I’ve never been arrested. Well, except for that one time with my friend Henry, but technically that wasn’t really an arrest. We were both fourteen, out and about in the wee hours of the morning, and saw a man standing on the corner near Henry’s apartment building. The streets were deserted except for the man and the two of us, and he seemed suspicious, the way he was eying us. We walked around to the next block, turned the corner, and there he was again. So we did an about-face and quickly walked away in another direction. That seemed to be end of it.
A little later, 4 a.m., and we were sitting on Henry’s stoop chatting about nothing, when a police car came rolling around the corner and stopped in front of us. Two cops got out and came over. We recognized one of them, named Rhody, from the neighborhood.
“What are you kids doing out at this hour?”
“We were just talking,” Henry said. “We couldn’t sleep.”
“Somebody called in. A guy waiting for the early bus into New York. Said two suspicious looking kids were stalking him. They fit your description.”
Henry’s natural expression was wide-eyed and incredulous, as if always with a question in mind. Now his eyes went wider still, as if the question had been answered and it was unbelievable. “Stalking?” he said.
So our suspicious-looking guy thought we were the suspicious ones.
“You live here?” Rhody said, looking up at the three-story apartment building behind us.
“I do,” Henry said.
“I live over there,” I said, pointing to another apartment building half-a-block away.
“Stand up,” Rhody said.
We did and he patted us down. He extracted a flashlight from one of Henry’s pockets. “What’s this for?”
“The lights are out in the hallway.” Henry gestured behind himself at the door leading inside.
“And what about this?” Rhody said, after coming up with a very large screwdriver from another pocket.
“Hmm, “Henry said, staring down at the screwdriver as if he’d never seen it before.
So we were escorted into the back of the police car and taken to the old red-stone stationhouse and held there. Possession of burglar tools, was Rhody’s explanation. Our parents were called and they came and picked us up individually. My stepfather seemed cheerful when he walked into the station. “Hi Billy,” he said to the desk sergeant. They were apparently friends, or at least my stepfather was pretending they were. But his tone changed in the car as he drove me home. He was pissed off. I tried to explain, but he was having none of it. Neither was my mother, when we arrived home.
By then, it was around 7 a.m.and I had just enough time to get dressed, have some breakfast and go to school. No sleep for me that night. And over the next few days, the incident was forgotten.
So you see, I wasn’t really arrested, just detained for suspicion, and then released to my stepfather. All because it had been 4 a.m., too late for young kids to be out on their own, and a man had thought we were stalking him. And we had tools in our possession that we couldn’t explain. But it wasn’t an arrest, not really. And they never did find out about the break-in down in the basement of Henry’s building. The tavern that occupied the corner of the building had a large fenced-in storage area beneath it, and we thought we might find beer, or something even better, inside the bin. But there was nothing useful. So we went back upstairs and had our stalking incident with the man waiting for a bus, and then sat around talking, having a sort of adventure, because we were fourteen and it was cool to be out in the world at an hour when everyone else was asleep.