Episode 1: Freedom From Life Via Lockdown – Part II
We got our heads down and our hackles up
Our backs against the wall
I can feel you aching
None of this was written in stone
There is nothing we’re forbidden to know
And I can feel things changing.”
As I sat on the couch, I looked for answers within the half-empty forty of 211 on the table next to me. Like always, it contained none, but my shakes had subsided, so at least I had that going for me. I had been texting Tara throughout the day but had not yet gotten a reply, and something told me that I shouldn’t have been expecting one; she had a way of telling that I had been drinking, even via text.
There were times throughout our long on-again, off-again relationship where we had seemed happily married. After I had originally moved to Texas to be with her again after high school, the tap of my excuses for my continued drug use had run dry, but my thirst for the bottle had not. Between sips, we did as reconvened couples do—we loved, hard. We flourished in what we thought would be a new beginning together after such a rough start within our early years. Her, being newly enlisted in the Air Force, began her work at the nearby Lackland Air Force base hospital. I, being freshly dropped out of Junior College, began working at the nearby Hollywood Video. We took trips back to California and enjoyed camping and fishing and hiking. We took trips out to the Texas ranches and shot shotguns and ate copious amounts of BBQ. We created a small life for ourselves and bought a couch, bought a bed, and bought a dog. We named her Jessie.
Jessie bound our love further into an undeniable lapse in judgement, and two days later, we were married in city hall. We both knew we were doing it for the extra money from the military, but what did we care? We had forever together, and as far back as we could see at the time, we’d been forever in love. Then I took a sip from that same assumed dry tap.
I had gotten big into working out and the gym quickly became my home away from home. Her workdays grew longer, and although I had quickly gotten a promotion and was home by the time that she was off, soon, our home life was stagnant. We stared at the same TV screen nightly until she went to bed, which left me to my thoughts of missed opportunities. She didn’t know it then, but I began to hate myself again. Thoughts of causing myself pain began to creep in due to the sobered consciousness of lost potential. Sometimes I cried, but then I reminded myself to drink.
Old arguments resurfaced. I was reminded that a crack in the pavement doesn’t just disappear once one decides to paint over it. She yelled at me for never doing enough or paying enough. I yelled at her for not letting me drink enough or for us not sleeping together enough. We quickly became enemies. She yelled again of my abuse in high school, and for leaving her for other girls. I yelled at her for cheating on me when she initially moved to Texas, and for forcing my lips back to the bottle; it was always her fault. We moved from enemies to roommates, and the rest played out like any outside viewer would have expected: I drank, she withdrew; I cheated, she hit me; I yelled at her, she never came home; I lost my job, I cut myself; I drank the blood and tears away, leading to more.
Bella, our black German shepherd, ran up and got onto the couch. I buried my head into her belly as she licked at my ear. Even with history toeing further from hindsight and closer to my mind’s eye, there’s nothing like my best friend to remind me of where I was. She didn’t want me to go to jail either and I knew that I needed to get my act straight if I were to beat this case.
Everything seemed to be on the line now. Tara bailed me out so that I could get my shit in order and so that we could fight this, together, and here I was, reminiscing, getting nowhere fast. I had already missed one court date and I knew that the bail bondsman had warned against that, but we knew somehow that things would be alright if I sobered up. It always happened that way—sober equaled stability. Drunk was not the way to go. I needed it though, as always, so I guzzled more of the beer down so that I could plan my next move a little clearer.
It felt so good. I knew that the trouble had all started again when I moved back to Washington to be with my wife once more. On one hand, I knew it may be my last shot to be with her, but on the other side of the spectrum was the insanity of her kicking me out and allowing me back into her life, and I, running at the first sound of her call. More drink. She needed me as much as I needed her, and when I broke my promise by drinking right after the move, I knew that I would return once she cast me away again. I shouldn’t have grabbed her arm like that, though. It was a dumb mistake and I knew it right away. I saw the look in her eyes as I yelled at her to go and buy me more beer so that I wouldn’t have to steal it myself—they shook like amp vibrations booming in response to my volume. I was persistent, as always, but this time, my persistent hands were handcuffed—quite literally—after she summoned the police to escort me away. Domestic violence, they called it, as I woke up freezing on top of a concrete jail slab in a cell. Drink some more! I had no clue what had happened, so I went to the phones, dialed my wife to quickly question, but the phone clicked off each time that I tried. As I went to court, they told me of a piece of paper that I had signed when I arrived at the jail—after I was cleared from the hospital—and that I was not allowed to contact Tara. I had violated this contract, and consequently, would have to spend an additional two weeks in a noisy pod with other criminals. Guzzle. Fucking judge was a dick to me. If I had been in my right mind, I would have never signed anything! How was I supposed to even know as I was trying to call her? Gulp, gulp... It never added up to me, but I got out. I got out. Fucking hell, I got out. Then shit got real crazy. All hell—my whole life—it just fell. It was crazy how fast it all sank down. Like dominos it just got–
“What?” I turned toward the kitchen. I swear I had heard someone say something, but I knew damn well there was no one else in the apartment. I stood and looked at the dog who just looked up at me from the couch, probably wondering if we were going to go outside yet. “Did you hear that?” I asked her. Her tail wagged. “I’ll take that as a no.”
I sat back down, grabbed the beer, and took in the silence with a deep inhale. My body felt warm and my head a bit fuzzy. There was a sickening feel to it all, a feeling of both sinking and being dragged backwards at the same time. As I held the beer to my chest and held it tightly in an embrace that mimicked Tara and mine’s lost honeymoon days, voices from the past kept yelling out louder and louder for me to receive their message, nearly becoming whispers in my ear. “There’s no one here,” I said to myself. “You’re alone. There’s no one here. There’s no one here.”
“I saw it roaring
I felt it clawing at my clothes like a grieving friend
‘There are no new beginnings
Until everybody sees that the old ways need to end’”
The CO led me down the stone hallway toward a room. My gut told me the worst of lies, and I believed them. My brother had died; it could be possible. There was no deal from the prosecutor; that was more likely. They knew about my incessant phone calls to Tara and were ready to charge me once more; it was highly probable. All things proved possible in one’s imagination in jail. Disconnected from life, we all suffered from the same fired delusions kindled by fear. Acceptance was our only extinguisher, for which most wielded none. I, for one, did not believe I would ever reach such a degree.
When we arrived at the room, there stood another officer and a man in a suit. It was a lawyer by the looks of it; they all wore those same pointy black shoes. There were more lawyerly looking documents sitting atop the table. Something deep down inside of me knew right then exactly what was happening. It was one of my worst nightmares come true.
“Ryan,” said the officer who had led me, “this is Mr. Hadley from the Tumwater district office.”
“Hello Ryan,” said Hadley as he stuck out his hand. I took it with hesitation. He then motioned to the chair at the table. “Please take a seat.”
I complied and looked to the papers. My palms were cold against the metal table, but the room felt as if it had gone up ten degrees upon our arrival just ten seconds prior. One degree per second, how long will it be until we all suffocate in here?
“Ryan,” started Hadley again, softly this time, “these here are divorce papers. Your wife filed earlier this week and I’m here just to present them to you. Please read them over and then I’m here if you have any further questions before you sign.”
He was giving me no option. No explanation. No pity. I looked down and began to read. The date was signed “07-Oct-2013” in Tara’s handwriting, revealing her military background and cementing my belief that this was for real. She had done it. She had finally done it. After years of the threats and the yelling and the “I’m sorry”s and the “Please come back”s, it seemed that she had finally reached a verdict of her own. Even though I was staring right at my own conviction, my consequence, I could not see the end of it. There, on the paper, I saw no future. It was a blank slate of endless mirrors and my morbid reflection was infinite.
“Are there any questions?” said Hadley after a few moments of silence in the room. I realized I had not moved for what seemed like hours. My bones ached and my muscles felt weak, as if I had been bedridden for months.
“What happens if I don’t sign?” I said.
“Well then it’ll be taken further and if she pursues it, she can take you to court. But Ryan,” he said as he leaned in closer, “what have you got to gain from that?”
“Her,” I said from under my breath. But it wasn’t true. Tara was gone. Tara was mine no more. With this piece of paper, Tara would never be mine to hold again.
“Mr. Scott,” Hadley persisted with urgency. “Mr. Scott, I don’t know your relationship, but with your pending charges and the circumstances behind them, perhaps it’s time to let her go.”
My shakes returned, and suddenly I felt as if I were back on the couch with Bella, just like the day it had all happened. I was sinking and falling backwards at the same time. I imagined myself holding that beer to my chest before everything had gone so wrong. Before the visions, before the fight, and before I saw Tara for what was just now becoming the final time to me. I truly was alone, with no one here to turn to.
I took the pen and signed.
Everyone but one officer left the room. “We’ll give you some time alone in here before returning you,” he said, then closed the door with a bang.
Back in the pod, Frank was going off about some girl named Billie to the other guys, but all the noise coming from them seemed like just an echo bouncing from wall to wall. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Drinking had always led to consequences, but never in my life had I seen anything like this coming. I was a good kid growing up. I had good parents. I had everything laid out in front of me to succeed but the feeling of not ever wanting to feel or to deal with the niceties that life had to offer blocked my vision of any future for me or any success that I was bound to. What used to be fun became a habit and what used to be habit became necessary, and then even further, it became engrained in me. I was addicted to shutting my life down. I was addicted to never amounting to anything. I was addicted to chaos. Then, the depression that followed would swallow me whole and darken the light of opportunity. This is how I viewed myself. Locked up on the inside and from life on the outs—my feelings had become my situation.
“Ryan, whattup with you?” yelled Frank from across the way. “You see your lawyer?”
I didn’t want to talk, but I might as well spill the beans. “Sort of,” I said. “Well, a different one. My wife filed for divorce and I had to sign some papers.”
“Shit,” said Jason as he rolled over to join the conversation, “does that mean you get paid?”
“What the fuck!” said Frank. “Jason, I’m ‘bout tired of your stupid ass. Can’t you see it? He ain’t getting shit but fucked.”
“That’s one way to put it,” I said with a laugh. I had to try and smile. It was the best that I could do.
“Well,” said Jason as he rolled over, “serves you right for getting married. I knew better at your age.”
With that, I felt the heat rising. “What the fuck did you just say?”
“Yeah what’d you jus’ say?” chimed Frank.
I saw Yanni roll over, and Patrick swung his legs over his top bunk to see what was going on.
“I’m just saying,” Jason continued, “I knew better, is all. I knew what I was like growing up, and I may have put women through shit, but I would never latch them in and have them hanging on for life along with me, dragging them through it. I knew my worth and never exceeded it.”
I jumped down from my bed, and Frank from his as if in response to me. It wasn’t his battle, though, and I wanted him to butt out of it. “But it serves me right?” I said. “You don’t even know me, man, how the hell can you say something like that?”
“Mr. fuckin’ know it all,” Frank chimed again, egging the situation on.
I was never one for conflict, but today was not the day. I talked down every confrontation in my life and had never been in a physical fight, but something inside of me felt pushed in the worst of ways. “My wife and I have stuck through a lot of shit together, and we got married because that’s what you do when you love each other. So just mind your own, man. Keep your opinions. Plus, you and I are like the same age!” I could hear my voice start to quiver, as it does when I’m angry. “Please just, just let’s leave it at that.”
“I don’t like your tone, bro,” said Jason as he stood. He wasn’t backing down like he had to Frank earlier, and it sparked my anxiety, causing my hands to shake.
“Jason, back up!” said Frank again as he moved closer.
“Please, leave it Frank,” I said. “I got this.”
“No, fuck this, I should have knocked his ass earlier. Teach his ass to respect for the next six years.”
We all stood there a moment, the three of us, as the others watched from their bunks. No one moved until Frank untensed his shoulders and took a step back. “Screw it. It worth the time in the hole,” he said. “Spent enough time in there.”
Jason, unrelenting, stepped forward. I kept my eyes on his feet, watching for the sign of a quick step leading to a punch. “A’int you in here for hitting her or something?” he asked.
My fists clenched. “I would fucking, NEVER!” The sound of my own voice rocked me to my core. My whole body shook with force. I looked up into Jason’s eyes just in time to see them roll to the back of his head.
“Told you not to say anything else stupid,” said Frank as he stood over Jason’s limp body. “Damnit. Looks like that’ll leave a mark. No one saw that, right?”
The room remained silent.
It had been a week since they dragged Frank away. Jason had disappeared a day prior, probably to the protective wing, so Frank saw it coming. The huge welt under Jason’s eye was a dead giveaway to the COs, plus the fact that he was trying to avoid going to meals at all costs so that he wouldn’t be seen.
I hated fighting, hence why I had never done it. Sure, I’d scrap with friends when drunk, especially when watching some UFC fights, but nothing serious ever evolved from it. The day Jason had accused me of hitting Tara struck a nerve; I felt something inside of me boil like I had never felt before. I had done some hideous acts, including all the accumulating ones that landed me to this point, but never that. I had to believe that I was still a good person inside, at least until the sober Henry Jekyll became the drunk Edward Hyde. It would be the only way I were going to get through this. For now, I could be free from life while locked down. For now, I could focus on me.
“Scott!” boomed a familiar voice that I was learning to hate. I looked up from my book to see CO Larsen. “You got mail.”
I rarely had received mail here, save the occasional letter from my mom or my dad. I hopped down to grab the envelope but nearly instantly dropped it when I read the front. The return name and address were familiar, but not one that I immediately recognized. It was the handwriting that had caused me to stumble. It was that same handwriting that had cemented that idea of love forever lost just a week ago. It was from Tara.