|It was a
fall day in 1986, windy and rainy. The rain wasn't heavy, but it was blowing
all around. I was wearing the torn-up army field jacket I had found in
the trunk of a pale green rental Pinto which Mobil Oil had given my father
to use in 1969. It had a red, white and blue fleur-de-lis patch on the
I had just copped from Benny; giving him money
in the fruit store on 8th Street where he pretended to work, and then,
moments later, meeting him between 9th and 10th Streets on Avenue D. He
had passed me a bundle of dope--ten bags--and was starting to walk away.
I was on my bike, the Raleigh 10-speed which I had gotten new, also in
1969, and rebuilt over the years from the bearings up. I had just put my
right foot into the toe clip when a voice over my left shoulder said, "Halt.
Police." I remember thinking at the time how much that sounded like a line
from a shitty TV movie.
I glanced over and saw a heavy man in his forties
jogging towards me. He had a reddish, Irish-looking face and was wearing
a new army jacket and slacks. He had shiny black shoes on and looked as
though he went home to the suburbs every night. He was the stereotypical
undercover cop. Later on, of course, the Police Department wised up and
started getting younger, more ethnic officers to do this kind of work,
but not in 1986.
My instincts took over. I slipped my left foot
into the toe clip and stood up while pedaling off the curb and onto 10th
Street, heading west at high speed, the bike rocking from side to side
with the force of each downstroke from my legs. I cut right on the block
between C and D that separates the projects from the playground and ditched
the bundle of dope underneath some parked cars with a flick of my hand
on the turn.
I suddenly became aware of an unmarked car speeding
after me. It flashed through my head that the cop had somehow radioed or
signaled his compatriots to join him. In retrospect, I think they must
have been watching the whole deal go down, but at that moment, it didn't
matter. Without warning, they used the right front fender of the car to
smash me and the bike against the parked cars on the block. I went flying.
Two officers got out of the car--a black man and a white woman--both in
plainclothes. I didn't attempt to move, but they were on me quickly, pushing
me up against the playground's chain-link fence. The man started frisking
me while the woman looked on. After about thirty seconds, she said, "He
ditched it," and started walking back along my route, looking under cars.
I remember being glad for the wind and rain.
At that point, the fat cop, the one who had
first yelled at me, came running up. He was out of breath, puffing and
red in the face. All he seemed able to say was, "You made me run," and
he repeated it endlessly, between gasps. "You made me run. You made me
run." I didn't respond. Soon after, the woman cop came walking back, shaking
her head. Then the black cop got in the front of the car and the fat cop
pushed me into the back seat. The woman cop got into the passenger seat
and we started driving away slowly. My bicycle and leather gloves were
lying on the street in between two parked cars.
The fat cop started to beat me with his fists,
first on the head, which I covered up with my hands, then on the back and
in the sides. I remember thinking that he was hitting me in places that
wouldn't leave marks, but then he seemed to lose control over himself.
My hands were not cuffed, and I kept them around my head. I was screaming,
"Stop, please stop," and I remember seeing the lady cop turn her head to
see what was happening as I screamed louder and more desperately. The car
kept rolling slowly. The fat cop kept saying, "You made me run."
Halfway down the dogleg which leads back to
Avenue D, the car stopped. No one said a thing. The fat cop opened the
door and pushed me out into the street between two parked cars. Then they
I got to my feet and started back towards my
bicycle, looking after the car to memorize its license plate number. When
I turned the corner, an older Hispanic couple was walking away with my
bike. I hobbled up to them and they gave it to me without a word. I was
too sore and beat-up to ride, so I walked a few blocks. In the process,
I forgot the license plate number because all I was thinking about was
that bundle of dope.
I walked around for about half an hour, then
went back, looking around for any sign of the cops. I remember trying to
act supremely blasé as I slowly passed the spot where I had dumped
the dope. I didn't see it immediately, so I kept going, imagining a pair
of binoculars focused on me from a nearby rooftop. I was trying to blend
into the street scene. I turned around and walked back towards that corner
again. When I got to the spot, I fell to my chest on the street and scanned
under the car. There it was! I pulled myself under the car and grabbed
it, then shimmied out, picked up my bike and walked off quickly.
After about five blocks, I opened my fist and
saw that the dope was soaking wet. My heart sank a bit. When I got home,
I told the whole story to Diane while she was eagerly ripping off the rubber
band and opening the bags. "Oh, Paul, that's horrible." We decided to dry
it out. I lay on our living room floor as she opened each bag and scraped
the brownish residue onto a cookie pan. Then she flattened the bags on
the pan and put the whole thing into the oven for about ten minutes. Most
of the dope had fused with the glassine wrappers. When it was dry, we tried
sniffing what was left, then licking the bags. We tried convincing ourselves
that we were catching a buzz from it. We always did this, even with stuff
that was obviously no good. Nothing happened, and I had to go back for
a few more bags. I needed it for the next day, when I had to go to work.