Meeting in the Middle Part 2

General

She becomes distracted. Thinking about dope. “I know exactly where you can buy it too…”she stops. “Crack too.” She turns towards me quickly and looks directly into my eyes. Maybe gauging my reaction or ? “But I don’t like crack too much. I use it to get up. Do you know I spent $80,000 on crack last year? $80,000.” She trails off and turns to picking at the food again. “That was my whole retirement. I have been living in my car in Richmond. Can you believe it? In Richmond, I am black. I have quite a community there. I know everyone. The dealers, the prostitutes, everyone, but I do stick out because I am a white girl.” Now my imagination gets the best or is it worst of me. I visualize too many things. She reads my mind.

“No, I haven’t starting ho-ing yet, I am too much of a dyke for that.” She laughs weakly then.

I change the subject, uncharacteristically uncomfortable. I am consummately curious about most people’s stories. I learn so much by asking. The asking deepens my understanding or compassion or sometimes just plain sick curiosity. I am interested, but also aware that what I have learned is that most addicts lie. Lie most of the time. I won’t be sure what the truth really is. So far it seems conceivable. The road to dope.

“Last time I saw you or knew of you, you had a kid. I think I saw you at our Alma Mater and you were working there…” I say. “Yeah, Henry. He is three. I haven’t seen him in 4 months. The bitch…” she stops, and then goes on. “ I was working until — took over.” I can’t recall the name she said now. “I quit.” I wonder if this is the real story. I began to dig, search for some memory of her partner and the boy child. I want to put this all in some sort of context, or at least the context of the past. I say, “I can’t remember your girlfriend’s name.”

“——–, you remember, Mary. She worked for the college too.” “Oh, ok,” I reply. “I do remember.” I don’t tell her that I don’t remember that well or what ——- looks like. “She won’t let me see Henry. He is everything. A beautiful child.” I start to see the sadness, but not despair. I am waiting for that, but it doesn’t come.

Its my turn. “——, when I saw what you were in the jail for, I tried to formulate an explanation. My gut told me that it was probably some partnership thing. I don’t know. Perhaps I was trying to come up with a palatable explanation.” “Well, you’re right, Mary. You are a real cop. I asked her for money and she wouldn’t give it to me and I had her ATM card and I took out $300. $300 lousy dollars and she got a case…all I did for her. She saw me and hooked me. She knew how to get me to run around. All the things…” I now accept some as partial truth. I wouldn’t ask if she stole the card or anything else. I really didn’t want to know.

“I got arrested on this warrant before, and if my friend wasn’t speeding and that dumb Antioch cop didn’t pull us over…” I recognize the blame game. It was really showing itself. Others’ fault. “Can I tell you illegal things?” she asks. “Sure,” I answer, although I feel I made the wrong choice. Oh god, please don’t tell she witnessed a murder or hurt someone. “ I deposited this forged check for $5,000 for this guy and was supposed to take out $500 and give him $480. I took $100. Why didn’t I just take the $20 for my fix? I owe this guy $100. See this?” She points to her left eye. I don’t see much but I look hoping. “He hit me, and I will probably get teeth knocked out when I see him again. He pulled up his shirt and showed me the gun in his waistband last time. This is crazy, huh?” The story is believable knowing what I have learned about the dope culture, but I get this feeling that she is pulling me somewhere. Wants my sympathy, wants money. I do feel sorry for her, but I will not go there with the money issue. No way. I feel a twinge of guilt, but know it is the right thing. She doesn’t pursue it, but I feel it resting heavy in the air.

We talk about court and what likely will happen for a bit. “The first thing I am going do when I get out of there is take a pull on a pipe.” I think she sees my disappointment and says, “just to get up a bit. Get going …” I ask her about her car and learn it is with the friend, the speeder, the reason she said she was in here. At least she has that. She reads my thoughts again. “Yeah, at least I have my car. They didn’t tow it, thank god.” She asks about my ex.

I realize how articulate she is. Her memory is great too. Likely better than mine, I think. When I told her we hadn’t been together for years, she appeared surprised. Our circles don’t overlap that much. It’s clear now. She then tells me that I must be a terrific cop. “You were a great coxswain” she smiles. “Poised. Calm. I bet you are like that now too.”

I tell her I enjoy the job. I begin to feel the divide, the great distance between us. How I have changed. How our worlds, although entangled in certain ways, she has landed on the darker side. She shows no shame. If it is there, she hides it well. It is obvious that the dope is calling her. Her anxiety is for its relief. She exhibits no despair though, and I feel that venturing into chat of rehab or “working” as an X, a snitch in Richmond, wouldn’t work at the moment. She is a mind reader or the pauses tell her something vital. “The dope gives me that place where everything is ok. Some peace.” She stares at me and asks, “Do you know what I mean. Do you have something?”

“I think everyone has something” I offer. So what is yours, Mary?” I pause and imagine all that could be and feel a bit of solace then. “Guess it is cigarettes, “ I say. She turns with obvious disappointment. Wanting to be more alike.

I give her my business card and tell her to reach out if she is in trouble. I give it as a cop, as a police officer, I know. Perhaps the anguish will emerge and I secretly hope that it arrives before death. I ask her if I can give her a hug and she stands to receive it. “Be safe,” I say. “You too,” Mary. As I walk out the cell door,” I finish, “I have to shut this door, ——-” “ I know, go ahead”, she says as if giving me permission. I shut the door as softly as I can but it is heavy and slams. I leave the jail and walk back into my world.

Meeting in the Middle Part 1

Children Facing Death General Questioning

Now that I have retired, I am remembering. Here is something I wrote years ago about an experience of encountering someone I knew from college that was booked into our jail.

———-

The yellow post-it note was in my Patrol team box attached to our staffing binder. It was from a colleague named Marty who works in the Warrants Detail. So in so “is in the jail and she would like a visit.” I recognize the name on the sticky note instantly. Geez, what could she be in our jail for? I went to my Sergeant’s desk and searched our jail log on my computer. There was her name. In custody for 484(g) PC. Well, that was some measure of relief, but not much. At least it wasn’t a felony or something truly awful, but still…how did she know I was a cop? Grapevines, I suppose. We weren’t good friends, but our circles in college overlapped. She was on the crew team too. My head was spinning.

I decided to wait until late in the shift to make a walk to the jail. If I went there early in the shift, whatever I saw, heard or faced would consume me all night and morning. I knew myself well. I was reviewing reports a bit before 6am and it hit me. That yellow post-it. Visit the jail. At least the jail staff will be readying the arrestees for the jail run. The jail run was what we called the process of transporting prisoners in a van to the court in Oakland. My shift was almost over so I wouldn’t have much time. Guilt hits me and I wonder why I feel so resistant to see her. I am supposed to be compassionate. A certain something was holding me back. Intuitive voice I gather.

I walk to the sally port area of the jail. I slowly remove my gun, OC, ASP and flashlight and lock them in the metal drawer and slam it shut, pull the key and shove it in my back pocket. The sally port door into the BPD jail is a heavy metal thing and is painted an offensive orange color. (as opposed to pleasant orange). The door has a small window to peer inside the jail. I push the call button and wave at Lee in the control area. The door is activated by an ever-changing code and opens very, very slowly. I am small enough, so I always go in sideways, well before the door opens halfway. It’s become muscle memory and a habit I picked up years ago when I go into the jail without a prisoner. I smile at Lee as he looks at me intently, almost certainly checking to see if I have a prisoner with me. I walk straight forward, passing the pre-booking area to the left and wait for the interior jail door to open. The exterior door clicks shut behind me. I always get an eerie feeling being locked in. If there is some sort of emergency out on the street, it takes what seems like a lifetime to get out. That’s the point, I suppose.

I walk around the control room to the access door, intent on checking which cell she is in and she sees me before I see her. It was as if she has eyes in the back of her head. She is facing away from me and hardly turns. She waves over her shoulder and continues to eat what looks like pancakes in a plastic tray. I continue in to greet Jay and Lee and Henry Ann. That’s me, my way. To say my hellos and how are yous and show my appreciation for their work. Perhaps I am stalling too.

“I came to see the woman in 116.” I had glanced at the cell number on the door when she had waved. Henry Ann replies, “Yeah, she said she knew you.” “Yea. Ok. Is it all right if I go in?,” I ask. “Sure if you want to sit in there, I will click the door when you get there.” Henry Ann says. “Thanks” I reply.

I get to the door and see that she is sitting at the round metal table with four seats about it. Everything is smooth, no edges. Everything is bolted for safety. She is alone in one of the women’s “dorm” or community cells, which holds four women. There are metal beds with blue plastic mattresses rolled up on them. I don’t know if she had any company, but I do know she chose this option, as arrestees are asked if they want to be alone or with others. There are many more single cells in the jail.

“Hey Mary,” she says, still picking at the pancakes in a tray. I see that they are drowned in syrup and her paper cup of coffee looks as if it has gone cold. She keeps her head down. “Look at you…” she mutters. “Yeah,” I say, as I sit on one of the hard seats right next to her. “Marty left me a note that you were in here.” “Marty?” I realize she may not have known his first name. Before I can elaborate, she interrupts. “Oh, the cop that brought me here. He was a cool guy.” “Yeah, he’s nice,” say. I feel awkward, as I look her over. It is definitely her. Her clothes are dirty and she she has that familiar homeless smell about her. Her hair is thick and graying in spots and the parts of her arms that I can see with her slightly rolled up sleeves are dry and alligator like.

“I am a supervisor – was busy last night,” I utter. My way of offering an excuse for not coming in sooner without lying directly. “No problem. I am glad you came.” Now I tell the whole truth. “Marty left a note in my box and when I saw your name I was baffled, I reveal. “Yeah, huh.” she says, looking up at me now. I continue, “I checked the jail log on my computer right away to see what you were in for and it said, 484(g) PC.” She was attentive now, almost anxious…I elaborate. “Fraudulent use of an access card.” I go on as if asking a question. “That’s just a misdemeanor, right?” “Yes,” I say. Her body registers relief, and she turns to the breakfast again and takes a few bites. “Can you believe it.” she says, framed more like a statement rather than a question.

“What happened?,” I ask, and then think it sounds stupid. She starts to tell her story. I listen carefully while looking at her hands, her slumped shoulders as she talks… “It started with a back injury. I was on Vicodin then …I have been in West County for 7 nights and am kicking Methadone….” She stops eating and looks at me. I see that she is unfocused, her eyes strange. I imagine her dope sick and ask. “How are you doing with that?” “Not too bad. I am kicking two pills. I was up to 10 and went down to two before I got arrested. If I was kicking 10, it would be a lot worse.” I think about that but do not verbalize… I have seen people dope sick and it is agonizing to watch. It could be me, I think. I reminisce. The line was drawn; I stepped away and walked in the sand towards the water. So many choices, so many years ago.

Me the cop, I have been pleaded with, offered sex, begged on knees and cried and screamed at by people who I have arrested and taken to a jail who do heroin. I look to her eyes again. The terror of being dope sick drives them to the pleas, the negotiations.