With now two friends out of custody, I felt a tad bit more at ease. I knew it would now only be a matter of time before I was bailed out. Fifty dollars was not really all that much and I knew our friend who avoided arrest had at least that much on him. I realize there were still two of us in custody at that time, but my other friend had much more serious problems at hand and would not be free anytime soon. He was in possession of those more serious drugs they were searching for. His bail was much, much more.
I hope no one reading this has undergone the procedure of going from freeman to state property. It is very degrading and designed to remove any sense of self you may have once had. Especially when you keep reminding yourself that your freedom is only fifty dollars away. Makes you feel cheap for having such a low cost and worthless for not being able to pay it.
I sat in a row of chairs waiting for my name to be called by the booking officer. I never felt quite so alone and hopeless in my life. My friend was sitting next to me, but he had larger problems to deal with. We were no good to each other at that moment. We were in full selfish self-preservation mode. Our only hopes were that our free friends were not in that mode yet. They were all we had.
“Brad.” I gulped. It was my turn. No last minute reprise was coming. It was right then and there the full seriousness of it all hit me, but I was still rather stoned at the same time. It kept the emotion of the drama unfolding a good distance from my mind. I was watching a first-person prison documentary. I knew this guy was fucked, but could not settle on the fact that the guy was me.
“Remove all your possessions and place them on the table.”
I removed my wallet and my earrings and placed them on the table. My cigarettes and lighter were next. I could not remove my “Guatemalan Friendship Bracelets” because they were tied tightly around my wrists, so they were cut off. My unused ticket for the show was placed on the table next.
“I was never read my rights.” My mind was scrabbling for something to attach a shred of hope to. Maybe they would realize this and say they were sorry and let me go.
“So I was never read my rights.”
“First- asking to be read your rights tells us you know your rights and second- you were caught red-handed. We don’t have to read you your rights if we catch you in the act.”
That did not sound right at all to me. I took a mental note of that conversation feeling that I was going to need a lawyer and that might be something. It always means something on television.
The last item I had to remove was my necklace. I wear two charms on it as the two signs of my faith and have since ninth grade. I wear a Jewish star my parents bought me in Israel and a peace symbol my uncle had made for me in Alaska. I have lost numerous personal items in my life, but have managed to hold onto both of these for more than half my life.
“Wot’s that?” the officer collecting my personal effects asked of my pendants.
“It’s a Jewish star,” I politely answered back, confused by his question.
“You Jewish?” he asked. “I ain’t never seen no Jew before.”
I heard the Deliverance banjos in my head. I had never felt fear quite like I did at that moment.
I must state here and now that most writers make up dialogue, even in true stories. A person cannot remember ever word spoken, but I assure you my readers that those very words are the words spoken by the cop that day. I have never forgotten them and my hands shake now as I type this remembering that fear.
My memory shuts down after that for a short time. I think a doctor would call it “shock.” I had no idea what was to come. I only knew I was in the deep South in the custody of people who “never seen no Jew before.” Who knows what exactly they believed about me or what would happen to me. I had seen too many movies. I was terrified.
My only comfort was the blue Honda Accord that I saw from the bus window pulling into the parking lot of the county jail we arrived. My friends had gotten to the station at the same time I did. Freedom was moments away!
I was shackled to some short guy with a moustache and my friend who was still arrested was nowhere to be seen. I assumed they had taken him to a different jail since he was facing more serious charges.
It is impossible to walk when shackled to another person. Imagine taking part in a three-legged race, only instead of twine your ankles are held together by unforgiving steel. I take long strides when I walk. The short guy to my left tried his best, but his legs just could not keep up. It was the most painful thirty paces of our lives until we reached holding cell one.
Holding Cell 1 was not its name; it was just where we were held prior to booking part two, which involved the mug shots and cell assignment. It was a large room with two windows for walls, a bench and a door. Lots of graffiti covered the walls: "what became of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" is the one that stands out in my mind.
I was sobering up and started wondering what was taking my friends so long to pay that bail. I was about to be placed in a cell any moment now. If they were going to get me out, now would be a great time. I glanced around and saw most of the cells were open barred. They held four people in each with four beds.
They had arrested 245 of us that day and it looked like they were keeping the Hippies together. Thank G-d for small favors. A few hours in a cell with fellow Deadheads did not seem like the worst thing in the world.
When my name was called for my cell assignment, I got something very different from every other Hippie that day. I did not get the open barred cell. I did not get three cellmates. I got led down a hall into a room with a solid metal door. Inside I found myself in a room with a toilet, four beds, and twelve black guys. I would say this new fear rivaled the previous fear, but I had a feeling one was due to the other. I cannot say for certain, but I really do still think it was.
TO BE CONCLUDED…