Stockholm Syndrome


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I stood at a counter in the back of a high-volume fish and chips restaurant breading cod when the kitchen manager, Rob, grabbed me and invited me to smoke a bowl in the outside storage area. I normally did not smoke pot at work, however I would usually make an exception when my boss insisted. I left the fish sitting on the table and we headed out to the porch and sat down on a couple plastic buckets.

As the bowl neared completion and Rob was taking what could have been the final hit, the door opened. He stuffed the pipe and lighter into his coat pocket as one of the cashier’s stuck her head out. She was a gorgeous woman I had seen only a few times before because she usually did not start working until the end of my shift. I had already classified her as being out of my league since I felt she was attractive enough to be a model and as a cashier she even made more money than me and for some reason I knew she was in college, which was something I had given up on after the first quarter. Still, I imagined being with her.

“Is there a ‘Kalin’ back here?” she asked.

“Yeah, that’s me,” I replied.

“Someone’s here to see you.”

“To see me?” I asked.

“Yeah, he asked for Kalin.” She held out a hand. “I don’t believe we’ve met before. I’m Sarah.”

“Hi, I’m Kalin,” I said. “So whose here to see me?”

“I don’t know, but he looks like a cop.”

My heart sank.

“A big guy with a gun… so… uh… you might wanna hide your stuff there.” She motioned toward the pocket where Rob had stashed his pipe.

“Oh—“ Rob started. “I’m sorry, I should have offered you a toke. I think there’s another hit if you want—“

“No!” she cut him off. “No thank you. I don’t smoke.”

I went out to the front and there was old Stanley Marks, the officer who, unfortunately, I knew all too well. I walked up to the front counter and said hi.

“Why don’t you come around and we’ll step outside. Your co-workers don’t need to see this.”

I walked around and we stepped outside and started talking.

The story behind this, of course, is rather complex and detailed, but isn’t really relevant to this story. We discussed the situation for a few minutes and then Stanley told me that he needed to arrest me on an outstanding marijuana charge.

He pulled out a pair of handcuffs. “I apologize for this, but I need to put these on you… I get in trouble if I bring someone in whose not in handcuffs.” And as I spoke, movement from inside caught my attention and I saw Sarah poking her head around the corner of the salad bar to get a peek at us. She cocked her head and just gazed as I turned around to let Stanley put the handcuffs on me, and I thought, now she’s really out of my league.

———————-

My heart was thumping, of course, but I was calm, as this is something you kind of need to prepare for as a pot dealer. I remembered back to grade school and how I would always get picked on, and tried to tell myself that it wouldn’t be that bad, as silly as that sounded. It would be good for me… like a trip back in time to seventh grade, just enough to help me appreciate my freedom.

But Stanley had assured me in no uncertain terms that my crime carried a mandatory minimum sentence of a year and a day in maximum security prison… so I just kept telling myself that it wouldn’t be any worse than seventh grade, and I would get through it.

After arriving at the jail just two blocks away, someone asked me a long series of medical questions through a glass window then sent me inside to sit on a bench. I tried starting a conversation with a middle-aged drunk woman sitting next to me, but all she had time to say was “I’ve had a really bad day,” before another guard came over and asked me to come over to a little stand to have my photo taken.

“Have you ever been processed into jail before?” he asked with a smile.

“Nope.”

“Okay, well, I’m just gonna give you a quick patdown and get your photo and fingerprints and give you a little bracelet. It shouldn’t take more than five to ten minutes and then we’ll get you situated.”

“Okay,” I replied, following to stand in front of the camera. And already my nervousness started to ebb. I had expected to see condescending stares and blunt demands from these guards.

The patdown was quite quick as he’d promised, and as he finished it crossed my mind that I could have easily brought in a quarter ounce of weed in my crotch and a sheet of acid in my sock if I had wanted.

As he took my fingerprints and chuckled about the funny face I made when he took my picture, I thought to myself that he was just as friendly and courteous as I’d expect from a salesman at the mall.

Then I was sent into another area further down the hall to change. With me came another man who was being processed at the same time. He was a very large Native American but not especially intimidating. When he spoke, he was clear and concise, but only answered questions. Otherwise he would stand nearly motionless and silent. I wanted to strike up a conversation with him and find out what had happened to him, but I got this strange sense from him… like something horrible had just happened and he was still trying to figure out if it was real or not.

We went into this little room together and had to strip down to our underwear and change into big orange clothes that were actually surprisingly comfortable. Then we were directed out again and each given a blanket, bed mat, and a little book of jail rules. I walked with one guard and the big quiet guy was taken somewhere else.

We took an elevator up a couple levels and the guard sent me through two sets of doors and I entered alone into a wide room with two levels of cell doors lining one side and a series of tables made of concrete staggered across the open space in front of me. In most of the seats sat other men in the same orange outfits.

They all stopped and for just a moment everything went silent as they looked at me.

“New guy!” shouted one guy as he slammed a hand of playing cards back on the table. “It’s my turn.” He pointed at the man across from him as he pulled his legs out from under the table. “This guy is mine. It’s my turn.”

And as he came jumping toward me, all sorts of scenes from prison movies ran through my head… and all the prison advice I’d heard as jokes on sitcoms. I’m gonna stand my ground, I told myself. Don’t back down. Don’t be nobody’s bitch, but also don’t fight. Act tough, but don’t fight… because I knew I’d get my ass beat. But it’s all about appearances, I told myself. Just look tough and don’t let them fuck with you… but also do everything you can to avoid acting like a dick… and always remain calm and collected… don’t let them get to you.

He stopped just in front of me and I stared him down, unmoving in my poker face, not knowing if I should smile and try to make friends or glare and intimidate.

But this guy was nearly a foot shorter than me, and up close, he was just a skinny white teenager wearing a goofy grin.

“Hey New Guy!” he said. “Welcome to the beautiful D-3 block, the most hard-core block of the lovely Whatcom County Jail. I’m Kurt, and I’m gonna show you around… get you orientated and situated.”

“Um… okay…” I said.

“Have you ever been in Bellingham jail before?”

I shook my head.

“Ever been in jail before?”

“Nope.”

“Well, wonderful then. Can I show you to your room? They should have given you a slip that tells you your room number.”

I handed him the paper. “Ah, yes, you’re down with Abdul… like duh… he’s the only one here without a bunkmate. He’s a pretty cool guy.” Kurt waved me on and I followed him through the sets of tables and card-playing inmates.

We went down a set of stairs at the far end of the room, and past a couple revealing showers. “They like to keep the showers out in the open to remind us we’re animals,” he said. “You kinda need to go through a funny dance to get up and down the stairs without seeing anyone’s dong, but it’s the polite thing to do.”

We stopped at a door just about halfway down the lower level and Kurt walked right in “Abdul! I’ve got a roommate for you.”

Abdul was at the back of the cell, lying on his mat on the top level of the concrete bunk. He perked up and jumped down to shake my hand. “Welcome, I’m Abdul,” he said, with a distant Arab accent. He held out a hand and I shook it. “The bottom bunk is all yours, Bud.”

I threw my mat and blanket onto the bottom bunk and sat down on a concrete stool. I started asking questions about the procedures of jail, and what I could expect and Kurt sat on the concrete counter and watched me go through my little book of rules, explaining how important each of them were, whether or not I would actually get penalized for breaking them, and how I could get around some of them. The booklet, while thick and intimidating from the outside, was written in a large font in multiple languages, and I seem to remember it contained a number of unintentionally humorous illustrations. The rules proved fairly simple.

“Whattaya in for?” Abdul asked after just about ten minutes of rule studying.

“Marijuana,” I said.

“Yeah, me too,” he replied. “Doin’ thirty days for thirty pounds.”

“Thirty pounds!” I exclaimed, my eyes going wide.

“What’d you get caught with?” he asked.

“I sold three ounces to an undercover.”

He laughed. “Child’s play.”

“How did you get away with only thirty days for thirty pounds?” I asked. “That’s like eighty thousand dollars worth of pot.”

He shrugged. “Isn’t that normal? I don’t know… I’m Canadian for one thing, so they’re just holding me for thirty days then I get sent back to Canada and told I can never come back to the states… which honestly, I’m fine with that. If this is how you guys treat foreigners down here, I don’t ever want to come back to The States. You know if you came to Canada with a bunch of pot they wouldn’t treat you like this. I can understand taking the weed, but this is ridiculous.”

“How the hell did you get away with thirty days?” I asked again. “I was told I had a mandatory minimum of a year and a day.”

“What?” Abdul’s jaw dropped. “For three ounces? Did you have a gun?”

I shook my head.

“A dead baby?” asked Kurt.

“No.”

“You said you’d never been in jail before,” Kurt said.

“I haven’t.”

“Then how in the hell are you getting a year and a day for three ounces? Who told you that? Was it a lawyer or public defender?”

“The cop who arrested me,” I replied.

“Oh!” they both said at once. Abdul laughed. “Yeah, you can’t trust cops, dude. You’ll be out tomorrow.”

“I don’t know, he seemed pretty adamant… cops can’t just flat out lie to people like that.”

And Abdul just chuckled. “Yeah, sure.”

Others began filtering in through our cell, standing around or sitting on the counter, introducing themselves. Most seemed in a good mood and seemed to want to chat about all sorts of random things, but I kept talking about my situation and my fear that I’d be spending the next year in prison. I imagine myself looking like quite the little baby, looking back on it now, but strangely every person I met was nothing but supportive. Everyone seemed to be offering advice and, more importantly, examples of people they knew (or themselves) who had been busted for more serious crimes and gotten away with little more than a slap on the wrist.

But somehow I just couldn’t believe that the officer had been lying to me. Somehow, after all they had put me through, I still thought cops were somehow wholesome… or at least somehow unable to bend the rules.

And as the various people filtered through my room to introduce themselves to the new guy, I was consistently amazed at just how nice everyone was. I thought back to seventh grade, and how I would have given anything to have other students who were this friendly… and I rapidly realized that many of my worries had been for nothing.

So I decided to test them.

Within the first hour of being in jail I had admitted to being a narc, to having worked with the police to bust other drug dealers and to having sold out my moral values to do so.

In the social hierarchy of prison life (or such is my understanding), the child molesters are on the bottom rung, and consistently get the most abuse from the other prisoners. Narcs are supposedly just one step above them.

But as I told the story, this collection of supposed gangsters, criminals and wife-beaters didn’t look at me like they wanted to beat the crap out of me, but instead gave me a look like I had told them my cat had died. They showed me little more than sympathy and while most agreed that I had made a mistake on both a moral and logical level, the most condemning comment I received was from another drug dealer who was in jail because of someone like me, who said something like “I normally don’t have much respect for narcs, but if you know you were wrong… you know… cops tell a lot of lies and manipulations… I can understand how you wouldn’t make good decisions, coming from a middle-class family and all… everyone deserves a second chance.”

At some point I started making phone calls. I called a few friends. I also remember having a couple logistical issues, like I had left my bike and backpack at work and needed someone to go pick them up for me. My friends seemed shocked and sympathetic, and in some ways more upset than me. But I told them that it wasn’t nearly as bad here as I thought it would be and according to everyone else I’d almost certainly get out the next day.

But then I called my job to let them know I wouldn’t be able to make it in the next day and to apologize for leaving the fish sitting out on the counter. I thanked the heavens that I liked to get ahead on the fish breading so they still had enough to get through dinner.

After dialing and saying my name at the prompt, I heard an unfamiliar voice say “Hello?” Then the recording came on, asking if he would accept the charges. Then there was a pause and a click, and he was gone.

I called again and he hung up even faster this time.

And that’s when I started getting stressed. I’d always hoped that I’d never be fired from a job. I felt it was a sign of being… pathetic. This would be the first time, and I had visions of some kind of slippery slope.

I decided to give it some time. I didn’t recognize the voice on the other end, so he probably didn’t recognize me. I decided to wait and try again, hoping someone else would answer.

A little later I mentioned to Kurt that I needed something to cheer me up. “Okay…” he said. “Let’s go get a treat from the TV room.”

So we walked up the stairs to the top level and went all the way to the end to another little common area that contained little more than a solid orange door and a television rack bolted to the wall with no television. “They keep the TV stand there to remind us that we used to have a TV… or maybe there never was a TV and they just want to taunt us with the idea that there could have been be a TV.”

Kurt walked up to the door and pounded several times. We waited a long moment and he pounded again.

Then a distant voice shouting from the other side. “What do you want?”

“Candy wrappers!” Kurt shouted.

“What?” came the reply, barely audible even with our attention focused.

“Candy wrappers!” Kurt shouted with a grin. “Candy wrappers! Candy wrappers!” he chanted, pounding on the door.

“Keep your pants on!” came a reply. “Give me five minutes.”

So we waited. “This is pretty awesome,” Kurt said with an excited look in his eye.

“What are we gonna do with candy wrappers?” I asked.

“You’ll see.”

And after a few minutes some neatly preserved and folded gum and candy wrappers slid slowly under the door. “Sorry that’s all I could find,” the man shouted from the other side.

“Thank you!” Kurt screamed at the door. “These are good ones,” he commented to me. “So… if you ever buy a candy bar around here, you need to be really careful about how you open it. Make sure you only tear down the seams and keep the whole thing in-tact. Or you can bring it to Dale and he’ll open it the way he likes.”

I followed him down to the other end of the third level and into the last cell in the row. Kurt introduced me to a man sitting at the cement counter in his cell. “This is Dale.” And lining the counter were ornate little picture frames, about ten of them, many of them holding photos, which I assumed were his family members. Each one was different, but they all had a similar style. My first thought was to wonder how he got away with having these things in jail, but when I looked closer I saw they were actually built out of a multitude of candy and gum wrappers, folded and cut in intricate patterns.

“Got some more for ya.” And Kurt handed him the new wrappers.

“Sweet Dude… Snickers. That’ll go perfectly on the one I’m working on.”

So Kurt and I sat down and chatted with Dale for a few minutes. He explained some basic process of making the picture frames and about how this hobby was what was keeping him sane in here. It would take him four or five hours of careful folding and cutting (without scissors of course) for every picture frame that he would make, then he sold them for five or six bucks through some organization that was set up to help inmates with this type of thing.

But five or six bucks for four or five hours of work… and in jail, having an income of ten or fifteen bucks a week meant you were filthy rich compared to everyone else.

So I couldn’t help thinking that it was just blatant exploitation bordering on slavery. These were certainly the most creative and interesting picture frames I had ever seen, unique, meticulously crafted, beautifully artistic, and made without tools. If someone on the outside were to examine them they might assume they were made from fine origami.

“…the fucking MacGyver of picture frames,” Kurt commented.

————————-

I tried calling work again. Again the same voice answered and immediately hung up upon hearing the recording from the jail.

I would have been happy to pay for the call myself. My wallet was sitting down a couple stories in a little plastic bin. Of course they don’t let you pay for your own calls, and looking back on it now, I realize that this is one of those subtle forms of torture that they do to prisoners because they can’t get away with openly beating and spitting on them.

We ate a dinner of overcooked white rice topped with turkey gravy, an apple, a piece of white bread, and I think a carton of milk like we used to get in grade school. And lastly a little “salad” of chopped iceberg lettuce with a little bit of cheap coleslaw dressing on top. The bowl I had smoked just before getting arrested still hadn’t quite worn off so it was all surprisingly not bad.

(A couple years later I went to a nice little teriyaki restaurant that would serve the exact same ‘salad’ beside their meat and rice. Normally I’m a bit of a salad snob, but found myself going back to that place, thinking about that iceberg and coleslaw dressing and remembering my crazy night in jail.)

I called work again, and again was hung up on by the unrecognized dude.

Now it was nearly official. I had been calling for hours. Whoever that guy was, he would have at least asked someone else in the kitchen about me. Everybody knew me, and Rob loved to tell stories, so I assumed everyone in the kitchen should know about me by now. The only logical explanation was that one of the bosses, John or Wendy, had told them to shut me out.

So I resigned myself to begging for my job back and wound up spending a lot of time thinking about what I would say.

On one level of my consciousness I was stressed beyond comparison, visions of being hauled off to prison or being thrown into the street with my inability to hold down a job.

But on another level, I was at a party. A great big party with no alcohol, no music and shitty food, but where nobody had to work the next morning.

And I spent the rest of the evening talking to a dozen or more people of all different ages and colors, telling stories and discussing everything from philosophy, law, and relationships to fart jokes and secret plans to smuggle heroin.

“There’s two types of people in here,” Kurt explained. “Those of us who are trying to make the best of a fucked up situation, and just enjoy ourselves while we’re here, and those who think they deserve this… or can’t escape their own thoughts and just want to be left alone. If you want to have a good time here, you gotta recognize the difference and just have as much fun as you can without making life any worse for those guys who just want to wallow in misery.”

Someone taught me how to make a fire using some toilet paper and tinfoil from a gum wrapper and the empty sockets by the door of the cells that supposedly had once been light switches that allowed us to choose whether or not to have the lights on.

A guy I’ll call Neil invited me and ten or fifteen others up to the “TV” room to play a popular jail game where each person draws a card from the deck then does that number of pushups. Jacks, queens and kings were worth 11, 12 and 13. Someone asked what an ace was worth and a fat man insisted that an ace must only be worth one. I couldn’t even do ten pushups, so I was glad someone else was in my boat.

Neil had a big sock full of something reasonably hard, which I assumed was other socks that had been very tightly packed. He kept swinging this sock and slamming it into the floors and walls, making a rather impressive noise. Others occasionally wanted to play with the sock but he wouldn’t let them.

“Anyone who can’t do their pushups gets whacked with the sock. One beating for every pushup you missed!” And he made this declaration to everyone he invited, but most of us followed anyway.

It sounds pretty stupid, I know, but somehow it was fun. Of course I was a little concerned that Neil might be serious about beating people for failing, but not enough to prevent me from playing.

And I kept drawing threes, fours and fives.

The fat man drew a queen and said, “Oh fuck this,” and did four or five pushups then gave up. Neil beat the wall one time for every pushup he missed.

——————————–

I also met a guy named Allan. I thought of him as a kid, though he was less than three years younger than me, having just turned 18 a couple months earlier. He was skinny, short and combined with his mannerisms, and the type of things he liked to talk about, one might mistake him for a 14 year old. Though no stranger to illegal activity, this was the first time he’d been arrested.

“I robbed a bank,” he told me and whoever else happened to be sitting around my cell at the time. “I was forced to rob a bank.”

“Who forced you to rob a bank?” I asked.

“These guys I know.” He laughed. “They’re assholes.”

I stared at him and shrugged. “That requires a bit more of an explanation.”

“They put a knife to my throat,” he replied, “and showed me this gun they had and put it in my face and everything and told me they were going to take me out to the country and kill me and butcher my corpse and they got me all terrified and shit, then told me I could get out of it if I helped them rob this bank… I mean, like, if I refused and came back and told my mom what they did she’d never believe me. The cops would sure as hell never believe someone like me, so what was I supposed to do?

“So we went into this bank and they took this one guy hostage and gave me a knife and told me to kill him if he tried anything and told me they’d shoot me if I didn’t hold this knife to his throat, and I went in and told the guy I wouldn’t kill him no matter what happened, and begged him to go along with it, because I didn’t want to die, you know… and he saw what the other guys were doing to me and how they were putting the gun to my head…”

I couldn’t believe the story. This kid seemed like something wasn’t quite there… like there was something about him that just didn’t care, like he didn’t feel empathy for his own situation, and he laughed about it like it was a sitcom on television, and had only momentary lapses of frustration and sadness as he told the story.

“Then they gave me thirty-five bucks out of the sixteen-hundred they stole and let me go.” He shrugged.

“So how’d you get caught? Did you go to the police?”

“No, I just went home and went to bed. The cops came to get me a few days later.”

“They have you on camera?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” he replied. “We weren’t wearing masks or anything.”

“Why didn’t you call the cops to tell your story first? Did you not realize they’d come for you?”

“Cuz I’m stupid I guess.” He shook his head and sighed before seeming to brighten up again. “The hostage we took totally stuck up for me too. He got mad at the cops for arresting me, and he has the exact same story as I have, but you know, I had a knife, so they say I’m a robber not a hostage, even though they had the gun. The really funny thing is that they told me the hostage I took had some kind of disease. Can you believe that? A disease of the mind that made him not hate me. I’ve never heard of that. How can not hating someone be a disease?”

“What?” I asked. “They told you he had a disease that made him not hate someone that he’s supposed to hate?”

“Yeah, exactly,” he replied.

“Who told you that? The cops?”

“Yeah, and my public defender… it’s a freakin disease that makes you not hate people… like people who hold knives to your throat apparently.”

This kid was sounding ridiculous.

Abdul spoke up. “Stockholm syndrome,” he said.

“That’s what it’s called?” Allan said.

“It’s a real disease?” I asked.

“Yup,” Abdul replied. “Of course. He said it in a rather stupid manner. A psychologist would have given you a whole other side to it, but basically yeah, Allan described it just as the criminal psychologists see it. They say from an evolutionary standpoint people are less likely to be killed if they identify with their captors, though I don’t know how this guy could catch it in half an hour. Prosecutors like to use it whenever a victim defends a criminal.” He grinned. “Is that like… the sign of the rapture or something… when we literally see compassion as a disease?”

“They released me from jail three weeks ago,” Allan said.

“They released you?” I asked.

“Yeah.” He chuckled and shook his head. “Yeah, they let me go.”

“What the hell did you do to get back here in three weeks?”

“Nothing. I never left. I’m still here.”

“You never left but they released you?”

“Yup.” Allan nodded. “I got a piece of paper sitting in some file somewhere that says I was released three weeks ago. The judge released me on my personal recognizance because my whole family lives here and I’ve never been out of the state. They sent me back here and told me I’d just have to wait 45 minutes for the paperwork to process. That was three weeks ago, so none of my time is counted as time served. I’m not even officially here and everyone I talk to just says they’ll get back to me. But they never get back to me.”

Now this kid really sounded insane, but he also seemed genuine as he bounced between laughing and joking to somber sighs. One way or the other, he probably believed this had happened to him.

But Abdul piped up with his own confirmation. “Yeah, I’ve heard of that happening from time to time. There’s not much you can do about it unless you’ve got a good lawyer who wants to interview other inmates and pour through paperwork. I have no idea, that’s why I keep telling you to get a lawyer, Bro.”

Allan laughed. “My parents can barely afford the gas to come see me… or at least that’s what they say.”

“That’s probably why they did this to you. They know you can’t fight it.”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Are you sure? This can’t be legal.”

“Well, no I don’t think it’s legal,” Abdul replied.

“Well how would they get away with it?”

“You and I get away with selling weed. I don’t know about you but I sold pot to hundreds of people before I ever got caught, and I’m gonna sell it to hundreds or thousands more and might never get caught again. If I do it’ll be another slap on the wrist. Why would it be any different for them?”

This kid had listened to my problems and spent time and energy thinking about it and offering me advice… over my pathetic marijuana charge and one night in county jail. Almost everyone here was in more trouble than myself, and yet they’d shown nothing but sympathy for my situation.

——————————–

They locked us in our cells around 9 or 10, but left the lights on all night. “It’s just another form of torture,” Abdul commented. “The human brain needs to go dark once in a while to keep balanced. They take that away from us and it helps keep us crazy and degraded without legally being abuse.”

And surprisingly one of the worst aspects of jail was trying to sleep under the bright fluorescent lights.

——————————–

“I’d say maybe 65 to 75 percent of the people in here got in a fight with their wives or girlfriends… smacked ‘em around or something.” Abdul explained.

“That’s funny because I see almost everyone so eager to talk to their girlfriends on those phones.” I replied.

“Yeah, that would be them. I can’t think of any one of them whose girlfriends actually left them.”

“So do they go to counseling or something during the day?”

Abdul laughed. “What, like bring in some relationship counselors and have some group therapy? A little role playing, talk about your feelings, address the real problems and talk about ‘em with your loved ones? Is that what you envisioned happening in jail?”

“Well, I figured there would be some kind of counseling or mental health… I don’t know… something. At the very least a wag of the finger and someone saying ‘you really shouldn’t do that again.’”

“Nope. Not at all,” he replied. “We just do this all day; shoot the shit and play gin rummy. You gotta pay through the nose if you want counseling, and even then it doesn’t help your case.”

“We haven’t even seen a guard since I got here like eight hours ago,” I said. “I thought jail was supposed to be about rehabilitation and convincing people not to re-commit.”

“Yeah…” Abdul replied, “…that would make too much sense.”

I chatted with Abdul for another hour or so and finally decided to try to fall asleep. But I lay awake and finally that other, stressed out half came back to the forefront of my mind.

How would I find another job after just getting out of jail? What if Officer Marks actually had been telling the truth? A year and a day mandatory minimum. What if the same thing that happened to Allan happened to me?

But at the same time… and I hesitate to even bring this up as it may distract my readers… but most of my life I have had a sexual fetish for chains, handcuffs and other forms of bondage, and yes, even jail cells.

When I was a kid, in one part of my mind, I would think to myself that some day, when I was an adult, I wanted to spend just one night in jail, just to see what it felt like. For some reason I assumed the sexual fetish aspect would immediately disappear as soon as I was actually locked down. I had met numerous people who had similar fetishes, and read studies indicating that my feelings were actually quite common, but somehow I had never, and even today I still have never heard a single mention of the bondage fetish phenomena and how it relates psychologically to jails, prison and law enforcement.

Over the years I had always assumed that if prisoners were getting some kind of twisted sexual thrill out of jail and handcuffs, that someone would have at least mentioned it somewhere and raised a red flag.

But here I was, beneath the stress over losing my job and wondering what my parents would have to say, I was still getting a sexual–maybe not a thrill, but a sensation. I know that if not for the stress it most definitely would have been a thrill, and one that I’d willingly repeat.

I looked at the door that was locked tight and wished that it had some of those bars like you see in the old-time jails, where you could see outside so you could know what you were being locked away from. The steel toilet with no seat and cement bench and stool, however, provided a much more fitting ambiance.

I have Stockholm syndrome, I thought. A bondage fetish plus Stockholm syndrome. They both seem to have the same evolutionary purpose, like they’re really just two sides of the same coin.

—————————

We ate oatmeal for breakfast, but I gave most of mine away because my nerves were starting to get the better of me.

I talked to my public defender at some point, and I don’t really remember what she said. She probably mostly told me things I already knew, like don’t act like an idiot in court. I believe she confirmed for me most of the things the other inmates had been telling me about my situation, but for some reason I still just couldn’t believe that Officer Marks had so blatantly lied to me.

We went to a “gym” for an hour at some point, as the guards went into our cells and did their daily search. We had to stay within these big yellow lines, someone warning me that we’d have a day or two taken off the good-behavior system and would likely get beaten by the guards if we didn’t comply.

This was the first time I had seen a guard since I’d gone through processing, but they just stood stone-cold and told us to move along.

I sat against the wall as half of us did and just chatted with whoever happened to be nearby and watched the other half play basketball. There was a tiny window near the roof and we could see just a little bit of a tree top, which, of course, was the only vegetation many of these people would see for months.

—————————-

Later I started playing cards with a few people, but my game was interrupted when I was called into court.

They led a bunch of us through a tunnel to the courthouse and we all sat in a room in front of a judge. Families of some of the others were on a monitor in the corner, apparently watching a video feed of us. The prosecutor and defense sat in the front. We all seemed to have the same prosecutor and public defender.

I don’t recall a lot of the details. I don’t remember if we were handcuffed. I do however, remember thinking it would take all day, then I found out to my amazement that the three individuals at the front of the room could decide people’s fate over simple two-minute conversations and dealt with people’s lives as casually as a gas-station attendant might count out change.

As they started going through the cases, I started feeling better and worse at the same time. Some of these guys had done much more serious things than me, though unfortunately I don’t recall any specifics, and weren’t seeing bail set at ridiculously high rates.

Then they got to the big case, and the large quiet man I had come in with stood up… or maybe he was locked up somewhere else and we saw him on video feed. I don’t remember if we talked to the judge from where we were all sitting on the benches or if we actually walked forward to a bench at the front. It’s all so vague to me now. It seems that when something happens that defies comprehension, your mind blurs the details.

He was accused of picking up his baby daughter and smashing her head against the kitchen table to make her stop crying, then waited three hours before calling 911 after threatening his wife into making up a story about the child falling.

But the defense was asking for the case to be thrown out.

“So this occurred at 4:30 PM, is that correct?” asked the public defender.

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“You’re certain this is the correct time?”

“Yes,” replied the prosecutor.

“Okay, so I have eleven witnesses that work with the defendant who all claim he was at work until 5:15.”

“Oh…” the prosecutor shuffled through her papers. “Wasn’t it listed as 5:45 somewhere? I’m sorry… there’s a few discrepancies in the files.”

“Yes,” replied the defense. “I’d agree with that; there are definitely discrepancies. I did see it listed as 5:45 in one place in the report, though in most cases it’s referenced as 4:30.”

“Oh. I believe we’ve decided to go with 6:00 PM as the proper time.”

“Oh, okay, you’re going with 6:00 now. Okay. Is that your final answer? You’re positive it occurred at 6:00?”

“That’s the time we’re going with, yeah.”

“Okay, well, these same 11 witnesses say that the defendant actually left work a little before 7:00 PM.”

“Oh,” replied the prosecutor. “Well, we can decide on a specific time later.”

“You’re gonna change the time on me yet again? The 911 call occurred at 7:45. Thankfully you can’t change that. The original reason he was arrested was on suspicion of having waited too long before calling 911. That was based on information that both the doctor and the defendant’s co-workers have shown to be incorrect. It takes him twenty minutes to get home. His co-workers said that he left in a good mood, so then he would have had a total of 25 minutes to become so enraged at his daughter’s crying that he commits murder, then assaults and threatens his wife—while being careful to not leave a scratch on her—and convinces her to make up a lie that she accidentally tipped over the high-chair when he walked in the door, then calls 911 at 7:45.

“Your honer,” she continued. “This report is ridiculous. There’s misstatements and misquotes, there’s police statements that make no sense, and in some cases the writing is nearly illegible. The detectives only spent a few minutes examining the girl’s injuries, but somehow had a chance to draw all these conclusions. The defendant has numerous friends and family members who have stated that his family is more important than anything to him, and that he’s been getting his drinking under control. His boss stated that he’s an excellent employee. This prosecution is based on nothing more than the fact that he looks like a killer. Because he’s big, quiet, doesn’t speak very good English… and because he drinks. Yes, he’s had a couple assault charges, years ago, but they were minor, one amounting to little more than him pushing his girlfriend on the shoulder.”

“We’re still collecting evidence,” said the prosecutor. “I believe I can get a conviction.”

“You already talked to the reporters before you had all the information and now you need to save face by going through with this, regardless of the costs. Let me ask you, do you even believe this man is guilty? On a personal level, you don’t even believe he’s guilty do you?” And the public defender stared down her opposition.

The prosecutor looked up from her papers and in an emotionless monotone, accompanied with a subtle smirk, replied, “I’m not doing anything illegal.”

———————

Then it came my turn and I stood up. The judge went over what I was accused of, selling three-ounces of pot to an undercover, then asked the prosecution for their recommendation.

“Prosecution recommends $10,000 bail.”

My heart sank. I’d thought having local family would save me. I had no way to get $10,000 without getting some serious help from someone, thus, humiliating myself.

“Would you like to say anything?” The judge asked me.

“I was hoping I could get out on personal recognizance. I have no intention of not showing up for my court date.”

“Well, we’ll see about that. How long have you lived in the area?” asked the judge.

“My whole life. I was born just south of here in Mount Vernon.”

“You have family here?”

“My mom lives in town, my dad lives fifteen minutes north of here and my grandpa lives an hour away.”

It was just as much about whether or not you were a local than it was about the crime you committed. The people who grew up here and had family here had lower bail. It was as simple as that.

That had never occurred to me… in a literal sense, whether or not you do time is based as much on where you were born as it is on the crime you committed. If I had recently moved here from somewhere else, I’d be screwed.

“Okay…” replied the judge… “And you have no prior arrests?”

“No.”

“And you’re not lying to me, right? It won’t help you to lie because we double-check all this stuff before we let you go.”

Yes, I knew about that double-checking period that can last anywhere from half an hour to three weeks.

“I haven’t lied about anything,” I said, and at that point, I hadn’t.

The judge looked back at the prosecutor. “So why are you recommending $10,000 bail for someone with no history of violence or even prior arrests and whose entire family lives in the area?”

“Well…” the prosecutor looked through some papers and tossed them back on her desk. “I never actually read Mr. Ringkvist’s file, so I just went with the maximum by default.”

“You haven’t read his file?”

“Well, no. This child-abuse-manslaughter case has been taking up all my time today. It’s too high-profile for me to put on the back-burner.”

The judge paused a moment. “Okay… well it complicates things when the prosecution hasn’t read the files of the defendants.”

“It’s been an amazingly hectic day,” she replied.

“How many of these people today have files you haven’t read yet?”

The prosecutor paused for a moment as she looked out on the crowd. “About a third of them.”

“Okay then…” The judge turned back to the public defender with a long sigh. “So what are your recommendations for Mr. Ringkvist?”

“Personal Recognizance is fine with me,” she replied.

“Have you read his file?” the judge asked.

“No, I have not,” she replied.

So I guess it turns out that yes, we have a right to legal representation in the United States, but what I never realized is that there aren’t any requirements that the legal representation actually do anything.

“I see.”

“It’s been a hectic day for me as well.”

“Okay then, I guess we’ll take him at his word. Personal recognizance it is.”

The judge explained a couple logistical issues to me, then said, “Now, you can’t do anything illegal before your trial.”

“Oh, no of course not,” I said instinctively.

“No marijuana smoking or illegal drugs of any kind until your trial.” She gave me a stern glare.

“No, I won’t,” I said, being one of the few bold-faced lies I’ve ever told in my life. At the same time I thought, so is she implying that after my trial it’s okay? I wondered, does that judge actually take herself seriously? How can she seriously be looking me in the eye and not see that smoking weed is the first thing I’m going to do when I get home?

——————————-

So after court I was locked in a little room with benches in the back and large Plexiglas windows lining the front. Soon the room was filled with so many other inmates that we were standing nearly shoulder to shoulder. People kept being taken in and out, and occasionally guards would call out for people and we’d have to shuffle around to let them out. Eventually, however, the other inmates dwindled down again until it was just me and a black guy from Los Angeles who was in on some gang-violence charge.

He started telling jokes and stories, and somehow started making me laugh. I was in a sudden good mood after finding out that I’d be getting out soon, and very receptive to a comedian. So this guy became steadily more and more silly and was finally jumping around, acting out his stories and doing impressions until my laughter almost threw me from my seat.

But for the life of me I can’t remember what any of those jokes were.

Then someone came and took him away and I was left in this strange room by myself, looking out the giant windows onto an empty hallway.

Eventually a guard came by and stopped by the window and looked curiously at me. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t know… I’m supposed to be getting released on PR.”

He pointed at me and gave a friendly grin. “Are you the guy who escaped?”

“Uh…” I replied. “I don’t think so.”

“I think you are… what’s your name? Can you show me your ID?”

“I put my wrist identification up to the window.”

“Yup, that’s you…” he laughed. “Looks like we caught you. No need for the dogs. Hold on. I need to let the guys know that nobody got loose. I’ll send someone around to figure out where you’re supposed to be.”

“Okay, thanks,” I replied.

Five minutes later a woman came by and unlocked the door. “Come with me,” she said in a cold, flat voice.

Something seemed different about her from the other guards I’d met. Her face and body were rigid and she seemed to have a permanent scowl on her face. She would not make eye contact with me, and for the most part would not even look at me. This woman was much closer to what I had been expecting from the jail guards.

“Are we going back to D-3 block?” I asked.

“Correct,” she answered.

“Because I’m supposed to be getting released. I just came from court and they gave me PR.”

“It takes time for the paperwork,” she replied coldly.

“How long does that usually take?” I asked.

“Depends.”

“Can you give me an estimate?” I said.

We stepped into an elevator and she turned toward the front and stared forward, cold and blank. “Maybe An hour,” she replied.

“And is it true that the time it takes for them to do the paperwork doesn’t actually get counted as time-served?”

“The time is stamped when they first start the paperwork. If you’re getting out today, I wouldn’t complain about losing an hour if I were you.”

“Does it ever take longer than an hour?”

She didn’t answer; instead she just stared forward, perfectly rigid, toward the front of the elevator.

“…because I talked to a guy who said he’d been released three weeks ago and is still waiting for the paperwork to go through…”

Her eyebrows went up and she glanced at me for just a moment before returning to her cold stare. “Well, that would be abnormal.”

“But you admit that it can happen?” I asked.

Again, no response. I gazed at her and tried to move to catch her eyes, but still could not get so much as a twitch of emotion other than some kind of loosely veiled anger and disgust.

“I mean…” I continued. “The guy could have been mistaken. He wasn’t the brightest guy in the world.” I waited for some kind of reaction, then continued, “I talked to him for a while, and he really believes he’s been here for three weeks on some kind of paperwork error and regardless of whose mistake it is, it seems like something that should be looked into. I mean, at least he deserves to understand what’s going on with his case, doesn’t he?”

Again, she responded with only silence.

“I’m just talking to myself here, aren’t I?” I asked.

“At least you can figure out that much,” she replied.

I returned to the main holding area and gave updates on my situation to a few people who congratulated me on getting out so easily.

“You want my pager number?” Abdul asked. “In case you ever want to hook up some pounds in Canada? I can get you whatever you need and I’ll be getting out in seven days. I can show you the best ways to get it over the border.”

“Yeah, absolutely,” I replied, as I was always looking for bigger and better connections.

He wrote down his number and gave it to me just as someone poked his head into our cell and invited us to join a game of Rummy 5000.

“You actually play Rummy to 5000 points?” I asked. “How long does that take?”

“Two or three days… so yeah, if you start playing you gotta be willing to commit to a full game.”

“Well, I’ve already been released,” I replied. “That’s what the judge said today, anyway.”

“What time are they actually letting you out?” he asked.

“They weren’t too clear on that.”

“Then you might wind up being here till the end of the game,” he said with a grin. “We’ll let you go if they come for you.”

So I agreed to the game. I normally liked to plan for the worst so getting involved in a two day card game seemed like a good way to hedge my bets in case I wasn’t actually getting out any time soon.

But I didn’t even get through the first hand before someone called my name. I threw my cards down and jumped up. I ran back to my cell to collect all my stuff, snapped a quick goodbye to Abdul and whoever else I happened to run into, but otherwise I simply ran out as quickly as my feet could carry me and neglected to find all of my new friends to say my goodbyes. I was too frightened that if I waited this guard would give up on me and leave me here indefinitely like Allan.

I changed back into the clothes I had been wearing when I came in, then was directed through some doors to the front desk clerk.

“Ah… you’re a popular guy,” said the guy at the front desk from behind a Plexiglas window as he pulled out my plastic bin of personal items. “Your pager was going off all night last night. You were getting pages every half hour until three in the morning.”

Every one of them, I knew, was someone looking for weed.

“Guess you’ve got some phone calls to make today, huh?” the attendant said with a grin.

I asked myself if he knew. How could he not know? Who else gets multiple pages from multiple people until all hours of the night?

“Why didn’t you just turn it off?” I asked. I held up the pager and showed him the power button.

“Well, I’m not gonna disrespect your stuff,” he replied. “You need to be able to get your messages.”

I was kind of speechless. After all I had gone through and witnessed here, this guard didn’t want to disrespect my stuff. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Well, you still get the messages even if the pager is turned off,” I replied.

“Oh yeah? Really? Oh, I guess that makes sense. Maybe I can just shut them off when this happens and don’t need to feel bad about it.”

“You’d be saving their battery power anyway, so I think most of us would be able to get over it.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I don’t like riffling around in people’s stuff unless I absolutely have to, you know. So many people who come through here are having such a hard time that they don’t need me adding insult to injury.”

I suddenly thought about my so-called ‘crazy’ idea that jail would not be as bad as seventh-grade, but as I signed my name to the sheet stating that I had received all my possessions, I thought back to grade-school and remembered that there were many times that I would have given just about anything to have teachers who were as respectful toward their students as this jail attendant was toward the average drug dealer. Most of the teachers I remember were closer to the guard in the elevator than this man.

At the same time, he almost seemed like he was admitting how wrong all of this was. “…insult to injury…”. Why would he have referred to jail as an ‘injury’ if it was something justified and necessary?

Then I walked outside to what seemed like a whole other world. The first thing I saw was that big tree that we had seen from the window in the gym, but I didn’t stop to look. I started running past the post office and down the long steps of the amphitheatre that led down to the park, then raced up to the restaurant where I worked and ran in the back door.

“Hey! It’s the jail berg!” everyone seemed to shout. “How’s the cornhole?”

“Ha ha ha,” I said. “Yeah, there was no ass raping… is Wendy here?”

But it was already late enough that that was highly unlikely, so I went into the office and sat down, took a deep breath and thought of all the things I had been preparing to say. I had to do it, I told myself. Swallow your pride, beg for your job… tell her about how marijuana isn’t all horrible and evil and won’t affect my work ethic. Get her to see the bottom line. She wouldn’t want to bother finding another prep cook. I had to make her see that.

I called the boss’s house and Wendy answered after a couple rings, sounding annoyed. “Hi Wendy,” I said. “It’s Kalin.”

“Kalin!” she shouted, her voice immediately brightening. I could tell she’d had a couple drinks. “Mister jail berg! How are you? Are you doing okay?”

“Oh I’m fine–”

She cut me off. “You’re coming into work tomorrow, right?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said.

“Oh thank God. I got all scared that I was gonna need to bread fish! Oh God! We’re running out of fish, Kalin! We have like two pans left. I got worried about you when you didn’t call… like you were mad at us for letting this happen.”

“I did call!” I said. “I called five or six times and some guy hung up on me every time.”

“Oh, yeah… that was our new dishawasher. He’s never answered a phone before. He mentioned that some psycho stalker kept calling but somehow didn’t  remember your name. He didn’t bother to mention the creepy stalker was calling from jail. That probably would have clued me in. Like what can a stalker do from jail anyway?”

“Oh, Wendy… that was terrifying.”

She laughed.

“Yeah, that was the worst part of this experience was thinking that I’d lose my job over it.”

Then a bout of cackling laugher burst from the phone. “Oh dear Lord.” She tried to calm herself and her laughs subsided after a few seconds. “I’m sorry. I know you’re serious.” Her laughter built again. “I’m sorry I’m laughing at you… but… come on… seriously? With all the reasons I’ve had for firing people over the years, you thought I would fire you over a little reefer? That’s classic.”

“Well… you hear about it in the after-school specials.”

“Yeah, they always lose their jobs in the after-school specials don’t they?” she said through more laughter. “I know all you cooks are out there smoking and selling pot. I mean for Christ’s sake, half my cooks are stoned. I’m not stupid you know. As long as you’re not selling out of my kitchen, it’s none of my business.”

“Okay, well, thank you,” I said.

“Frankly I’m a little insulted that you thought I could be that much of a bitch. So you’re coming in tomorrow. Usual time, bright and early?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Absolutely.”

“So are you okay, Kalin? Sorry I didn’t ask you that already.”

“Oh I’m fine,” I replied. “It was kinda fun, actually.”

“So your cornhole’s okay then?” she asked with another chuckle. “No ass-raping?”

“No. There was no rape.”

——————————

Then I had to deal with some kind of logistical issue. I remember a friend got a couple other friends to drive her to Boss Tweed. Perhaps she had the keys to my motor scooter or something.

I rode my scooter home and the moment I walked in my front door, something changed inside me. I felt this sense like a whole new world had opened up to me. I had been so terrified. I had been selling pot every day because I was so confident that I was making the world a better place, that just like the moonshiners during prohibition I was fighting for a better world, putting my freedom on the line, and that when we succeeded, future pot smokers would thank me for years to come, just like many still thank the moonshiners of 80 years ago.

But now I knew I could do all that… I could still be that rebel and I didn’t even need to pay the consequences I had feared.

The law was a joke, and that knowledge set me free.

I looked at my pager and its sixteen messages. So many people couldn’t wait to see me.

But first, before calling anyone back, and even before removing my shoes, I loaded a bowl and started smoking. I turned on my music, cranked it up and found myself dancing, as though overcome by some magical joyous force of nature, and to this day, I’m not sure if I have ever felt as free as I did in that moment.

——————————

The next day I was walking around downtown and something in the paperbox caught my eye. I knelt down to look at the headline…

…about a cold-blooded baby-killer.

There was his picture, on the front page of the Bellingham Herald, and I read the article, about how, in a drunken fit of rage he had picked up his two-year-old daughter and smashed her head against the table, then waited a couple hours before calling 911 after beating and threatening his wife into submission. The article went on to mention his history of alcoholism, and his previous assault arrests.

What the article did not mention was anything that had been said by the defense. No mention of the discrepencies in the police report. No mention of the 11 witnesses disputing the prosecutors timeline. No mention of the family members who would testify that he would never do such a thing, and of course, no mention of the misquotes made by the police.

Instead, the Bellingham Herald condemned this man on the front page of the paper.

I started feeling guilty about how I had acted in jail. Everyone had been so caring and thoughtful and ready to help over my little legal troubles, even while there were so many people dealing with troubles that were far beyond anything I could imagine.

…because this is the sacrifice we all make for our system of “justice”.

Seeing your baby daughter fall and crack her head open would be difficult enough, then to have the police come, insisting that your wife said something she didn’t, then getting hauled off to jail so you can’t even be with your family as your daughter passes away… then to be condemmed on the front page of the local paper, and have the prosecutor look straight through your suffering as though you’re not even human, practically admitting in court that you’re probably not guilty, then just shrug and say “I’m not doing anything illegal.”

Even if he’s acquitted, this is the kind of thing from which a person never recovers… the kind of thing that tears families apart and drives people toward real violence.

I told myself that this would be the most twisted, horrifying thing I would ever witness being done in the name of our criminal justice system. Unfortunately I was very, very wrong. But that’s a whole other story.

—————————————

Some days later at work I sat down on a box for a quick break and a bite to eat in the tiny hallway where we kept all our coats and bags. Sarah came down the hallway. “Hey, Kalin!”

“Hi,” I said, “sorry what was your name again?”

“I’m Sarah… remember… we met right before you got arrested? I couldn’t forget you because everyone’s been talking about you and your cornhole.”

“Ah yes…”

“So you’re out now I see. How was it? How’s your cornhole?” She giggled. “Rob told me I had to ask you that.”

“No,” I said. “My cornhole’s fine. There were no ass-rapings.”

“Well, that’s good. So your’e okay?” she asked.

“I’m great,” I said. “I had a lot of fun, to tell you the truth. Jail is like nothing I ever expected, and everyone was ridiculously nice, which really surprised me.”

“Yeah, nice people in jail isn’t really the stereotype. I’m glad to hear it.”

“I still have my id tag.” I held up my wrist and the paper bracelet with my mugshot, prisoner number and information. “I should take it off soon and keep it for a souvenir cuz it’ll get worn out eventually.”

“Oh yeah!” she replied, holding up her own wrist to show me a very similar bracelet, also with her picture and ID on it. “I have one of those too!”

“You went to jail?” I asked.

“No!” she replied. “I went to Vegas with my mom for my 21st birthday, and they give you these things so they don’t need to check your ID everywhere you go.”

“Oh, cool. I turn 21 in a week and a half.”

“It’s been three weeks now… I suppose I should do the same… take it off and keep it for a souvenir.”

————————-

A few nights later I got a call from a fellow marijuana dealer named Oscar. Oscar was definately a cool guy. He worked as a dishwasher at the fish & chips restaurant with me by day, but by night he played in and wrote most of the music for one of the most popular hippie jam bands in the city. When he called me, it usually meant he wanted to buy an ounce of pot, but he also mentioned that a couple people from work were coming over to hang out.

Oscar was what you’d call a ladies-man. Somehow he just had a way with women, with his big puffy hippie-hair and smooth, Snoop-Dogg style voice. He was forever having new girlfriends and girls who wanted to be his girlfriend, but somehow managed to do it without any significant drama.

So I dropped by his house to hang out and came in to see Sarah with some girl I didn’t recognize. She introduced herself as Sarah’s roommate.

“You guys wanna smoke a bowl?” Sarah asked, and of course we all agreed. She busted out a 40 sack and stuffed a bud in one of Oscar’s giant, ornate glass bubblers. She took a fat toke and passed it along.

Then when we were done with that bowl, Oscar loaded another one, then myself, and as soon as that was done, Sarah asked about the bong sitting in the corner. Oscar brought it out and Sarah packed another fat bowl. Soon Oscar started saying that he’d had enough, but strangely continued taking puffs as we’d pass them to him. “You don’t need to smoke your whole sack with us, Sarah… I mean, save some for yourself.”

“Well, that’s what pot is for, isn’t it?” she asked. “You smoke it!” And she packed another bong bowl and passed it along. “I’ll save a couple bowls for tomorrow.”

Sarah became very giggly, which seemed to spread to the rest of us, and soon we were all nearly falling over in laughter, and at times I thought Sarah was going to faint she was laughing so hard. An hour or two went by and Sarah’s roommate finally needed to leave, and soon I was left alone with Oscar.

As soon as the girls were out the door, Oscar looked at me and said, “That was pretty crazy.” He shook his head. “Unbelievable. Fucking Sarah… crazy girl.”

“Yeah, she likes smokin’ weed, I guess,” I said. “I’ve certainly seen people smoke more than that though.”

“Yeah, me too… but not after three years.”

“Three years?” I asked.

“Yeah. That first bowl she smoked right after you showed up was the first pot she’d smoked in three years.”

Now that was impressive. “What?” I said. “Why?”

“She wanted to impress you,” Oscar said. “I’ve been trying to hook up with Sarah for weeks now, but she never wanted anything to do with me until she found out I was friends with you. I’ve invited her out to smoke pot and every time she told me she doesn’t smoke.”

I laughed. “That’s like something out of an after-school special… like who smokes pot to impress someone other than middle-schoolers who want to be like the big kids?”

“I have no idea.” Oscar shook his head. “And me and my roommate were talking about his cousin earlier before you got here and suddenly Sarah started talking like she knew the guy, but wasn’t making any sense, and it turned out that she thought we were talking about you… I mean, why would we be talking about you? It was like she just couldn’t get you out of her mind and assumed everything had something to do with you…”

“No…” I said. “That can’t be. She’s gorgeous. She’s that interested in me?”

“Yeah, definately.”

“Girls like that don’t go for me. I’m a college dropout and she’s almost ready to graduate and she watched me get arrested the first time we met.”

“Trust me, Dude. Sarah’s crazy for you.”

But you know that too-good-to-be-true syndrome… I knew it could never be true.

———————————

A few days later I stood in nearly the same position as I did at the beginning of the story, at the prep table, slicing cheddar cheese on the big electric slicer, and Sarah came up beside me. She looked nervous, and immediately I thought that someone had choked on a bone from my fish.

But then she started, “Um… I was wondering… if maybe… you would like to… sometime…” And I noticed strange movement and looked down to see her knees trembling. “Would you like to go out sometime… kinda like a date?” Then she burst forth with a string of nervous chatter. “I’d say we could go to a bar but I know you’re not 21 yet, but if we go bowling I can buy a pitcher of beer and we can just share a glass and I’ve done it before and it’s all good cuz they don’t really care at the bowling alley but if you don’t want to go bowling maybe we can do something else like a movie or something or go out to dinner or whatever…”

Then she stopped and just looked up at me and swallowed nervously.

So I played it cool and pretended to think about it for a second, nodding faster and faster as though I were slowly realizing that this wasn’t such a bad idea. “Yeah, I think we could do that,” I said. “Bowling sounds good for me. What’s a good night for you? How’s Thursday? I’m heading East on Friday to see Phish, so the weekend doesn’t work for me.”

“Yeah, thursday sounds good to me!” She grinned and giggled nervously, then did an awkward hop, as though wanting to jump up and down. “Okay… well… customers are waiting for me. I need to get back to work.”

I gazed at this beauty as she walked away, past the dish-pit toward the dining room. My jaw dropped slowly open once I knew she couldn’t see me.

She had watched me get arrested.

And I realized, for just this moment alone, everything I had gone through was worth it.

I asked myself, is this supposed to be a deterrant? Is this typical of someone who gets arrested for drugs and spends a night in jail? If so, I wanted to do it again and again and again.

————————–

Thursday came along in a day or two. We went bowling and I had one of the easiest, smoothest dates ever. We shared a couple pitchers and played a couple games, then she drove me back to my apartment where we watched a movie on my 13 inch TV, then around 2:00 or 3:00 AM we started kissing, and didn’t stop until I had to go to work at 4:45.

Over the coming months, Sarah slowly became obsessed with me, and soon started asking me if I wanted to move in with her. One of the most beautiful and intelligent girls I’d ever dated also happened to be one of the most caring and lovable women I knew.

And none of it would have been possible if not for Officer Stanley Marks, those handcuffs and my trip to jail.

So I asked myself, is this really how criminal justice is supposed to work? Because if this is how it works, no wonder we have so many criminals.

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KalinBooks.com is the ramblings of Kalin Ringkvist, a science fiction author with a passion for peace and freedom.