My daughter Jessica and her new boyfriend were in the bathroom trying to get the smell of tear gas off of their body and clothes. A week before they had sat holding hands at our dining room table, politely nibbling on deviled eggs and iced tea. Now I could hear them coughing over the sound of the running water in the shower. Their bandanas were in a pile near the front door
“Is someone after them?,” I asked my wife, Rose. “Why are they here?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “She just asked if they could stay here and I told them to clean up and we’d talk about it.” She had a large plastic bag and was starting to pick up the tear gassed bandanas. I could hear sirens in the background, lots of them. “God that stuff stinks. I don’t even want to wash their clothes in our washing machine.”
“Put on some gloves, Rose,” I said. “Cops are using skunk water now, that stuff the Israelis use. Maybe they got hit with a dose of that. Fucking cops.” I hated cops. Racist pigs, I couldn’t stand the sight of them.
I turned on the TV. Masked reporters were standing in front of smoldering buildings talking about splinter groups marching to the mayor’s house.
“Mrs. Manetti? Rose?” the boyfriend called out from the bathroom. “Can you come in here for a second?” His voice was urgent. Rose looked at me with alarm and went down the hall towards the bathroom. I was worried for the first time.
“The group is turning down Forest Avenue, “a different reporter was saying. “This is normally a quiet residential neighborhood, but not tonight. I would guess there are 300 people calling for the mayor to fire the Chief of Police after the police shooting of Dewayne Brown.”
Our house was in between downtown and where the mayor lived. Depending on their route they could pass right by our front door. The tv went to a commercial and I changed to a different station. “Responding to a question about bringing in the national guard, the governor said she was considering all the options and asked for people to remain calm.” How original, I thought.
Rose came out of the bathroom with some towels covered with blood. Her face was ashen and she was moving quickly.
“Who’s hurt,” I asked. “ Did they beat them?” She shook her head.
“Jessica’s bleeding,” she said. “She’s pregnant. We need to get her to a doctor.”
I didn’t say a word. I was furious at the cops, but pissed at Jessica too. Why would she go to a demonstration if she was pregnant? I gathered up a bunch of towels while Rose went to get Jessica some clean clothes. Where would we take her? The ER’s would be a mess with all the tear gassing and everything. Maybe we should go to a hospital out of town. I got the towels, checked my wallet to make sure I had some cash, just in case, and looked at my phone to make sure it was charged. It was low, I would have to charge it in the car. Rose took the clothes and the towels into the bathroom. In a few minutes Jessica and her boyfriend came out. They were moving slowly. Jessica was holding on to him for support.
She looked at me and managed a faint smile. “Hi Dad,” she said.
“How are you, sweetie?” I said, not knowing what else to say.
“Oh you know,“ she said, managing a smile, not wanting to say too much.
“Helluva day,” I said, instinctively trying to keep it light. “We should get going.” The four of us gathered our belongings in the living room. We were ready to open the front door to leave, when we heard loud noises. It was the marchers chanting Black Lives Matter, coming up the street. “Right on,” part of me was thinking. “Targeting the mayor makes sense.” At the same time I thought, “god damn demonstrators, how the fuck are we going to get out of here.” I also thought, “Oh Jessica, how do you get into these messes?” My last thought was about the boyfriend. Had he brought her into all this? Four thoughts simultaneously throbbing through my brain. Throbbing. That was the word of the day.
“I’ll bring the car around to the back,” I said.
I walked towards the front door, car keys in hand. “It’ll be fine,” I said.
God I hoped I was right.