It’s crazy to think that 10 years ago today… I was in jail.
It wasn’t for very long, but when you haven’t thought too much about your white privilege, even 18 hours seems too long.
I never thought I would be the kid in my family to go to jail. I was the honor roll student, who; on paper, looked like the All American Over Achieving Teenager. I was involved in student mock trial, I was obedient (overall) to the Law and God.
In fact, I never thought any of my siblings or cousins would go to jail. Even the trouble makers; over all, we were all really good kids, brought up with respect. None of the boys were very violent.
Looking back, maybe it was obvious I would be the one to go, if one was to go.
My temper was far worse than any of them. And my quickness to hit or hit back, was evident. Maybe it was because I was the only girl around 3 boys; maybe it was my latent anger issues at losing my mother at four years old. Maybe it was a little bit of both.
January is a very precarious month for me. My mother’s mother was born on January 31,1927. My mother died on January 31, 1985. I went to jail January 17, 2005 and I got pregnant on January 31, 2007 (HA! The Chaste Moon or Snow Moon). My first niece was born January 29, 2014.
Lot’s of birth and death and change seems to occur around me at that time of the year. I should have expected it. My life was already in a sort of shambles.
I was living with whom I thought at the time to be “the love of my life”; below poverty level, working two jobs, and fighting all the time. The honeymoon period ended as soon as we moved 1200 miles from where we met, and from there things were on a rapid down hill slide.
Both of us had lost a parent at an early age, and were quick to anger. I never hit him. He smacked me more than once to get me to shut my mouth; but he never “pummeled my ass.” He would get in my face and yell at me, maybe throw my stuff around, but I never thought he would go “too far,” or at least further than I could handle.
I moved out once, before the night I went to jail. I didn’t have enough in my paycheck to pay my half of the rent; and most of our issues revolved around money, which was just an avoidance of deeper emotional issues. I was accused of not pulling my weight. I would rather run than fight again. So I packed my things, took them to a friends house, and left a note.
There he was the next morning at 6:30, waiting for me outside my job. He looked haggard; exhausted and tear stained; begging me to come home, telling me that we were family and that he loved me, that things would be different. And because I loved him, and believed him, and knew deep down, that our issues were emotional; because I was for the first time in my life, COMMITED to another human and our relationship, I went home to him.
And things were okay for a couple of months. He even said “We have to cut this shit out, or one of us is going to end up dead or in prison.” I definitely agreed.
The night I went to jail, was an average cold wet Oregon night. I worked my second job at a fine dining Italian restaurant in downtown Bend. It had been a busy night, so I stuck around after my shift to help with extra clean up and a shift drink. One hard cider turned into three; and on an empty stomach. I didn’t feel tipsy or buzzed, I was at work for a couple hours and felt fine to drive home.
I drove the three miles home feeling quite sober and when I got out of my car I felt drunk. I made it half way to the door and realized I left the dome light on, and turned back to shut it off. I leaned in turned it off and grabbed a couple of items from the back seat. As I shut the door a cop car pulled up and an officer got out and approached me.
“What are you doing?” He asks, holding his flash light directed at me.
“I forgot something in my car. Why?”
“There have been some break in’s in this neighborhood,” he gets closer to me. “Have you been drinking tonight?”
I knew he hadn’t caught me driving, and we were standing directly in front of my house; so, thinking I wouldn’t incriminate myself, I was honest and said “yes.”
I don’t remember how, but this led to a road side sobriety test. Wherein I got incredibly nervous, and full of adrenaline not only because of the Law, but because my boyfriend came out of the house. I knew either way the cookie crumbled, I was going to have hell to pay.
My boyfriend was obviously pissed to be woken from his beauty sleep. A look of loathing and disappointment was severe and evident across his face.
About the time I saw him, was about the time I spelled my own last name wrong. Things were definitely going from bad to worse. I already knew, my boyfriend would probably be mad that I was home later than usual… and he HATES cops… now one is interrogating me in our front yard, and I am FAILING.
He finally speaks up and tells the officer, “It’s fine, she lives here. That’s my girlfriend.”
The officer says “Fine, you can go in, and make sure you stay in, for the night.”
I say “okay” and “thanks” as my lover escorts me to the door. That is when things really start to blur. I am shaking, and as we cross the threshold he says, “I am disappointed in you, we will discuss this tomorrow, but I need some fucking sleep because I have to be up in 3 hours, so you need to sleep on the couch.”
I didn’t argue, I just went to the couch with my work clothes on.
I must have laid there a while, and decided to go to the bathroom and take my contact lenses out. He heard me from the bedroom, and got out of bed in a rage; yelling something along the lines of “lay down or I am going to lay you down.”
Now, I just don’t think this is something you say to a person whom you have hit more than once, and is also a rape survivor. Add in the chemical mix of alcohol and adrenaline; I became a self preservation machine. I don’t remember much, but the tussle. He came at me, and instead of swinging, or blocking; I grabbed his hair, and I held on, keeping him arms length away for as long as I could until he pulled away, leaving me with tufts of his hair in my hands.
He was livid. “You have to get THE FUCK outta this house, but you are not driving that car! I am going to pull the spark plugs out of it, but you, you need to get the fuck OUT!”
I started freaking out, telling him not to touch my car. I followed him out the front door grabbing at his t-shirt, ripping it away from his body. I got in front of him, attempting to block him from getting to the car, my hands still on his shirt, which tore some more; I lost my footing on the front stoop and fell backward holding the shirt, he was pulled forward and stepped off the stoop directly onto my face, breaking my nose.
I started bleeding immediately, and he saw it and freaked out. He ran into the house and locked the door, and called 911. I got up and went to the window, I saw him on the phone in the kitchen. I tried the locked door. It had since started raining, and I was soaked from falling on the ground. I noticed the blood, and I wanted to go inside; so I started banging on the kitchen window. The longer he ignored me, while on the phone; the more frantically I started beating at the double pane. That was until I busted through both panes of glass and shards were shot into my chest from the argon gas compressed between the panes.
My boyfriend yelled at me, saying the cops were on the way, and that he wouldn’t be letting me back into the house.
I was freezing, I had no shoes on, I just wanted to take out my contacts and go to bed. I didn’t want to fight, or go to jail, or deal with cops, or blood. I just wanted to rest. The escapist in me thought about running to the near by park, or hiding in someone bushes; the educated part of my brain reminded me of all the episodes of “COPS” that I had seen; and that no one ever gets away. So I sat patiently freezing on the front stoop until the Authorities arrived.
I don’t remember what they asked me. They took a statement from him, and in Oregon, in domestic disputes involving a 911 call…some one has to go to jail; and because one of the responding officers had already logged me in their book that night; I was the lucky winner.
I think the officers felt a little bad for me and the state of my face. Both of my eyes started to swell shut and shiners were becoming evident. As I recall, they didn’t cuff me; I had no fight left.
I was taken to the county jail, which at that point, I didn’t even know where it was located. I sat in processing, and the check in officer asked what the other guy looked like, to which I answered “I think he lost some hair.” He suggested I check out the domestic violence programs in town. I asked for an Advil, and was told “no”, then escorted by a female officer into a large bathroom; where I was instructed to completely disrobe so that I could be cavity searched. This was like some worst nightmare (I didn’t even know I had) coming true.
I was issued some ugly scrub type inmate clothes and taken to a holding cell until I would be moved to the general female population later in the morning.
They put me in a temporary tank with a woman who was probably in her late 50’s, early 60’s. She was screaming and violently banging on the plexiglass. “GIMME A NEW GODAMN DIAPER! I SWEAR TO CHRIST I WILL WIPE SHIT ALL OVER THESE WINDOWS!!! I WANT A CLEAN DIAPER YOU MOTHER FUCKERS!!! FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING PIGS!!!””
How the hell did I get here? I was freaked out; worried, tired, and scared as shit. I huddled in the corner with a blanket and cried. Again some compassionate officer must have had some pity for me, and the elderly lady was removed.
In the quiet cell, I called my dad, 1200 miles away. This was maybe a bad idea, and I could hear the helplessness in his voice when he said “what I can I possibly do, from here?”
I said “I don’t know. I just thought you should know.” And hung up, defeated.
I asked if I could make another phone call at 7:45, to let my boss I know I wouldn’t be at work. I cried and apologized for the collect call, I told them to take it out of my pay check. “everything would be okay. Don’t worry about it.”
I hung up the phone, and about that time I was taken to be transferred to the female jail bird population. I was given a brown lunch sack with a flimsy pen, a toothbrush, tooth past, a crappy comb, and a small pad of paper. I was taken to a 6 bed bunk, and shown my mattress, pillow and blanket. The officer advised me on hours of food and left me to assimilate.
I set my brown bag on the mattress and walked out into the commons room where every one else was socializing. I sat at an empty table and just observed the goings on. I was now apart of the great equalizer, and I had the outfit to prove it. At this point, I realized “I am an inmate.” Yet, I felt no guilt.
Some girl with a bunch of neck tattoos came over to me and sat down.
“What happened to yo face?” She asked.
I gave her a run down of the hours leading to my arrest.
“Damn girl, Imma give you my numba. And when I am outta here, you jus call me, and I will kick that muthafucka’s ass.”
“I really don’t think that is necessary, but I appreciate the offer.” I answered.
Another girl came over. Taller and heavy set, “Girl, you must be tough… you just got here and you are hanging out in commons? Man, I stayed on my bed and cried for a week before I came out to commons.”
“I really don’t think I will be in here very long, and I believe in making the best out of a bad situation.”
Tattoo girl asks “Whatchoo do?”
“Well, I work at a pizza shop… but I am a writer, painter and performer.”
Both girls nod, “that’s cool.” The tall one asks what I perform.
“I perform spoken word poetry. Would you like to hear some?”
The girls get excited and call some of the other women over to listen.
I make it through two of my favorite poems. They ask for a third, I make it almost through the third, and my mind blanks. I can’t remember the end; the lack of sleep is catching up to me, and I think I may be in delayed shock. I get a round of applause anyway, and apologize that my mind is just too overloaded to do any more.
Tattoo girl, looks tough, but she is compassionate. “That’s cool, girl. I didn’t talk to no one for days when I got here. It’s cool you shared that.”
“Enough about me… what did you do to get in here?” I ask her.
“Ohhh, me and my boo got lost in the Wal-Mart parking lot, for, like, three days.”
“What?!?” I query.
“You, know, we got some real good meth, and we couldn’t find out way outta the parking lot.”
In my head I was full of incredulous laughter. But all I could say, was “I can’t imagine.”
Lunch came and went, and all I wanted was sleep, but nothing about this situation made me feel comfortable laying down. I thought about drawing but my hands were shaky, and my eyes were swollen and watery.
At about 3:30 an officer came in to tell me my bail had been paid, and that I would be released. I asked who paid the bail and they said my boyfriend had. It was only $250.00. The kicker was this; in domestic disputes in Oregon, who ever makes the call, immediately has a state mandated restraining order on who ever received the charge. The police informed my boyfriend that he could not pick me up; and they informed me, that I could not go back home if he was there. I told them I didn’t have a ride home, they told me “that isn’t our problem.”
I was given back my damp clothes. No one had grabbed me a pair of shoes, and I had no idea where the hell I was or how I would get home.
Once in the parking lot, I took a look around to try and gauge where the house was in relation to the jail. I saw Pilot Butte to the South East, and started walking along the highway. I must have looked quite the scene, walking shoeless in January with no coat; arms wrapped around myself, wild hair whipped by wind, tear stained face beginning to amplify in it’s bruises.
I had probably traveled about a mile and a half when an old Ford F-150 pulled over just ahead of me. The passenger side door opened and a young woman and her husband called to me, “you need a ride?” I looked the truck over, it was old and beat up, a large crack in the back window. I just stared at them for a second, trying to decide if this was a safe thing to do; exhaustion didn’t care, so I said “sure” and hopped on to the bench seat.
The lady asked me where I lived, and I told her my address. They were familiar with area, which left time for them to ask questions like “Why are you walking along the highway with no shoes?” and “what happened to your face?”
I gave another run down of things, and finished up just as we pulled in front of my house. The lady, noticed the broken window, and said “Are you sure it’s safe for you to be here?”
“oh yeah. He’s not here right now… and the window, I did that.”
She looked concerned, but said “okay, be safe.” And they pulled away.
My life changed dramatically that day in January of 2005. I became a warden of the state, I now had a new Master to appease. I was no longer just a person with a couple of traffic violations…I was considered a domestic abuser, a person worthy of charges like harassment and assault; none of which felt true.
I used the hide-a-key to get into the house, took a long bath and l crawled into bed; attempting to forget my current reality.
Mumbling to myself as I drifted to sleep, “Fuck January.”
If you would like to read more about this life changing event (and see my horrible mug shot), CLICK HERE.