Horizontal Lives

True Tales of the Infamous Courtesan: Persephone N. Hades and her Horizontal Life underground. How she got there, her mis-adventures and her struggle to re-surface.

Monday, February 28, 2005

February 28th, 1998--The Memory Still Burns


Today is a special day, February 28th.

Although there are no markings on my calendar to remind me of it’s significance, when I awake every year since 1998 on this date, it is still there, nagging and presenting itself, refusing to let me forget.

It hardly seems like it happened seven years ago. Seven years ago? The feeling is as fresh today.


Seven years ago on February 28th, my Life, my Spirit, my Choices and thus my Destiny were altered irreparably and forever.


There are other dates scarred in my memory. Like the day I fell in love. The day that love ended. The day someone was born or married or died. I have those dates as well. But none strike me so forcibly as this one.
The one that occurred on February 28th, 1998.


He said his name was Robert Morgan. That he worked for a company called "South Coast Realty". I should have looked it up but he sounded so nice: "I want to see someone with ‘wings and a heart’, like you say about yourself in your ad," he said, "I don’t want a cold encounter."

He said he was down in Orange County.

That part was true.

I said I was in LA, that Orange County was too far for me to travel to, that maybe he should find someone else, in his area. He said that it was only me he wanted. He said he saw my ad, my picture. He said he loved what I wrote about myself. He said he didn’t do this very often and he wanted a special experience. I said that I was flattered. I said I understood what it felt like to want an experience like this to be special. I said I would be happy to call him if I had occasion to be in his area and that, if it was convenient for him at that time, maybe we could schedule an appointment.


Several weeks later, an occasion presented itself. I would have an audition for a play in Orange County the following Friday. True to my word, I remembered Robert Morgan and called him. But when the phone was answered, instead of saying "South Coast Realty", a gritty, tattered, baritone voice barked, "Yeah?"

This should have been my First Clue something was awry--most legitimate companies answer their phones leading with their company’s name. I asked for Robert Morgan and when he answered, told him our good fortune. He scheduled an appointment with me for that Friday evening. I would come to him right after my audition.


When the day came, my audition was cancelled. I called Robert Morgan to cancel his appointment with me as well. He begged me to come down anyway. I told him that it was too far, it would take me two hours to drive down there and two hours to drive home. He then offered to book two hours with me, (instead of the customary one hour at that time,) so it would be worth my while. I told him the fee would be seven hundred dollars- four hundred for the first hour and three hundred for each hour after. "No problem." He said. "I just got my tax return." "Well now that’s dangerous." I said in my flirty voice.


He called me twice that day to reconfirm our appointment. A bit unusual behavior for a Client but I chalked it up to excitement. Both times he called he repeated the directions to his hotel in excruciating detail. Just before I was to leave my home, he called a third time and again repeated the directions. This over-zealousness should have rung some kind of alarm bell, setting off what should have been my Second Clue, but as always with people, clients or otherwise, I had faith he was who he said he was.


I put the top up on my little red LeBaron convertible so my hair wouldn’t get mussed during the long drive, and merged my car into the swarm of freeway traffic. The 10 to the 405 to the 110 to the 710 to the… My cell phone sat in the scoop of my black Audrey Hepburn ala-Breakfast at Tiffany’s gown between my legs, my pager clipped on the low ‘v’ of the dress’s velvet cleavage. The Thomas Guide Map to LA and Orange County perched vertically on my thighs leaning against the steering wheel and Robert Morgan’s precise directions sat on the passenger seat beside me, held there by the tip of my purse doubling as a paperweight.
Traffic was thick. By the time I reached the 710, I could see I would be running late. I dialed the number he had given me and apologized. He said he understood and not to worry but asked me several times, "You’re definitely coming right?" I affirmed that I was and kept driving.


At 7:13 the freeway spat me out onto a busy street lined with mini-malls and drive-thru restaurants. Dusk was surrendering to night. Waiting at a stoplight, I reviewed the directions I had written out in huge letters in black marker on the paper next to me. Only a few blocks more.


I glanced up at the evening sky from my hood-less car. Such a gorgeous breeze. What an amazing place L.A. was--sunny days, cool evenings, palm trees swaying. Having come from such unkind climates like Chicago and New York, L.A., despite the problems I had here, was a paradise to me. The stars were in hiding, humbled by the bright loud lights of the fast food restaurants that blockaded the street one after another--Taco Bell, Burger King, In-n-Out, Bob’s Big Boy---ha! Now I was laughing. And I was hungry. I had forgotten to eat all day so I made a mental note to stop at one of the drive-thru’s after my call. Just two hours and it would be something to look forward to. French fries on the way home. And if I got home by 11:30, Tango, my ambiguously gay roommate might be home and we could share a cigarette, some wine and some juicy conversation.


Following Robert’s directions, I turned into the parking lot of a cheap motel---the kind where there appears to be no front office, just a blinking vacancy sign out front. I thought he had said a ‘hotel’. This place was transient-looking, not what I expected from a rich real estate broker.

Clue Three. Ignored.


Cruising slowly, squinting from my night blindness, I lean close into the windshield seeking the numbers to the rooms—45, 46, 47. I park my car directly into the open space conveniently in front of #48---my destination. The light above the paint-chipped door is swarming with moths. I tell myself the car is only a few feet away, if I don’t like the looks of things, I can always make a run for it. I think of his voice and how anxious he was to see me. I look at my face in the rear view mirror and retouch my makeup hoping I look all right, that after all this he will like me.


I knock and back away from the door to avoid the moths dancing around my face. As the door opens, I tilt my head to the left, giving him my pretty profile, smiling my shy, closed-mouthed grin. Although he is quite average looking—5’11", with brown hair, brown eyes, no feature too large or too small, average build for his height, not too fat or too thin, in fact he is the epitome of what you would think of if I said: ‘Picture an average looking guy…’, still he is not what I expected.


Something about him seems—off.


He wears gray slacks- polyester and a maroon pullover sweater of synthetic knit. If he was Italian and wore more jewelry, he would look like a ‘guido’, but he’s sort of an Anglo-Saxon ‘guido’. A Conservative Republican Guido. Is there such a thing?


He spreads the door further inviting me in. I can see he’s been here waiting. Open newspaper sections blanket the bed. A can of Hawaiian Punch and an empty bag of Fritos sit on the nightstand.

This should have been Clue Four. Blue-collar food. Not my usual clientele.

The air around him is cold and I can’t tell whether it’s him or the temperature in the room.


"Hi, I’m Natalie, as you’ve probably guessed." I say and launch into a clicky-clacky giggly apologetic titter-tatter about the traffic. He offers no conversation. His mouth curves up into a semi-smile, but his eyes remain blank. ‘Like a shark’ I remember thinking.


(Looking back, I see that it’s not what he was that confused me but rather what he was not. There is a warmth, a muted excitement that even the worst of clients have when they first open the door that Robert was vacant of.)


My nervous chatter wears itself out. I smile casually as I scope out the room. Typical cheap motel room. Double bed with a wooden headboard attached to the wall. Dresser opposite the bed with a mirror above it. Metal luggage rack. Plastic brown trash bin. Old faded green shag carpet. Florescent lights. A beige pocked metal heater/air-conditioning unit attached to the wall under the window by the door and a no-frills bathroom. I put my bag down on the dresser opposite the bed and say,
"Would you mind if we take care of the business side of things first so we can forget about it and just have fun?"
(That’s the last time I would ever do that. From that day on, I take my chances and never get the money up front.)


He says "Sure" and places seven one hundred dollar bills on the dresser between us.
I remember finding it odd that he just didn’t hand them to me.

Clue Five. Later I wondered if it was ‘a rule’ for him to have to do it that way.


I quickly scan the bills as I scoop them up, placing them deep in the zipper pouch in the back of my backpack/purse.


"Would you mind if I also saw your I.D.?" I ask with a coy smile.


He takes out his wallet, holding it open for me, but doesn’t remove the license. I look at what appears to be just a State issued I.D. card that indeed says ‘Robert Morgan’.


"Don’t you have a driver’s license?" I say this meekly so as not to offend him.


He gives me an excuse I can’t remember anymore and I feel the same kind of embarrassment I used to feel when I was a waitress and a customer’s credit card was declined and I’d have to tell them. It’s not my fault but I don’t want them to think I don’t have faith in them and I imagine how embarrassed they will feel so I let it ride.

Clue Number Six.

I don’t ask him for a business card but he probably would have had a fake one even if I had.
At this point I believe I’m on a normal call so I say, to break the ice,
"Would you mind giving me a hug to make me feel more welcome?"
I place myself against him. He puts his arms on my back and pats me like he is burping a baby. I look up at him affectionately and lean in to kiss him. He turns his face abruptly away leaving my lips to kiss the air- very different than the man on the phone that couldn’t wait to see me.

Clue Seven.


Still smiling, I seat myself gracefully on the rayon, swirl-y patterned-a la-1960’s bedspread fanning my long gown out around me. He collects the newspapers and sits back against the headboard. Miracle of miracles, somehow we end up in a heated conversation about the evils of MCI and other annoying phone companies. Soon we are comrades in the ‘small man’s struggle against telephone monopolies’, and time flies. We are now leaning on our sides, our heads against our hands, propped up on our elbows.

I am pleased. He has relaxed and I think this may be a nice call after all. It is now almost 8:30. An hour has passed and not wanting him to think I am wasting his time, I ask him if he would like a massage.


"Why don’t you get comfortable," I suggest, picking up my bag, "and I’ll go change into something a bit more massage-worthy. I don’t want to get oil on my dress."


I head off into the bathroom. In truth, the cut and sexy lines of the dress I am wearing doesn’t allow for elaborate lingerie without straps peeking out. Instead I’ve brought my lingerie with me so I want a moment to go change into costume as well as take advantage of my little ritual—a small time-out to reassess, regroup, invoke whichever of the screen seductresses- Marilyn, Melina, Sofia, Audrey, Jessica Rabbit—that I might need for inspiration.


The toilet still has the paper strip across it and it looks like it has been peed on. I change as fast as I can, wipe myself with an Eve feminine cloth, spread the obligatory KY and re-enter the room. I am wearing my favorite turquoise push-up bra and matching panties, Victoria Secret stay-up black lace thigh-high stockings and a pair of black ankle strap heels. It’s the same outfit I am wearing in the ad he saw me in.


He hardly notices. He is lying on his stomach, naked but for a pair of horizontal-striped multi-colored briefs with his face smashed in a pillow and his eyes semi-closed. I place my dress over the arm of the desk chair, take out my goodie bag, (filled with condoms, oil and KY), setting it on the bed next to me, and put my purse down on the floor.


Again I feel the chill in the air and again I can’t tell whether it is him or the room.
"Robert?" I lean into his ear. "Would you mind if I turned the heat up a little?"


"No, go ahead." He mumbles into the pillow, eyes still closed against me.


I hop off the bed and futz with the damaged dial on the tin heater that sits low to the floor by the front window.
"I think it’s broken." I say.


"Are you cold?" he mutters.


"Unfortunately always. I guess you’re just going to have to keep me warm." I tease and jump to the bed, squishing myself into his back. I lay myself flat on top of him aligning my body with his---legs to legs, feet to feet, chest to back, head to head and press my weight into him. My lips find his cheek and I kiss him softly, roaming with my mouth to his ear, his neck, his forehead. It’s not that he’s not responsive exactly; it’s more that he just doesn’t respond at all.


(If I was being hard on myself, this could be Clue Number Eight.)


I sit up straight straddling his butt; my knees bent at his sides and pour some oil in my hands. I rub the oil fast between my palms heating it and gently place them open-palmed upon his back. He sighs. I close my eyes and let go of my worries, giving way to the antennae in my fingers, allowing them to lead me to where he needs the pressure most.


When I have run the terrain of his back from neck to tailbone, I open my eyes and notice for the first time, three separate round scars- two, like eyes, close together on the left side of his lower back and one high on the scapula of his right shoulder. Lovingly, I circle the outside of one of the holes with a pinkie. He shifts as if this is making him uncomfortable.


"Robert? What’s this? Were you ever shot?" I murmur into his ear.


"Hmm?"


"It looks like you have bullet holes in your back."

Clue Number Nine?


"Oh, yeah. Yeah. I was in a fight once."


"Wow. That’s some fight. Are you okay?"


"Yeah. It was a long time ago."


"Wow. How scary that must have been for you." I lean down and place a soft warm kiss on each of the scarred holes.


"I’m sorry that happened to you."


"Yeah, me too."


I want to heal him. I want to make those holes dissolve. I want to erase that moment of pain and fear from his life. I massage with more focus summoning up my ‘pink love’ energy to transfer it into his wounds. But through my thighs I can feel he is starting to get antsy, starting, I imagine, to think about the time; starting to wonder if massage is all there will be to this encounter, so I know it is time to move forward.


Inching myself backward so I am now sitting on his upper thighs, I massage beneath the top seam of his briefs, then slowly glide them lower and lower off his buttocks with each downward stroke until I have eased them off completely.


I reach behind me for my goodie bag and quietly tear open a condom, placing it on my right middle finger, all the while still rubbing slow circles into his lower cheeks. I release a few drops of oil into the crack of his bottom and run the condomed finger down slowly.


(Over the years, I found that most men like to be touched there but feel strange asking for it, so I just do it as sort of an appetizer, a delicate treat. For many men, it is very arousing. The skin is sensitive and there’s something forbidden about it.)


Robert moves slightly but not enough to signal he doesn’t like it. Again, starting from the top, I let my silky slick finger glide in between making it’s way down to his balls. Goosebumps blossom on his cheeks. Just as my fingertip reaches his anus he turns and sits up jarring me off him.
"I don’t want to do that." He says.


"Okay. Okay. Shhhh. It’s okay."


"Listen." He says, sitting up on the edge of the bed. "This is great but do you have a condom or something with you?"


We are not there yet. Not even close. This is an odd thing for him to say at this point in our encounter.
Clue Ten.


He is sitting on the bed like a little boy, looking down at his wienie, which is singularly un-aroused, un-rampant, indeed like a little boy’s: a shy turtle’s head peeking out from it’s shell. I tilt my head giving him a mommy-understands look and say,
"Well of course I have condoms. I’m a single girl and this is the ‘90’s. But Robert, you don’t need a condom right now, okay? Come lay back down and let me finish the massage."


"I would just feel more comfortable if I had a condom."


"Why? I’m just giving you a massage. I promise if we need one, I will give you one."


"I’m afraid of AIDS." I can’t help it. I try not to, but I laugh.


"Oh sweetie. I’m just giving you a massage and even if I did have AIDS, which I don’t, I promise you, you can’t get AIDS from a massage."


He shifts from side to side. He places his hands on his hips then back on the bed. He looks at me and looks down again at his hidden head. "I would just feel better if I had one." He says with a strange forcefulness.


There is no winning this one so I toss him a Trojan. He tears at the wrapper with his teeth, freeing the rubber and begins a desperate battle trying to force his soft, hibernating member into the latex circle. He pushes down first this side then that side, then the other side again, then grabs the scared little head, pushing it roughly, stuffing it madly into the tip of the balloon- his cock behaving like a stubborn two-year-old who won’t be held.
I wait and watch until it starts to get embarrassing.


"Robert, why don’t we wait? I don’t have AIDS."


"Can I ask you a question?"


"Sure love." I say.


"If I ever get this thing on, would you give me a blow job with it on?"


I am Miss Congeniality.
"Robert, my darling. If and when you get that thing on, I would consider it."


Although I’m sure that in ‘real life’, the next few events happened quite rapidly, for me, they took on the surreal pulse of slow motion.


"Robert, my darling." I say, "If and when you get that thing on, I would consider it."


At that moment, Robert jumps up, grabs his clothes and runs to the bathroom slamming the door.


My mouth is open, surprised. Shocked. Speechless. Where is he going? What happened?
Before I can call after him to see if he’s okay, the knob to the front door of the motel room, just like in a horror film, begins to squeak, turning by itself left and right. I am kneeling alone on the bed in my lingerie. The area of town is not good. My heart pounds. What if it is a burglar? What if the robber has a gun? What if he kills us? Or rapes me? I twist my body backward toward the bathroom door and begin to call to Robert for help.
"Robert! Someone is trying to-" That’s as far as I get. The door bursts open and my heart stops.

I can see myself from a distance, swirling back around to face the intruders, my eyes wide black coals of terror. A flash goes off. I hear the zzzzz sound of a Polaroid picture zooming out of a camera.
"Stay where you are!"
There are two men. Two enormous men, fully uniformed, one with a camera and the other with a loaded (I surmise) gun drawn, pointing at me from his locked an extended arms.
"You are under arrest for Prostitution."


My Spirit is smart, reacting like animal in a trap, dissolving into itself, closing up. I shut down. I am caught. I know it. There is no hope. I know, I am aware of the reality. I am a Dolphin caught in a Tuna net.
They do not know.
To these men, ‘fish is fish’.
They, do not know the difference.
"Put your hands out in front of you."
I do.
They replace their guns, put down the Polaroid camera and slap onto my wrists a pair of handcuffs.
My first pair.
I’ve never let a client, or even a lover handcuff me.
Sink down down low into that bomb shelter I built inside my soul. That cave I haven’t visited since the rape, since Pip, since Philip.
I am sober and scared.
I am at their mercy.
This isn’t even the LAPD. It’s worse. This is Orange County---the most conservative Republican county in the country.


It occurs to me that they could beat me up or rape me. What could I do? In the eyes of the law, I deserve no protection; I’m just a Whore. A Prostitute. Of what validity are my words? My pain?
I do not move.
I do not look up.
I breath in that space that only my true self, the self that will die someday, lives.


‘Robert Morgan’ a.k.a ‘Mr. Hyde’, fully re-dressed, swaggers out of the bathroom, a half-sneer on his face, as if he’s disgusted with the entire affair. He is now Officer Rhodes and sick to death of shit like me.
"You have I.D. on you?"


"Yes. It’s in my bag."


"Get her bag." He orders.


They search my bag finding my I.D., taking the money ‘Robert’ gave me earlier, out of the zipper pouch.
"Gee, sorry. But you don’t get to keep this."
I smile weakly and nod, watching him pocket the seven hundred dollars.


"Persephone N. Hades. That your name?" He asks, reading from my driver’s license.
"Yes."
"Search her vehicle for drugs." Officer Rhodes orders his partners and they leave to tear apart my car. "You got any drugs on you?"
"No."
"Where’s your matches?"
"My matches?"
"Yeah. Where do you keep your matches?" Amazing how extroverted he’s suddenly become.
"I don’t have any matches." I guess he thinks I smoke pot and is looking for a lead.
"You want to tell me where you keep your drugs or do you want to get in deeper trouble when we find them on our own?"
"I don’t do drugs."
"Right. I’m going to have to confiscate your bag." He means my ‘goodie’ bag with the condoms, KY and oil.
I just nod.
"And this. And this." He is referring to my pager and my cell phone.
"Why?" I ask.
"Used in the commission of a crime."
Inside I groan. Outside, I am motionless. I hear my heart trembling. I can hear the blood moving through the vein in my neck. I am wondering if they are going to read me my rights but I am too frightened to mention it.


"Give me the number of someone you want to call." He readies his pen.
I think about calling Tango but I don’t think he would be home and even if he was, I couldn’t ask him to drive this far to come and fetch me. "You got anyone you want to call?"


"No."


Even if I did, I wouldn’t give away any of my friend’s phone numbers to him. I now know I can’t trust anything this Officer Rhodes tells me so I am too afraid to give out the numbers of any of my friends.


"No one? Got no friends? Relatives?"


In truth, I have no friends to call in a situation like this. None of my friends ‘approve’ of what I do. Most of them will, somewhere inside themselves, either be frightened or feel I somehow deserve this.
I am alone.
I have been alone most of my life.
I don’t have a safety net financially or in friendships.


"No. No one."


I don’t know what they are going to do with me, how long I will be, or where they will take me.
And part of me, a tiny part of me is still holding the sliver of hope that they may let me go.
And what about my car? How will I get it home? Are they going to confiscate it?
And although I know I am in deep, how deep?


"No. No one." I repeat.


The two men come back in.
"What’d ya find?"
"She’s clean." Says the cop who took the photo.
For a moment, a look of surprise rides across the hard face of Officer Rhodes. "Search her bag." He orders.
Then to me, "How many times you been arrested before?"
"None."
"C’mon!"
"I’ve never been arrested before."
"Run her license. We’re gonna check so you’re better off confessing. How many arrests?" His pen is poised at a line on his paperwork.
"I have never been arrested. And I don’t do drugs."
"Anything?" He is referring to my purse.
"No. Clean." Says the other uniformed cop.


I look at that one, for the first time now seeing him. He’s young with eyes that have life, compassion, so unlike Robert’s shark eyes. ‘When they play good cop/bad cop’, I think, ‘he must be the ‘good’ cop’.


"So you wanna tell me why you do this?" asks Robert the Shark.
"Do what?" I know better than to talk. Every TV show I’ve ever seen has always said that if you ever got arrested, don’t say anything. They use everything against you. But Officer Rhodes stares at me with such a fury I am afraid not to speak.


"This." He barks.
"I need the money."
"For what? You got kids?"
"No."


He opens up my key chain. It’s an oval leather piece that snaps shut and holds two photographs inside. One photo is of Steve-my ex, and the other is of my sweet little nephew when he was three months old.
"Is this your kid?"
"No. It’s my nephew."
"Right. We’ll see. You want your kid taken away from you?"
"I don’t have any children, yet."
"Yet." He groans.


"So why did you say you did this?"
"I need the money."
"For what?"
"I would like to be able to afford to have a child someday."
"You’re saving to buy one?"
"I don’t know if this is the time to be discussing politics and women’s economics in America." I say, wishing I had a monologue prepared for such a moment as this.
He squints his eyes at me and writes down what I just said.


"You know you’re lucky."


My eyebrows raise on their own.


"You don’t know it but I saved you. I seen Whores like you dismembered and thrown in garbage bins more often than I like to think about."


I hear myself, my tone belying my words, saying softly, sincerely, "I’m sorry sir, but the worst thing that has ever happened to me in this business is you."


Officer Rhodes stares at me, open mouth. His left leg that is crossed over his right jogs nervously up and back.
"I’m gonna call in. Stay with her." And he leaves with one of his partners.


The ‘good’ cop pulls up a chair and sit opposite me. We stare at each other.
Inside I am dying quietly.
I am that Dolphin twisted and dying in the net of a Tuna sweep.
Immobilized, preventing expression with my body, my eyes, like the tangled Dolphin stares, pulsing and pleading with emotion at my captor- this policeman.
But he has been fishing and won. ‘A fish is a fish’.


"What’s going to happen?" My voice comes out in a whisper.


He takes off his hat, rests his elbows on his knees and turns the hat over and over between his legs with his fingers.
"We’re gonna take you down to the precinct, print ya, book ya, put ya in a cell and run ya through. If you’re clean, you should be out in a few hours."


"Oh."


"Listen, uh, you don’t happen to have a license for massage do ya?"
"No."
He shrugs.

At least he was trying. If I had a license, what then? Maybe he could have just given me a ticket? He sits on the chair opposite me, his elbows on either knee, his chin resting on his hands.


"You look like a nice girl."
"I am."
"You do drugs? We’re gonna run a blood test, find out anyway."
"No."
"Any priors?"
"No, I’ve never been arrested before. I’m a college graduate. I have a Masters Degree."
He shakes his head and keeps staring at me. I’m afraid to move. These are California cops and I’m alone with them in a room far away from any help. I get little flashes back to the time I was raped. Alone in a room with my assailant far away from any help.


But this is worse.
It ‘feels’ like I’ve been raped. They don’t see me. They see something else. A prototype-some slimy, pimp owned, drug addicted, waste-of-life, waster-of-their-time Whore.

I am a woman who chooses to make love, to give love, to receive love through the art of touch and sensuality. If I did this without receipt of a gift financial or otherwise, it would be okay. But because I want to make my living at it, because I am straightforward about it, and choose to do it when requested and how requested, it is a crime. I’ve never understood this attitude.


I can even understand the abortion debate a little better. I can understand that the other side of that argument says there is another life involved. But in this case, there is no other life I am jeopardizing. It is simply my right as a human being to make love with another person as I choose to, how I choose to and why I choose to. As a woman and a human being, I would like to choose the consequences for my own life and body. Perhaps this business should be regulated, but criminalized?


Certainly men have chosen to take my love and my sexuality from me for free with no thought to the lack of emotional exchange and damage that that causes. If a woman has casual sex for free, she is a Slut. If she gets paid, she is a Whore. It is brutal and barbaric to criminalize a woman’s choice as to how and with whom and for what she will make love for. It has been going on for centuries, and goes on still though shrewdly camouflaged in this era of ‘open sexuality’. I feel hunted. Watched.


I am reminded of a movie I saw once- a love story, a true story, that took place in Nazi occupied territory. The Nazi’s got a clue that one of the lovers was Jewish and it took them two years and nine men to find her but they did. It was the end of the war. They found her and dragged her naked from her lover’s arms kicking and screaming down a staircase to certain death. After that movie I thought, WHY? Why so much time, energy and effort to destroy one little person?


And now, even though I know I am not being sent to my physical death, I feel as if I am experiencing injustice so ripe my spirit may die--why me?

Why, out of all the crime that goes on, the truly brutal forms of crime that take place every hour of every day, especially in L.A., did these three men spend so much time trolling their computers, seeking me out, calling me a multitude of times, setting this up, waiting hours to finally be able to close in? For what? For me? A girl who works by herself, does not pander, does not deal drugs, has no criminal record, not only doesn’t hurt anyone, but in truth, actually gives a lot of love, and is certainly more pleasant to deal with than MCI. I must be more important than I thought.


"Is it okay if I put my dress back on?"
"Yeah. Okay."


He releases the handcuffs and watches as I step into my evening gown.


"I gotta put the cuffs back on."


I put my hands out in front of myself for him. He snaps them back around my wrists and I sit down again on the edge of the bed.


"Nice dress. Were you planning on going somewhere?"
"Just here. I wanted it to be a lovely evening for Robert—Officer Rhodes." I sigh at the irony.
He lifts his eyebrows, getting the joke.


"Jez." He says suddenly. "I feel like I’m arresting Audrey Hepburn here."
"Did you see that movie?" I ask.
"Which movie?"
"Breakfast at Tiffany’s?"
"Oh. Yeah. Long time ago."
"She gets arrested in that."
"Yeah? I don’t remember that part."
"She does. But not for this. They think she is part of a drug ring for the mob."
"Oh yeah? I don’t remember that."
"Mmm. Most people don’t remember much about the movie except how much they loved Audrey. Some people don’t even remember what she did for a living. Sally Tomato. That was his name---the Drug Lord. Do you really have to arrest me?"
"’Fraid so."


I can’t cry. I can’t scream. I can’t laugh. My spirit has shrunk to a whisper, a breath. I am only air. I wish I could float away. I am a trapped fawn waiting for the lion to decide.
The door bangs open. Officer Rhodes and his partner are back and all business.
"Get her out to the car. I’ll take her down in mine." Rhodes orders as he snatches up his remaining papers from the nightstand. I stand, the handcuffs on my wrists in front of me. The other officer takes my purse and leads me out to a dark blue Ford Taurus parked next to my car, opening the passenger door, ushering me inside.


"What about my car? How will I get back?"
"It’ll be here. We’re locking your purse inside your car."
"But how will I get back here?"
"I guess you can call someone or take a taxi when you’re released."
"Is it far where we’re going?"
"It’s in Stanton."
"I don’t know the area."
"Then maybe you shoulda thought twice before coming."
(Nice comment considering how he begged me.)
"But is it far?" I am alarmed now.
"About twenty-five minutes."
"Oh God."


The officer pulls the seatbelt across me, snapping it closed, shuts the door to my side and Officer Rhodes climbs in the driver’s side. I stare straight ahead through the dirty windshield. I feel my mouth fallen open, slack, my face is putty, expressionless only for my worried eyebrows betraying my fear.


We drive in a car like all the others on the road. But we are different. I look out the side window of Taurus at the driver in the car next to us. He stares ahead, one hand on the wheel, snapping his gum, having a regular night. Probably going home to sit on his sofa and watch a little TV before going to bed. The unconscious bliss of peaceful normalcy.


I am going to jail. For a non-crime. I feel immediate. There is no past, no future. My entire being is one big antennae. Every moment is magnified. I am recording everything. I am two people. I am a wisp inside myself and a ghost outside myself observing, watching what will happen to this vessel that housed me, that I partnered with for so many years. We are both frightened.

Officer Rhodes has said something to me.
"I’m sorry?" I hear myself ask. I have tuned in mid-monologue. He has been proselytizing something.
"Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have kids. Disgusts me. Should have a sterilization plan for the dregs."
"Ummm." I nod in pseudo-agreement not realizing yet that I am the ‘dreg’ he is talking about.


"We’re gonna get you all ya know. You can go back and tell your friends they’re next."


I look at him blankly. I’m not sure who he’s talking about.


"Yeah. That’s right. You and all your Internet buddies."


I feel my eyebrows arch in disbelief. I look forward out the window and say nothing.


He thinks this is important.
He thinks all the girls that advertise on the Internet all know each other. That we are in cahoots. That it’s important to stop us. Not taking into account of course, that we were not on the streets in lingerie, blocking traffic and bringing down property values, but rather that in order to find us he had to spend hours trolling the web, looking at our pictures, seeking us out and luring us to him. There is no discretion or difference in his mind. He can only see one color, smell one smell. A burger’s a burger. Coffee’s coffee. And Hawaiian Punch and Fritos make up a dinner like any other.


But I understand.
He must believe this or he probably couldn’t do his job.


On the other hand, who could blame him. He is Vice Squad. That means Consensual Crime.
What’s his choice? The mean street gangs dealing in drugs, carrying machine guns, like the ones that torment my neighborhood all day and night in Venice Beach? Like the kid who robbed me at gunpoint in my garage a few weeks ago? Like the ones that ride their bicycles around the neighborhood all day and night whistling in bird songs to each other for each drug deal? Like the ones that cause the helicopters to purr loudly above every night?
Sure, if I were him, I would rather deal with nice petite girls with no weapons, helpless and alone.
Why not?
Especially if I already have three bullet holes in my back.


We pull into a parking lot of a big brick building. He comes around to my side letting me out. Tucking his paperwork under his arm, with a flick of his head he motions me to follow him.
I do.
Suddenly he stops, turns and motions me back to the car.
"Gimme your hands."
He takes the key to the cuffs.
"I gotta lock you with your hands behind your back. Regulation."


‘He knows’, I think.
Somewhere inside his cramped, blockaded mind, he knows I am not a Criminal.
He knows I am not anything more that what I said. That’s why the cuffs didn’t occur to him until now.
He must feel somewhere how fruitless this is. How sad and what a terrible thing it would do to an otherwise loving and productive life.
"Let’s go."


Maybe not. His voice is ice.


We walk the long walk to the entrance--- to the mystery of what awaits inside. I have never been to a real lock-up before, only on TV while watching the primetime cop drama shows like the one my friend Andre now stars in. My nerve endings are on fire.


Around the darkened parking lot, tall palm trees--blue black silhouettes glowing against the L.A. night sky. Their fronds move calmly in the breeze--a gentle, melancholy motion.
The cool night disappears as the door opens to a bright, florescent-lit, huge open space, bustling with what looks at first like large ants with heads in blue uniforms hustling in zigzag patterns. A tinny general noise echoes and bounces of the cinderblock mold-green colored walls and we are met, Officer Rhodes and I, as if we have been expected at a friend’s dinner party. Greeting us is a short woman officer in a seam-stretching uniform that would insult any woman’s body. She is young, early thirties, long blond hair scraped up tightly in a ponytail. She is overjoyed to see us. We are the entertainment finally here to spice up what has been a rather ordinary evening.


"Oh! Do tell, Rhodes!" Her arms are wide open and she leans back waiting to be hit with the story.


I am suddenly conscious of my elegant black velvet gown, my hanging earrings, my ‘look du jour’.


"Princess here? Seven-hundred for the hour."
‘Actually’ I think to myself, ‘it was for two hours’.
Like a man after a good fishing trip,—‘you should have seen it! It was this big!’--the size of the prey grows with each telling of the story.


"Holy--! What a racket! I’m in the wrong job, eh? What ya got down there sweetheart? It must be made of gold or something!" She laughs big and hearty, the room buzzing and moving around her.
"I’ll give her to you in a minute and you can find out."
"I’ll be waiting!" She turns and goes back to her station.


Officer Rhodes walks me up to the ‘check-in’ window. A faceless man comes to the window and asks me the same questions Officer Rhodes asked me in the room. Although I am aware no one has bothered to read me my Miranda Rights, I affirm all the answers. He informs me he is now going to give me a blood test. It is standard and mandatory. ‘Do I have AIDS, by the way?’ he wants to know. I shake my head. He sticks a needle in the vein on the top of my right hand, then band-aids it.


"If it comes out positive," I am informed by the expressionless man, "the charges are ‘upped’ to attempted murder, got it?"


I am too stunned to answer. What is there to say? And for a moment, I pray I’m right about my negative HIV status. Like most non-streetwalkers, I never have unprotected sex and am therefore probably a lot safer to be with than normal girls who have one-night stands with or without condoms. But my business has always been blamed for the spread of STD’s.


Moses, (yes, the Burning Bush, Ten commandments Moses), I read once, burned all the Prostitutes (after he frequented them) when STD’s were rampant amongst the population.


In Italy, Courtesans, during the Spanish Inquisition, were hung and burned for fear of the plague.


In America, Prostitution was made a crime during the alarming infestation of Syphilis in the early 1900’s. This must be the modern take on an old superstition.
(Later it was found that it was not from the Prostitute population that these diseases were started or spread and in fact, it was always the Prostitutes that were in fact, the safest sexual encounter--after all, they needed to stay healthy to continue working.)


Officer Rhodes walks me past two large holding cells crammed full--one with loud male prisoners, one with females. I am handed over to ‘Blonde-Ponytail’. Her station is a waist-high counter top, blocked on one side by a tall divider. I am divested of my mermaid necklace, my topaz earrings, and my black heels (possible weapons, I am told.)


She turns me to face her, patting me up and down. She arrives at my breasts. The men in the cell have a direct view. They hoot and whistle loudly.
"Can we turn the other way?" I plead.
She turns me but says, "C’mon. Modest?! Gimme a break."
I give her a weak smile.

I don’t answer but think, ‘Not modest. Terrified. What if I get out with one of them and they have this idea in their heads that starts here and they rape me?’


She is loving this. I feel her delight in taking me down. I am a stereotype that she hates. She doesn’t even know why. It is a mix of fear and deep, unconscious jealousy that I could be paid her weekly salary for one hour of my time (and pussy—as she thinks.).
Or that maybe men want me more than they want her.
It’s not true.
But she thinks so.
She doesn’t know she thinks so but she does.


She pats around my breasts, then holds up two gloved fingers—like she is about to recite the Girl Scout oath. She then sticks those two gloved fingers down my cleavage.
"You got anything in there other than silicone?"
"No."
"What about there? In the golden door?" She points to my groin.
"No."


Officer Rhodes comes over and holds my license to her, whispering something in her ear. She nods. He walks away, and she asks as she starts to fingerprint me, "So I watch Oprah. You can tell me. How many plastic surgeries have you had?"


She plasters my full hand with a roller of black ink, grabs my forefinger and twists it in a boxed section on the paper in front of her. "Huh? C’mon. Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone."


I just look at her. I’m not sure what she is getting at. I’ll find out later I’m sure. ‘And by the way, is anyone going to read me my Miranda Rights?’ I think. She finishes the prints, gives me a handy-wipe for the ink and leads me shoe-less to the ‘female tank’.


It is not what I imagined at all--this cell. I imagined bars. Like in the movies. Instead, there is a long stretch of little cells-this holding tank being the largest- three sides in pale mold green cinderblock, with a front of thick hard clear, is it plexi-glass? Taped on the glass are yellow carbon-copy sheets of each prisoner’s credentials. Inside, a cement built-in bench runs the depth of the cell on the right-side wall and part of the left wall. In the back on the left-side corner is a silver tin toilet seat, exposed almost completely-merely guarded by a two-sided wall three cinderblocks high—coming to about mid-thigh while standing. Rolls of cheap toilet paper stacked like a house of cards, rest on the miniature wall.


For the first time in so many years, I am all my senses. I am wide-eyed and alive with fear, with curiosity, with questions. I am in that moment I was in when I first started to work for Ellen---my first day on the sofa with the other girls before I was sent out for my first call: terrified, excited, suddenly immersed in a world I knew nothing of. A child full of ‘why’s? and how’s?’, dependent and naive.


I almost cling to ‘Blonde-Ponytail’, a 'known evil', as she moves me forward into the cell deliberately slamming the heavy door hard behind me. The women in the cell, as if out of habit, have instinctively covered their ears already. I am not so prepared and my ears are assaulted so violently I think an eardrum may have burst, and I feel my right ear throb.

There is nowhere to sit. The women are smashed together, hip-to-hip, thighs rolling over each other’s thighs, but they make room for me in the middle of this sardine can.
They don’t look so bad. Not what I imagined either. They range in age from early twenties to early fifties-all looking sober and sad. What could they possibly have done?


I hear myself asking the housewife-looking woman next to me, in a cliché I never thought would exit my mouth in this lifetime, "What are you in for?"

(God! Did I really say that?!)

She looks down, turning only her eyes to me. "Shoplifting."
"Oh."
"I check in on the weekends." She says.
"What?" I’m not sure what I’m hearing.
"I have a family so they gave me two years of weekends. I check in on Friday and my husband picks me up Monday morning so I can go to work."
"Two years for shoplifting? Wow. What did you take?" Now I’m really scared. If she gets two years for shoplifting, what will happen to me?
"Food. It was my second offense. We don’t get paid a lot, me and my husband. I wanted to feed my kids."
"Umm. I’m sorry." I say, and I truly am.

"And you?" I ask, turning to the young, floppy haired, sweatpants-clad girl on my other side. "What are you in for?" (There I go again. Very surreal.)
"Pulled over for a traffic violation thing and they found a joint on me."
"One joint?"
"Yeah."
"Is this your first time?"
"Yeah." She answers, smoothing back her mop of hair from her face.
"You should get out soon. I don’t think that’s much."
This causes a chain-reaction of guffaws from the entire ensemble.
"No?" I ask the group.
"She’s fucked." The answer comes from a skinny girl with strong, elegant cheekbones in a mini skirt and a midriff-barring top, who, had she any ambition, could have been a model rather than work at Wal-mart which I imagine she does.
"Why?" I ask, fiercely starved for the answer as it may have bearing on my own predicament, I think.
"Do you know where you are?"
"Sort of."
"Welcome to life behind the Orange Curtain."


This brings knowing chuckles from everyone in the cell.


"What does that mean?" I am parched for answers.


"This is THEE MOST conservative, right-wing, bull-shit county in the entire fuckin’ country. These mother-fuckers would love to lock you up just for being born if you’re not like them. What’d you do?" She turns the question to me.


"They said, ‘solicitation’, but I didn’t do anything." I hear myself answering and watch myself trying to fit in to the chemistry- like a Jew trying to homogenize, trying to pass.


"You’re fucked." Says Miss Model Optimist.


I sink inside myself, hunkering down, letting snippets of conversation ride over me.
The door opens. Blonde-Ponytail rips four or five of the yellow papers from the glass and yells out the last names on each: "Grinder. Booth. Madres. Hades. (She pronounces it Hadz instead of Hay-dees. I hear my name as if it is not mine but I know I must own it anyway. I can’t believe it is being used in this place-in this way. I rise with the others.) "And Peres." She finishes her list and holds the paper to her side as we stand.


"Finally." Says ‘Peres’- a plump Latin woman wearing a jelly-stained t-shirt that proclaims: ‘Whatever’ in big black letters across her chest. "We can finally get our uniforms and get some sleep."
I question her with my eyes.
"Not you. We’re here for the weekend. They’re finally taking us upstairs to the cells."


Still we all walk out of the cell door together. It’s slammed shut behind us and we’re ordered to stand facing the cell on the white line that is painted on the floor.
"Look straight ahead! Don’t move. Stand on the line and DON’T MOVE. Grinder, Booth, Madres, Peres-follow Officer Betner- Hadz- with me."


The girls walk off in a line like ducklings, following mother duck Betner.


Blonde-Ponytail walks me down the line of cells, stopping in front of a small cell containing two teenage girls asleep on the floor, the hoods of their sweatshirts covering their heads and faces entirely, utilizing the toilet paper rolls as pillows. She stands me in front, facing the inside of the cell, standing at attention on the white line.

Officials seem to be fond of these lines painted on the floor. I think about my extravagant blow-up at the post office about the yellow line they had drawn on the floor when I first moved to New York and for one brief moment, I leave the scene I am now trapped in. It makes me laugh to myself.


"Something funny you want to share Hadz?"


I am back.


"Stay." She orders and turns to write something on my paper.

I look at the toilet and the toilet rolls. I’m glad I haven’t eaten or drank anything since early this morning. I’m sure they would say they make the toilets like that so they can keep an eye on the ‘dangerous prisoners’ at all times, but obviously it’s also to humiliate. You are now deprived of all humane rights. Your freedom--gone. Your privacy to urinate--gone.

I look at the girls slumbering there on the icy cement. So far, I have not seen anyone dangerous looking. What could we have done to deserve this?


"What’s your real name?’ Officer Rhodes is suddenly by my side. His face is gnarled and red as he asks. I’m not sure what he means.


"C’mon. Don’t play with me. Who is Lane Geller?"


Oh, God. My name change. He thinks I am hiding something.


"It’s me. I changed my name in 1993."


"Why. You got a record on that name?" He is furious. He thinks I lied to him. The fact that I changed my name because of my painful break-up with Philip will not make sense to him. He is short on patience, and understanding, there is no space to explain complex emotional decisions.


"No. I just changed it because of my life at that time."
"Right. I’m gonna run it through. Don’t piss me off. If I find anything you’ll be in worse trouble than you’re in now."
"Okay." I don’t know what to say.
"What’s this key to?" He thrusts my key chain close in front of my eyes, holding up a silver Medeco key. My heart pounds wildly now. I can’t remember. I have been bi-coastal for so many years now. I know it must be one of my keys to my New York life but I haven’t been home in a few months and the identity of the key is escaping me. I know the minute I get home to New York, like riding a bicycle, I will remember. But for now, with the Officer barking in my face, I am drawing a blank.


"I know what it’s for." He says. "I’ve seen these keys before. What do you think? I’m stupid? It goes to a storage container. Is that where you keep your drugs?"


I am dumbfounded. He really thinks I am a Major Criminal. I can hardly believe he really said that.


"No. It goes to somewhere in New York. I live there."
"Oh! Now you live in New York. You wanna tell me, while we’re on the subject of aliases why you had so many plastic surgeries?"
Ah, I knew that one would re-surface, but I am still confused as to why they think I have been under the knife so many times.
"I’m not sure I know what you mean. I haven’t had plastic surgeries. I had my nose done a long time ago. Why do ask me that?"
He puts my license to my face. Says you were born in in that year."
"I was."
"You gotta different name and you look like you’re twenty-five. Trying to change yourself to protect your identity?"


‘Wow’. I think. He’s really grasping for stuff. He couldn’t possibly imagine a 'Hooker' on health food, who takes care of herself, leads a clean life, goes to the gym. In his narrow imagination, 'Hookers' are strung out, sad, beaten by life. There must be something I’m hiding. He’s excited. He’s sure he has a bigger fish on the line. Sure. Plastic surgery. Does he want this to be a bigger bust than it is? Does he actually think I am a Major Criminal who had to undergo plastic surgeries to hide my identities? How big a fish does he want me to be?

Maybe he can’t believe that the one little point he is scoring for ‘getting me’ is just that: one little girl who gave him a nice massage, who has good manners, a college education, was kind to him, kissed his bullet wounds, has no prior record, no traffic tickets, no drugs—maybe somewhere inside that hard brick shell, he feels bad.

No. I doubt it. Just wants bigger points.


"Really, sir. (I hate that I have to call him sir.) I am only me."

We stare at each other. With his eyes, he is taking the skin off my face layer by layer. "You had said," I mention in my softest doe voice, "that I might be here only a few hours. If after you look into everything, and don’t find anything more, will I be able to go soon?"
"I don’t know how long it will take. We gotta process you." He burns me with his eyes and walks away leaving me standing on the line.


Blonde-Ponytail comes over, turns my body to the left, and pushes me forward with her hand between my shoulder blades toward the cell next door. She opens the plexi-glass door, taps me through the thresh-hold, and does the ‘door-slam’ trick. This time I cup my hands fast and hard around my ears. I’m getting the hang of it.

I am alone for now and shivering madly. I know why they call it ‘the deep-freeze’ in the movies. They keep the temperature at forty degrees in these plexi-enclosed boxes. I, who am cold even when it is seventy degrees outside, now stand shoe-less in a refrigerator, a stripped-down Holly Golightly, wearing only thin stockings, a spaghetti-strap dress and panties-nothing more.


I climb onto the ice-block-cold bench, grabbing for a toilet roll to put under my head, curl myself into a fetal ball, tuck the tail of my dress as far as it will go around my legs, and lie, exhaling heat with my open mouth into my little cocoon.

Unsure of how long I am in this position, I become aware that I am drifting in and out of a strange heavy, dizzy tiredness. I am freezing-my entire body now vibrating uncontrollably--my teeth chattering and suddenly I am afraid I might be getting hypothermia.

I had gotten it once while I was on a mountain hike in upstate New York. I had to be carried down the mountain and taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital. I was fine but I hadn’t forgotten the feeling. What if I died here in the cell? It occurs to me that if this happened it would go by justified. ‘I shouldn’t have done what I did to get in here in the first place. ‘I knew the risks’ they’d think. They would rationalize. I know, my life is no longer my own.

From a distance, I hear the door to the cell open and smash shut. I can’t even move to look. My head is heavy and I am fading in and out of consciousness.


"Hey!"


I feel a hard push on my shoulder that rocks my little ball-of-a-self. Enough adrenaline runs to my brain to allow me to look up. Above me stands, what looks to be a man with a light-brown spiked crew cut.

‘A man?!’

I sit up fast.

Why would they put a man in a cell with me?

The man stands tough, hands on his hips, feet planted about three feet apart, staring down at me. He wears a bright florescent orange jail-wear one piece uniform. Unable to speak, I scan him instinctively searching for my place in this mix.

It’s not a man.

It’s not a man!

It, he, she is a big angry looking woman.

"What the fuck do you weigh?" she asks.

It’s an unexpected question and as I fight my way through the fog in my head to find an answer, she follows this with,
"Like what? A hundred pounds or some shit like that?"


"I guess." I say
"You know what I could do to a puny piece of shit like you?"


I shake my head.


"Whatever I want. I could punch the shit out of ya, or eat your pussy-whatever I want."


I hear it come out of my mouth but I can’t believe I’m saying it,
"So which one are you going to start with?" I ask.


She pulls back sharply, standing erect. "Whoah!" She says suddenly. "A bitch with a sense of humor. Yeah. Alright."


She likes this and seats herself down on the concrete bench, intimately close to me, wrapping her bulky arm around my shoulders. I feel the heat from her body and am instantly grateful for the sudden warmth, nestling closer to her despite myself. She pulls my whole body into hers and I feel hot tears leave my eyes, the wetness getting colder on my skin the further they descend down my face and into my cleavage.

I feel her put the mitt that is her hand over one of my breasts but I am too worn and cold to move. She kisses the top of my head. I don’t care. I am stealing the heat from her body. Her hand goes to my chin lifting my face up to hers, pulling my lips onto her lips, she kisses me hard and wet, shoving a tongue, arrow-hard and deep into my mouth. I let her. There is no point fighting this. I can’t win. There is no place to go and I need the radiator of her torso.


"Sweet." She says finally, freeing my face. I tuck my head back down by her breasts. "Hey." She says, again lifting my face up. "Your lips are blue. You’re freezin’."


"I know." I reply through chattering teeth.


"Stay here." She takes me curled up onto her lap and wraps her body around me, and we sit like that for a few moments. Then she breaks the silence.
"What are ya here for?"


"Prostitution." I say, the words muffled by her breast near my mouth.
"Shit. What’re ya gonna do?"
"I don’t know. How much trouble am I in?"
"You’re goin’ t’ jail."
"But I don’t have any prior record. I’ve never done anything wrong before. There was no drugs, nothing." I hear myself pleading my case to her breasts as if she or they have any bearing on the outcome.
"Don’t matter. This is Orange County." She thinks for a moment then says, "When ya get out, call Walter Walkem—he’s a lawyer. Everyone knows him. They call him Walk-‘em Walter. He gets people off. He’s in the phone book. Orange County"
"Umm. Ok." I try to memorize the name as I lay back against her again, quietly, feeling her body push against me as she inhales and exhales. I relax and start to drift off again when the door opens and I hear,
"Hadz! Out! Stand on the line!"


I unwind myself from the hulky woman, giving her a weak ‘farewell’ smile, and rise shakily, my knees trembling with cold, fatigue and fear.
"Do you know what time it is?" I ask meekly to this new Scowling-Brunette -Ponytail in an over-tight Uniform. She ignores me. It must be about four or five a.m. by now, I think.
"Will I be released soon, do you know? Officer Rhodes said I would only have to be here a few hours."


I am ignored again as she writes on my yellow form. Along the wall’s edge, a shame-faced young girl in the florescent-orange jail uniform pushes a heavy metal bucket of water on wheels along, stopping to get on her knees and scrub the corner with a thick hand bristle brush. Her eyes never leave the floor.

An enormous roach runs over my foot. I feel his feet in time to look down and see him scurrying forward. Impulsively, I shake my foot and a chill runs through me.


"Stay! Don’t move." Says the Brunette.


"Sorry." Then remembering Walk’em Walter, I ask, "I haven’t been given a phone call yet. Am I allowed to make one?"


No response. Instead I am taken to the farthest cell in this long throughway and pushed in. Door slam. Icy air surrounds me again. Sitting in the corner on the cement bench is a woman in her bathrobe, with a nightgown underneath, slippers and her hair up in an ‘I’m-ready-to-go-to-bed bun’. She looks to be in her early thirties, very Caucasian, no make-up. I have to ask:
"What are you in for?" I smile.


She gets the joke of the cliché and smiles back.


"Talking back to a police officer."


"Really?"


She nods.


"What did you say?" I start to shiver again and think about asking her if she would mind cuddling up with me but she looks so proper, I decide against it. "I’m freezing." I say.


"Me too."


We look around the room. We spot the toilet paper rolls. This cell is over-stocked. There are at least fifty rolls.

We get the same idea at the same time.

I grab some of the rolls and toss them to her, keeping some for myself and together, begin wordlessly, to wrap ourselves like mummies, with the tissue. I find a spot on the bench facing her with my legs out straight and my feet almost touching hers. She is facing me, also spread out straight with her toes near mine and we systematically wind our selves into body casts of toilet tissue. As we twist and wrap, she says,


"My family was home tonight, just hanging out. I had just gotten the kids to sleep, and we have this girl who was renting the extra bedroom in our house who I told not to come back. She was too loud and got drunk in front of the kids and I had had enough. So she didn’t come home for the past two days but she came in tonight being out of hand and loud and I told her to leave, and my husband told her to leave and finally we called the police. But because we didn’t have a legal eviction notice for her, they said they couldn’t do anything and they were going to leave so I told them I was going to lock her out. That I wasn’t having her in my house. They told me that would be an illegal lock out. And I said I didn’t care and it just escalated like that until I was yelling at the cops and the cops are telling me that they’re going to arrest me for impeding-or something like that--impeding an officer from doing his job. So I yelled that I didn’t care and they handcuffed me and took me in."


"Couldn’t they just have given you a ticket or something. For god sakes. You’re a mother. You’re in your bathrobe. What’s the point?"


"I know." She says simply. "My husband and kids are waiting for me outside."


"How long have you been here?"


"I don’t know. What time is it now?"


I shrug.


"They took me in around seven or so." She exhales long through her nose. "I think this is the last cell though. They put me in every one down the line and I didn’t see any after this one, so we should both be out soon."
"I hope so." I concur.


Like two caterpillars, we simultaneously fall asleep in our cocoons only to be awakened shortly afterward.
"Hadz! Muller! Out. White line."


The sharp voice shocks my system and I tumble to the floor, hitting hard with no arms available to brace my fall. I am raw--crying and laughing at the same time. We tear through the bonds of our white bandages, shaking the toilet paper pieces to the floor. ‘The Voice’ notices and orders, "Clean it up!"


‘Muller’ and I scoop up the paper in great handfuls and smash it in a pile by the metal bowl toilet, then exit to our respective places on the now famous white line.
"Follow me" is the order and we do.

We are led to a window, where inside is a dumpling-faced woman, with watery eyes. We stand in a line and wait to be called.


"Hades." She pronounces it correctly. First time all night.
I go up.
"Look at your items and make sure everything is there. Through the window comes my shoes, my necklace, my earrings, the twenty-seven dollars I had in my purse before I met with ‘Robert Morgan’, and my key chain minus the Medeco key.
"I had another key. It was round, silver and said ‘Medeco’ on it."
"Hold on." The watery-eyed lady pushes away from her desk, leaving me there waiting.

A few minutes later she returns, saying as she seats herself again,
"Confiscated."
"Why?"
"Orders of the arresting Officer."


God this is going to be bad. I know the key goes to one of the doors of my New York apartment. I can picture myself arriving at my door in the middle of this winter and being stuck outside with all my suitcases and no way to enter.
"It’s just to my apartment."
"It’s confiscated. Sign here. There’s no bail to post so you will be released to your own recognizance. Read this section of arrest and warrant and sign here." She points to the bottom of the page.

I don’t read it. I just want out. I sign.


"Go through those doors to the waiting area. Wait until you are called. They’ll give you your release papers and you can go." She turns her head away and shouts: "Muller!"


I pass through the metal doors into what resembles a hospital waiting room filled with loved ones awaiting their friends and family, all seated on plastic orange attached seats, (they love orange here—it’s like their team color). I sit down with belongings, collapsing so heavily into a chair that I cause the entire row to bounce up. I push my swollen feet back into my sandaled-heels.


‘Muller’ comes through the door and is embraced by a handsome clean-cut computer-programmer-looking man and two yawning little girls. She smiles and waves to me as they go off together to wait in a far corner.


As I wait, I notice the waiting area is also full of the hefty gruff men who were cat-calling to me earlier in the night. A rush of fear cleaves my thighs, my stomach, my throat. How am I going to get to my car? How am I going to get home? I have only twenty-seven dollars.


"Hades." The agent calls above the noise.


"Excuse me," I say to the releasing agent at the desk, "How do I get back to my car?’
"Where’s your car?"
"By the Lazy Boy Motel? Do you know where that is?"
"Sorry. Call a taxi."


I look around the waiting room but don’t see a payphone anywhere.
"Can I use your phone?
"No. There’s one outside across the street."
Outside, though the glass, the night is black and populated by freshly released male prisoners roaming back and forth in front of the building.


"Do you have any change?"
"No."


Anxiously, I look out the window again.
"Please. It looks dangerous out there."
"Sorry."


I walk toward the exit. My mind runs to horrid fantasies. If they want a real crime, here’s one poised to go. I picture a gang-rape just outside the doors to this jail. I picture the Central Park Jogger rape. How smart--to release the women into the night with all the male prisoners, alone and unprotected. Did I do something that wrong that deserved this?


I take a deep inhale and make a fragile run in my heels to the little phone stand across the street. A large dark man is sauntering my way. Hurriedly I dial ‘411’.
"What city please."
"Straton. Can you give me the number to any local car service?"
"Sorry ma’am. There are no local car services in the area of Stranton."
"Is it Stanton?"
"In Stanton, I have no local car services." The female voice drones. The man comes closer. My hands hold tight to the edges of the little booth- not that it would help but it makes me feel safer.
"Please." My pulse is pounding through a vein in my neck and I can feel the lump. "Please. What about a taxi service?"
"I have two taxi services. Please hold for your number."


I have nothing to write with and my mind is a fog functioning only on adrenaline. The man is stopped on the other side of the street watching me.
"The number you requested is…"
My eyes find the numbers on the phone pad as the computerized voice speaks them and I try to memorize the pattern they make on the key pad. I’ll only have one chance. I slam down the phone, keeping one eye on the man, and frantically press the numbers as I recall them.
"City Cab." A voice says.
"I’m out in front of the police prison in Stanton. Can you send a cab?"
"Name?" She’s obviously heard this before.
"Persephone."
"Spell it."


The man is pacing back and forth. He is a wolf, I am his prey. I clutch the sides of the phone booth so hard the metal digs into my palms leaving two little red cuts.
"It’s too long to spell. I have red hair. I will be waiting out front. Please can you hurry?"
"Cab 22. Be there in fifteen minutes."
"Thank you!"


I run unsteadily on the soft dewy grass, across the street past the dark man and back into the lit haven of the waiting room. My heart is pounding so fast, racking itself against my ribcage. Outside, the big man saunters down the sidewalk away from the building.


In exactly fifteen minutes, Cab 22 arrives. Luckily, he is kind and knows the area, knows exactly where the Lazy Boy Motel is.
"Excuse me sir? Do you know what time it is?"
"Five," he looks at his watch, "sixteen."
"Thank you."


I watch the numbers on the meter grow--$22.50, $22.75, $23.00. I am not going to have enough to pay him.

We pull into the parking lot of the motel, past the numbers on the doors, 46, 47, 48. I spot my car, the windshield fogged completely by the cold night air. The cab pulls along side it. The meter reads $32.75. I make my confession.


"I’m so sorry. I only have $27.00 but if you give me an address, I promise to send you the rest and a big tip the minute I get home."


"Don’t worry about it. It’s okay." He says.


Where did this guy come from? One moment life hands you the most unkind people and the next it restores your faith by giving you someone with a heart.


"No. I want to pay you. Please. Give me some place to send you a money order. Please. I want to."


He gives me his address and says he’ll wait for me, make sure my car starts alright. And he does. I wave as I pull away, trying to control the cold shaking that suddenly, involuntarily takes over my body, as I pull out onto the same road I came here on, a lifetime ago, retracing my path back home.






















































































5 Comments:

At 4:20 PM, Blogger Skarlett said...

So does no Miranda rights mean you were not actually arrested, just taken advantage of by the dreaded OC?

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger Samurai Warrior said...

Wow! Seems like you're back to your old self Wonder Woman! This last entry certainly made up for your absense. I couldn't finished reading it in one seating -- I'm out of shape. Some of life's lessons (fair or unfair) are never forgotten...

 
At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to read in your other posting that you are feeling ambiguous about your writing. This post about your arrest touched me very much. Last night, after reading it, many of the things you said came back to me because you had conveyed the images so hauntingly. In particular, I was touched by what you felt the moment the officers came into the room, the way you felt when you were in the car with the dickhead (excuse my french), and the embrace of the woman in the cell. Amazing stuff. I'm going to show it to my friends. Sorry you had to go through that.

 
At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An extremely sad commentary on America's misguided priorities. The policeman strikes me as a very angry man that takes it out in sad ways, probably on his wife as well. The quest for negativity is deeply discouraging....

 
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