Calm down. I’m not the villain here. I was home with my husband in Chelsea, all set to go out for lunch at Schrafft’s on Fifth Avenue and 13th Street and I don’t mind telling you I was looking forward to it! It was Saturday.
My husband Mike is in sales and we’ve been busy as beavers. It’s the first time we’ve had all week to do more than say hello.
I get a call, could I come down to the station house? I could have said no. I could have let Ruby cool her heels until someone, God knows who, figured out she wasn’t coming home and started to look for her.
But they said a little girl was in trouble and I’ve always had a soft spot for little girls. Not that Ruby is soft. She’s a hard little pickle. Dark and sullen like a gypsy girl. Runs away the first chance she gets.
Officer Flo helped me find her—in front of a candy store where she’s supposed to go to school. You know the rest, don’t you? Her 14-year-old brother is at their mother’s studio, watching her paint a man—in his birthday suit!
When I finally do visit her home on Monday, the dad is nowhere to be found and the place is filthy. The mom is just as sullen as she is and then some; and then starts to throw a fit because I want to know if she’s really married.
You think it’s easy doing this stuff? You think I’m an idiot because this is my first job?
I’m sorry to say this but you have no idea what’s going on out there. Gangs of teenagers are roaming the streets while you’re having dinner with your family. People down in the Village having children out of wedlock and then ignoring them, while they become “artistes” and “follow their dreams.”
And those kids learn early, mind you, to smoke cigarettes, drink, and do other things, the kind of things that would curl your hair.
Not on my watch, even on a Saturday. I did what I had to do. I do what I can. And I’m going to keep doing it to keep children safe. Healthy. And out of trouble.
Gayle Levitt, MSW
Illustration: Jackson Muenster