I was the anomaly in a van packed full of orange sardines. The one sardine in regular clothes rather than county-jail-issued uniform. The process of putting one of those uniforms on is humiliating. It involves stripping naked, squatting, coughing, and following the orders being barked in your direction by another human being. A human being with a discombobulating amount of power over you. It’s soul-crushing the first time you go through it, and yet I wish I had gone through it this past Friday afternoon. That orange uniform would have helped me to better tolerate the unforgivingly frigid slab of concrete I spent the next 24 hours tossing and turning atop of. So there I fought freezing, as my mind alternated between frustration with my physical discomfort and an unrelated emotional disarray. Maybe shivering was a blessing. It did help to distract me from the unrelenting anxiety I otherwise suffered through.
Questions kept circling through my mind. Questions like: Is my son okay? Are my parents? Will I be back in here next week? Will I lose my job over this? Those questions rained over me like icy-hail, breaking against my bones and the cement-heavy cell I shared with half-a-dozen other inmates.
Oh, those other inmates. Thank the Lord for them lest my time in county approximate solitary confinement. But my cellies, for the most part, had a much different attitude than I. Whereas I was angry and angsty, they were angry and resigned, if angry at all. One young man seemed almost happy to be there, as if at home. Yet that same young man quietly shared his hopelessness with me as he explained how a desire for heroin motivated the behavior that led to his arrest. He spoke with certainty when he told me that he intended to use heroin whenever he did get out, likely many months from now. Other men confessed their bemusement at having been poached from free-society for things like unpaid child support, and driving on a suspended license. I listened to pass the time, but not because I cared. In those moments I cared only about myself. I’m a social worker by trade, and I like to think that I give a lot. But in those 24-hours all I did was give-in to anxiety and self-pity. I still feel anxious and sorry for myself. And angry. And a little bit helpless.
I had to make a choice when I began to write this column. Was I going to explain how I felt from the instant I was first put in handcuffs? Or was I going to dissect the stomach-turning moments that directly preceded it? I obviously opted for the former. Not to bury the lede, but my time in jail was the result of a probation violation. Sadly, I’m unsure that I’ll ever find the courage to reveal my feelings about the constitution of that violation.
The name of this column is The Idiopathic Truth, but in this instance, I’m legitimately scared to share what that truth is. Instead, I’m resigned to share my feelings. I’m relegated to the acceptance of fear.
Email Tim at tct@pageone-inc.com.