Hey girl! I see you! You saw us and now we see you." They all started laughing as the man who was shouting jumped up on the gate. I was crying at this point and my mom was screaming she was gonna call the police.
The man hung on the gate, rattling it and saying he could hop over no problem. He then got up on top, straddling the gate as if he was gonna jump down. I heard, "You wanna end up like our friend here?" He gestured to the homeless man, unconscious on the ground. "Lemme just come say hi." Now, I still hadn't moved, I still hadn't spoken, I was just silently crying while my mom and brother frantically called my aunt over and over.
Then, a window opened high up in one of the apartments across the street. "SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU CRAZY MOTHERFUCKER OR I WILL BE CALLING THE COPS ON YOUR ASS!!!" Slam, as they shut the window.
The man laughed and yelled to me, "See? Look you're gettin me in trouble, girl!" And he jumped down. I knew he was about 50 steps and one more hop over a now crappier gate before I had no more protection in between him and myself. He threw his hands out like, what are you gonna do now? when one of the guys punched his arm through the gate and pointed to something down the street. They stood there for a minute looking before he yelled "Aw, SHIT!" and jumped back over. They then ran off down the street laughing.
I have no idea what he pointed out. I still had to wait about another 20 minutes before my aunt woke up and let me in, and I never saw anything/one pass by. I definitely heard more rowdy voices during that time, but I didn't see anyone. I kept thinking they were gonna come around to the other gate and try to jump that one, since it was far away from the apartment of the person who yelled at them, and whatever they saw down the street. Thankfully, they didn't.
We did call the cops and informed them of what happened so they could possibly help the poor man who was jumped. We saw them arrive there with an ambulance, but I never found out what happened to him.

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