They ebb and flow these kids through the doors everyday. I’m no different.
My Banana Republic is a sad lie to say “I care”. My Lands End shoes could quite possibly give someone the illusion I know what I’m doing. The surface, the shell, the costume I brandish here isn’t for anyone else but a few important white guys that have my cojones by the legal system. Good friends have become cops, good friends have wound up behind bars, neither side I’d like to have anything to do with. However, here I am, sitting patiently in the safety building of Winnebago County waiting for my 9:30am appointment with the court.
A woman steps into the hall and announces “nine thirty” down the tunnel of shame. About twenty-some people stand up and enter along with me. Christ, this thing is full. Tattoos, suits, backpacks, leggings huddle into the stretch of benches… and apparently everyone knows each other. Greetings, hugs, handshakes, texts, number exchanges, shared stories, all seem to go down in a matter of several minutes before my ass even hits the bench. Everyone knows each other! And they’re not even phased that they’re about to get hit with the realness from Judge Captain Caucasian Conservative, in t-minus 30 minutes. Wisconsin is about to tarnish and tax that ass, and these folks are shaking hands like a “peace be with you” session in catholic church. Before I can join in, they put the wheels in motion.
A cop, with a mustache that’d rival Captain Jack, sits at a table facing away from us. Another white guy in a suit and badge sits at the far left of the room facing perpendicular to us. Then, the most important white guy enters the room. We rise. We sit. We listen.
He lays out the rules, but somehow I go into a blur. Completely thought I was going to go “not guilty” with this thing. I’d consulted over a dozen lawyers, over a dozen people hit with the same ticket, but do I seriously wanna drag this out to come back to this god forsaken middle-of-nowhere-great-candidate-for-a-Wes-Craven-film town again? Na, cousin. I want out- but maybe I can fight it with “not guilty”. My situation’s less cut and dry, and more Pelican Brief… minus Denzel and the happy ending.
In a state of “what the fuck should I do”, the entire crowd of accused gets blindsided. Here it goes. The first called to the stand is a young woman. She got a ticket for something alcohol related… like the rest of us, right? Everything is going dandy, until she steps in front of us to face important white guy numero uno. Please bear in mind, I’m sitting at the front of 3 benches, chalk full of male.
Ok, so she steps in front, and several seconds into her plea, I notice something... dude to my left, dude to my right, seemingly every dude on this bench is cryptically staring at something. Before I begin to believe time’s been frozen, and I might have to consult the Professor X to put it back in motion- boom, there it is. The source of the silence. The young gal copping a plea for her case isn't wearing pants, shorts, skirt, absolutely nothing to cover her lower situation, for that matter... just leggings.
Now, unless I’m in a well defined relationship, I’m not the type to cat call, ass slap, overtly flirt, or harass in any way. Matter of fact, I’m self-conscious enough to look away and go “Jesus, woman clothe yourself”… however, this is entertaining enough just to spot the reaction on my band of soon-to-be-ticketed Wisconsinites. I look to my right and a gentlemen’s jaw has dropped through the floor into purgatory. He looks brain dead, ready to drool the capacity of a kiddie pool, and unaware if today’s date is B.C. or A.D. To my left, the only other guy dressed as if he “care’s” more than I do, has gone flush. He doesn’t know whether to stare at it or dodge it. He can’t decide, so he does this shuffle like he has to get to the bathroom, stat. A shuffle that isn’t quite “I need a cigarette”, but leaning more towards “If I don't get another hit, I'm goin' tourettes”.
F it, I give in and look as well (say “as if you weren’t, Toussaint you big f----ng liar” here). Annnnnnd, her “leggings” were definitely worth the entire attention of room. Call me dirty, rancid, f’d in the head, whatever you want, but when you’re sitting in court waiting to hear your fate from the long shlong of the law, and all of a sudden the hind of a female commands more attention than the most important white man in all of Winnebago county… it should be documented.
The spell quickly broke. She resolved her case and resided to the outside of the room. Whispering and chuckling spawned from each bench. Back to reality…
Drugs, alcohol, reckless behavior, we’re all in for the shit, but an amount of relief breezes through as this is it… no more waiting, no more wondering... we’re here, finally. Breathing sighs of relief as each leaves the room almost as if they’d never get there… but they do. We all do.
I remember stepping out of the pool of swim practice in high school, holding my chest about to heave over from anxiety. The source you ask? I was freaking about a swim meet over a month away! Anxiety… always had it, will probably forever have it- the trick is in how you deal. Trick is in manipulating it to your advantage. For this, I can maneuver it. I’m not coming back here for anything less than a show, so thanks, but no thanks on boxing the case. I plead no contest. They drop over half the charges, and I’m out.
Best friend, Jarvis, who put Mallory and I up for the night before this court appearance, was behind bars for 2 years. Hardly the criminal of the century, matter fact I can find no piece of Jarvis that could come close to synonymous with “criminal”. One of the best peoples I know. He’ll forever have my back, and if he was ever in a bind, I’d steal a bike and jump to his rescue as quick as possible.
To Write Love On Her Arms, was inspired by a gal that had cut “Fuck Up” into her forearm. Essentially we all “fuck up”, and sometimes that “fuck up” goes against the standards of our friends & family, standards of our own, standards of the law, and so on. Whatever the standard may be, we can take the wrap so hard we're capable of carving it into our skin. Whether you like it or not, we're built on an abundance of shame, and if you can't find a smile in the fire or deep breathe amongst the chaos, therein lies the loss. It gets worse before it gets better. So there we sat, a pack of one-winged angels that hit rock bottom with a grin, dared to climb the edge of the pit back to the surface, show up to court, and still radiate a smirk wide as the cracks in our halos. Again, how we deal is what counts.
Like Mallory, some of us have the ability to laugh at funerals, silent elevators, near-death experiences, etc. Somehow, some way, I couldn't hold it in much longer, and laughed in court just before getting a heavy dose of “don’t f--- with us again”. Absolutely nothing funny about what we’re here for, but watching two dozen soon-to-be-fined gentlemen go zombie at the site of a woman’s back side whilst in the presence of the most important white guy in Wisconsin... that'll hit a funny bone for anyone bearing witness.
For me, the risk never outweighed the direction, and along the way, its built a few beautiful imperfections. As much as I should hate to get mellow dramatic at the end of something like this, I don't :) One thing is sure: we don't have much time here. I say, even in the thick of all the shit and what would presumably be the worst, smile- laugh- enjoy while you can.