Longish, a bit rambling, mostly to vent and clear my head. Pardon any grammatical oddities.
There was a domestic disturbance.
I live on the bottom floor in an apartment building with 4 floors. At 5 pm this afternoon, me and my SO heard people screaming in the stairwell. We opened the door, and at the same time there was a loud crash upstairs and more loud voices - this time children, as well.
Down the stairs come two women with four children in tow. They look terrified and are crying. We usher them into our flat and lock the door. It turns out one of the women, A, lives upstairs. (We moved in not too long ago, so I hadn’t met her before) The other woman is a friend. A says her ex is up there, that he assaulted her and broke stuff. She’s bleeding from a few cuts on her arms. The kids have blood spatters on their clothes. I see him walking down the hall through the door eye: big guy, muscular. We have to tell A to be quiet so he doesn’t hear her. After a few moments, he leaves the building.
The police show up after a couple of minutes. Me and the SO take the kids into the livingroom. The kids - a toddler and two that are around eight - are eerily calm. I put stuffed toys into their hands for some reason. We don’t have kids; I’m not sure what to do with them. But we have water, strawberries and an Xbox - it seems to work.
We sit around for an hour or so. The police leaves. A and her friend are sitting in our kitchen. A is howling and crying her eyes out. She doesn’t lift a hand to take care of her kids. Whenever one of the kids go into the kitchen to talk to her, she starts crying even more, talking to her friend about how horrible it is that they have to see this.
A and her friend leave the kids with us to go pack some bags in the apartment, so they can spend the night elsewhere. Me and the SO keep talking to the kids - about anything, really, just trying to make them feel safe with us. One of them calmly remarks that she has blood on her. We go and clean her up. We talk about the rubber duck in the bath tub. She looks calmer than I feel.
A comes back. She recieves an SMS from her ex. She reads the SMS aloud to her children, loudly cursing him. The kids give her advice on what to do. Then they’re off.
I have no idea what really happened upstairs. But I can’t stop thinking about the kids, and how they were so pale, calm and reasonable. Their mother melting down in front of them, while they patiently waited for her to stop crying. Dragging them into the conflict by telling them details about her relationship with this guy. A guy who seems to like breaking stuff and assaulting women. In front of her kids. What the fuck all around.
But I suppose it was a defining moment. I always wondered what I would do in a situation like this. Now I know. I didn’t hide behind a locked door, as the rest of the people in the building did*. I feel good about that. And I hope we made a difference for the kids.
*Literally. There was the sound of doors being locked.