A harsh scream came from the alley, disrupting the happy coca-cola family in front of me. It was a woman’s scream, not uncommon for New York, but something was different about it. She sounded scared, if only faintly. I walked to the window of my small apartment, afraid of what I might see. Below me, a man and a woman were entangled, reminding me of lovers just having a good time. “Damn kids,” I muttered, and I shuffled back to the imaginary comfort that the television held. I heard the woman scream again, the fear was stronger then, with a little bit of pain in it. I rushed to the window, thinking that I should call the police, but the man was gone. It was only the woman, crying. “Will someone please help me?” she cried into the sky above her. She could not see us, but we could see her. I looked around at all the other faces peering down at her, but not one of us moved. The woman slowly began to claw her way to the back of the alley, crying out in pain as each one us watched. There must have been thirty of us there, watching, waiting for the others to make a move. The woman stopped half way, and looked up again. “Please,” she called out, “Is there anyone there that can help me?” The sky above her was quiet. She made her way into the back of the alley, out of my view, but I stayed and watched below me. The man returned, and calmly walked around, looking. No noises were made as the man disappeared, and then walked away about twenty minutes later. Deeply disturbed by what I had witnessed, I made my way back to the television. I needed a good dose of fiction to make me forget what I had seen. I was deeply engrossed in my program, when sirens sounded. I brushed them off, forgetting why I needed to be engrossed in the first place. A woman died that night. Catharine, with a “C”, not a “K”. But in a few weeks time, the public would come to know her as Kitty, a woman just trying to make it in the big city. We are blamed, the thirty or so of us who watched, and did nothing. There were no heroic deeds done on our street that night. Instead, we watched interestedly as a man brutally murdered, and robbed our neighbor. To the people, we were monsters, just as bad as the man who had hurt her in the first place. But it’s easy to say what you would have done if you weren’t there. If you hadn’t seen. If you weren’t haunted by piercing screams in the middle of the night. A bad decision, you contemplate for a while, and then forget when the next one comes along. But a murder that you could have prevented? That’s another story entirely.
A Cry in the Night
March 2, 2010