*** I didn’t expect this to stretch into so many entries… thank you for your patience. I think this is the last of it. Whew.
It was after lunch when I finally made it back to the pod. I’d had the shackles on for hours at that point and all I wanted to do was hurry up and get released. Unfortunately, there is no “hurry up” in this environment. I rubbed my wrists as I stumbled through the heavy door, still having phantom pains of the recently removed shackles around my ankles.
I looked up at the TV and noted that “Everyone Loves Raymond” was on. Benign enough, I guess, but there was no sound so I didn’t see any reason to sit out in the common area with my fellow pod-mates. I retreated to my empty cell, wondering where Shona and Cricket were, and decided to take advantage of the “alone time” to use the toilet thingy. I shut my cell door. I didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to do that, despite pouring through the Standard Jail Practices brochure earlier that morning. An alarm went off, which scared the poo out of me. One guard stood watch outside my cell, which I presume was to make sure I wasn’t going to commit suicide with my towel – all seven inches of the ratty terry cloth it was – or stab myself with the toothbrush that I’d scraped against the cinderblock trying to make a pair of tweezers. I stood motionless right by the door – no alarm causing here – until another guard got clearance to open the cell door.
“Don’t close the door again, Brewer.”
It was about 2 pm when the guard called me to prepare for release. I walked out of my cell like a little kid ready for Christmas morning. I’d been counting down on my hourly Jail Advent calendar and now it was almost here! “Is it time for release yet? Can I go? Now? NOW? NOW????” My patience was wearing as thin as my jail issued towel. Just then, an alarm went off, red lights flashing and incessant buzzing scalding my ears. With wide eyes, I looked at my guard. “What’s that?” I asked. Without giving me a second look, she screamed out to my fellow pod-mates, “LOCKDOWN!” Everyone began heading toward their cells and doors started sliding shut. “What the…, WAIT! NO! I’m supposed to get out now!” Tears threatened to spill over as I looked around for someone else to help me. There had to be a manager around, right? This is simply not good customer service. Oh, crap. I forgot. I’m in jail.
I begrudgingly headed for my cell. Shona and Cricket were already laying down so I climbed up to my treehouse. A thin sliver of bright sunlight streamed through my tiny window. I craned my neck in hopes of catching a glimpse of the outside to still my racing heart from bursting. I don’t know that I’ve felt disappointment so severely. The sobs took over as I unwillingly broke down. The girls just let me do my thing without saying a word.
I think I fell asleep.
About two hours later, the cell doors reopened but I didn’t get up. I don’t know what happened to cause the lockdown but I was terribly curious as to what was so freaking important that I wasn’t released at 2 pm. This whole jail thing had really messed up my schedule. And, even more depressing, was whatever had caused the lockdown was now stalling all releases. About 20 minutes after our doors reopened, a crackling announcement came over the intercom, “Ladies, there will be NO RUNNING. That being said, the library cart is here.” The moment the voice disappeared from the loudspeaker, I heard the extreme silence of the pod turn into nothing short of a stampede of Serengeti proportions. Women were trampling each other to get to the book cart before I even had the sense to think. “Shit! I’m going to miss all the good books!” Adrenaline pushed me over the edge of the bunk bed, jumping like a cougar out of a tree instead of using the rungs to climb down safely. And like a kid who’s trying to run without running, I fast-walked with my arms straight down by my sides. Run two steps, walk three… almost…to…the…cart. Women were picking over the books like vultures over a carcass. I stood on the outer circle, waiting my turn, when I saw a Nora Roberts book that I’d already read before. I carefully reached over the heads of the other ladies crouching before the cart and plucked the book off the shelf. Unfortunately, my fingers did not get a good grip and the book fell on one of the ladies’ heads.
My verbal response was, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” as opposed to what was going through my mind, which was “Oh Sh*T! Oh Sh*T! I’m going to get killed!” My pod-mate was clearly unhappy about the mishap, but after her penetrating glare burned a hole through my soul, she turned back around to find herself a book. I took Nora Roberts and did the “run-walk” thing back to my cell. Oh, SWEET RELIEF! I can lose myself in this book instead of sobbing on my crappy plastic mattress! Huzzah! I climbed up to my bunk with Nora’s tome under my arm. I stretched out, crossed my legs and sighed as I opened the thick book to the first page. It was, so far, my happiest jail moment.
I was two paragraphs in when the guard screamed “BREWER! Time to go!” At first I groaned, “Are you joking? I just started reading this!” But then I realized that I was in jail for crying out loud, and I better get out while the gettin’s good. Shona was going to be released at the same time, so we grabbed our buckets. Shona bequeathed her roll of toilet paper to Cricket, so I did the same. It felt good to give. Cricket asked if we would make a phone call for her when we got out. I told her that I didn’t have a phone. Shona said she would gladly make any call Cricket needed. She wrote down a few numbers and then we left. Shona grabbed my hand as we walked out. It was the closest lesbian experience I had while in the joint.
The process of getting out was long. When I finally changed out of my blue jumpsuit and into my own yoga pants (size M) I asked the person running wardrobe if there were any shoes I could have since I was brought in without some. He looked around and found a pair of dingy tennis shoes, size 10, that I could have. I’m a size seven.
Grateful to have something on my feet, I climbed the long set of stairs to freedom in my clown shoes. It was six pm. Shona was waiting at the top for me. She wrapped her jacket around my shoulders and handed me her cell phone. “Make as many calls as you need.” With the weeping threatening to begin again, I made some calls. My bf let me know that my friend was going to pick me up in a few minutes. I wept with relief. When I handed the phone back to Shona, she told me that she would take me anywhere I wanted to go. I let her know that my ride was on her way. Shona then told me to keep the jacket. My heart warmed at her display of incredible kindness. And as my friend pulled up, Shona and I waved goodbye to each other. And that was that.
I couldn’t go home so my friend took me to her house. She was kind enough to offer me a fresh set of clothes, food, a place to sleep, and a SHOWER. I stayed in the shower for a long, long time. I think I wash/rinse/repeated at least five times before my skin threatened to fall off. Then I crawled into bed, turned on the DIY channel, and fell asleep.
The next morning, I’d heard that Matt had posted on facebook that he had to have me arrested… the stories that were getting back to me were wild. I was sure that he’d involved the school in some manner, so I decided to go face that right off the bat. Besides, I needed to see my kids. I stopped by the counselor’s office and had a nice, long chat with her. I explained what really happened and offered to show her the police report. I was ashamed even though I had no real reason to be. When it came right down to it, everyone was so supportive. I learned quickly that most everyone felt this was totally bogus, and they were ultimately embarrassed that he had dragged them into our personal issues in trying to get everyone to side with him. I had a constant barrage of people telling me that they “had my back.”
But the moment that was most difficult was waiting by the door for Ben to come in from recess. His last moment with me was watching me get hauled away by the police. And then he spent 36 hours in his dad’s care hearing God only knows what. But when he saw me, he ran into my arms and started crying. “You’re home! You’re home!” he exclaimed. Yes, love. And nothing will ever keep me away from you again. It was the same with Madeline. She hugged me hard, fighting back the tears. “I know you didn’t do anything wrong, Mommy. Why did the cops take you away?” I couldn’t explain it to her. I could only say that mommy and daddy had a lot to sort through and how sorry I was that she had to see that.
For nearly two weeks, I stayed with my friend. There was a restraining order that forbade Matt and I to be anywhere near each other. I saw the kids every day while they were at school. Then Matt was forced to move out of the house and I got to go home on Halloween. It was one of the best days of my life.
The experience has stung for the past two years. It gave people something to talk about for a while. And one of the people who were supposedly “appalled” by my actions had the audacity to call me – behind her deadbeat husband’s back – and ask how hard it was to get a divorce. She’s not allowed to publicly admire me but I know that she secretly does.
I’m a legend. I am a badass (despite crying in front of other inmates 😉 )
And I’m a survivor.