White Boy Mugged, Finds Strange Poetry In It

New York Observer reporter Nate Freeman got the shit kicked out of him last week, then wrote a florid essay about it, in the Observer's signature first-person plural editorial voice:

The unmarked cop car sped out into the late night cobwebbed streets of Nolita at 3 a.m., bursting through red lights, sirens blaring, and ricocheting around turns that shook us back and forth, east to west. We had to lay low in the back seat, even for the quick trip to the corner of Mott and Houston. We pulled up next to three cruisers, sitting hotly in a giant cough of simmering exhaust, tire tread and the flash of red, white and blue.

Also, there was the pain: screaming molars rubbing up against sore, seared gums, our jawline banged, the burning skin of our neck still raw and throttled. We were a bit dinged up.

First-person crime report beat poetry: Now a trend.

Suddenly fast footsteps behind us—thudding pitter-patter in a wave, rubber soles smacking like jazz snares, loud, louder, nearly here, bent arms and fists cutting the air. We swiveled around on a pivot and saw. The two men were barreling forward, a vortex, a dolly zoom, and as the bigger one pounced on our back, razorblading his tree trunk arms around our neck, the smaller one bashed the side of our face as we fell helplessly the ground, and two certain words went through our head.

Oh fuck.

"Give us everything!" the smaller one shouted. "Money, wallet, cell phone, everything!"

Our cheek bitten by gravel, we splayed our arms trying to get at our pockets, as the bigger guy squeezed tighter around the top of our spine, our ass scraping across the ground. Did they have a gun? A gun?

Oh fuck.

"I don't have any money," we spat.

But our bruised boy hero perseveres! He watches as the cops catch his muggers, "slapp[ing] the word-of-God metal handcuffs around their wrists, arms back behind them." The most interesting part of the story passes by with little comment:

"We received a 911 call from a cabbie and two guys matched the description," the cop explained. "One had two phones on him. We asked why he needed two iPhones, and he said, ‘That's how I roll.' But I was looking at the text messages, and the phone didn't fit the profile of a black male, it fit the profile of a white male. And then when that text from your friend popped up, it only helped."

What? Cops racially profile cellphones? "The subject was a black male, but he was holding an iPhone, so we figured he jacked it from a white boy." And there, that's it, your eight-sentence Molly Bloom soliloquy pay-off after a long stream of difficult prose. Cellphone racial profiling! Sort of makes the whole thing worth it. [Observer, image for illustrative purposes via Shutterstock.com]

Update: The phone clanged clamorously, like the shrill voice of a half-strangled dame in the night. Crimefighting nightlife reporter Nate Freeman was on the line, with a comment for the record:

The column speaks for itself. It's a bit more personal than other columns I've written, but as a nightlife columnist I thought it was appropriate to cover in the same way I'd cover anything that happens after the sun goes down. I wrote it in a tone that I thought both reflected the seriousness of what happened, while also pointing out that you can have fun in that genre of writing. I did get beat up, and there are serious issues there.

Good-bye, I said, and silence fell like a velvet bag of foam rubber earplugs.