The town the party was in was too small to have a women’s jail. You’ve been driven home to be punished.
After driving you deep into the city, near where your mother told you never to come even in daylight, the broad-shouldered cop gently pulls you out of the backseat. You’re still handcuffed of course; the metal is starting to dig into your skinny wrists. He lets you walk beside him and doesn’t push you forward from behind or call for backup. He knows you won’t run. You just finished telling him your (short) life story. You’ve told him what college you’re going to in the fall and how you’ll major in theatre. The words poured out of you like honey because you’re still drunk, and both of you know that you’re still drunk because your consonants are buzzing into your vowels.
Once you’re inside the cement, trapped and lost and found, a lady officer with a pretty face and maroon fingernails feels your sweater, your jeans, takes off your shoes. She rests her hand for a moment or two over your right rib; it sticks out farther than the left. You’ve stopped crying. They have a television on. Your legs start to wobble and your head is fuzzy with exhaustion.
Your hands are held, your fingers rolled into ink and pressed onto gridded paper. Your lower lip starts to bleed a little because you’ve been biting at it and the pretty officer takes your picture and shakes her head. She looks tired. You wonder if you’re special, if you’re the youngest girl in jail, the only one who has a small scholarship and a mom and dad who love her so hard it almost squeezes her heart out. The pretty lady officer asks the broad-shouldered one if he thinks you need a minute or two in the tank. She’s taking your picture for your mug shot and you can’t help but smile the tiniest smile because you like having your picture taken (of course you don’t much now). The broad-shouldered officer, the one whose legs and arms are muscular and who smells like the same cologne as a guy you made out with once at a party once, looks at the yellow and bright room behind blurry glass and shakes his head no. No. She’s not that drunk anymore. She’s fine. There’s a man in there, anyway. She’s eighteen. You start to cry again because the one who put the silver handcuffs on your skinny wrists, the one who listened as you talked about your parents and theatre and your sister as he drove you downtown, this tall blonde man is being nice. Protective. Poor little drunk girl.
You’re asked to sit in a hard plastic chair, and you really want a cigarette before you have to make your one phone call. The broad shouldered officer has fifty cents in his large, long-fingered hand and he’s telling you that you’ve been booked. That you’ll be here until someone brings five hundred dollars and saves your life and breaks down the castle walls. The phone smells like sweat and the mouthpiece looks oily. You call your aunt, the mother of the cousin you were with. She’s your father’s sister and she tells you not to worry because she’s called your parents and they’re coming to get you and she’s sorry. You wonder where your cousin is; was she at the first station you were at? She’s seventeen and her wrists will be slapped instead of restrained like yours. You’re older than her by a year and a day: she’s a child, you’re an adult. You hang up with your aunt and the officer that you’re falling a little in love with leaves and tells you to take care, stop drinking and partying, and I don’t ever want to see you in here ever again, you understand?
You sit back down on one of the plastic, navy chairs. They’re like the ones in the DMV: impossible to find a comfortable position in. Same long wait until someone calls your name and you’re saved from the linoleum and the stares of other people who’ve been waiting longer than you. Your sister’s grey angora sweater smells like the cigarettes that you want and your handcuffs have been removed because no one can run from this room. The man in the drunk tank is yelling, and you’re relieved that you don’t have to go in there.
You amuse yourself by picking at the hole in the knee of your jeans, making it bigger, rolling the strands of soft white denim into little balls and twisting them straight again. A brown-haired, very thin woman gets up from across the room and sits next to you. She puts her head on your shoulder; some of her brown curls brush your collarbone. She’s pretty, even if she’s a little strung-out looking, and a hot mix of revulsion and desire starts to swim in your chest.
You’re pretty, she says. Why are you here?
You think she’s lying, because you saw your mugshot as they uploaded it onto their big beige computer and you are not pretty at all. Maybe you were once. But that feels like a long time ago and now your eyes are smudgy and your lipstick is gone.Still, there’s nothing else to do but talk, so you tell her that you were drinking at a party and that you got caught. That you’re under age and still in high school. She tells you that she got picked up for turning tricks and drugs, and tells you that she wants to run away back to Florida. Her children are there with her mother. Your heart breaks and shakes and her head is still on your shoulder and you both cry a little together. You both are two very lost little girls.