AT THE POLICE STATION, WITH SKETCH ARTIST by Alana Mohamed

AT THE POLICE STATION, WITH SKETCH ARTIST by Alana Mohamed

The most startling thing about him was the realization that he must have been beautiful when he was younger. I like to look into people’s faces and imagine them other ways: older, younger, dying, terrified, on the brink of extreme cruelty. This man did not look capable of cruelty, though it was dark out and difficult to tell. He seemed like a good man who had grown up and seen life turn in on itself and now he was in a hard way, with such a striking face and such deep lines.

It was a foggy Tuesday and I was exhausted from a hike through four supermarkets to find limes. It was unusual of me to be out so late at night and to stare so brazenly at a man. I’m embarrassed about it now.

He carried stress in his brow, I remember. It furrowed when I didn’t immediately comply. I couldn’t hear him at first. He was a frantic whisperer and I was at a loss to make him stop. He got close enough to reach for my bag, a vintage store relic I bought to be interesting, and I finally understood. I imagined his whole face smoothing out at the sight of hungry children or a pregnant wife, and I decided to give him everything. 

I shoved my bag in his hands along with: my wallet, $73 in cash, and two credit cards I never use; the keys to my apartment; a small can of pepper spray; three overnight pads I carried “just in case;” a water bottle with no water; half a package of Tums; the three limes I had finally claimed. “For gimlets,” I explained when he looked up.

“Funny lady,” he whispered. He thought I was joking. I liked that.

He didn’t like it when I took off my blouse. Instead, with alarm: “Look funny lady, I don’t want any trouble.” 

I told him I wasn’t trying to give him any trouble, just the clothes off my back. 

“That always spells trouble,” he said, shaking his head. It’s true, I carry some baggage from past relationships, but he didn’t have to assume it was like that.

I said, “You’re being very rude and I didn’t take you for a rude guy.”

His eyes widened—they had been narrowed the whole time and I’d assumed he had a natural Clint Eastwood squint, but when he looked at me, years melted off his face. I could see that underneath he was like a Disney Prince, handsome and prone to severe errors in judgment. “I don’t think you’re a rude guy,” I amended quickly.

“I’m not a rude guy, I’m a stranger trying to rob you,” he reminded me gently. He stood there with my purse, I with my shirt off. 

“I just wanted to give you something. This is a very nice blouse.” It was white silk with puffed sleeves, my mother’s from her secretary days. I thought it would suit his color, or maybe he’d enjoy it brushing against his skin the way I had as a child.

The creased brow deepened. “I don’t want you to give me anything, I need to take something from you,” he said. I couldn’t imagine caring about the difference between the two.

“I thought what you needed was help,” I told him.

“I think you need help.” He said, reaching out with his hands. 

I looked at his peeling fingers and thought, “Yes, I do.” I opened my arms wide, he hooked the purse strap on my outstretched hand.

“No, no, I insist,” I tried to return the stinging rejection, but he was already backing away. I shrugged my top on intending to follow him. When I looked up he was gone and I was lost in the fog. 

I keep failing to recall his face, though I can’t stop thinking about it: old and wrinkled, young and wide-eyed at the same time. Instead, I can only see it buried in the puffed sleeve of my mother’s favorite blouse, a phantom that will not shake loose. Surely this is some kind of crime.


Alana Mohamed is a writer and librarian from Queens, NY. Her writing has most recently appeared in Full Stop Mag, Grody Mag, and Tiny Nightmares: Very Short Tales of Horror. She is currently at work on a collection of short stories about making it in a ghost city and a collection of essays about being late to the party. Find her agitated and online: @alanamhmd.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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