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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.