A Long, Hard Day
I'm not sick yet and that's the only real gauge of time I have. The holding cells in Multnomah are in the basement; there is no light. It's amazing how much we grow to depend upon the sun to allow us to experience the passage of time. I was brought in around 7 a.m. When the holding cell door slammed shut, I woke suddenly out of the first sleep I'd had in some time.
On the cot next to me a young junkie was climbing onto the upper bunk. It's not hard to spot a junkie when you are one. It's like the aliens in the second body snatcher film. I turned onto my side on the baby blue vinyl pad I'd been sleeping on.
"I'm D," I said, extending a hand.
He took it gently and said, "Scott."
"What did they get you for?"
"Selling stolen property," he smiled. "You?"
"Burglary. But the cop seemed far more interested in the blood stains on my pants than any of the stuff in my car. So you might say I was arrested for being a junkie," I said as I sat up and stretched.
"I understand that."
This was the third holding cell that I'd been in since arriving. I must have shared cells with twenty different people by this point but Scott was the first junkie I'd met. There were plenty of drug addicts--speed freaks, crack smokers, drunks--but today, it seemed, was not a good day for heroin. The first guy I met was Gerald, a deaf crack addict and dealer who, through resourcefulness that I did not possess had managed to smuggle a pen into jail.
Hell, I can't imagine them missing a pin on me. On entering the jail, the intake officer searched me very carefully; they're particularly afraid of junkies because of the syringes and their almost hysterical fear of AIDS.
"You got any syringes on you?" that fat cop asked.
"I don't think so," I replied.
"What the hell kind of answer is that?" he barked. "Either you do or you don't."
"Look," I said, angry for the first time since getting arrested. "I've been handcuffed for four hours. I don't think I have any syringes on me but I can't say for certain. If you want to un-cuff me, I'll give you a more certain answer. Otherwise: I don't think so."
"Well, if I get stuck," he said, "you're going down."
"As long as you retain your professionalism," I quipped. He just glowered at me, not understanding my meaning but knowing that he'd been insulted.
He searched me up and down and paid particular attention to my genitals. With his hands cupped around my testicles he asked, "You got anything in here?"
This was too good--it was like Lewis and Martin. "Some women say 'yes'," I answered, "Some women say 'no'."
On the floor below Scott and me, Gerald was playing chess with another inmate. Earlier I had borrowed Gerald's pen and used it to construct a paper chess board. Gerald wasn't a bad player. He couldn't beat me but he made chopped liver of every other opponent.
Scott noticed the game and laughed. Anything to pass the time. Then he wiped his nose on his sleeve.
"You gonna be sick?" I asked.
"Not for a while. How long do you think you'll be in for?"
"I'm expecting to get OR'ed tonight. Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"It must be about midnight."
"If it's going to happen, it'll happen soon. What about you?"
"Oh. I had a warrant so I'll be here a while. It's not that bad though. I could use a little clean time."
"Hell of a way to get it."
It's about this time that I start second guessing myself. Why didn't I just say that the stains on my pants were from painting because I'm moving out of town? The computer? Of course it belongs to me. That's close enough to the truth anyway. But I'm a lousy liar and I always have been. I'm a pretty good thief though--present circumstances aside.
I was arrested at school in the early hours of the morning. They had me standing around in the cold in handcuffs for hours. I was worried they were going to wait so long that the students would start showing up. "Professor H! What are you handcuffed for?" I could do without that. Eventually, they brought me into the station so at least I didn't have to worry about it. I kept asking for them to allow me to take my Clonidine so I didn't get dope sick but they were afraid. Eventually, they had a paramedic come over and check me out. He maintained that the Clonidine could combine with the heroin in my system and cause me to OD. This is wrong but foolish is a man who argues with fools.
The paramedic did take my blood pressure. I had to be un-handcuffed for this and he took the opportunity to point out that if I tried to run he would beat me up. Why was everyone threatening me? It was pretty clear to me actually: they were afraid of me. Once I realized this, I thought, "cool. I'm the man and they're the drones. If they didn't have guns and handcuffs they wouldn't even be worth stepping on."
When the paramedic left, the officer went with him to talk. It was probably something like, "I nabbed me a junkie professor!" But I didn't care. My eyes were on my bottle of Clonidine on the officer's desk.
I jumped up onto the desk backwards and grabbed the bottle with my restrained hands. With a little work I got the child-proof cap off and poured two tablets onto the desk top. Then I re-capped the bottle and placed it back.
I could hear the officer coming back down the hall, his leather shoes causing echoes off the hard floor and walls. I jumped off the desk, knelt down and ate the tablets off the desk. When he returned I had a smile on my face and he looked at me with curious anger. It's not that I felt that I needed the drugs at that time. But I didn't want these rat bastards telling me how I ought to go about my detox. I might still be handcuffed but I had some control over my life.
"What do you do to support your habit," I asked.
"Hustle mostly," Scott replied.
"Hustle?" I said. "I don't understand."
"Did you ever see the movie Midnight Cowboy?"
"Oh! That kind of hustling. That's wild. So how long you been using."
"About four years. You?"
"About the same."
I noticed a scab on Scott's wrist so I asked him about it.
"It's just a track. I've really fucked up my veins." He pulled his shirt sleeve back revealing a worst scarred vein I'd ever seen. "I use a lot of old rigs."
The cell door swung open and a sheriff's deputy walked in. "H," he called.
"I guess I'm going, Scott. Good luck. It was nice meeting you," I said as I jumped off the cot.
"Same to you," he said.
The deputy took me down various corridors and up various staircases. He could have been leading me to the gas chambers. Instead I found myself in front of a window with a woman behind it. She slid my belongings under the glass.
"Do you know what time it is?" I asked.
"1:30 a.m." she smiled.
All the buses stop running at 1:00 a.m. which seems to be why they release prisoners after that time. I went to the phone bank and called Debra.
"They towed my car because, well, you know. And Theresa won't let me use her car," she said.
"I'll just walk. It's only a couple of miles. I'll see you in about an hour."
Outside the streets were deserted and the rain was pouring down. With all of the problems of walking across the bridge, it did take me an hour to get home. Once there Debra was not exactly glad to see me. I got her car towed and put unnecessary heat on her. But she knew I would be a little sick and she had a syringe waiting. I injected it. The effects were evident immediately: all my aches and pains were gone. And it didn't matter that I had to go to arraignment tomorrow; it didn't matter that I'd fucked up my relationship with Debra for good; it didn't matter that I'd destroyed all the work I'd done the previous ten years. That was all stuff that I could deal with later. Right then, I felt just fine.