Friday, October 31, 2008

Spare Change #24

I haven’t been in the back of a police car in a very long time, maybe five and a half years? I guess most people would not think that was a very long break from this kind of experience but it’s all relative.

Relative, relatives…

No. There will be more than enough time for those thoughts all too soon.

We hit a red light and I slide further down my seat, feeling like a criminal even without handcuffs. People see what they expect to see, they don’t ask questions; cops go in the front, crooks go in the back.

I glance up to see Officer Cruz smirking at me in the rear view mirror. Anger flares up but I decide to stare at my shoes and keep my mouth shut. I don’t want to give him any excuses to lock me up.

Last time I took this lonely ride there were handcuffs and ankle restraints; I had been quite the handful. I wasn’t such a good citizen of the streets back then, still had too much pride.

I don’t remember the face so well, but I remember his words: you should all be rounded up and shot – you’re all worthless.

I have blurred images in my mind of tackling him to the ground and punching his face until someone managed to drag me off. I do have several crystal clear pictures though: two broken teeth on the sidewalk; a white business shirt stained cherry red; the look of disgust on a young mother’s face.

That little incident got me a month in jail and six months in rehab. The prison time had the bigger effect – never wanting to go back there was enough motivation to keep my anger and pride in check ever since.

And now here I am, one wrong word from going back.

We turn into the police station parking lot as a light rain begins to fall. Officer Cruz stops the car with a jolt that almost sends me head-first into the plastic barrier between us.

I catch a glimpse of his partner flashing him a dirty look before she climbs out and opens the door for me. I give her a quick nod of thanks and join her in the rain and the smell of wet leaves. The feeling of relief is immediate and overwhelming. I’m tempted to make a break for it.

Officer Cruz’s arm on my elbow, guiding me into the station, ends that thinking in a heartbeat. The lobby is pretty quiet, the calm before the evening storm of drunks and addicts. A few heads turn as we pass through but nobody can be bothered to say anything.

The two cops bring me to a room filled with desks piled high with paperwork. A few officers are busy typing away at keyboards, one is yelling into his phone, the remaining desks are empty.

Officer Cruz helps me take a seat by a desk near the back of the room, none too gently. After a whispered conversation with his partner he sits down across from me. Damn it.

“I’ll be taking your statement,” he says with a flat stare. He pulls out the keyboard tray and logs into his computer while I try to find a believable excuse for needing to tell his partner my story. I don’t even know her name but I’ve seen enough to know she would be more sympathetic than this guy. I’m pretty sure a rhino would be too, for that matter.

“I’ll be over here if you need anything,” she says and begins to turn away before pausing to put a hand on my shoulder. “I’m Officer Strickland by the way; don’t worry, we’ll get this all sorted out for you.”

“Tina, please.” I want to punch him so badly. I say nothing, busy myself with examining the floor tiles.

“Relax Rick, it’ll do you some good,” she says with a smile and slips away before he can reply. I look up to see him glaring at me, jaw muscles clenched.

This is not going to go well.

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