Parents Who Abuse Their Children In Public

girl

So often I have heard people speak abusively to their children in public.

I have always become enraged.

Usually I just glare at the parent.

On occasion I have even said something to the parent, which has always lead to an escalation of their anger.

I could lie to myself and say that I was trying to help, but really I was just angry and trying to make the parent feel bad.

Really, I was just lashing out from my own childhood wounds.

I have had moments, as a parent, where I was later appalled to think what others must have thought of me.

I stopped speaking to publicly abusive parents several years ago, when I realized that nothing I could say was going to make the situation better.

Why would I want to make an angry person angrier?

Wouldn’t they just take it out on their kid?

Still I always left these situations feeling defeated.

I always left feeling like I should have done something.

Saturday, while thrift-store shopping with my daughter and a friend, I heard a baby crying.

As it continued to cry, I heard a woman say to it “SHUT THE FUCK UP OR I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT!!”.

I moved closer to access the situation.

There were two young girls, approximately 20 years old, one was holding the crying baby, while the other, the angry one, had a cart with four little babies in it.

They all seemed very stressed.

Then she said “I will fucking shoot a motherfucker. I have a gun in my purse.”

I watched as the customers around her tensed.

Everyone was afraid.

For a moment I contemplated dialing 9-1-1, but I realized this was an aggressive response based out of my anger at the situation.

I breathed out.

I let the anger go.

It was cliche.

It was an old feeling.

It was just a habit and it had never gotten me anywhere.

Peace took over in the vacuum and I saw this woman clearly and I had love and empathy for her.

I saw this poor little girl, who had undoubtedly never been taught any better.

I saw that she had been duped into becoming a baby machine somehow and he she was, still a child herself and she had all these children and no ability to deal with them.

I quickly walked back to the toy aisle and grabbed several stuffed animals.

I did not grab just any stuffed animals.

I spoke to them.

I said “Hey guys. I need a few volunteers to help me with a very important job.”

A few very special stuffed helpers practically jumped into my arms.

I went back to the front of the store and approached the lady.

“Having a rough day?”

She raised her hand defensively and said “Get the FUCK away from me!”

Speaking very softly I said “I’m sorry. It just seemed like you could use a little help.”

“I swear to god you best get the fuck outta my face, before I go off.”

“I’m sorry. I know you have everything under control. It’s just that I’m a parent and sometimes I could use a little help, so I thought maybe you were struggling like I do sometimes.”

“It’s not the kids. It’s the people.” she said.

“Oh yeah. I know what you mean. I was just telling my friend about how at another thrift store, someone shoved my little girl out of the way so they could get a toy she was looking at. So I know exactly what you mean.”

“It’s ridiculous.” she said.

“It bullshit. And honestly, I got really angry and I wanted to hurt them, so I totally get it. We want to protect our kids. I can tell you are a good mom, but assholes like that aren’t worth setting a bad example in front of our kids over. I can tell you already know that and I watched you exercise control over yourself, so I know you have it all together and I’m sorry to bother you. You just reminded me so much of myself that I felt compelled to help. Sorry to bother you.”

“No. You’re cool.” she said, and her face and voice softened so much that she looked like a completely different person “I’m sorry I was mean to you.”

“You weren’t mean. You were just like this little guy here.” I smiled to the baby who had stopped crying. “You were just overwhelmed.”

“You’re cool.” she reiterated.

“Yeah. It was really nice to meet you two. Just remember, assholes aren’t worth flipping your shit over. Just walk away, breathe and realize that if they keep acting like that, someone else will beat them up, so you don’t even have to.”

I smiled when I said this, because I was kind of joking.

A half hour late we were in a different thrift store and the same girl came up to me and said “Hey. It’s you!”

She was so bright and happy.

I could truly see her as a little girl when she smiled.

“Are you stalking me?!” I said.

She replied by showing me this beautiful dress she was about to pay for.

I complimented the dress and we went our separate ways.

And for once in my life I felt like I had beaten fear with love.

The Time I Apologized to a Naked Man

imsorry

This morning, at the gym, I exchanged heated words with another member.

I had just had an intense discussion with my son as I dropped him off to school and was in the middle of working out some of the stress from that.

The man’s comment took me off guard and I shut him down quickly and rudely.

When he started to say something else I said

“I am really not interested in your commentary.” very forcefully and he walked away and left me alone.

As I continued to work out, I thought about his words and realized I had completely misunderstood his intentions.

It gradually dawned on me that I was rude to him without real provocation.

I was wrong.

And sugarcoating it would only cheat me of a valuable lesson.

As I finished my workout, I noticed that he had went into the locker room.

I had this awful dilemma.

I could leave and then it would be awkward when and if I ever saw him again.

As I usually do not attend the gym at that time, the chances were good that I would never see him again.

I wondered how it would affect him.

I wondered if it would affect him at all.

I wondered if my rudeness contributed to a view he had of the world that people were awful.

I wondered what else he might have going on in his life and if my rudeness had somehow made those other things even more challenging.

He was an older gentleman, approximately 55, and I could tell he knew everyone there, as everyone who works out at that hour is around his age.

I thought about the possibility that I would never see him again and how I would wonder if he had died.

I know how I am.

I know how my mind works.

I was afraid to approach him and I was afraid to apologize.

I was afraid that he would reject my apology and I was afraid that he had told the other members what an ass I had been and they might gang up on me.

I considered walking out the door and driving away and pretending that the whole incident never occurred.

I know that I am not very good at doing that and I know that I do not want to become good at this.

I walked into the locker room and approached him.

“I’m sorry for what I said earlier. I was wrong. I thought you were insulting me, but as I thought more about it, I understood the true meaning of your words. I am very sorry for my rudeness.”

He was a very large man.

He squinted at me.

Then he swung his arm at me hard and fast.

It landed squarely on my shoulder, open handed.

“It takes a big man to walk in here and say that.” he said “We’re square.”

He slapped me hard on the back several times.

I loved the feeling of his open palm striking me.

It felt like love, acceptance and forgiveness.

It felt like we were both good men.

An Ally Inside These Walls

equality

One of my daughter’s best friends is a girl who is constantly spouting homophobic comments.

I do not know if she realizes that Chloe identifies as bi-sexual.

Chloe is only 12 and when she came out to me I told her that it doesn’t matter to me, that she was simply Chloe, an amazing person, that she was 12 and perhaps her sexual identity may change several times over the next several years, that I stood firm on her being chased until at least 16 and that I will always love her, no matter what her sexual identity.

Ironically the girl who is always making the bigoted comments has a closeted gay brother (my opinion from being around the kid a lot. He has NOT come out).

With the exception of the brother, the entire family uses words like nigger and faggot regularly.

It is no wonder to me that the little girl has become hostile towards minorities considering the rough hand she has been dealt and the example that has been set for her.

Chloe and I have often discussed how scared the brother must be, to have these feelings inside of him and knowing that his own family would hate him if he ever came out.

I told Chloe that all we could do was to maintain our friendships with this family and hopefully, over time, their minds would be pried open and a little light would shine in.

I was wrong.

There was actually much more that could be done.

Chloe petitioned the school to start an LBGT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) group and was successful.

She has since expanded the group to what she calls a Diversity Group.

Chloe says “It is a safe place for people of all types to come and be accepted no matter what their beliefs or skin color.”

It has been going for a few months now and kids who were hiding things have come forward and been supported by their classmates.

It has been completely magical.

Last week a girl with a skin disease got up and rolled up her sleeves and found love and support for something she had been hiding her entire life.

There have been so many amazing victories in the group she started, but the one that moves me the most happened recently.

Her formerly-homophobic friend joined.

I am so proud of this little girl.

There are no small victories.

Years from now, if her brother decides to be brave enough to face his family, he will have an ally within the walls of his home..

..and will not be completely alone.

I am so grateful for the amazing, strong young woman Chloe is becoming.

I am so often in awe of her.

I am in awe of her presence sometimes.

The Time I Was Robber by Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne is sent to jail for one year on a gun charge.

Two years ago I was robbed at gunpoint just before Christmas.

I sometimes have a little PTSD from it.

I still meet customers daily (I am an electronics dealer) and sometimes, suddenly, my body goes into a fight or flight response.

I know what is happening.

There is something about the person or the environment that reminds my brain of the time I almost died and it releases adrenaline into my bloodstream so I can protect myself.

The problem is, there is no threat.

And I am not going to make some innocent person feel like they are a suspect, just because they may have the same fashion sense as my robber or a cold breeze hits my face in a similar way as the day I was robbed.

The night of the robbery, one of my friends said “Has your job made you racist, yet?”

I said “No. And it won’t.”

I know my friend’s heart and I know he is not a racist.

I knew exactly what he meant.

I sell refurbished electronics and I sell them really cheap, so most of my clientele are black people.

What does this mean?

Is that racist that I say that?

Maybe, but it’s true, and I would rather identify the reasons why something exist than be politically correct and pretend something isn’t real.

Why IS my clientele predominantly black?

There are a lot of reasons, but primarily the reason is that blacks have had less money in our culture than whites have traditionally had.

So they have had to learn to spend wisely.

Being black in America has become synonymous with being poor in America.

So to answer my friend’s question

“No. Being robbed by a black kid, did not make me racist, because I know he did not rob me because he was black. I know he robbed me because he was poor and desperate and had been mislead by a society that teaches him that if he does not have the same physical possessions as the people that he sees on TV than he is subhuman. He robbed me because he believes a series of lies that you and I can only begin to comprehend.”

As the young man stood there with his gun trained on me, all I could think about was my kids, and how I had to “be cool” and get through this so I could pick them up from school that day.

There was a point in which he became careless and I could have taken the gun from him (20 years of martial arts training), but I realized if I did that, then one of us was going to get shot and I did not like the idea of either of us dying.

All he wanted was money.

He didn’t hate me.

I opted to “be cool”.

Later the police were confident that they had apprehended him.

I was willing to press charges and incarcerate him.

I knew this wouldn’t help.

He would be back out in a few years, with more anger than ever and a litany of mental illnesses he would have acquired in prison and would probably just repeat the same mistake.

What I really wanted to do was talk to him.

He was about the same age as my son.

I wanted to tell him that I understood as much as a “white dude” could (I am actually equal parts Native America and German, but I look white and that is how police and other people treat me).

I wanted to tell him to put the gun away and I would show him how to make some real money.

I wanted to show him that I hate the system as much as he does.

I wanted to tell him that I have been as poor or poorer than he had been.

I wanted to show him how to beat the white man at his own game.

I wanted to tell him that a gun leads you to a prison cell or a pine box and that when I was his age I was just like him.

But at the end of everything I told him, he would have probably have told me that I don’t know shit about it, because I’m white.

And he is right.

Living in poverty doesn’t take away my white privilege.

Sleeping in between buildings when I was a kid, does not make me understand what it feels like to be hunted by white police everywhere I go.

And the Native American blood that courses through my veins doesn’t mean that I understand what it is like to be enslaved any more than he does.

But I can insulate myself from the dangers of society.

I can drive a nice car and I will never get pulled over for suspicion that I stole it.

I can fit in.

I can wear nice clothes and smile and pretty much get my way everywhere I go in life.

I never have to wonder what it is like to have a racist white officer, who is having a bad day, pull me over and want to literally crawl out of my skin, because I am afraid for my life.

Being a compassionate white person, who sympathizes with the black plight is an asymptotic curve.

I can get close to understanding, but never fully empathize.

Therefor I am reluctant to think I know much of anything about racial issues.

I cannot make excuses for a black man who will pull a gun on me.

I will not.

If I could only say one thing to him it would be “No. This is NOT acceptable. I don’t care how hard you have it. I have it hard too. We all do. But this way will only lead to bad things for everyone. Don’t you realize THIS is what THEY want?! Don’t you realize that all the armchair racists in the country want you to believe that this is what you are? You are better than this. Do not let them win. You can overcome. You will have more to overcome than I will, but you can do it and sometimes you will want to quit, but because your road is tougher, YOU have to be tougher, and THIS my friend, this thing you are doing right now, is straight up bullshit. And no one hates that you are doing this more than the black people who live in this neighborhood, because they have worked SO hard, just to gain the respect that is freely given to others and when you do shit like this, you set the whole thing back. THIS is unacceptable.”

So I decided that I would send the message to him that this was not okay and send him to jail, although the whole thought of doing this made me sick and sad.

A detective came to my home and showed me six pictures.

He said “One of these men is your attacker. Can you please identify him for me?”

As I looked at the dreadlocks on each young man, I realized I could not tell one from the other with confidence.

“All these guys look like Lil Wayne to me.” I said, trying to make a comment at my own expense, playing on the white-racist axiom that all blacks look alike. Feeling like I might be one of them, because I could not tell one person from another in these pictures.

The detective thought I was serious and said “Yeah. They all look alike, so that way they can blend in and hide from us.”

“But seriously I added. They do look pretty much alike to me. I cannot ID my robber with any confidence. And I cannot live with myself, should I pick the wrong one and put an innocent man in jail.”

“None of these guys are innocent.” he said “You can sleep well tonight, knowing you put a bad guy behind bars, regardless of who you pick.”

I sat there stunned.

I was somehow accepted into the good ol boys club.

This white cop thought I was on his team somehow.

I was disgusted and alarmed that our “justice” system worked this way.

I wanted to tell him to “Get the fuck out of my house.”, but I didn’t want to have a police officer angry at me, so I offered him coffee and we talked for a while.

Me, the Native American impostor, impersonating a white man and getting away with it.

I fit in.

I kept hoping he would show me the secret handshake.

I kept looking at the pictures of the young men on my coffee table.

We talked for a while about the decay of society.

Then he left.

Taking the pictures of Lil Wayne and a little piece of my faith in humanity with him.

Talking to Myself

godisdeadgotowork

I have always wanted to believe in a fair and just universe.

I was the kid who asked too many questions in Sunday school and was labeled a problem child.

I honestly wasn’t trying to cause trouble.

I just wanted to understand my world.

I prayed a lot.

I talked to god, but god never talked back.

I often wondered if I was just talking to myself.

When I was 5, a kindergarten classmate was killed in a drive-by shooting.

I asked the Sunday school teacher how god could allow these things to happen.

She told me just to have faith.

I did not understand what this meant.

I had faith.

It was understanding that I lacked.

As I graduated up to regular church, the questions persisted.

If god is so loving then why is there so much evil against innocent people?

Why are the children in Africa starving on my TV?

Why do kids die of cancer?

The more I learned about the world, the harder it was to imagine a loving god.

The church elders would say things like “God granted man the gift of free will. It is not God who allows these things. It is man who chooses them. This is why we must get all people to come to God.”

or a platitude that angered me even then…

“God needed the little children in heaven, so he took them.”

“So it’s all just a game?” I would ask.

Some of the church’s would say that I was infecting the minds of the church youth with all these questions and asked me not to return.

No love lost.

I was looking for answers and clearly these fake houses of god knew little to nothing about the subject they claimed to be experts in.

I broadened my scope to study religions from around the world.

I lived at the library.

There were subtle differences, but more similarities.

-There is a better life beyond this one.

-Believe in god and you will be rewarded.

-Disobey and you will be cursed.

-Practice these principals to become closer to God.

The god’s faces changed, but the ideas were pretty much the same.

Yet none of them could explain why this powerful and loving God would allow it’s children to suffer in ways that were so extreme.

Columbine happened and I talked to god.

God was in the shower.

9/11 happened and I talked to god.

God put me on hold.

My baby died and I begged god to “PLEASE FUCKING ANSWER ME!!”

God was on vacation.

I was talking to myself.

I recall a scene in the Woody Allen masterpiece, Hannah and Her Sisters, where in the throes of an existential crisis, Woody asks his parents…

“If there is a God then why are there Nazis?!”

His father replies

“How do I know why there are Nazis! I can’t even work the can opener!”

No one seemed to know anything.

By my teen years, I had mastered the can opener, but was no closer to understanding how evil thrives if there is a loving omnipotent god.

A youth pastor took pity on me and offered to help answer some of my questions, on one condition;

I was not allowed, under any circumstances to tell anyone what he had taught me, on fear of him losing his job.

This pastor could read Hebrew and he helped me dive into The Bible as it was originally written.

I was shocked to find that the bible verses I had been raised on were nothing like the original writings.

The Hebrew texts spoke nothing of mysticism. They were just a series of laws and rules, a guide to being a virtuous person.

There was no mention of heaven and hell was only proverbial.

It was not a place one goes in the afterlife, but a burning that a man feels in his soul when he is tortured.

Hell was just part of life.

As I sat in the church listening to the man teach the sugar-coated version of The Bible to the masses, I wondered how he could tell lies to his followers and still consider himself to be an ethical man.

He told me “These people aren’t seeking truth. They are seeking comfort. The church has provided this for thousands of years.”

“But what about Jesus and heaven and eternal life?” I begged.

“What about them?” he countered.

“Don’t you believe in these things?”

He waved an old copy of The Bible at me and said “No one who gives serious time to studying this book, will believe in those things.”

I was crushed.

I abandoned my studies with him and dived headlong into the world of philosophy.

I went to university.

I was lucky.

My hunger was rewarded with some of the world’s best mentors helping me to answer life’s eternal questions.

But none of them could explain how or why god allows evil and suffering.

They wondered too.

But they had no answers.

Only more questions.

But there was a man…

An elderly man with wise eyes and a youthful walk.

He was always glowing…always smiling…

He came to the philosophy discussions and I saw his beautiful, glowing face all over campus.

I inquired about him.

I found out he was the leader of the religion department at the university.

I admired him.

He was as well-read as any of my mentors.

He was incredibly bright.

But unlike most people who have peeked too far behind the curtain, he was not tortured.

He seemed happy…content…

And he didn’t have the kind of fake happiness people put on when they have to interact with others.

He was radiating energy.

He was on fire.

One day I went to his office and asked if he had some time.

He invited me inside.

His office was grandiose, a huge circular room with 20 foot tall ceilings and bookshelves built into the walls.

I looked at the books with admiration.

All of the greatest minds ever sat on his shelves.

“Have you read all of these books?” I asked.

“Many times.” he said, without an iota of arrogance.

He gave me the gift of his time and he listened with great interest.

At the end he said

“I can not give you that which you seek. I want to, but I can’t. The things I do on this Earth matter. They affect others. They reverberate and when I stop breathing those actions will still continue to have an effect. In that sense I am eternal.”

I thought for a very long time and then I said “But you won’t carry on?”

“No. Not in any sense we would recognize. When my body dies, I die.” he said.

After a long pause he added…

“I sense that you are suffering and seeking solace and I know my answer will not provide that for you.”

I thanked him for his kindness and candor and left his office.

As I got in my car and pulled away, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was so blessed, when so many others have it so hard.

I really couldn’t complain.

I was attending a prestigious university.

I had amazing people in my life.

I was born in a mostly free country and my body worked relatively well.

I could see the sunshine and I could hear my daughter say “I love you, daddy.”

Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of how fortunate I was and how unfortunate others are.

Out of habit, the words that have always escaped my lips when gratitude takes my breath away, found their way out…

“Thank you, god.” I heard myself say…

Knowing all too well..

That I was only talking to myself.

Whoopin Ass for Jesus

jeus

“What the hell did you just say?!”

This was commonly followed by a right cross to the jaw and a lecture on the sacrifice that Jesus made for our sins on the cross at Calvary.

Donald and I were good kids, in our way.

Just a couple of teenage punks with little to no parental supervision who got “saved” the quick and dirty way, in front of the Chic Fila at the mall food court.

We were a formidable duo.

Donald was on the school wrestling team.

Built like a Panzer tank and equally as smart.

I was skinny and cunning, a malnourished mathlete and secret honor roll student.

Leave your window cracked and Donald would toss me upwards and I would be inside and unlocking the door for him before you could say “Teenage Delinquency.”

Look at us cross-eyed and one of us would be in your face talking trash while the other sneaked around behind and lifted your wallet.

We were thugs when it was easy to be thugs, back in the days before everyone had guns.

We were more akin to The Outsiders than Boys in the Hood.

More West Side Story than Straight Outta Compton.

I was Danny Zuko and he was The Fonz.

I played Gordie Lachance to his Chris Chambers.

“Suck my fat one you cheap dime-store hood.”

We were gangsta in our tiny town, where all it took to be hardcore was ignorance and desperation.

We had that in spades.

We were tough fish in a very small pond.

Believe it or not, we were doing our best.

So when the guy at the mall told us to use our gifts to spread the word of the Lord, we did the only thing we knew how to do.

We kicked ass for Jesus.

If someone said “Goddam!!” they could expect a trip to the dentist shortly thereafter.

If some highfalutin philosophy student told us that “God is dead” then we would show him that “Hell is other people” and then showed him that “One can avoid hell through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Converts came quickly and easily.

A man down on one knee was in no position to debate the merits of Atheism or to discuss the value of the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama.

“Do you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior or do you want some more?”

“You’re crazy!!”

“Hit him again, Donald.”

“Do you accept him?”

“I accept.”

“Accept what?!”

“I accept Jesus Christ as my lord and savior.”

“Congratulations. Jesus loves you. By the way my name is Mike and this here is Donald.”

Not everyone saw the light.

There was the 300 lb Muslim man with the shaved head.

I hit him with all the power The Lord had given me and he was unmoved.

“You’re lucky” he said.

“Wh-wh-wh-why?” I stammered.

“Because being a Muslim I am not allowed to strike someone out of anger.”

God blessed us with the ability to run away that day.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but it can also be the mustard seed by which a mighty tree grows.

Donald and I didn’t spend all of our time whoopin’ ass for Jesus.

We started to read The Bible and occasionally we even dragged our hungover asses to church.

Donald would ask me what a verse meant and when I couldn’t figure it out, I would ask the youth pastor.

We learned that Jesus didn’t want us to beat people up in his name.

We also learned that he wasn’t big on stealing, marijuana or Metallica.

Reluctantly we traded in our whisky and brass knuckles for suits and haircuts.

We traded Slayer for Stryper.

And marijuana for…

Well we kept the marijuana.

“It’s a plant. God put it here.” we reasoned.

We held doors for little old ladies and helped them with their groceries.

We witnessed to the downtrodden and destitute.

And when we passed an open window or heard someone take The Lord’s name in vain, we prayed for patience and restraint.

And sometimes it came.

And other times we had to pray for forgiveness.

Naked

So there I was naked and in handcuffs.

It was 7 am.

Having only fallen asleep an hour earlier, I had not really thought to dress myself when the loud banging had occurred at the door.

I went there wrapped in a sheet and one of the officers asked me if I was Michael Sparks.

I said that I was and now here I was sitting on my bed, wondering what would have happened if I had just ignored the knock and continued sleeping.

Turns out I was wanted for kidnapping my girlfriend.

“Can I put some clothes on?” I asked.

They let me get dressed.

I had always hated sleep.

Sleep was the time when “they” could get me.

Sleep was the time when my mom’s boyfriends would drag me out of bed and take out their day’s frustration on me.

Sleep had always been unsafe and now I had this to add to my list of things to worry about when the sandman overpowered me.

I had often tried to prove that sleep wasn’t necessary.

I thought that it was a bi-product of the body being polluted.

I stopped eating when I learned that digestion robbed the body of energy.

I subsisted for years on a diet of black coffee and the cigarettes.

Once I had managed to stay awake for 6 days with the help of an over the counter stimulant, purchased at a truck-stop.

Sleep and death were just bad ideas dreamed up by humanity.

Life wore people out and they got tired.

I never wore out.

Life was meant to be lived, not in some coma, but all my theories had landed me here, 19 years old, in the back of a police car, wondering what had happened to Stacy and who had kidnapped her.

I was put into a huge cell with about 300 other men.

I was not afraid.

I didn’t really care that I was white, but I figured some of the other inmates might.

I grabbed a roll of toilet paper to use as a pillow and went to lie on one of the cold metal cots.

I was quickly informed that both the cot and the toilet paper were already spoken for, so I slid my bony frame underneath the cot and tried to sleep.

I was awakened by a guttural squealing.

I looked up to see an Asian man, sitting on the toilet about 6 feet from my head, struggling to defecate.

The toilets were right out in the open and apparently the chatter of the other inmates was distracting the man from accomplishing his goal.

Suddenly he began screaming “Shut up niggers!! Shut up, you fucking niggers!!”

He just kept screaming it.

Everyone else in the cell stopped talking and stared at him.

I wanted to reach out and cover his mouth, but it was too late.

A group of black men approached the toilet.

The Asian man stood up and began to stagger, his pants still around his ankles.

One of the men punched him so hard that his entire body became erect, before falling to a heap on the floor by my cot, his face not even a foot from mine.

He was unconscious.

The men began to kick him.

They kicked him for a while and then got bored and left.

He smelled of shit. Apparently his goal accomplished.

I crawled out from under the cot and went to sit along the edge of the huge cell.

The police brought a man in who was on crutches, his arm in a cast and sling.

“What’s he in for?” I asked the man next to me.

“Impersonating Rodney King.” he replied.

The man on crutches was white, so I wondered if he was beaten for that, so when the man next to me asked “What are YOU in for?”

I replied simply, “Murder.”

I staid overnight in the big cell.

I mainly slept on the cold, cement floor.

No one bothered me.

The next morning they took about 12 of us to a small dark cell.

We were all handcuffed together.

There were three other prisoners already there.

It smelled awful in the small dank cell.

“What’s that smell?” one of our guys asked.

“We been jerkin off.” one of the three men replied.

I could see their semen all over the walls.

I wanted to puke.

The moved us to another cell with about 15 other men.

This cell was well lit and had nothing in it except for a bench that ran along all four walls.

I sat with my eyes closed, trying to sleep.

The man next to me had blood on his hands, his face, his clothes.

Someone asked him what he had done.

He said that he had come home from work early and had found his wife in bed with another man.

He said that he had beaten them both to death with a baseball bat.

The other prisoners celebrated his accomplishment, congratulating him on it, saying that they would have done the same.

I just wanted to go home.

I heard some of the men discussing me.

I was skinny and white.

An easy mark I guess.

The discussion led to someone accepting the challenge to come over and hit me.

I saw the man standing in front of me, preparing to strike me.

I pretended to be asleep.

“Hey!” he said “Wake up!”

The large black man to my right stood up.

He towered over my would-be attacker.

“Leave him alone.” he said. “He’s just homesick.”

My heart overflowed with gratitude that I was not allowed to express.

I just pretended to sleep.

Soon they moved us to different places.

The place I was moved to felt more permanent.

It had tvs and a central area for people to congregate.

They assigned me a cell.

An effeminate man with long blond hair introduced himself as my cell mate.

He seemed nice, but I wasn’t planning on staying long.

I sat in the common area, while everyone was watching tv.

I was new and everyone wanted to talk to me.

I told them that I had been falsely arrested and when they called me to court I would be going home.

They laughed and told me that they do not put people in this part of the jail unless they were planning on keeping them for a long time.

They told me that this is where they put all the dangerous people.

“I’m going home.” I insisted “and I’m going to find out who kidnapped my girlfriend.”

They all thought this was hysterical, so I went into my cell to sleep.

A huge fat man came into my cell, yanked me off my bunk and said “Tonight, when the lights go out. I’m gonna fuck you.”

He left.

My cell mate was lying on his bed reading his bible.

“I’m going to need something sharp.” I told him.

“I can help you with that.” he said and left the cell.

I went to sleep.

Soon I overheard the intercom say “Michael Sparks, report to courtroom 6.”

I went to the security door.

I waited.

The inmates burst out in uproarious laughter.

I pressed the button “Michael Sparks for courtroom 6.” I said.

“I didn’t call anyone for courtroom 6.” the little voice in the intercom said.

They kept laughing.

I went back to sleep.

Time passed.

I heard the voice again  “Michael Sparks, report to courtroom 6.”

I was skeptical, but went back to the security door.

There was no laughter.

I pushed the button “Michael Sparks for courtroom 6.” I said.

The room fell out with laughter again.

“Stop playing with the intercom!!” the little voice yelled at me.

I went back to sleep.

Time passed.

A little while later I heard the voice again.

I ignored it.

Several of the men came into my cell and tried to pull me from my bunk.

“C’mon man. It’s time to go. You’re goin’ home!”

I pushed against them. “Stop fucking with me!!” I yelled.

“No it’s for real this time.” they insisted.

I did not believe them.

I huffed up to the security door and pushed the button “Michael Sparks for courtroom 6.” I said angrily.

The door buzzed and made a clicking noise.

An officer walked through and put cuffs on my wrists and ankles.

They took me to a cell where an attorney my friend had retained was waiting.

“Ready to get out of here?” he asked.

I burst into tears.

“I didn’t kidnap anyone.” I said.

“I know.” he said “When we are done with this, we are going to sue the city for false arrest.”

His confidence was comforting.

It was hard to feel good about yourself when you were wearing an orange jumpsuit.

While I was waiting, alone in my cell, I had a lot of time to think about Stacy.

I remembered the time we ran away together.

Her parents forbid us from seeing each other, so one morning she just shows up at my door.

We ran off, as far as our $22 would take us.

I remembered how excited she was for her “Daddy” to be coming home.

Apparently he had been in prison and had missed most of her childhood.

I remembered how I had touched her back and she had freaked out and started crying.

I didn’t understand.

As we walked into the courtroom, I saw Stacy’s parents across the way.

I soon realized that they were the plaintiffs.

My heart went out to them.

They must have thought I was an awful guy.

Their daughter had been kidnapped and they thought I did it.

They were yelling at the judge.

They wanted me to be in prison.

The judge threatened them with contempt of court.

They were livid.

They would not be quiet.

My attorney said he wanted to call his first and only witness.

He called Stacy.

A door opened and she walked in.

I did not understand what was going on.

Her parents started screaming.

The judge found them in contempt.

Stacy said that her father had taken her to a cabin out in the woods and told her to stay there.

She said that she knew what he was planning.

She said that she had left the cabin and hitch-hiked back into the city and contacted my friend.

While I was sitting in jail, watching people get beaten, planning to stab a man who intended to rape me, Stacy was out there, fighting for my freedom.

I watched her say the words that set me free and sent her father back to prison.

I watched her destroy her life to save mine.

I suddenly understood why her father didn’t want any other men to touch her.

With sickening clarity I understood why she didn’t want anyone to touch her back.

And I was afraid, very afraid, that I knew why he had been to prison in the first place.

They gave me my clothes back and told me I could go home.

I crawled back into the bed the police had taken me out of just three days earlier.

But I couldn’t sleep.

I called Stacy, but there was no answer.

It wasn’t the same.

Nothing was ever the same.