HE ASKS IF I'M OK and I suppose I am, although we are drinking Jameson and that’s never a good indicator that anything’s all right. I’m thinking about where I’m going to live, will I get back my half of the move-in deposit, who am I going to sleep with, if I can still afford to go to school, that I’m still unemployed, that the car needs repairs.
“You know, in times like these, I understand why people rob banks,” I said.
Most of us were going to need a lot of money to pay the court and legal fees.
We’re sitting on the tagged-up chrome benches, trying to eat plastic-wrapped-and-near-boiling-hot burritos, small squishy apples and drinking raspberry juices from tiny boxes that read, “Contains no juice.” Most of us were hungry but quickly lost our appetite when the guards brought the food. We mulled one of the burritos over, inspecting it with our fingers, saying “ah shit! It’s hot,” occasionally being scalded by the plastic wrapper.
There’s only one white guy in jail with us. Everyone else is black or Latino. We call him Güerro. It’s his second DUI, too. Most of us are in the Los Angeles Metropolitan County Jail for driving drunk, bench warrants, petty crimes or public intoxication.
There was a collective uncertainty as to how long we were going to be locked up for. Some of us had said that we would be released any minute now—having been all arrested and processed last night. The minor cases—first-time DUI offenders—would be let go in the morning. But, for the rest of us, the more serious offenders—warrants, felonies, driving with a suspended license, drug possession, multiple offenders—we were all fucked.
When I was brought in, Officer Takanashi sat me down on a bench in the processing room. At first I was alone, then a group of younger officers (one of them being no older than 20) sat down a younger guy with Velcro-curly dark hair and looking somewhat Latino. He looked depressed. We all did.
“Hey, hablas español?” I ask him.
“Estamos jodidos, ‘mano,” I told him. We are fucked. I wanted him to know just in case there was a shining glimmer of hope left somewhere deep inside.
I pass out, hoping to wake up in my bed. But that’s not what happened.
Robert says he has some drink tokens for a bar downtown. The Jameson is gone. We are both hesitant. But, like inertia, like nature, we give in.
I wake up with the guard yelling at all of us to get the fuck up and in line! We slowly come to our feet, some faster than others. We are lead into an elevator and told to look at the back wall. A few of us turn around. Some of us are still drunk so they are laughing. The guards yell louder. We stop laughing. Eventually we are led into another cell with bunk beds. We are handed two blankets. Güerro gets the top bunk bed and I get the lower one, which is what I would have preferred anyway. Most of us go to sleep right away.
by Bill Pieper
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