I had never called the police before in my life. Yesterday I called them twice.
I am still shaken after what happened, and I am writing it down here to get it off my mind.
Last night before 11 p.m., my next-door neighbors started arguing — not unusual for them — but it escalated. The woman who lives there was furious, I could hear her cursing, I could hear the man too, but he wasn’t as loud. Something fell over, there was more shouting. A child started to cry, someone was running, and then the child was full-on wailing, “Please don’t,” and “I won’t anymore, please no.” I grabbed my phone, but then I heard their door open and more screaming. I looked through the peephole. A man was dragging a girl to the elevator, she was trying to get away and sobbing, “please don’t.”
I was unlocking my door and trying to wrench it open at the same time, and when I opened it, the man had already pushed her into the elevator and was blocking her way out. I moved towards them but didn’t have a plan, I know my voice was shaking when I said, “What’s going on? I am calling the police.” There was a movement to my right — the door to their apartment was open, and the woman shouted something and the man responded, it was too loud to understand anything. “I am going to call the police,” I tried to yell over them. The woman shouted, “go to sleep.” She left the door wide open, but I couldn’t see her anymore. I turned back to the elevator, the door was closed, I run over and pressed buttons at random, but it must have moved away already.
I got back to my apartment, called the police. They asked a lot of questions, what I heard, how old was the girl (about 10 years old), was it the first time it happened (I heard them arguing before but nothing that bad), and so on. And then the operator said to call again if anything changes. When I ended the call, I could again hear screaming and crying. The man must have returned home. And I could hear the child pleading again. I waited and waited, and I thought that maybe the police were not going to arrive that night at all. The child was crying and there was still yelling. It’s so strange — I told them I was going to call the police, and it hasn’t calmed them down at all? I waited for what I thought was 15 minutes and called the police again, and said that the man and the child had returned home. The operator told me that it has just been 7 minutes since my last call and that officers would arrive soon.
When the officers arrived a few minutes later, they rang my doorbell and asked me to tell them again what had happened. Then they went next door and I could only hear a woman’s soothing voice, “nothing happened, really, everything is fine”, and a police officer insisting “we won’t leave, there’s a witness.” After a few minutes, she let them in.
The officers were there for 20 minutes, and then they left, and I lay in bed for hours, listening. I didn’t hear any more crying.
That’s not the end, though.
Today at 8 a.m. the woman came to my door. I didn’t want to talk to her, she sounded insane last night. But I opened the door. “Was it you that called the cops?” she asked. And I thought, uh-uh, she’s going to hit me, I said “Yes”. She started crying, “I am so sorry for last night. My mother was diagnosed with cancer, she is dying, and this is so difficult, my daughter is not listening to me, she doesn’t want to go to sleep or brush her teeth.” She kept telling me about her life, and how her daughter had anger issues, and was bullied in school, and “Sometimes I have to yell at her because she doesn’t listen, and she eavesdrops on my private conversations.” Next time, when noise bothers me, I should just come to them and say so, she told me, “no need to call the police.”
“What happened last night”, she explained, “was that my husband lost his patience, and it was the first time it happened, so he took our daughter to talk to the security guard. We thought that if the guard told her that she should not scream at night, she would calm down and go to sleep.”
Her husband came over and was all smiling, polite, and said that I did “a good thing, people often don’t react when something bad happens and children get hurt”, and that he understands completely why I called the police, but “no need to involve them next time.”
“Last night”, he continued, “my daughter had a fit, wouldn’t calm down, so I told her we would go downstairs and wait for the police.”
There was a pause, the woman looked at her husband and then at me and turned again to him and said, “to have the security guard talk to her.” They stared at each other, until he finally said, “Yes, exactly.” She was watching me. I smiled, didn’t say anything, just stepped back into my apartment. I barely closed the door, and they were at each other’s throats already.
So, that was my night and today’s morning.
There are a few lessons here. I should have called the police sooner. I should have tried to record the scene in the corridor, but that hadn’t occurred to me until much later. I would have assumed that yelling “I will call the police” might give someone pause, yet it had no effect.
And one more thing to keep in mind, if you are ever assaulted and hope that someone’s going to help you — there are two more apartments on the same floor, that’s four adults, and none of them opened their door when a child was screaming “please, no.”