In the Clink: Day Three

If you are just now joining the story, this is part three.  Check out part one first: 

I’m not going to bore you with how boring it was in jail. It can be summed up as: people were brought in. people were taken out. It was cold. The food was horrible and sparse.

My primary source of entertainment was my imagination, which was racing with all the horror stories the kindly old jail-birds had so freely shared.  The horror stories fell into two categories: Prison and Navy Jail (the brig).

I’m not sure which type of story was worse.  The prison stories were undeniably horrific.  Come to think of it, the brig stories were far worse, because they were deniably horrific.  Nobody in that cell had actually been to the brig, but everyone had a solid opinion about it.

I had no idea which destination awaited me–prison or the brig.  When the officers arrived to take me to court, I had already been well-wished and assured that I would return to the cell later that day, with tales of adventure.

Handcuffed, shackled, and with my handcuffs linked to a heavy chain around my waist, I waited in yet another very crowded, very small, block cell with many other women.  A long line of male prisoners were marched down the hall, past our window, and the women crowded the window to shout encouragement and various compliments at the men.  Their enthusiasm was returned in kind, which was quite heart-warming, really.  You can’t stop love.

At last, everyone had been removed from the cell except me and one young woman from Los Angeles.  We were there for hours, so we talked about everything under the sun.  I learned she was terrified of hippies, describing them as “really old, crazy people who will fight anybody for no reason.  But they do love their music.”  I agreed with her.

“My dad was a hippie.” I told her.

“Man, that’s scary.” She said. “Which prison is he in?”  He was free, as far as I knew, but he did love fights and music, so I recognized the wisdom of her opinion.

She, like everyone else in jail, was completely innocent.  Yes, she HAD been caught smuggling drugs into a federal prison.  But she was convinced that she had been arrested because of racism.  Hence, innocence.  I agreed with her.

She expected to be released that day, as soon as she had a chance to tell the judge that she did not deserve to be there.  I agreed with her.

“I don’t want to go to prison.” She said, in a miserable tone that belied the jocularity we had managed to keep up all day. “I’m really a nice person.”  I agreed with her, and actually meant it.

“If you get out,” she added, “And I don’t, you have to drink a cup of coffee for me, okay?”  We would have shook on it, but we were kind of tied up at the moment.

Eventually, I made it into the courtroom.  I felt like nobody could possibly look at me–in a jail uniform with shackles and my hair tied back with a sandwich bag–and not assume the worst.  I looked like a criminal.

I scanned the audience for a familiar face.  There were none, but there was a familiar form of dress that set my heart pounding.  Starched khakis, rows of ribbons, and shiny gold anchors on the collar.  Somebody was there for me.

The judge informed me that I was being charged with felony assault.  He informed me that I would be kept in jail until my trial in a few weeks.  Horror completely overwhelmed me, and I have no idea exactly how Chief got from his seat to the podium–whether he was invited or just invited himself.  Yet, there he stood, facing the judge.

His speech filtered through the chaos in my brain, and I’m sure he said some fine things.  But the gist of it was: Ours. Give back now.

The next thing I remember is sitting in the chief’s nice car in the parking lot, in the ratty civilian clothes I had been arrested in a few days before.

Two overpowering emotions surged through me.  They were: Shower. Coffee.

More kinds of emotions, thoughts, and realizations were later to follow, but, at the time, those two were as much as I could handle.

“Am I going to the brig?” I asked.

Chief let me know that we would return to the base, where I would take a room in the barracks until everything was settled. Nobody would post me.  I would return to work the following day, quietly, without talking to anybody about anything or being asked any questions.  My restrictions were that I was confined to the base until further notice (which turned out to be a long time), that I must not hit people (which seemed reasonable), and that I was not to touch alcohol for any reason.  He had promised the judge that he would be personally responsible for my actions.

“If you do end up getting sent to prison on a felony charge,” he said, “At that point, our hands are tied.  But, until then, your command is behind you.  Now let’s get something to eat and get you home.”

Home.  The word had just changed forever.

I’m glad to wrap up this three-part blog.  Now, I can get back to my usual style of writing–sarcastic, fun, and a little messed up.  However, I needed to write this, so I did.  Last night was the one-year anniversary of my arrest.  I’m glad now that it happened.  I learned so many valuable lessons and became a better person.  Also, I’m lying.  It was a stupid, useless experience that put me through months of nonsense.  But life went on.  And it’s turning out great.  I’m telling the truth about that one.

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