The last prisoner

Don’t dare me. Don’t. Or I’ll do it.
You know, I will do it.
I’ve done it before.
It’s no skin off my back.

I don’t get attached to things. I can change the name of this blog as easily as some people buy new shoes.
Let’s face it, with so many of my narrations recounting my pathetic endeavors littering this blog, there’s no good reason I should not rename it “A Shameless Man.”
At last the blog’s name will match the spirit of its depraved owner.

You see, this fellow, A Shameless Man, just a month after moving out of his marital house and settling into new and unfamiliar bachelorhood, decided to stop at a bar one warm Monday evening after work. It was either August 9 or 16 in 2004. I don’t remember.

Unleashed and unchecked after 7 or 8 years of wedded confinement, what was a man to do?
Go straight home and watch television or cook dinner? As if. No way, not a month out of sharing a common roof with a built-in chaperone and the tendrils of supervision…I was not into self-confinement just yet. Enticements of the single life cried out to me. It was Monday night, I was thirsty, and craving a little companionship. I stopped at a little dive down the street from Dodger Stadium called The Short Stop. I had been an irregular drinker there for the past couple of years and in that short time watched as it turned from a stodgy cop bar into a smoky hipster hangout.

So it was Monday and I doubt I ate dinner.

I dropped into the dark bar and began pounding down Jack Daniels…I’m guessing in the form of Manhattans. The night quickly became a blur. A serious indecipherable blur. At the most, I weighed 150 pounds and add to this the fact my stomach was empty…slamming back Jack Daniels was indeed the recipe for an epic fail of one sort or another. Hey man, that shit is like an evil potion; an elixir you sip down like cold water on a hot day and it sets fire to your soul and the euphoria sets you free and concerns are washed away, purged. And thus your downfall is broadcast, but you keep drinking. Another, and another, and another. The bar is loud and dark and voices clamor and you start talking to people you wouldn’t normally or you shouldn’t and you begin exclaiming shit you shouldn’t and you insult and piss off and you remember none of it because the elixir is doing its job fantastically, it is dowsing your memories in the peaceful and invisible non-existence of utter inebriation. Those who have never drank or experienced the tenaciously helpless grip which booze can have on your psyche will probably not understand the murky depths to which you can sink under the spell of alcohol.

Yeah, it was Monday night. I can’t remember much, but I think I was talking to an off-duty LAPD cop or detective, talking shit undoubtedly and I wonder if I pissed him off. Who the hell knows. I was trashed and it’s a miracle I found my way out of the small bar to my parked car. But I did. Big blank moment, again.

The route home from The Short Stop should have been eastbound on Sunset Boulevard with perhaps a quick right to catch one of the onramps to the 101 South…Echo Park, Alvarado, anything. Somehow, I ended up further west, near Hillhurst for Chrissakes. Why on earth I drove back to Hollywood is something I’ll never know. I had no business being within 100 feet of a car, much less driving one. Ah but there I was, driving and all I know is that at a traffic signal near the Sunset Junction, I must have punched the throttle to beat the yellow light in a raucous and flagrant manner, for an LAPD unit lit me up and pulled my drunk ass over. I remember nothing of the stop nor of the ensuing arrest.

Fast forward to the booking room at Parker Center in downtown. Fingerprints, a photo, drunken slouching while I sat and waited, drunk as shit, engaging one of the booking officers in a political conversation in which I most likely blasted the police for being such right-wingers (this was 2004, the stink of Bush vs. Kerry was in the air and I was undergoing a strong political phase). I vaguely remember the cop humoring me, and I discovered later, while reading my booking paperwork, that I refused to submit to a sobriety test which is an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension in this state. I don’t believe I was very concerned about that possibility considering the fact I gradually buried my grave deeper with each slurred word and insult I barked out at anyone in my immediate surroundings that night.

God.

More blankness. Blackouts are the wicked stepsister of alcoholism. The blackouts, the crevices in memory, the usurpation of your life and experience by chemicals, disembodied demonic possession, a ceaseless parade of character robbery. When you drink heavily, you relinquish control and you relinquish memories; thus, you are nothing.

And it was nothing that I was until I awoke in the morning
In a holding tank.
The holding tanks in downtown L.A. are fucking colossal. Hundreds of indigent souls sharing your precious space. Hundreds of other losers, miscreants and burgeoning rapists and shoplifters.
I think I woke up earlier in the middle of the night, wracked with nausea and on the verge of vomiting, or maybe I did vomit…mouthfuls of salty and thick saliva, dripping out my lips onto the metallic cot they cast you too when you are a ward of the city.

I slept again.
Then awake.

No clocks. No windows.
Bright fluorescent lights are your sun. Your lost beacon.

They scream you awake. You feel like shit. You are basically waking up with a terrible hangover but far from the comfort of your own bed or bathroom where you feel doomed to melt; you are in a strange hard bed, and interspersed with a bunch of rough strangers who you have nothing in common with (or so you comfort yourself). It’s the lowest point you can possibly sink. You are better than this. You had more promise, people counted on you for more than…this. For more than waking up in a large imprisoned cell with no clocks, no sunlight, no private toilets, and two looming pay phones sitting on opposing walls. You promised everyone more than this. You were better than this.

But you’re not.
You are no better. You’re a piece of despicable shit and in this state, slobbered with pre-vomit, your shoes seized from your feet, you head in disarray, you are worse than nothing.
Jail is the great equalizer.
Your shit stinks here, just like everyone else’s. No one will listen or believe you if you attempt to convince them otherwise. Cold suspicion greets your promises here.
Here you are a prisoner. A captive criminal. No one cares where you came from or where you are going.
You are trash here, and you feel like shit, and you probably look like shit, but you’d never know because there are no mirrors.
This is jail.
And it’s a massive overcrowded jail housing inmates rounded up from the streets of one of the most populated metropolises in this fucking country.
Hardcore cases who would happily pummel you into the ground if it would prove pleasing to their carnal instincts.

You lay and you lay and the lack of awareness or knowledge, the mysterious nature of your circumstances suffocates.
You have no idea what time it is.
You have no idea if your family is looking for you.
You have no idea if the work day started and your boss is wondering why you haven’t called.
You have no idea where your car is.
You have no idea.
You are a mental captive and your reality has been appropriated by the Law.
And the Jack Daniels is doing a number on you.
Finally, the bailiffs show up, and begin barking out names in deeply resounding jail-bitten voices. This is performance and they have done this before, everyday, and they understand the nature of rule in this jungle of human wretchedness.
They call the names, one by one, slowly, for they must wait for the inmate to respond loudly and then exit the cell where he lines up outside with the others. The cell slowly grows vast as the population dribbles out the door in response to the demented roll call.

A hundred prisoners, this takes a while.
Finally, all called.
Your name was not…
You are the only one remaining.

You ask and they allude to you being “the one.” And they say you’ll have to wait. They walk away with all your former cellmates.
You go back to your cot and wait, alone in this wasteland of deserted evil.

And wait.