When You Are Getting Pulled Over in Brooklyn

Starr Davis

When you are getting pulled over in Brooklyn and your boyfriend passes you three bags of cocaine, you bite down and slide them between the pink, far enough inside you but not too far where you will forget (even though it would be impossible for you to forget), but to the point where you can remove them without spillage, he rolls down the windows and winter assaults you, before the policeman’s flashlight stabs your faces; lights too harsh to be holy, lights sharper than the blade in your purse, before they ask you both for identification to prove that you are both Black, both young, both prerequisites for guilt, crime, quotas, before the two officers tell your boyfriend why they have pulled you over, your felon boyfriend with a cut mark down the side of his face, a mark so perfect you kiss it before your mouth finds his lips, a mark that reminds him only of his time in Riker’s, and reminds you that he’s a survivor, you can see in your periphery a cloud coming from his nostrils, and you’re wondering if he’s praying like you asked him to, and you’re remembering that he told you his grandfather was a pastor but he was also a pimp, and he says he only believes in God because he has to, so when the policeman comes back to the car he asks you both to step out of the car, you both close your eyes and pray God hears one of you. Before you can change your voices into people who are too proper to be reckless, before all this, your boyfriend asked you with his eyes to help him hide God in the car: the one that feeds you, that affords steak dinners, shopping trips, long weekends outside the city—those irregular blessings in tiny bags. You answer him with your hands: slowly. You inch his wallet with his stolen credit cards up your coat sleeve, you slide the bags of cocaine through the hole between your coat buttons, down inside your jeans, you push your panties to the side and stuff them in like money in a duffle bag. And the bulge feels like another organ. Outside the car your feet fall numb, and you both are still never told why you were pulled over, and your boyfriend, six feet tall, a Black Londoner who has been in Brooklyn his whole life—he takes it with him everywhere tattooed to his ribcage—who keeps his gun in a hole he built underneath the driver’s seat, looks at you, and his face is no longer a man’s face, but one of a boy’s, and your mind rewinds to the last time you left your apartment, and you try to remember smells, items on the countertop, the things you thought you would need if you died, and you disappear inside a piss puddle of seconds to determine not how badly you love him, but how badly you want him to live. So, you cough. Loudly. You bend over. Something comes up. Something deadly yellow from your lungs. You spit it up so the cops can see it. They continue to search. You keep going until the cold cuts your lungs, until you start to feel the bags cut along your insides. Then finally they stop searching and they tell you both to get back into the car, and inside you are both too cold to speak, too numb to touch, and you wait for what feels like an eternity of winters, remembering when you first met, and how he told you how he liked the way you did not ask any questions or talk too much about things that did not concern you, how he said you were sexy but not too sexy where he did not trust you, how he liked how you were normal, but not any type of normal, a normal that was needed for nights like this where he would need you to be a weapon, a savior, and the safety box for his stash, how you do not flinch when he sits his gun on the nightstand, how you do not question the cashier for calling him by a different name from the one on his credit card, and it hits you that you don’t really know what his name is because you never asked, and you never told him yours either because that would be telling him everything he needed in order to hurt you, so the car remains silent until the cops knock on the window and hand your boyfriend back his life and they tell him that he ran a stop sign on the corner, and you can hear his tongue scratch the roof of his mouth, then he speaks in a voice that suffocates his thick Brooklyn accent, a voice that police like to hear from dark lips, and says thank you, officer, but they write him a ticket anyways. The price is cheaper than a funeral. And you can feel the warm drug inside you crowning at your core, and you want to move but you can’t because the police lights are still on the back of your heads as they pull off, and when they pull off, you exhale and realize the flowers you can smell through your own sweat are actually your life being handed back to you.

Starr Davis headshot

Starr Davis is a poet, essayist, and professional writer whose work has been featured in multiple literary magazines such as Kenyon Review, The Rumpus, So to Speak Journal, and Transition Magazine. She is the Creative Nonfiction Editor for TriQuarterly Magazine and Editorial Fellow for Black Femme Collective. She lives in Ohio, where she is working on her memoir, HUSSLE.