If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know that I had my first official probation house inspection today. It was fairly traumatizing, but we made it through. Frankly, I’m a little numb, so I wrote about it– and my Stories family was kind enough to make emergency space here because it didn’t quite fit on Rarasaur blog.
Do you have Stories that don’t fit on your home? Have you submitted them here yet?
I was delivered to prison, fully-shackled. For the uninitiated, this means there were cuffs on each of my ankles, cuffs on each of my wrists, and a few chains connecting them all together.
When you’re fully-shackled, you clang and you waddle. It’s a funny little side-to-side shuffle that instinctively keeps you balanced… upright… moving forward. Upon arrival, they remove the chains and institutionalize you. It’s a different sort of shackle.
I served 438 days, the majority of my incarceration hosted by the state of California’s best rehabilitation facilities. I am now in the free world, living under the provisos of probation.
It isn’t the same as free. It’s just a different sort of cage. One with no bars on the windows, just fancy blinds.
This morning, the knocking at the door was determined enough to rattle the window coverings. I guessed it was morning, but I wasn’t sure. The twilight of dawn was still set into the sky and I was sleeping.
LA COUNTY PROBATION was shouted through my house so I rushed off the bed and to the door, to present myself. I didn’t want them to shake down the whole house. I was still blinking sleep from my eyes.
STEP OUT OF THE HOUSE, they repeated, I don’t know how many times. There was 4 or maybe 5 that I could see– fully-armed cops in full gear.
The Little Foot stomped behind me and I shushed her back a few feet. There was chaos, a dog, a girl, her dad, myself, and Mamasaur. There was a door. And cops. I wasn’t really sure of anything else, but it struck me that I was living my favorite short story– The Night the Bed Fell, by James Thurber.
Except it was terrifying, and not funny at all.
It was morning, probably, I decided as I was patted down. I faced the car in my driveway as I was cuffed.
There’s a girl inside, I said. A little girl.
Is she yours? they asked.
No, I said.
They exchanged glances and kept switching off between each other. There were 9, I think. Like dangerous giant ants.
I hadn’t had coffee yet. I wasn’t wearing a bra. I was standing in the middle of my street, handcuffed.
Mamasaur stumbled out of the house, propelled by a cop. Her lip was wobbly. Her cheeks were tear-stained.
Why are you doing this? she asks, and they explain again.
It’s just a house inspection.
What a ridiculous word.
I shift so the cuffs aren’t visible as the 8-year-old walks out, cuddling her stuffed wolf. She’s in her nightgown, too.
I never break eye contact with her, and she’s brave with every step. I start babbling about school, and she tells the cop about her Columbus Day map. I want to look down, to see if they let her put shoes before kicking her out of her house, but I don’t want to break eye contact.
After some time, a minute or maybe thirty, the angry ants wave everyone back inside and I stand outside with them. They go over the stipulations of my parole. A long list of things of which I have no prior history of entanglement. I promise to not suddenly develop violent tendencies or drug habits or gang affiliations.
I ask where my probation officer is, and they tell me I can call him after. I don’t want to sound like a child, but I want him now. This would still have been terrifying, but less so.
They keep saying PROBATION in a near shout, as we talk, and the word echoes down the street. All of my neighbors will know, if they didn’t notice my braless-self handcuffed in front of a battalion of police officers.
It doesn’t really matter to me, but it might to the people whose house I’m renting. The people who have just had their child dragged from bed.
I wonder if I’ll be homeless again soon, but it’s an idle sort of wonderment.
The cop speaking to me seems like a nice lady. She’s outraged over my sentence. A male would have gotten half the time. The male cop argues– a Los Angeles resident would have gotten half the time. No matter to me.
I did the time I did.
I wonder if my blankness shows, but it’s an idle sort of wonderment.
I think about the women who are not me. The women who don’t have friends and family who will be horrified. Who don’t live in safe, private neighborhoods. Who don’t have good jobs and strong educations. How could they build a life with probation doing everything possible to destroy it?
I wonder, but I don’t feel. I turn when they say turn.
The cuffs come off, but not really.
I hear the clanging of chains when I breathe. It drowns out the sound of emotion, embarrassment, anger, and fear.
It’s morning now, for sure. The light is shining through my cage. The day is striding forward and I shuffle on, continuing to do