“We Are Your Friendly Policemen”
“WE ARE YOUR FRIENDLY POLICEMEN”, read the English sign at my local police station in the Philippines. Blood was dripping from my face onto my yellow sweater. Damn, I thought. These stains will never come out.
“Ma’am, what happened to you?” asked a surprised-looking, but friendly policeman, though I was quite sure this man had shouted a warning at me through a megaphone once, something about jay-walking.
“I want to blotter my neighbor. He tried to kill my boyfriend”, I answered, aware that filing a formal complaint in the police blotter was the correct procedure.
“But your face is bleeding.”
“I know, but it’s only from a bougainvillea. I accidentally ran into a bush and it caught my forehead.”
“You should clean your face. I’ll give you a towel.”
“Look, my neighbor is crazy. He tried to attack Martin with a garrote. Who even OWNS a garrote? He needs to be stopped.”
Our Swiss neighbor had been a menace ever since moving next door, along with his Filipina girlfriend and her five children, almost exactly one year ago. No doubt he had a name, but we knew him only as “Psycho”. During the past year he had pelted our roof and walls with his girlfriend’s clay flower pots, had broken our laundry room window, and regularly awakened us late at night, fighting with his girlfriend and smashing up their house. Psycho looked like a beast, his face red and coarse from a life of drunkenness and not enough vegetables. Fortunately, his eviction would be final in less than a week and the entire neighborhood would be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
The problem was that his violence was escalating. Only yesterday we had watched him make a pile of his girlfriend’s children’s toys — bicycles, hula hoops, dolls, stuffed animals and a basketball — and douse them with kerosene before setting them alight. According to village gossip, Psycho’s rage was triggered by the discovery that the substantial amount of money he had sent from Switzerland to pay for his girlfriend’s mother’s stomach surgery had disappeared. He could find neither a scar on the mother’s abdomen nor any of his hard-earned cash.
“Okay, what is your neighbor’s name?”, asked the friendly policeman.
“I’m not sure, but he’s Swiss and he’s very ugly. He has long, dirty hair and he’s always drunk.”
After only a brief hesitation the cop answered: “Ah yes, we know him. He’s already in the blotter. Ma’am please, you really should clean your face.”
“No, I want everyone to see what he’s done to me.”
“But you said you were cut by a plant.”
Hmmm. This man was no dummy. One by one, friendly policemen gathered around us, eager to hear my story. There is a wariness that comes over Filipinos when a foreigner begins complaining about one of their countrymen. But foreigner against foreigner — this was something they could really sink their teeth into. Everyone smiled at me.
I explained how Psycho had been drunk since early that morning, shouting and screaming inside his house. Late in the afternoon we heard his front door open and slam shut, and the ominous words “I am going to kill you, motherfucker.” I could hear him coming closer to our house, and through the bedroom window saw him holding the garrote. What to do? I shouted at Martin, who was reading a book on our backyard patio. “Watch out, Psycho’s coming!” I ran out the front door to get help, leaving Martin to fend for himself. As our landlady came rushing toward me, we heard Psycho’s girlfriend scream and then the sound of breaking glass. I raced back into the house and grabbed an old 5-iron golf club from the storage room.
The police were listening, curious.
I glossed over the part where I had chased Psycho with the 5-iron. Tomorrow, I’d need to offer to repair the lawn which now had huge chunks of grass and soil missing due to my wild and inaccurate swings. Too bad I had never been much of a golfer.
In the end, Psycho ran off, his hand bloodied from punching it through our window, frustrated because he was too drunk to maneuver himself over our retaining wall. Martin was unharmed.
At the end of my story, the policeman in charge said to me: “Ma’am, why are you here? Sometimes you need to take care of things yourself. Do you understand?” And I did understand. He was telling me that if I wanted to kill Psycho, it was okay with the police.
They drove me home and we lived with an armed security guard on the property until the day Psycho moved out. I would sleep with the five-iron beside my side of the bed for the next three years.
Though I have heard stories to the contrary, I can only say that my experience with the police was a good one. They were indeed, “friendly policemen”…