It was my third day in prison. And I finally asked a guard where I could shower. I had been in a stupor. Where the hell was I? How did I get here? What the heck did I do to end up with all these cutthroats? Steroid muscled men with tattoos. Skinny tall guys spewing sass. The jetsam and flotsam of life.
Okay, admittedly, in Third World Countries I’ve been on the inside looking out once or twice. And for a bit I thought this was just another one of my misguided adventures.
But it wasn’t.
Yet it was.
And then it came to me – Stephanie. My future ex. She had sent three guys – three significant others — before me screaming into the wilderness. One even killed himself. And then there has been one guy since me. Five in total now.
And here I was. In prison! Because everyone believed her. Until they didn’t.
The police – some 10 of them – jumped me when I came home. They accused me of all sorts of vile felonious things. They said that Stephanie Ann Blatt (and later Middleton) said that I had assaulted her. And was holding her prisoner in the bedroom. Left brutal marks on her. And threatened her with a knife.
The irrational logic didn’t seem to dawn on them. I mean, I had just walked in the door. And they wrassled me down. Soooo, how had I done those things if I hadn’t even been here? I told them that she and I had a barking match last night, but that I had left early this morning for a meeting.
I understand that most cops are just trying to do a good job. But how did I end up with a roomful of them who aren’t. None of them wanted to think – not to mention rationally. Or connect duh dots. They just wanted to do what they were sent here to do, and then call it a shift… plus overtime.
Even though there were no marks. And no knife. And no me having been there.
Stephanie had apparently sent a bunch of e-mails to an Assistant DA. And the ADA, a woman who wore bad pant suits, pushed a button on her computer. And all these charges churned out. Even though 8 weeks later the charges would all be dropped… dismissed… punted. And duh same ADA who sought to raise my bail after my preliminary hearing now wanted me to press charges against Stephanie.
Hmm… I understand that those who graduate last in their law school class are still called – lawyers.
But there I was behind bars – despondent. Headed for the shower. In a daze. My 3-year business project in Russia had been seized by the politburo. My West African enterprise got shot up (like me) in a religious firefight. My younger son, born with every heart and lung disease imaginable, was teetering. The rent was due. And if I wasn’t a coward I would have just given in to giving up on life.
I had just started to wash under the soothing water when three over-sized goons squeezed into my narrow stall. They demanded to know “what are you doing in our shower, blanco?”
And before I could utter the obvious I was missing a tooth, and another one was cracked.
And as I lay there spitting out blood all I could think of at that moment was the admonishment my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy planted in my brain day in and day out: “Never let the bastards grind you down.”
At that I came to my senses. I picked myself up. In my allotted prison phone time I tried to remember anyone’s number. Someone. Somewhere. And truly it is difficult these days when everyone’s phone number is logged in your mobile that was taken from you in the joint.
But three days later, at 2:25 in the A.M., the guards came and got me. All I was told was that someone had paid my bail. And that I was to get the hell out. With no money. Not knowing where the hell I was. I walked out passed the guarded gates.
And I kept walking in the doom and gloom of the night. Not sure which way to go. No home to go to. And no way to get there.
But apparently I survived. I have survived far worse. In even worse places about the globe. All I can say is Nietzsche was wrong when he stipulated that that which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. The truth is we die in pieces. And a piece of me died then and there.
And with this terrible episode, just five years back, still coursing through my vivid memory I got to thinking about Sandra Bland. In fact, I can’t stop thinking about her.
She is the 28-year-old woman who died in a Texas jail cell after being arrested by what has happened all too often these days. This time it was a Texas State Trooper by the name of Brian Encinia. And in this country’s second largest state, he has become the country first biggest asshole.
With barely 16 months on the job he had yet to learn to be courteous and professional. But apparently he was well rehearsed in how to lie, betray, exacerbate and goad Ms. Bland into a situation much like mine. But, unlike me, it was one that Sandra Bland wouldn’t survive.
For allegedly failing to use her turn signal when changing lanes she ends up in jail for three days waiting for her bond to be paid. And on the third day she supposedly hangs herself with a plastic bag.
But of course
If she did commit suicide where did she get a plastic bag in jail? Inquiring minds want to know.
If she did commit suicide what was she doing in jail for three days waiting for somebody to pay her bail? What the hell was the purpose of her bail? Or any bail, for that matter. Bail only frees the rich. The poor are never free. Either you hold somebody who is an obvious threat to the community or you just set a court date. Enough of this nonsense and nuisance of having to get $500 for some stupid and arbitrary $5,000 bail!
After all, she was about to begin a new job with her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. It was only just down the road.
A cop, a state trooper lied. And now Sandra Bland is dead. For what supposedly began with her failure to use her turn signal in changing lanes. Encinia should be held morally and legally responsible.
Was racism in play? Was a macho man’s refusal to take ‘any iota’ of lip from a woman – even if she was legally in the right — in play? Was bloody damn ‘stoopeedity’ in play?
Once again, but of course!
Should that big game hunter, that idiot, pompous dentist from Minnesota who killed Cecil the popular lion in Zimbabwe last week, be put in play? Should he be sent to Texas, with his high-powered bow and arrows to hunt down and kill Brian Encinia – if for nothing more than what his own police camera captured?
You’re damn right!
Obviously, for me, I’ve had more than bloody enough. And I’m not even including that University of Cincinnati police officer who shot a black motorist during a traffic stop over a missing front license plate. (A missing front license plate for crying out loud!)
Look, I am no damn liberal. I am no damn apologist. I don’t care if you are a Jew-hating racist cracker. That’s part of America. What isn’t part is causing a death in the afternoon, morning or night. Sandra Bland was way-way more than one black life too many for me. Or any life! And I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Yet we’re so ‘stoopeed’, barbaric and downright ignorant that we require laws that stipulate cops must obey the law while enforcing the law. That no one should be carrying a gun or any badge of authority who feels he is above the law.
At this we should be asking ourselves: Who will protect the us when the police violate the law?
Admittedly, most of the time I am on the side of the cops. Even when they tackle me in my living room for things that happened when I wasn’t even there. That turned out to be a lie. That destroyed a big piece of me.
But I went on living.
I can only imagine the foggy blizzard blanketing Sandra Bland’s mind as she sat there in jail for three days. What is the point of this absurdity? Why am I here? How did this happen? Is the whole world mad? Or is this just the better part of Texas? And all the Encinia’s making life dangerous for the good cops who aren’t going to ‘light you up’ with their stun guns for not putting your cigarette out.
How is it that so much bad happens to people without power, without (bail) money, without the right color, without the right religion… without so much in a world that wants so much from them?
Most middle-class whites have no idea what it feels like to be subjected to police who are routinely suspicious, rude, belligerent, and brutal. Unfortunately, I do.
But then I do a lot of things. And I’m sure my older brother-duh-doc will gladly inform you that I do a lot of stupid things.
Mostly I shake them off. But for some reason this one’s got a hold on more than a piece of me.
Every day someone lives. Someone dies. Someone is killed. Someone is murdered. Someone commits suicide. Someone seeks redemption… someone does something stupid. Whether it is in Staten Island, Cleveland, Charleston or Ferguson.
Every day a tide of terror washes in while a glimmer of happiness drifts away.
Every day life and death greet us in the most ordinary and extraordinary manner.
Everyday it is here, there, everywhere about the globe. Yesterday it was in a jail cell in Texas — where Sandra Bland sat and despaired.
And I can’t let go of it.
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…