a grievous mistake

It's strange how some days, looking back, it's like you knew all along something dreadful was going to happen. I look back on that day and it's like theres this certain clarity about it. The sort of clarity you remember particularly injurious events from your childhood with. The sort of clarity that only comes after the horror has set in. I see myself moving through the otherwise mundane events of that day and it's with a sort of pity for the girl I'm watching. She doesn't know yet. She's just moving along, going to work, being irritated by the dog, getting dressed for a night out...I can see it all like it's on a reel of film. Like it isn't actually me going through those motions. As though what is to precede is not something that happened to me.

Sitting in a jail cell, two days later...looking back on that girl. She has no idea. She still doesn't believe shes the type of girl this sort of thing happens too. She still doesn't think she'd ever be dumb enough to get behind the wheel of a car when she's drunk. She certainly doesn't believe she's the type of girl who'd get caught. Who'd look up to see flashing lights in her rear-view and think "I am fucked." She certainly doesn't think she'd be sitting on a brick pallet in an orange jumpsuit, staring at barren, white-washed cinder block walls and wondering where in the hell she's going to go from here.

Three days of my life. Three days sitting, waiting, wondering. Trying to keep my mind off of how irreconcilably stupid I was. Three days of agonizing uncertainty and worry. Guilt and shame. Waking up and having that moment of bleary confusion before my mind realigns itself with reality and I remember where I am and what I did to get me here.

There are no clocks in jail. We kept track of time by what the canned laughter on the television was reacting too. I wondered if it was supposed to help, the fact that there was no clocks. Make it easier, somehow, to while away the hours that made up a day. It didn't. Not for me at least. I was always anxious, wondering what part of my schedule I was missing at that particular time. 10AM on Sunday, I'm late for work. 3PM on Monday, my roommates getting home from work, probably beginning to worry. Noon on Tuesday, I'm missing my second class of the day.

The first day and a half I was there the PIN they had given me to use the phone wouldn't work. I hadn't spoken to anyone besides Bail Bondsmen and police officers since I had said goodbye to my friends at the club in the early hours of Sunday morning. I didn't cry at all until I got my first visitor Monday afternoon. Walking through that door and seeing my roommates face as she took in my orange jumpsuit and pale, haggered appearance did me in, though. Trying to tell her how sorry I was, how ashamed...I could barely hold it together enough to have a conversation. But I managed, sending my apologies to my parents, who I had thus far been unable to reach because of the damn PIN. Trying to tell her that I wasn't mad they had left me in there. That I deserved it. That I was stupid and reckless and so, so sorry.

During my stay I manage to start and finish two novels (romance novels, the plots of which escape me now) and write a desperate plea that I hoped might paint me as something other than an alcoholic or a criminal. I practice yoga, try to meditate--though my mind wont stay quiet. I thinkt of all the things I should have done. I think of all the people I have let down, and the list grows longer every time I consider it. I eat nearly nothing. Pushing my tray away after a few bites and letting the other girls pick it clean. I came to terms with my situation the moment the cuffs closed around my wrists, I didn't cry. I didn't plead. I just accepted it and tried to focus on ways I could fix it. Somehow amend my mistake. The three days I spent in that cell were days of anxious impatience as I waited for my arraignment. For the chance to get out. To start putting my life back together.

I felt wretched. Wracked with guilt, shame, a deep and and abiding sense of self-loathing. I blamed no one but myself. Wanted nothing more than to get out and get to work putting this ordeal behind me. The holiday weekend delayed my arraignment and extended my detainment until Tuesday afternoon. When I was finally summoned to the courtroom around three o'clock that afternoon, I was ecstatic. I had been worried they would push me until Wednesday, keep me in that cell for one more night and endless, mind numbing day. I was also a nervous wreck. I debated the entire day whether or not to bring the statement I had scratched out on the back of one of my booking papers and ended up leaving it in the booking office, where they shackled my hands and feet. I can remember the ring of the cuffs as the bounced off each other, a surprisingly pleasant sound, reminiscent of the tiny brass bells I had hung as wind-chimes off my fathers porch when I was little. I remember the way they cut into my ankles every time I took a step, forcing me to walk in a stunted waddle, making me wince with every stride. Feeling pale and small and shabby in my orange jumpsuit amidst the sober dark brown and wood of the courtroom. Listening as the charges of the others with me, all men, all with previous offences, one with a list of charges so long I stopped listening. I remember watching one of the clerks, a woman in an artfully pleated yellow silk shirt giggling uncontrollably as his charges were read and feeling a little appalled by her lack of decorum. Of all of us, my few moments beneath the judges scrutiny were the briefest. He asked me only my name, then rattled off my charges and the conditions of my release, set the day of my court appearance, and moved on. I responded as respectfully as I could, my voice sounding thin and shaky in spite of my attempts to look and sound composed.

Walking out the door after having my possessions returned, dressed once again in the outfit I had worn to the club on Saturday night was one of the most vivid and heart wrenching moments of my life. I actually gasped, taking in the green of the trees and the lawn spread out before me. The sunlight filtering through the leaves, the air, cool and gentle on my face. I nearly cried. Or laughed. I'm unsure now which. I wanted to run. To throw myself down in the grass and roll in it like an ecstatic dog. Turning my phone on resulted in a chorus of chimes and chirps as my voice mail and text messages updated themselves and I set to work phoning the people I had been unable to contact from inside my cell. My mother, still in Hawaii on vacation, was so gentle and kind to me that I broke into tears, repeating over and over again "I'm so sorry." My father, his warm voice apologetic for not bailing me out, but ever supportive, telling me I would make it through this. To just stay positive.

The ordeal is hardly over. I still have a court date ahead of me, which will determine the extent of the damage I have done to my life. The cost of my fines, the possibility of probation. I'm not afraid, more resigned. I made a mistake. A terrible, terrible error in judgment that I will have to pay for. I am ready to face it. To deal with the consequences of my actions. To face the music, so to speak. This whole ordeal has made me aware of how frail the life I'm trying to build for myself still is. How easily I might have done much more damage. Hurt myself, or worse, someone else. How differently everything would have worked out if, when I had climbed into my car and sat asking myself "Are you OK?", I had just pulled my jacket over my head and taken a nap instead of turning the keys over and putting the car in drive. My foolishness is my own to deal with and while it will be a long, hard road, I am ready for it. I am grateful only for the opportunity to travel it, grow from it, and eventually put it behind me.


Post a Comment