A true tale of a desperate time.
"Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems I am trying to tell you a dream--making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is the very essence of dreams."
...I had never been to jail before, well as an adult at least. It was late fall. The wind carried with it an ethereal chill that had been brewing the long year, waiting to bellow malevolence to all those who could sense it, waking every stale thought and stirring up some sort of uneasy listlessness with it's invisible madness. I could feel its long flowing cloak of earth bound omnipresence grace slightly the hairs on my neck as I let the ensuing bodily shutter burrow deep into my marrow, evoking a hidden ancient sorrow. In my subconscious I knew what was coming but I lacked any current coherent thought. As I opened the door to the police station lobby and entered, I turned around to watch it close and with it a piece of myself shut down. I suddenly yearned for the most fantastic unholy revenge-- I wanted to be Dr. Oppenheimer's greatest achievement. Some massive form of destruction with the ability to cause an unrelenting wound on the earth, forever bound to a history of great mistakes. In short, I had forgotten my place.
I tell the clerk at the lobby the police are looking for me. She asks me for identification and I hand her my driver's license. She then tells me to sit down. She is completely unscathed by my surrender as if it were common place. As I waited in some broken down, beat-up, yellow plastic chair of the station I contemplated the continually unfolding situation. I think of and connect the recent chain of events that brought me to this point, in the usual way someone recants an utter waste and total loss of the past two years: without any clear direction. It becomes painfully obvious that what has happened could not be changed. Immediately I begin to understand I must learn something from this or it will be allowed to ruin me. Though mentally I scoff at the simplicity of that idea. The entire time these fragmented thoughts are clouded with contempt, pain and anguish. This was bereavement, bereavement that could only come from the death of a purely human feeling no matter how foolish at the time: love.
A police officer arrives from a back room and I glance him over while he speaks briefly with a desk clerk about me. He is a man with a blond marine cut, balding in the middle. He is a man with a portly belly and a desperate slouch. As his lips part for "CH" and "E" sounds I catch that he is a man with chasms in between his teeth and self-consciously owns the smile of a seasoned vagrant. He is a cop and like a great number of them here stands a man eaten alive by high school. I knew this to be true instantly. It was written on his face and in his posture. Some people have terrible adolescent experiences and let it haunt them forever, thus displaying itself in career choice; or lack there of. This is a positive sign that a person has narrowed minded personal issues that control their every action. These are some of the most unhappy of the unhappy people. The conversation with the clerk stopped. I grow uneasy, somehow more than before. His brow crinkles while his head bows and he walks towards me.
He hands me my ID while his lips move and it starts like this:
"Do you have any weapons on you?"
"Did you ingest any drugs today?"
He takes a flash light to my eyes, "Are you sure?"
I ask him, "Rephrase that question for the right answer you are seeking."
He states, "Did you smoke marijuana today?"
"Could I pat you down... for my own safety?"
An exasperated, "sure", sighs unwillingly from my lips.
As he pats me down he asks, "Would you like to talk about what happened?"
I state with incessant sarcasm in a thick slow southern drawl, "Oh! Golly-gee! I didn't know you were gonna be my lawyer officer." I smirk.
I think I am clever. I think I have this situation under my seemingly intelligent control. I think my sarcasm is a barrier still able to protect me. The next seven words rang in my head for days after, "You have the right to remain silent". I exclaim immediately in protest, "You're reading me my Miranda Rights?!". He snaps back, "Yes I am reading you your rights you're under arrest." Situation no longer under control, he wins, they win, she wins, someone wins but it is not me. I whisper under my breath, "fuck my life." A common modern phrase that sums up so much.
He continues to read on but I am not listening, nor am I very aware of what is going on around me. The gray colors of the lobby swirl into a dull feeling, feelings which are becoming transparent and no longer feelings at all but just a fading will of survival. I sulk further into my brain. Thoughts pound like an imagined future gavel on glossy oak wood and I wait for the recoil. I think of what got me here. I think about how someone I loved (yes I unwillingly loved her still at that time) so much could betray me, and with a relentless smile. It was that same smile in which I could always find some form of solace and it is now that relentless smile, devouring my thoughts, that begins to churn my blood. These thoughts all come whipping back to reality with the cold click of hand cuffs on my wrists- the recoil. I am helpless and feel the furious warmth of panic begin to take hold. I squirm in the handcuffs once and stop myself from doing it again, at this point any more would have only contributed to madness.
As he guides me out the door and down the steps of the police station I begin to study his face. His nose turning a Rudolph red from the brisk wind that so favorably picks up, adding to a bleak presence. His lips flush yet his cheeks continue to carry a warm peach hue. This made him seem like the fat cheeked little boy he still could have been on the inside. He carried the weight of his belt with an awkward swagger and in his stance it was shown to be a discomforting daily battle. Right now I am a hallow man but I think this too might be a hallow man. What insight can I gain from this? How does it help that we are both some form of emotional bastard?
We find our way to the basement of the police station where all the cruisers, SUV's and un-marked cars lie poised in wait. I was in the middle of the chum bucket dump off where the sharks call it home. Radio chatter that I had not noticed previously was now very prevalent. I hear things like, "twenty year old, Hispanic male, struggling to escape custody, available units respond." Moments later I hear, "Suspect has been detained and subdued with pepper spray." A larger break of static appears then sharply cuts out, "He is vomiting unconsciously. Send medical assistance." I ask the officer as he assists me into the back of one of countless cruiser's, "are Saturdays the busiest nights?", he looks at me with a disconcerting glare and says, "I have to tell you that every thing is being recorded in the car". It is silent for what seems like eons as he walks around the back of the car and enters. We all know those awkward moments that continue without sight of end, I begin to fade back into thoughts until he blurts out, "Sundays." I look up in the rear view mirror through the mesh wire cage guarding him from rear seat assaults and our eyes meet, briefly. I catch it too, that look. He begins to finally realize that I don't belong or my presence is out of place like a crooked picture seen from afar or the wrong note you thought you heard at a concert but were too afraid to voice because of the sheer lack of confidence. Perhaps it was the immense sorrow in my watery eyes or my tired boyish face. He says again, "Sundays", then continues on, "you'd be surprised at how many drunks and crazys roam the streets Sunday mornings from two am to noon. The after church crowd can be the worst drivers too and even worse is that they tend to fight each other after fender benders. Not always physical but it gets pretty rough. I've had to break up some religious screaming matches before, apparently attentiveness on the road is next to godliness. There is a lot of angry passion involved. Maybe it's the belittled mother releasing the inner fire or fathers getting secretly liquored up in the pews, it happens more than you think. It's also a time the homeless get nostalgic and depressed." I can't tell if he is kidding or not. I am shocked he has talked to me this much. He starts his car and the chatter on the scanner is drowned out momentarily. We head out of the station and my fate is sealed. I ask him other questions: "How long have you been an officer? Where are you from? Did you play football in high school? How is the station handling the voter required budget cuts?" The only random topics I could pluck from the fog.
He is more than happy to oblige me with answers to almost all of these questions: He had been an officer since he was twenty-three. He was from Billings, Montana. He did not play football in high school and didn't like that question, he said so himself. And the budgets cuts are a "son-of-a-bitch but what can I do". I don't think he caught that I was fishing his brain to further understand who this man was and to establish some sort of rapport but it was very possible he knew and was willing to divulge such things. One can never be entirely sure with strangers... Police especially.
He began to ask me questions of his own and I only partially answer but only out of grief, and he could sense this. One questioned he asked stood out amongst the others, "So what really happened to land a kid like you into the back of my car?" I respond slowly out of caution, "Women lie...and everything is being recorded." He says, "Smart guy, I wasn't trying to incriminate you but I realize now I can't really ask questions like that, you'd think I'd learn by now, huh?" The rear view mirror reveals a half cracked smile. "My curiosity gets the best of me sometime." I tell him it is alright but I want to know how a lie can land someone in here. A simple moral question.
"A lie can be a powerful thing."
"But I didn't do anything wrong."
"That really isn't for me to say."
"I hate to say this son, but the system is broken my dear friend"
"Will I get out soon?"
"I cannot answer that with any confidence...maybe if the jail fills."He adds for my comfort, "It happens more than you think."
It is Thursday. Dusk illuminates the visible horizon and plumes of vermilion begin to rise into the sky; impartial to my fury. I wanted to believe that the sky itself was pronouncing its obliques at me and the bitterness and self pity currently harboring itself inside me. For a brief moment I even thought vainly, and ignorantly, that surely the sky itself taunts me by casting my own rage back at me displayed for the entire city to see. I thought, "Does she sit there scoffing at me?" I peak me head up out the window, curse the heavens and ask of it nothing.
"Sundays, right?" I mumble.
He says, "Sundays."
I hope the Sundays conversation wasn't an anecdote but I begin to believe it was.
"I really didn't do anything"
"I read the report and I believe you but even if you did fight him he might have deserved it...I think. Still, I am obligated by the severity of the accusation since a weapon may have been involved even though this all seems very scandalous."
Scandalous. What a fitting word.
"How heartless this system is, this machine. It is a broken gear my body has been thrust into unwillingly... yet the machine does not stop." I pause, drifting away, and he adds, "The giant apparatus that even I barely trust."
This is all very despairing but at least he knows I was referring to Mario Savio's infamous speech. His shallows grow evermore deep. I reflect: even this minion of the long arm of corruption and self importance knows it is broken, manipulated by a scattered brain no one really controls and the masses back it without question, yet he still drudges his tired feet through miles of red tape just to get a pay check. Why? I'll digress on that thought eventually in this tale.
We pull up to the back left side of the jail idling at giant steel red doors that open after he radios something in. The car rolls into the empty concrete garage, the immense doors close behind us and I know there is no escaping this modern castle's dungeon. He stops the car and says, "Just stay seated, I have to grab some paper work and I'll be right back." He was right back, but in that tiny moment alone, wrapped in handcuffs, trapped in a car, locked in a concrete building, on a planet that even seemed to confine me, something small broke inside me. As if the last fragment of an ignorantly fearless heart had been shaved away. I lose control in a fit of squirming, struggling, kicking, and hand wriggling. In the blur of absurdity I see outside movement. I stop and see his face, confused and filled with worry. This man had a heavy heart and his unspoken pity was seen in a fog around him. He helps me out of the back of the car and someone with a flat expressionless face opens the only door in the empty gray room with his blue latex gloves. Intake officer number one.
I enter the room and there is a booth covered in plate glass with a small slit where he hands in a piece of paper, waits shortly, and picks up a stack of fresh white paper with menacing ink all over it from the well protected clerk. I see carbon copies attached to the back and I know those mean serious legal business. It begins to become more real than I would really like it to have ever been. Something chatters over his radio and he says, "uh oh..." with almost a giggle. He guides me to the side of the room and says, "I might have to help out so stay out of the way just in case." Almost instantly the door leading to the concrete dungeon bursts open. Two police officers struggle with a violent body. Two more intake officers come from a room where I have yet to go. They don masks and gloves and leap to assist the officers. Without being told I know it is the 20 year old Hispanic male, mace and tears streaming down his eyes, fire spitting from his mouth, marks all over his shirtless back and baggy jeans covering feet without socks or shoes. He is spitting small flecks of mucus, coated with stomach acid, like a machine gun. "My" officer bravely slides in front of me and says, "we'll let him pass first, I really don't want to touch that dirty vomit covered fuck." I know that sentence is funny but I cannot find its humor, taken by the moment- a person worse off than me. I feel sorrow but for the first time in a while it is not for myself. The intake officers grab extra masks from their pockets and attempt to stuff it over the mans face. In between breathes, bites, and spits I hear violent Spanish fury and though my measly two years of Spanish in high school didn't seam to stick I knew exactly what he was saying: "Don't fucking touch me you white pigs, I'll fucking rape you all I swear to Jesus Christ! Let me go, I dare you!" I remember the spanish word for rape (raptar) yet I fail to remember how directions are given or how to ask for book recommendations. This is disheartening. Suddenly he looks right at me. I am poking out from behind my nameless officer witnessing this absurdity. I see him retch up what I am sure could have been described as one of the foulest "loogies" known to mankind. And in those brief moments where complex thoughts can occurs, I swear to you I thought: "I'd rather take the green vomit from a possessed girl tied to a bed or a cup given to me by two fecal obsessed girls at this point, in fact, I'd beg for it over this." His lips wound tightly in an "O" ready to dislodge a hellish putrid sludge- mace, vomit, and possible human flesh that was not his own- he kept snapping his teeth in every direction, it would have been impossible for him not to land a bite or two. But just before the hate filled release is shot into forward motion towards the bystander whose only crime was his presence, a gloved hand appears over his face and grabs the bottom of his chin, ripping it backwards and smacking him to the floor with a loud pop. This was a moment that on replay, would have made the toughest people in the world cringe. They position him on his stomach and latch handcuffs around his feet. They put two masks to the front of his face and tie them at the back of his head as someone palms his skull. When released his head twists toward my direction and all I can see are bloodshot eyes filled with mace tears and the rage of a chained titan struggling to escape. I had to hand it to him, he was still fighting with four men shoving knees into his back, thrusting their full weight into his spine. It was obvious he had the endurance left with no intention of quitting. If this sort of will could be harnessed and focused, mankind would never be the same. The taser comes out and he is warned through raspy screams of just the word "taser!" Inside I hope deeply that I am not about the witness the electric assault of a completely handcuffed man. He stops for one brief mili-second, just long enough to let the officers think they have control. An intake officer drops his taser and grabs him by the chain between his feet and starts dragging him out of sight. The struggle continues only in echo's of his fading muffled screams. The only gloved officer left picks up the worthless masks strewn on the concrete floor, the taser, and dropped gloves before he enters the door behind him.
The expressionless face returns quickly and motions for us to follow. I quickly realize that is was that face screaming most loudly the word taser. Through a door and around a corner I am led to an empty room with a bench, my officer close behind, the expressionless face now amped on a sick joy that comes only from controlling others and finding pride in it. The expressionless face tells me to, "sit down asshole", the cop I am with jumps to my defence, "he has been co-operating and very pleasant, so not today Steve." The expressionless face now has a name. Steve is tall, with a lot of meat on his bones, he wears thin glasses that cover small dark ports resembling eyes and he was hated as a child, I am sure of it. I don't like Steve one bit. And my officer, he said "not today". Is he normally allowed some routine where he gets to act like a prick, and if so, why am I special? I sit down on the bench while they go over my paper work. One of them ask if I have my I.D on me and I stand up, turn around and say, "It is in my wallet in my back right pocket if you want to get it." My officer whispers something to Steve (that fuck) and I feel the cuffs release from my wrists. I turn around and for the first time look at the name tag of my officer, it reads: Sgt. Rainier. Etched in precise plain font on a thin strip of silver. Rainier says, "I don't think you'll make me regret that." This man shows kindness in return for kindness. I begin to like him or, at the very least appreciate the little gesture of mutual courtesy.
I sit back on the bench, lift my right cheek to gain access to my wallet, remove the I.D and hand it to him. I tell him, "Thank you" in the most genuine way I can. He responds, "sorry about your wrists, you should have said something." I look down at an inch wide ravine of raw red flesh. It begins to throb around both my wrist's as the blood rushes back. I wonder how this happened, did I struggle that hard in that small moment? I grab my left wrist with my right hand and rub hoping to subdue the throbbing. I trade hands and wrists till feeling is lost.
Rainer asks if I have signs of a struggle on my body. I remove my shirt and show him welts and bruises. He says, "So the plot thickens...if it wasn't a Measure-11 assault crime you were being charged with that might be enough to get you off."
(A loose side note on what my county called a Measure-11 crime: Measure-11 was in-acted to cover three main types of crimes: Physical assault, theft, and rape including sexual assault. It insured minimum prison sentencing and longer lock up times before any conviction in trial because of the threat labeled by this measure. Sounds good, right? Upon studying it though you begin to notice some key flaws: it lowered the responsibility of a horrific crime giving it the sad rank of Private First Class and shoving it in with the rest of the average grunts. Rape, Murder, and Torture, which includes kidnapping and other intense psychological forms of harm, should never be removed from each other. You never lower the ranks of those crimes. To act these out are abominable and come from only the darkest of souls or complete lack thereof. This creates a conundrum to anyone who trusts in the moral sanctity of their local government: Any man is capable of hitting another man out of blind rage and almost everyone has stolen something. It is the plight of the poor and desperate or misguided thrill seeker. The last crime though, rape, how could that be included? No average person commits that crime. Only the worst kind of monsters rape. How could these crimes be bound together in one measure? Someone who commits something so heinous should not be on par with someone who steals a car or even multiple cars. How is it I could be bound by the same restraints of souless monsters?)
With my paper work complete, Steve leaves the room and Rainier lets out a sigh and says, "I'm gonna go now, I'm sorry son but you're a smart kid and I hope you figure it out. I told Steve you're good people and to spread the word. They tend to treat everyone like an animal here." I tell him, "After that fiasco we just witnessed, I guess I can kind of understand as to why but I still don't like that fuck... Steve." I say his name with a grimace. Rainier laughs a little and then stops himself as Steve enters. Steve tells me to follow him and I do. I see an upcoming turn which appears to be the only route. Feeling the deep pierce of eyes I look back. Rainier is standing there, a heavy look of concern burdens the muscles in his face. He wasn't expecting me to look back, he looks surprised as our glances meet. He fills his chest with air and he gives me an off hand salute as he slowly releases the breath, turns and walks away. His head low and shoulders slouched. I didn't find it vain to think his thoughts swam in sorrow or concern for me.
I continue to follow, being led to what could only be called the drunk tank. It is a large square room with a single wall of plate glass for supervisory viewing. The television is playing re-runs of Becker. I hate Ted Danson's bland and dumbed down humor and wonder if it can get any worse, which by the way it can. Thanks Murphy's Law for continuing to unfold. What's that old adage, "when it rains it pours." There is a homeless man missing a shoe, passed out with his head just a foot from an overflowing urinal which is conjuring a huge yellow puddle, one that I watch creep slowly towards his forehead, soaking his hair in piss and continuing across his face stopping at his shoulders. He doesn't flinch once. This is the definition of blacked out. The pool of urine extends from the crest of his shoulders like a glossy yellow halo, emanating reflected light from the relentless fluorescent downpour above. It looked pretty and artistic in the most peculiar way, like disarming street photography or the glimmering colors after a car accident. I knew his only crime was vagrancy. Two other men, normal looking enough, sit in chairs facing the television talking about their ex-wives and restraining orders they violated, or as one of the men put it, "Coerced into violating". Their conversation sounds like the beginnings of a strong bond, bound to create a he-man woman haters club to last the ages, staging the platform for a generation of men just like them. This is discouraging but it is not as harrowing when compared to the next specimen. A skin head, who I affectionately nickname "dumb fuck", is huddled against a pay phone and coming down from a massive meth binge. He stands at the phone, knees and feet flying up and around in a frenzy while he attempts to make collect calls. His eyes bother me, his sporadic movements bother me and I am tempted to walk over to him and beat him senseless with the pay phone receiver. It bounces around in my mind, I mean I was already in here, right? But violence is what got me here and I was damn sure done with it. He finally gets through and the man sounds like he looks. The conversation entails the following:
"Girl, you there babe? (muffled retardation as she replies) Yeah I totally wrecked the fuckin' car, they got all my stuff too. Fo'get all that shit though, you need to get yo' ass to my moms and clean out the stash, call my brother and have him sell that shit so I can get out of here for bail or something if I'm not released tonight. (more muffled garbage) Don't fuck with me bitch, just do it." I could already read the underlying message: "Yes, please girlfriend dear, be a doll and sell enough meth to ensure my release. I will reward you with another black eye on your unsightly face my love." Ah, skinheads do have romantic hearts. The conversation drags out and coming to a close he asks how "Junior" is doing, their darling love child. This only after stating he needed another fix before he "freaks the fuck out" and beats some "fuckin' guard spics". Referring to a darker skin guard outside, most likely of Indian descent. A knowledgeable anthropologist too? Man what a guy this dumbfuck was. And you may think I am being rude but again you must understand this was all coming from the mouth of a man (less than a man, barely an animal of evolution) attached to a body in torn cut off jean shorts, a wife beater (now you know why they call them such), while sporting many skull and neo-nazi tattoo's, the sure signs of a winner. I think to myself, "I want his first born removed from him or at the very least castrated, I want him dead or castrated, I want his brothers or sisters dead or castrated, his father dead, his mother dead, anyone that is connected to his gene pool, I want them dead or unable to further produce. But most of all I want his girlfriend dead for allowing herself to be a vessel for this mans seed." These were foolish thoughts but they stressed my ressentiment of his kind, those ignorant beyond all belief. I honestly feared for the next few years of his child's life. My fears turn from the county jail to the future of humanity. I think again, "His girlfriends vagina should be attached to the prison, it would save eight-teen years of time and public suffering." I find the only corner without an occupant and sulk into it, burying my head in my arms and knees. I lapse into brief moments of time where no thoughts or emotions occur and other moments where I digress on the cultural norm where we accept breeding as a social statement: Just because I can, I will. I don't have my life together, I have rabid emotional issues, I have no idea how to be a parent, I am entirely young and not even responsible for my age, I am still up to shady activities so why not get pregnant? Then I'll have a vessel in which I can display my fractured childhood upon. I mean isn't procreation the purpose of life? I think to myself, "...Is no one else worried about our future?" All this from a man in a jail.
Names are called and eventually one of them is mine. I am led to a booth with more plate glass dividing a chair and an office. Intake officer number two, spiked black hair, bifocal reading glasses and a chipped front tooth. He sports a casual smile. His voice is soft as he introduces himself. A name which I do not recall and never really heard. He tells me he is going to ask me a series of questions as an assessment. I agree. The first few are normal run of the mill questions but then they begin to seem like they are tugging in a very certain direction. It drops, "Are you feeling suicidal?", and then it sparks. I don't want to be put into the general population. The blacks will hate me, the Mexicans won't trust me, the whites are the stupidest ignorant racist closet homosexuals, and the Asians...well they don't exist in large enough numbers to really hold sway in the prison system. This was how I thought then. My concept of prison skewed by movies and HBO television. It may have saved me. I tell intake officer number two that, "I can answer your questions the easy way or the hard way." Flabbergasted at my response he warily asks, "What do you mean?" With utmost caution and in a smooth calm tone, I say, "Well this could turn into a whole lot of paper work and my transfer to a mental health ward or you could just put me in isolation away from the general population where I want to be. I know the rules on suicide watches. I don't want to mingle with criminals, I don't want to make friends, and I don't want to hang out with racists because I am white. I just want to be alone." He sits there stunned in an awed silence. His eyes edge around the room. He is quite for almost a minute as I watch the second hand tick by on the clock behind him. Suddenly he clears his throat and says, "You make a good point. You don't have a previous record and I can tell you just want to pass your time and get out never to return (he has no idea how badly). I think I can help you out." He asks me again, "Are you feeling suicidal?" I ask him, "Do you think you can help me or do you know you can? Please sir." He says he knows and I believe him so I answer his question, "No, I am not feeling suicidal." I lie.
Led away to an adjacent room I am finger printed, stood in place for my mug shot to be taken and coddled. Intake officer number three says, "This is the prettiest mug shot I've ever taken." She is in her fifties, curly red hair with soft wrinkles around her lips, her eyes framed by the crows feet of a seasoned mother. Her arched back was another tell, the obvious signs of a strong grandmother, refusing to subside to the pain of baring her kin in arm. " Now I see you have a tattoo on your wrist, I must also take a picture of that", she says very politely. I extend my wrist and she already knows the answer to what she is about to ask, "Do those four orchids mean anything criminal, a body count per-say?" She smiles and then I smile. It is the first and last smile I crack while in this place. I tell her I like plants and it is derived from a painting. I name the artist. She doesn't even recognize what I say as words but nods along. As I leave the room I see the meth nazi exiting intake a few doors down, his demeanor is that of one prepared for release; his mouth baring a chattering sawtooth grin of unfounded victory, bathed in yellow and lined in black rot. I think to myself, "Are you serious legal system?" My heart sinks further into depths not yet explored. I fear hitting the bottom and tearing right through it.
The plugs from my gauged ear lobes are taken, along with my wallet, shoes, cellphone and random change I had sifting through my pockets. They are cataloged and put into an official looking plastic bag. After being taken to a room for a strip search, surprisingly the least humiliating part of all this, I am given green canvas pants and a green canvas v-neck shirt... Prison fatigues. Along with one pair of wool socks and rubber slippers. I am then led to a small red metal door that opens and told to follow the path. It closes swiftly behind me and a yellow line cruely leads the way down dim lit corridors lined with random patches of plate glass, exposing the depressing exercise yard and rain soaked basketball court. I make my way to the end. Another red metal door. A voice tells me to wait. The intercom imposes its will upon me. The door opens. Four guards sit behind a desk. This is what you could call a control room. You can gain access to four cell blocks. Three for general population, one for maximum security lock down.
One of the four guards approaches me. He is tall and lean, built almost like an older version of myself but with crystal blue eyes that pierce the soul as he stares at me in confusion. He is in his forties but still young. He leads me to a common area in cell block three (isolation block) next to a phone in which I am allowed to make all the collect phone calls I want for fifteen minutes. I remember only six numbers by heart, losing the number memorization skill with the advent of cell phones. All of the numbers I do remember are cell phones themselves and five of which allow collect calls to be accepted by their courier. The sixth I call out of pure unbridled desperation and of course, the call is accepted. What a devilish fate. Tears begin to stream down my face, "don't hang up" I say, "just please call my mother or Michael" I say. Laughter and a dial tone rings hallowly in my ear. Fifteen minutes already, the same guard returns to find me below the phone wallowing in tears, the receiver swinging parallel to my head. I look up at his face. It looks a bit awkward and it almost appears as if he wants to back away slowly and forget he saw me there. Remembering his job he says it is time for me to go in my cell. I tell him cell phones don't accept collect calls and no one knows I'm in here and I don't know what to do. This all trickles out in a whimper. "I just need to call my mom", I tell him. Any boys last option: his mother. He tells me to pick myself up and follow him to the desk outside. He leaves the door open and strolls out, then peaks back in and motions for me to follow. In confusion I pick myself up and follow. He asks my mothers phone number and proceeds to dial it on the phone behind the desk after I tell him. While it rings he asks what her name is and I tell him. He says, "It better be your mother and not some scheme or I'll never help another soul." She picks up. He states who he is and who he works for then asks her name and if I am her son. He tells her you have one minute and hands the phone to me. I begin to cry and she can barely keep it together. We have had almost no relationship my entire life yet it is comforting to hear her voice. I do not remember the details of the conversation, be it sad and full of tears while assuring her of my safety and that no one was really hurt. I hang up and he hands me a kleenex. "Time to go to your cell", he says. Without thinking I blurt out three words that will save me, "I need books" and he says "Library day isn't till Wednesday" (remember, today is Thursday) I plea to him, "I see kindness in you and in what you just did, and with that said I know I am in no place to ask favors and cannot expect you to grant me this wish, but sir, I implore you, I need books or solitary will eat me alive." He thinks and looks at me. Into my eyes and into my inner most thoughts he stares. He nodds while rolling his eyes saying, "Fiiiiiiiine", with a tone of compassonate compliance and asks me to "pass on his good natured soul" which will apparently "be the death of him".
He leads me to the library. This man is a saint to me, more of a saint than the Christians led everyone to believe Peter was. "You have one minute", he waits at the door as I burst into the small room. Four shelves, six feet high by four feet long. The selection is sparce and packed with religious self help books. I am appauled. Men in here need guidance not the hope of mediteranean societies from thousands of years ago. I feel sick and panic. I begin to believe I will not find anything. A room full of useless books is worse than a room without books. At least logical thought would still be available. But at the end of shelf three, side by side by side, two books that entertain me and one that changes my life: The Summons, The Brain Thing and the dark horse, The Heart of Darkness. I recognize only Joseph Conrads name but it is in the middle so I grab all three. He stops me at the door and shuffles through my selection pausing at The Heart of Darkness. He holds it up in front of me.
"Are you sure about this one?"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"Consume the journey before it consumes you. This is a dark book."
I am intrigued.
Led back to the cell block in inmates clothes, three books in hand, I prepare myself to be alone for an inditerminate amount of time. The saint closes the door behind me and says, "All will be well soon. That is not hope or faith but fact", in a tone fitting a confidant doctor or an ignorant priest. Hope, what a funny word. He diminishes hope and replaces it with fact. He is right though. I will be let out eventually. He shuts the door and I am left with the glow of foggy fluorescent light that is dim but never dwindles. The lock clicks and all freedom is lost. I have a general reference of time. It is about midnight. Night one begins.
My room is a concrete box. One window exists which is a foot tall by three feet wide. It faces a brick wall which is no less than four feer away. A room with a useless window is worse than a room without a window, at least imagination can run free. In my room a paper bag sits on a folded wool blanket and plastic pillow. Inside is one envelope, three sheets of paper, one half pencil, one rubber eracer, one travel size toothpaste tube and finally, one travel sized plastic tooth brush. There are metal brackets holding up the only furniture in the room, a single shelf. I spend the night filing my toothbrush into a sharp point using these same brackets incase for some reason I must leave the room. If I must live around animals I will use the tools of animals. Though unaware of time I am surprised at how fast and easy it is. I stash it under the plastic pillow, lay down, roll to my side and pull up my legs as I clutch them in my arms and rest my head. The overhead light in the room flickers and never goes off, only changing from bright to dim without my control.
I do not sleep that first night. Hunger does not find me either. I stay up and engulf The Summons by John Grisham. I enjoy his fluent style and seemless suspense. I get to the last page of the second to last chapter and hear rumbling at the door. Back in reality I can figure out only three references of time, 5 am breakfast, noon lunch, and 5 pm dinner. The door swings open and I am greeted by a delightful, "Wake up asshole!" The guard is surprised to see me wide awake, book in hand. The breakfast is gruel, utter garbage. I eat the nine grapes and two apple slices on the side. I do this with every meal here. I eat only the sparce fruit servings given three times daily. By dinner I have finished The Brain Thing, a short campy sci-fi novella from the fifties. I can no longer focus long enough to read. I pace about and begin to fluster in panic when I jiggle the handle of the door to find it firmly locked. I had tricked myself into thinking I could leave whenever, that I still had control over my freedom. All those things gone now I face the door, more listless than ever before in my life. I stand there with nothing but recent memories that torrment me and even further, bitter realizations about who I truly am and who I have let myself become. She sits free while I am being eaten alive by time. She must not matter to me any more. Those times are gone now and I wish to never see her again. I begin to braid toilet paper into rope, working in what I could only estimate as half hour incrimates, so as not to be caught by the night watch. I gently stuff it into my bedding braid by braid. Perhaps there is a way out.
I soon realize what we all must eventually realize: time is a transitory concept of man, continuously marauded by our attempt to translate it in order to help us play out our short arrogant attempts at life. Time in this sense is just as worthless as religion, and inhibits any means of growth. Outside of the spiritual concept of time we learn from the scientific aspect: time is relative to mass and humanity being infintismal, time truly meaningless. For if humans were large enough to witness the universe as an atom, a billion years time for that atom (our universe) would decay in relative seconds for that larger imagined human race. Everything ever conceived by man and beyond, every form of evolution past, present and future, an entire infinity gone within a few breathes. Gravitational time dilation, an overwhelming concept on such a large scale. With that idea just beginning to take hold in my mind I pose a question to myself: unwillingly track the unknown number of possible days I could spend in here; which contributes nothing towards sanity, or try to let them blend into one moment and find a peace in the unknown? I wager to myself that it is after midnight and the clutch of day two is here. I have learned little thus far.
I again do not sleep that whole night. Lying awake I stare off, no longer able to see but not blind, imagining instances and reliving memories. Introspection is the only means of keeping myself sane at this point. Although the mind without any distraction or stimulus becomes a closed system, allowing entropy to ensue. The thermodynamics of thought. I wait to meld into the passing of three meals and bitterness. I can only compare it to an acid trip that does not end. The more I fight it the worse it gets. All I want is to come down, shut my eyes and be rid of this place. I begin to use my pencil to write on the door. It is already covered in graffiti depicting dirty whores, fat ex's and words that are only in existence for the sole purpose of bringing about anger and lude thoughts. I write nonsense, key phrases in favorite poems along with jibberish I concoct myself. I write till my pencil breaks and I am without the means to go on any further. I guess you have to ask for a pencil sharpener. Three fruit meals and some time later I again wager that is it midnight. I begin to notice the light in the room oppresses any form of sleep but is just dim enough to bring about nothing but thoughts of sleep. Seconds move like centuries and minutes are something I cannot count acurately. I sit on the plastic mat of the bed, pull out Heart of Darkness from beneath the plastic pillow, which is harder than my rubber jail sandles, and consume it. Day three has arrived.
From what I came to call midnight until 5 am I read. Slowly and methodically I pick apart every word, sentence, paragraph and chapter. I often pause lost in thought, reflecting on my inner most workings. An author by the name of Louis L'amour who had a tumultuos past much like myself once said, "A book is less important for what it says than for what it makes you think." This book has much to say and I have a lot to think about. This book is changing me. My days of solitude begin to turn on me as I drive deeper into my own heart of darkness. I rediscover that I am not an animal able to call itself human but just some savage form of evolutionary chance, wasting my full potential for immense growth in consciousness. I forever will remember one specific paragraph:
"In some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him--all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is detestable. And it has a fascination, too, which goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination--you know. Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate."
My reading interupted by, "Morning asshole! Take your shit." The faceless guard waits for me at the door and hands me a tray of breakfast food when I reach him. He asks if I need shower time today. I refuse entirely. I engulf the two orange pieces and half of a banana. I flush the rest down the toilet as I had been doing, where it belongs. I sit on the concrete box with a plastic mat, wrapped in a wool blanket. I've been cold for days but I no longer care. I stare at that single page, that single paragraph. At last all conscious thought slips from my head and sleep has found me.
I am woken up to a guard opening my door, he has found me lying on the floor, the wool blanket now serving as my pillow, and an open book as my blanket. I have no recollection of moving to the floor. I see no tray in his hand and ask what this is all about, he respondes, "time for your arrainement." I follow him out of the cell block, and down a hallway to an elevator. I notice I am moving sluggishly, my bones feel weak and my stomach burns with hunger. I smell brutish and without seeing my face I know it is pitted with dark zombie like circles under my eyes. I am put in line with a bunch of other inmates, we stand silent in waiting. I am handed a piece of paper and told to sign it. We enter the room and sit down. They go over the rules: you are not allowed to speak, you are not allowed any gestures to anyone about to enter the room and under no circumstances are you to be caught mouthing any words to anyone.
People enter the room in a small tidal wave and I see only three faces: My worried mother, my best friend Michael, whose face carries a look of innocent fervor, and another friend who I will come to live with in the near future, Ike. Everyone takes their seat. The judge or official or whoever starts talking, at this point I pay no attention to them. I look at my mother and see a one dimensional emotion of concern, but in the eyes and face of Michael I see everything that he wants to say to me. I know exactly what he is thinking and for the first time I feel some form of hope, the connection that can only come from years of being friends. Ike carries with him a child-like wonder and complete lack of severity, he mouths to me, "Are you okay?" I dart my glance immediately down and shake my head. I do not want to be reprimanded for any thing that could alter my time of release. I must play the game to escape it. My name is called and they read my charges. They ask for my plea (not guilty, as if that matters at all) and I sign some sheet of paper and am esscorted away before I get a chance to look over at my beloved friends and mother again. I am led immediately back to my cell, more confused than ever. Having your freedom stripped is the same thing as being an animal. I believe the amount of time served begins to not matter after a certain point and people begin to give up on any sort of will to do anything positive for a society that they feel has wrongfully incarcerated them. This was not my case but it is most cases. Often people come in here lost souls and come out more lost or even worse, with a permanent criminal direction. If you treat someone like an animal long enough they become one, and then that animal is released and we demand it to behave human again. I never understood how that worked. Grouping together petty young thugs looking for guidance with harden veterans of crime only begets more crime via the tax dollar of the average citizen. It's a concrete education system of destruction. There shouldn't just be one form of punishment with the only variable being time. What is it to be human but to be free? To go any where at any time for any reason, no matter how irrational, just because we can. Our greatest strength and downfall, being allowed to take any direction we can just because we can. A sour punishment for lack of responsibility. Couldn't we all think of a better way?
I continue on with Heart of Darkness. Each paged turned is a step closer to some thing that has been lurking deep inside me all my life. The will to change. Faint like a far wind looking for a lost vessels torn sails, still hoping it can fill them and provide current to a destination. Inside me I felt a hunger and passion never felt before. A new state of consciousness took hold of my thoughts and suddenly I had found the beginning to a destiny, a life, a truer way to live and the concept of inner most discovery to answer all my woes. It was all vague though, as if laid out to me in a dream and now I had to recall it piece by piece. Moments passed in this mysterious trance and my thoughts grew more and more intense. Imbued with this new found lust for knowledge and longing for a way to escape the corruptable reins of the system a thought popped into my head: I no longer loved her. And even that didn't matter because I soon forgot it and moved on with my thoughts. Solitary was finally working for me.
Later that night I am pulled from my cell once more and led to the booth of the intake and evaluations officer. I see a clock in her back office, time exists again, it is 11:11 PM. She begins to mumble out some garbage and I interrupt, "Listen lady, I don't want to be rude and I apologize entirely in advance for my language but all I care about right now is when the fuck I am getting out of this fucking shit hole. I mean just look at me." She is displeased. She tells me I could have got out today but they cannot release imates past 11pm so I will be discharged tomorrow. It is now 11:13, my blood pumps molten rage. I see Mcdonalds cheeseburger wrappers on her desk. She is fat, obese, jaba the hutt status. She has curly unkempt hair and wings made of melting blubber. How does someone supposedly intelligent (I mean we should be expecting intelligence from our paid government officials, right?) get this fat? I tell her to put me back in my cell before I "flip out", I say, "How fucking dare you pull me out fifteen minutes too late just because your fat ass wanted to get lazy on my paper work, are you even fucking aware you are dealing with a human being? " She calls in an officer but not before I can calmly spout this out, "When I get out of this place, I'll change, become someone anew, I am young and filled with youth, self-aware in my youth. When you leave work you'll return to the same pathetic existence you've always led and will always lead, food is your only god and sleep your only release. No one can love you because you have never loved yourself. I am trapped only by man made walls and rules enforced by the foolish and narrow minded. You are trapped by your own eternal guilt, self loathing and ugly distgusting body in which only an elephant seal would fuck." The officer catches the last part as he opens the door and is instantly confused. Her face boils with rage and she becomes so enthralled by her shell shocked awe that she attempts to talk but only stutters. I give her an insidious look of overwhelming satisfaction. I tell the officer to take me back now.
I am not worried that she can delay my release, the paper work is already done and I only assaulted her entire character, not the juggernauts physical body. Looking back I feel bad and childish, I had much to learn and my angst still smoldered. I finish the last piece of Heart of Darkness and begin to pace. My journey has just begun and when I am released it is day one. I flush my toothbrush shank and toilet paper rope, death is no longer what I seek. I rip out my special page from Conrad's book and ask his forgiveness for my selfish need to bring with me an item of rememberance. I leave it on the bed torn up, I knew the prison would replace it. Day four is here and will soon end.
Before sunrise an officer comes to release me, his face could have looked like an ogre to any one else, but to me it carried a white glow and a beautiful dispasition. I am on my way to freedom, I am on my way out from the heart of darkness. I began entangled in the wilderness of madness, and the conscious minds attempt of live outside itself and not for itself, but now I ended this short journey with a new beginning, and a longer voyage. One I could never abandon and one I still had to immerse myself in to understand. I gave myself two years.
I am led to a locker which contains all of my clothes. I am allowed to change. I feel the jail clothes shed like dead skin and my familiar clothes stick to my sweaty, unsightly, unwashed, dirty body. It feels great. I see a clock, It is 4:22 AM. They stick me in a holding cell and say they cannot release me till 5:30AM, this bothers me but what is another hour among days?
Inside the holding room is a sickly, odd looking bum. He looks happy to have someone to speak to and I am almost happy to oblige until I realize he is utterly insane. He tells me he was born thousands of years ago and knew Jesus Christ personally... right. How typical of a crazy old bum too, I should have expected it. He hacks and coughs and chokes until he vomits. He starts laughing, staring at his pile of wet white innards. I instantly side step to the furthest corner of the room nearest the door. His chuckles evolve into snickering mumbles uttering, "I think I have TB", over and over again. What was it I said about another hour being nothing among days? I hate it when I am wrong, I really fucking hate it. He continues to jabber while getting close enough to inspect his puke (which again is white for some reason) without actually touching it. I knock on the door, okay maybe I was pounding, and wait for an officer to come. I look at him and ask how much longer. He looks at the puke and crazy Pete behind me and tells me it wont be long. I ask to wait in the hallway, nodding towards the putrid puke pile but do not get my way. The officer apparently used to all of this.
When the time comes to actually leave I am more than relieved by any standing definition of the word. Once again led like cows down hallways we reach a main open white room, one small door in the corner. We are lined up and handed plastic bags with our names on them containing our ID's and any amount of money we might have. One of two officers shout, "Now you're all free! Don't come back assholes." I am the first one out the door. I intake the biggest breath of air I ever have. It is cool and moist, and it is the sweetest breath of fresh air I could have ever taken. I can describe the feeling as being the closest I've ever gotten to sexual release without any feelings of arousal. The rest of the people slip out the door, most of them bums. I watch one bum open his plastic bag to show a stack of fresh twenty dollar bills. I am amazed at the fact this homeless man carries more than four hundred dollars on him. Another man I earlier saw him making small talk to comes up behind him and says, "Lets go get some booze and find a park, Billy. It feels good to be alive." Placing his hands on his shoulders. They stagger away content with their plans. I rip open my bag, turn on my cell phone and call my mother. I tell her to come get me, she tries to start a conversation with questions but all I say is, "Please come get me." She says she'll be there in fifteen and hangs up.
I sit on the curb in front of the Jail and watch the pink morning sun rise. Deep blue hues and brash yellow streaks, shrouded in cold mist, waft off the distant hills surrounded by the still partially black sky, flooding the streets with the oncoming entanglement of day: hope. Light, cold and misty, this morning air was honey to my lips and cleansed my lungs of dusty jail house air conditioned tonic. This ne plus ultra canopy is unseen by all the other newly freed inmates. They don't even seem to notice as I sit there, letting some of them brush past me while my gaze grows glassy and focused on what appears to be the most glorious sight ever seen; even though it was just an everyday sunrise climbing its way atop the backs of the hills.
My mother arrives and I enter the car. She asks if I am okay and I tell her all is well now. My mother is a subject in which to study for another day or chapter, but I knew for a long time she smoked weed yet never acknowledge it to me. I ask, "Can you take me to your house? I need to shower... and I need to smoke." She says she can work that out. She asks me about my stuff, and the apartment, my job, and that girl. I tell her, "Not now, please, I just need to shower first... Oh, and do you have any food? You wouldn't believe the stuff they serve in there." However ladened with grief, I will never forget the food.
We drive off towards the hills that no longer hide the dawn; a bright gold coin hanging low in the sky. Completely oblivious to what the next few years would hold, I think to myself: this all started with a girl...