J is for my time in jail.
I was fifteen years old and a club kid in New York. Back then, nobody carded you and you could smoke on airplanes and in college classrooms. It was 4 a.m. and I had been dancing all night at the Tunnel, a club built on a defunct railway on the west side.
My friends had all left, but I had caught the eye of a chiseled guy of twenty-three or so. As much as I was a “bad” girl, I managed to be innocent—I simply hadn’t wanted to go home because I knew I’d be in trouble. So it was better to stay out until it was daytime and my parents would be gone.
By 8 a.m., following an after-hour club and some diner food, I ended up in Lyndhurst, New Jersey with the chiseled guy.
First we stole a car.
He worked at a car lot and brought me in as a customer, telling his co-workers, “H. has been driving Z’s all her life and she’s gonna take a test drive.” I didn’t know what a “Z” was and felt sure even with club make-up, heels and a mini-skirt, I didn’t look like I’d had a long enough life to have dabbled with “Z’s” for “all” of it.
But next thing I knew, I was in the passenger seat of a black Z, zipping down township streets.
The short of it was, as soon as we entered his apartment, he muttered a few words about some woman and began weeping like an orphaned child. He then tossed a handful of blue pills down his throat along with a shot of whiskey. Within three minutes, he was on the floor, tear-smeared and passed out, and I was stuck without a ride back to the city.
Part of me was offended at his lack of hospitality, but truth be told, I was relieved. I instinctively knew that if he had remained alert, my options would have been limited as a young girl in a short skirt trapped in his territory. Years later, I would admit to myself that as a teenager, I had relied far too cockily on my ability to deflect guys’ unwanted moves—and beyond kissing, they were all unwanted moves.
So like a good brat, I left the apartment and asked around for the nearest police station. I walked to it with the intention of getting the cops to drive me home.
“Some guy’s passed out on his living room floor and now I’m stranded here,” I managed to say before I was hauled into the chief’s office.
The police chief was a large man with salt-and-pepper hair. I noted he had a kind smile as he informed me that a minor taken across state lines by an adult stranger constituted kidnapping.
Since I was a kidnap victim, a minor or both, they could neither give me a ride back to New York nor release me.
In fact, if I didn’t provide them with my name and parents’ contact information, they would ship me to Spofford, the infamous Bronx juvy for wayward fuckups far worse than me, who might in fact, cannibalize the likes of me.
Before the age of fifteen, as a class cutter, arcade frequenter, secret smoker, girl-fight escapee, sometime shoplifter and whippits aficionado, I had been threatened with Spofford on many occasions by vice principals, school counselors and other cops.
Spaafa, you’re going to Spaafa, up in the Braanx, they kept telling me in their unionized-New Yorker’s dialect. (I only learnt they meant “Spofford” when I Googled “harsh Bronx juvenile hall” for this post.)
I never took them seriously.
In turn, they stopped taking my salvation seriously. By the time I graduated to underaged drinker, sometime runaway, illegal after-hour clubgoer, and recreational user of more than just whippits, they didn’t bother with idle Spaafa threats.
But that day in Lyndhurst, there was something different in the police chief’s gentle eyes—worry—which in turn made me worry that he wasn’t bluffing about not having a choice when it came to Spaafa. Already, when he’d had a choice, he’d allowed me to stay in his office instead of some holding cell.
Still, I was more stubborn than anyone at that station expected.
I spent the entire day keeping mum about my name and sat in a chair by the chief’s desk as he took calls and mini-conferences in the hall. By afternoon, the chief and I were telling each other our hopes and fears, and he let me handle a couple of unloaded guns from his collection out of a locked glass case. It wasn’t until the end of his shift that I began weighing whether I’d fare better with Spofford juvies or my parents. I had been awake for over twenty-four hours and wondered if maybe he’d just take me home to his family instead. I even tried out the idea as a joke.
“I wish,” he said sadly, and stayed with me at his desk a couple of hours past his shift. Knowing they were waiting for him at home, I began to feel guilty.
It had been morning when I first walked into to the station.
By the time I gave up the names of my parents whose very wrath I’d meant to escape by going to godforsaken New Jersey in the first place, it was completely dark out.
~ Part of the A to Z Challenge ~
A post a day except Sunday for the month of April to cover topics beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Events always real, names always changed.
Cathartic Monkeyism returns in May.
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My brother was NYPD in the Bronx. I heard all about Spofford; glad you didn’t end up there!!! Running around NYC late at night and getting into trouble I can relate to, but thankfully I never ended up in jail. Great post!
I got chills, after all these years, imagining your brother’s Spofford stories! Do you still live in NY?
I do but not the city anymore. I’m a bit north now…kids will do that to you!!
Wait… how did it end? Did he drive you home? Did your parents kill you?
I seriously had no intention of letting him call my parents, but it really began looking like Spofford was no joke. So I caved in. And the kicker is, when he reached my parents, they said, “Keep her.” At first. They thought it might do me good. But then they conferred with friends and in the end, came and got me at around 10 o’clock at night.
Whoa – you were a challenging teen I see ha! My best friend Elroy had a grandfather who was a minister and an uncle who was a priest and until I met you,GG, was the worst teenager I’d ever known – and he grew up to be an amazing person – one of the finest I’ve known. Speaking of arrested and Elroy – I did a guest post over at Cordelia’s Mom about that http://cordeliasmomstill.com/2015/04/02/busted-guest-post-by-paul-curran/ Drop by for a read, if you have the time. Thank You GG.
And now you know what I meant by “checkered!”
Elroy was pretty bad – he and some friends once piled used tires in the center of the only road into town and doused them with gasoline and set them on fire. Ha! that was Halloween (when he was a teen).
I can see that you were pretty challenging.
I love that in spite of all your waywardness, you still connected with the police chief sufficiently to sit and talk for hours and put the world to rights. He trusted you. No amount of rebellion seems to have made you untrue to yourself, which is rather special.
Lizzi, that’s a lovely thing to say, thank you.
In other news, I just found ‘your’ song 😀
Yeah? Is this something I should know anything about?
New post I’m writing. I knew I had you *almost* pegged, but I found the perfect piece.
Ironically, I knew a kid that wound up in Spafa… I did my underage drinking at 15 in Carolina’s in a fancy hotel in San Juan, PR with my cousins. When they brought me back to my super-Catholic grandmother, she could damn well smell all the rum & Cokes on my breath. When she asked if I was drinking, I managed to “convincingly” (in my 15-y-o mind) deny before stumbling to my room to pass out. I love that memory – the teenage, emphatic “NooooAHooooo!” making it sound like that two-letter word has more than one syllable… 🙂
I’m back here putting this post through a revision, and I saw your comment. That’s a great scene—I see it in my head! Isn’t it crazy what we were at fifteen versus what we are now? It’s hard to believe it ourselves.
The kid that got sent to Spafa, did you ever see him/her again?
If memory serves me correctly he was either the one that broke into my bedroom while my mother & I were living with his mom in 1987 OR, he was one of the twins who lived upstairs from me. I had a crush on him and I used to have sleepovers with his sister so I could watch TV with him.
Did you have a crush on both of these dudes, or only the one that disappeared to Spofford?
Only the twin. He was Argentinian. Spoke Portuguese. Name was Marcus.
PS – Whippits?? Really!? 😉 I stole weed from my dad (whose inadvertent tutelage made me an expert joint-roller by 16) and small toys from the bitchy babysitter’s kid at 10. No jail time, tho. Almost had a fist-fight with an amazon-girl who lied & said the owner of the Milky Way where I used to steal the occasional Reese’s (whoops – forgot about that!) wanted me to pay for all the candy I stole or else he would call the cops & ban me from his store. I am 4’11” and the amazonian was around 6’3″. Oh, and I was in heels that day…
Yeah, whippits, pre-fifteen. I was pretty innocent, in spite of everything.
I never got good at rolling joints. Didn’t give up trying, though.
Haha, you in heels and the Amazonian…
Exactly. Like a tempest in the tiniest teapot ever.