There was a time that came when I was alone in my own self. There was no one else around to absorb the pain or distract me from the consequences. There was no one else but me to handle the mistakes and the facts of my actions.
I knew the police were looking to speak with me about a few different break-ins. I knew there was nothing friendly about my atmosphere or the company I kept. More than a few of the officers in the precinct knew me by name, and now they had me, and none of them had my best interests at heart.
I was sat in a small upstairs office as I recall. There was a handcuff around my left wrist, which was handcuffed to a steel ring at the side of a desk in a detective’s office.
I did my best to put on a brave face. I tried hard to act like I was unafraid but they knew.
I was more afraid about the phone call home. I was more afraid of my Old Man and what he was going to do. I was afraid to find out the consequences of my behavior.
The phone call went like this:
Mom: Where are you?
I handed the phone to the officer and said, “Here. you talk to her.”
I didn’t mind the beating from the detectives so much. This was their job and plus, the pain made sense to me. I almost welcomed the beating.
They asked me, “Why don’t you just tell us why you think you’re here,” to which I answered in my best defiant voice, “I don’t know. You tell me.”
I was asked to detail the accounts of my day, in which I did my best to answer defiantly, to which I was struck across the head with a large book that sat at the top of the detective’s desk.
I was knocked out of my chair, but restrained by my wrist that was cuffed to the desk. The detectives in the room picked me up and put me back in the chair.
And I tried every angle. I tried to cry to act sorry but one of the cops laughed and told me, “I’m not your Mother. I like it when you cry.”
They had me and they had a witness. They kept asking me the same questions about other kids in my town.
Although the officers knew plenty about me because my name was thrown around by others who I guess were “Supposed” to be my friends, I did not give anybody up.
I didn’t want that kind of shame tied to my name. However, I did offer one name to the detective, which I don’t mind sharing with you now.
I told them about John Lindquist. John Lindquist did it. He was a bad kid. Really bad. He was responsible for defacing the Knights of Columbus hall. He was responsible for defacing the Church over on East Meadow Avenue. He broke into homes. He stole. He sold drugs. John Lindquist was a scary, dangerous kid. He was also a fake, made up name that I and a few others in the town would use instead of giving up a real person.
As a matter of fact, it was hard for me to keep my character when I mentioned good old Lindquist during my interrogation. One of the detectives jumped up, angry and frustrated, and shouted, “I know that guy. I keep hearing about him!” and asked me to tell him more, which I did.
After all of this and after the process, I was taken to a holding facility to wait through the night until I took a bus ride, and then faced the judge.
I was told on a few occasions that I would be welcomed in jail. My longhair, my scrawny little body, and lack of facial hair, from what I was told, would be an easy transition for some of the other, hungry and lonelier inmates.
I was told to be on the lookout for Big Bubba and all the scare tactics the officers could throw at me.
I recall sitting in a processing room before being taken to the holding cells. I was sat across others that were facing the same fate as me. I was also the only small, scrawny and sickly white kid. There were others on the bench that laughed at me and pointed out that I was about to see something truly unfortunate
I recall asking the guard to use the bathroom. He allowed me to go and escorted me to be sure I didn’t do anything wrong. He stood over my shoulder while another from the bench asked why he had to stand so close. The guard replied “To make sure he doesn’t kill himself!”
“Jail ain’t that bad,” said the man from the bench. When I returned to the bench and sat back down in the processing room, the guard cuffed me to a rod that ran beneath the bench.
“Just keep your mouth shut and don’t talk to anyone,” said the man on the bench across from me. “This place ain’t no game.” he said and he was serious.
I looked at the room. There was something familiar about this room. I had been here before but I could not recall when or why.
Eventually, I was called upon and then a guard un-cuffed me from the bench. I was about to go inside when the recollection hit me.
Above the door to the corridor that lead to the holding cells was a sign that read, “No guns beyond this point”
I had been here before when I was young and on a class field trip. Or maybe this was when I was in day camp.
I remembered one of the teachers pointed to the sign and told me that I would probably end up here one day, —and there I was, proving her right.
The hallway was a dank and dreary. I remember the smell, which was an unpleasant mixture of bodies, bathroom filth, and cleaning solution.
The cells lined up all the way along the right-hand side of the hallway. On the left was a wall, painted an industrial color, like a greenish and crème two-tone with the green at the bottom, which was light green and the crème was at the top, which was muted and remanufactured. The air was synthetic to me. Even the light which hummed from the overhead fluorescent seemed processed and remanufactured. I was printed and processed. And now I was going to sit in a cell for the night.
The floor was tiled, gray and black. Everything was so dim, so dingy, and so goddamned unpleasant to the eye. There was nothing cool about this place, yet, still there was the attraction to the notoriety that matched the outrage in my heart, which explained my behaviors and the course of my actions.
There was a row of windows at ceiling height along the tier the tilted inward, but only slightly, which gave me the only view of anything natural.
All else was trapped and institutionalized. There was nothing cool about this predicament; however, for some reason, on the outside, people wore their jail time as a badge of honor. Somehow, in some circles, this made them cool.
I started to look at myself. All of my thinking and all of my ideas had lost all their genius. The jokes were no longer funny. Nothing was funny about this. Nothing was funny about this at all.
I preformed my entire life to become this image to protect me and now, about to face the judge, I realized the reason why nothing was funny is because the joke was on me.
I remember the click-clack sound of the guard’s boots as he walked down the corridor and the jingle of his keys at his belt loop. I remember the sound of the doors rolling shut behind me and the loud clang of the steel cage as it closed hard.
I remember there were others shouting at me about me being fresh white meat. I was called, “White Bread,” and “Wonder Bread,” by two at the front of the tier that promised me a special morning when we were together in the holding cells at the courthouse.
I just stood quiet when they shouted about me; however, I recall a tall heavyset and feminine man when they brought him in. He was Spanish speaking, almost lady-like but very pudgy, and perhaps Mexican. He enjoyed the whistles from the men and smiled and laughed. I could see this when he was escorted passed my cell.
Then I heard one of the men shout, “Looks like we’re gonna have to leave the White Bread alone now.”
I heard another man reply, “Why? I like me some white meat!”
“You know what they say in jail?” said the other man.
“No. What do they say in jail?”
The other voice chimed in with a hint of laughter as he replied, “There’s no better joy than a fat butt boy!” and regarded the chubby femboy that just passed by.
Suddenly, I realized I was really in the wrong place.
There were others in the cell that night. One of them was in with me for a short period of time. He was in for beating his wife with a baseball bat because she lost his car keys.
There was another wife-beater inside too. He spoke to me for a little bit. He was in for throwing his wife down the stairs. He was a Jehovah’s Witness too with a thick Jamaican accent.
To describe the cell, it is small with a wood bench on the right side of the cell with a small amount of room in front of the bench and in the rear, left-hand corner was a stainless steel commode, or toilet, no seat or anything like that, and this was in a frame, like a pedestal with a drinking fountain at the top.
There were words scratched into the wall. Words like “Pain” and “Forgive me,” and “Perdon” in Spanish.
There was no toilet paper either. You had to ask for toilet paper. I know this because the Jehovah’s Witness kept asking for it and the one of the guards told him to “Go pray for it!”
Eventually, I was placed in a cell by myself, alone, because I was not supposed to be in with anyone else for protective measures.
(At least, this is what I was told.)
It was strange though. Yes, I was afraid of what was to come. And yes, I was afraid of what would happen when I saw my parents. I was afraid of the outcomes but yet, in the same process, there was a part of me that was relieved because at least this meant I didn’t have to keep repeating the same problem. There was relief because even while stuck in such a terrible place —at least I knew there was a change underway.
I was released the next morning to my parents. I was taken to different places, which my memory cannot recall, different doctors and different facilities.
I was told that I was going to have to go “Away” for a while and that I had one of two choices: Rehab or Prison.
I was told either I take the rehab time or I would have to serve one year, plus 90 days for my break-ins.
They had me on two burglary charges. One was from the deli and the other was from the park over on Prospect because someone gave up my name.
The worst was facing The Old Man. The worst was the cold quiet times around him. He wouldn’t even talk to me or look at me. I almost rather he hit me or beat me. But no. he wouldn’t say anything at all.
However, he did make me come with him to repair the damages at the marina. I had to fix a few things on the docks.
In all my life had never seen The Old Man cry. He only cried a few other times. The Old Man cried when his Mother died. He cried when he stopped coaching peewee football. And then there was the time we were on the boat in the cabin and he broke down.
“I wanted them to shoot you,” he screamed.
“Yeah, it would have hurt me but at least I wouldn’t have to watch you try to kill yourself all the time.”
I always wonder why people romanticize this life or act as if this was cool. I’m sorry. I don’t see anything cool about mental illness and depression or addiction and alcoholism.
There was nothing cool about the heartache I went through. There was nothing cool about the loss I suffered. There was nothing cool about me losing my teenage years, jail, and facing the judge.
Certainly, there was nothing cool about hearing my own Father say, “I wished they would have killed you. At least this way I could heal.”
I was just about to face my 17th birthday. I was having heroin smuggled home from someone I knew that worked at my Old Man’s shop. They all knew I was fucked up. The workers used to laugh at me, but no one was laughing anymore.
I swore, I thought I should die.
The men that worked for my Father came from different parts of the world. They grew up with hard lives and lived through hard times. They worked for a living, with their hands, and they built things. They had family and children. None of them wished this on anyone.
When they saw me before I went away, a man named Carlos (the Dominican) told me to be careful with tears in his eyes. And he hugged me. He said “I will miss you,” in Spanish, which I think sounded something like “Te extrañaré”
I will miss you, he said, and he hugged me because he knew what I was about to face.
I used to think about my life and my world, which was wrapped and shriveled down to the only view I saw. I was about to learn there was a much bigger world out there.
I just wished I had learned more about this before I broke my foot through the window of that deli. Maybe I could have learned on my own. But now the choice of how I learned was no longer mine.