The Cycle of Violence

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
What comes first - the person who abuses or the person who is abused?

Submitted: October 01, 2008

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Submitted: October 01, 2008

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Day 1: Picture a modern day dungeon. Not some fairy tale but a real one – dark cages, locked rooms, meals of gruel slipped through a slot in the door, cruel guards, and screams, nights filled with screams. Enter a basement lacking light with a moist, earthy smell signifying you are underground. Hazy, dingy yellow surrounds you – the cinderblock walls, the tiled floor, the ceiling lights are the repulsive yellow of a faded fly strip. You look down a truncated hallway through barred doors, a view so petrifying you think of the gates to hell. Behind you, the stairwell is barricaded so you are stuck awaiting entrance to a place you do not want to go. No way out. A shiny orb hangs from the ceiling protruding like a monster’s eyeball, a camera recording your every move.
A blank faced officer dressed head to toe in dark blue and black approaches the gate wordlessly and opens it. She grabs your upper arm and pulls you through to the other side of the bars and fastens the lock behind you with a clang. You are sucked in, pulled down, and you can sense it – you are somewhere you can scream or bang or starve and no one will hear.
With a caliper type pinch the officer leads you down the hallway and you pass doors with small square windows at eye level through which hungry faces stare at you. Just from their looks you know the doors are locked, not only locked but rarely open. Caged animals with cagey eyes. You walk of your own volition even though you are aware of your fate: you will be locked in a room alone peering out and wanting to escape but you do not resist, you are tranquilized by fear.
The officer’s footsteps cease falling in front of a doorway that she opens with a swift twist of her wrist. You look at her with some question, a plea, and she stares past you. You step forward into the dimly lit room and she closes the door behind you and you hear the metal grinding of the lock. It is then the reality sets in and you panic. You spin around and stare out the window; the blank hallway and a pair of prying eyes face you. Wanting to look away for privacy, you turn around to the space you’ve been put in – a square, cold room with scratched walls, a stainless steel sink-toilet and ledge for a mattress. No windows and you have no idea of the time.
You pace, slowly at first and then maniacally as your thoughts swell and gain momentum. “I have to get out of here!” You bang your fist on the door. Bang. Bang. Bang. “Hello,” you scream, the vowels scraping your throat.
An expressionless face appears in profile and you are as grateful for the sight as a drowning man who sees a boat. With relief you sigh and ask, “Do you know when I am getting out of here?”
The expressionless set of features makes no movement except a glance down at her watch.
You try again. “Can you tell me why I am here?”
A snort from the nose of the poker faced officer.
You feel defeated at the stone solid reaction and ask for the most basic information, “Could you tell me the time?”
She mechanically pivots her head and walks away while you flounder like a mouse in a maze trying to find the cheese. You have hit a dead end.
You pace and think of the others in the hallway. You lie face down and put your head near the bottom of the door to scream through the grate. “Hello!” you call.
“Hello?” you phrase it as more of a question this time.
No response. You beg, “I was wondering, could I ask someone a question?”
You hear hyena type laughs from various directions. Sounds but not sights, you feel blind.
“What do you want to hear?” a resigned voice asks from the right.
“Could you tell me where I am?” you start to cry with thankfulness.
“Sure,” the voice answers. It sounds like a man’s, smoke worn and tough. “You’re in the medical unit in prison.”
She’s giving you a straight answer, you decide. She is throwing you some pity.
“Do we get out of here?” you ask on guard for a flip reply.
“Well, I won’t get out for a while,” the voice explains. “I got in trouble and the hole is overcrowded so I’ll be in here a while but people get moved from here to general population every day.”
“General population?”
“Yeah, different units - East, West, the Mods.” As she speaks you imagine an endless room of oak bunk beds, the kind you see in dorm rooms and thin, green carpeted floors. Theatrical curtains separate each ‘unit’.
“When do they move people?”
“Usually at 1 and 4. You’ll like it a lot better in general population.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, right now you are on eyeball.”
“Eyeball?”
“Yeah, they’re watching every move you make so you don’t commit suicide.”
“Oh,” I say and remember how at the Cambridge court house in the holding cell, you took your bra off and tried to strangle yourself.
“You’ll be okay,” the voice soothes. “This your first time?”
“In jail? Yes.” What a question you think.
“You’ll be okay,” she says again.
Hours pass. Perhaps it is night that passes and you absorb your reality.
Day 2:
A hulky male officer comes to your door and you rush towards the wooden rectangle like a magnet to steel. “Turn around,” he instructs you. And you do without thinking why you are being asked. You hear the unmistakable click of handcuffs as they are fastened around your wrists through the slot in the door. You do not ask the guard where you are going because his standoffish demeanor threatens you not to ask. You are removed from the cell and walked down the hall to a room with a cage in the corner. A single chair faces the cage’s door, now secured shut with you inside.
You sit in the cage and an attractive, dark haired woman smelling of flowers and looking like a magazine advertisement enters. She sits, cross legged, facing you and it’s like you are looking at yourself 48 hours ago, showered and dressed for work. It’s painful and humiliating to look at her. She barely notices you and does not acknowledge your physical or emotional discomfort. She slaps a clipboard on her lap and pulls a pen from behind her ear. She says in a voice that shows she thinks as she speaks, “Let’s see here. Who are you?” She fumbles through papers attached to the clipboard. “Alison?”
“Yes, Alison,” you snap and jump at the chance to speak. “Do I have to sit in this cage?”
She looks up and takes notice of your presence and caged condition for the first time. “Yes,” she answers dryly. “We feel you are a danger to yourself and those are the rules.”
“And is this supposed to help my psychological state?” You ask sharply and rhetorically.
“Well, right,” she concedes you the point. “Right now we just need to protect you and those are the rules.” She lowers her head indicating she is changing subjects, back to the business at hand. She reads the first question with the emotion of an actress with stage fright, “When you are angry are you prone to violence?”
“No,” you lie. You are angry at being stuck in the cage and decide to be sarcastic just for spite. “I commit violent crimes even when I am happy.”
“Are you suicidal?” she asks you without looking up.
“No,” you answer. “I’m perfectly delighted to be here. I can’t imagine my life getting any better.”
The questioning drags on, a farce of an exchange, after which she tells you someone from mental health will see you in a few days.
“A few days?” you ask, eyes bulging.
She is as relaxed as if she let me know the doctor would be a few minutes.
“Well, we have a meeting in the afternoon. Then, we have to see whose schedule permits time to see you. Then, they’ll have to identify a good time to see you and that’s when they’ll come see you,” she elaborates making the process seem burdensome.
“And I have to wait in the room I am in?”
“Yes,” she answers with a hiss of the ‘s’ and signals with a hailing motion for the guard to escort you out of the cage and into your cell.
You are barefoot and wear what is known as ‘the blueberry suit’, an a-lined jumper which fastens on your shoulders with pieces of Velcro. Heavy, it’s the weight and feel of the protective vest you wear at the dentist when you get x-rays. You wear no underwear and you know the suit is not clean because the rooms are not. You figure out the jail has issued you the thick garment so you cannot twist the material and hang yourself. There are stupid, you think. There are still ways of committing suicide like flushing your head down the toilet. Their precaution does make killing yourself harder and absolves them of blame.
Breakfast is a dismal affair. You are not allowed any utensils, plastic or otherwise, as another suicide prevention measure. An inmate slips a bruised apple and a carton of milk through the slot. You drink the milk and save the apple on the floor to drink later. And you pace. You hear movement and soon see it is a nurse making her rounds and when she gets to your door she tells you to stick your arm through the slot. You have to squat to do this. A blonde woman in a pair of scrubs with a cheery pattern of flowers, she does not look in your direction as she listens for your systolic and diastolic heart rate. She yanks the stethoscope away from her ears and rips off the Velcro cuff in one giant rip. She does not relay the blood pressure results or acknowledge any other of your body parts abruptly wheeling her instrument to the next doorway.
You spread yourself out on the floor in front of the grate in a yoga position about to lift upward into downward facing dog. You are going insane with boredom so you call out to the voice from the night before to see what she is doing. “Hello?” you call out in the hopes of having a conversation.
“Hi.”
“What are you doing?”
“Reading,” she answers.
You are surprised. “You have a book?” you ask more envious than if she had a jewel.
“Yeah, you can get one. They come around and pass them out.”
“Would you mind reading to me?”
“Sure, if I can have your peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“Okay, but how will you get it?” Fear has killed your appetite anyway.
“I’ll ask the inmate who passes out lunches to give it to me and you’ll tell her it’s okay.”
“Okay,” you agree. It doesn’t seem like a big sacrifice.
“What’s your name?” you ask before she begins.
“Butterfly,” she tells you.
“Butterfly,” you repeat somewhat confused. Is that a name?
Butterfly reads to you the story is of a man and a woman who despise each other but fall into bed with irresistible passion. The words ‘plunge’, ‘mount’, and ‘never’ are used a lot. After a few sex scenes, Butterfly gets tired of reading and asks about your case.
“I don’t think the judge liked me,” you say assessing your day in court for the first time.
The whole hallway of women laugh and you are taken aback that so many people can hear you when I hadn’t meant to be funny. You are oddly pleased; it’s as if you have made friends.
The inmate who passes out food is a rotund woman with stringy, brown hair she pulls back in a ponytail at the nape of her neck. You have always wondered why overweight people wear their hair in such an unflattering way. You try to befriend her when she shoves food through your slot or as she mops the hallway in front of your door. You’d like to get a book or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich since you are now hungry. When you talk to her, she complains about getting paid $2 a day for her work. I commiserate with her but after a few attempts at dialog, you leave her alone.
Later, Butterfly reads you a few more chapters – free of charge.
Day 3
One random moment a dour looking, pudgy CO opens your door and tells you it’s time to shower. The walk down the hall feels like flight after being cooped up. The overworked, underpaid inmate hands you a travel size bar of soap and shampoo along with a towel you might use to polish your car before you head into the room with showers. You walk through the open door. The room looks old; the tiles are ceramic and intricate and the faucets are a heavy iron labeled with an old-fashioned font, ‘hot’ and ‘cold’. On the right of the room are some deep bathtubs and you feel like you are in a sanitarium even though you’ve never been in one just seen them in the movies.
You are informed by the CO with two chins that you have three minutes to shower and put back on the ‘blueberry suit’. As the water hits you, you sting where the Velcro scraped your skin. The drops hit and send shots of pain to your dry, cracked lips. You shampoo your tangled hair and lather your body with the bar of soap anxious to be clean and not run out of time. You try not to think of the germs on the shower floor.
The CO waits for you outside the shower and as you drip she binds your wrists in handcuffs and leads you back to your locked cell.
Day 4
A reed-thin, young male CO pounds at your door, “You’re going to court.”He
opens your door and throws a plastic bag into the room. You open the bag and see the top and pants you wore to prison and threadbare, state issued underwear, bra, and slip-on shoes. You change clothes and the CO swings open the door and tugs you down the hallway and out an exit door to the outside. A sheriff officer stands like a drill sergeant by a group of bound women he is corralling into the back of a paddy wagon. “Come on,” he barks at you swinging his finger to the vehicle’s back door and you shuffle behind a thin woman with wafts of blonde hair training behind her. Some beauty can’t be taken away you think; it’s inherent.
The idling van takes you in scared silence to Cambridge courthouse where the van driver, a bald with a protruding gut who must weigh three hundred pounds opens the back door. As you scoot forward, you blink at the daylight and your skin prickles with the feel of fresh air. On a bench inside the garage you sit and a spry CO kneels and fastens you to the other five woman by a chain and ankle cuffs. The connected string of you are led to an elevator and into the 8th floor holding cell as the two officers pull you all and talk about what they want for lunch as if they are talking their dog for a walk on a leash.
A short, older man shriveled and reeking of cigarettes calls your name about an hour later and unfastens the holding cell door so you may exit. He does not tell you where you are going and in the few days you have been an inmate you have learned you are invisible to the court officers, a thing to be moved, a pawn on a chess board moving to the next square. In the courtroom the light is blindingly bright and you see your lawyer in an olive suit and striped tie sidled up to the judge’s bench discussing something in low tones with the judge, a hunched over man in a black robe with thinning grey hair. Your lawyer finds your eyes, smiles and waves, an odd greeting for the situation, but moves no closer to you. The court officer does not let go of your arm and you feel a pinch to move again like the pressing of heels on a horse’s girth initiating forward movement. As you are leaving the room filled with empty seats you hear the judge say, “Held without bail with no prejudice.”
You are shuttled to the elevator and taken to a roomy, sterile holding cell in the basement. You sit on the icy floor in the far corner and slide your bra off your torso. With your teeth you bite the clasps out of their u-shape to bend them to points. You press the sharp ends into the visible green veins on your wrist. The other inmates in the holding point at you and laugh but one woman swoops down over you like an angel or a mother bird and grabs your hand forcefully. “Don’t do that!”
You look up at her and her smooth skin, round blue eyes, and pursed lips. You tell her, “you don’t understand. I am being held without bail. There is no chance of my getting out.”
“Listen to me,” she keeps your wrist in her grasp. “I’ve seen people arrested for murder who have walked free or served very little time.”
She has experience so you listen.
“Yes,” she continues seeing she has your attention. “There’s always hope. The DA just piles on charges in the beginning that are sensational. You haven’t had your chance to fight back. Your lawyer will argue the charges.”
“I can’t go to jail.”
“I know. I know it’s scary but you’ll be okay. Hang in there. I promise you there is always hope.”
“Why are you here?”
“Drugs. Filling false prescriptions.”
“Really?” she looks like a soccer mom, wholesome, clean cut, and trustworthy.
“Yeah,” she answers and her look gets distant. I scrutinize her. She is composed and fairly normal looking.
“You’ll be okay,” she sings the familiar jail refrain and squeezes my hand.
“What’s your name?”
“Linda.”
“Will I see you at prison, Linda?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know where they’ll put you.”
In my mind I am running through the rows of bunk beds asking women if they know Linda. I imagine our reunion; I find her after much searching and hug her. I cling to Linda on the paddy wagon ride back to prison but we arrive and are unloaded, we are separated. Linda is put to wait in a large holding cell while I am quarantined to my own cell. Through the door, I watch Linda leave with several other women and as she goes so does all my hope and strength.
A middle-aged officer packed into uniform like a stuffed sausage and predisposed to snarling opens my door and leads me through the echoing hallway and into the basement. A smooth faced male officer grabs me through the bars and tosses me into the solitary cell like you would throw a pair of shoes at the bottom of the closet.
“Change into the suit,” he bellows and points to the blueberry suit lying on the floor where I left it.
The disgruntled inmate worker sweeps into the room and balls up the clothes in a bag. The surly officer stands behind her, his anger hurrying her. He shuts the door and locks it. Loneliness seizes me like the humid air before a major storm; it’s difficult for me to breathe.
I call out for Butterfly but she does not answer. I figure she was moved to the hole. I sit on the bed ledge and try to forecast what will happen to me – a life in jail? Going to trial and explaining the embarrassing details while the press records me sullen-faced and pathetic. What can I do about my situation? The door is locked. I have no access to a phone. No one will tell me what is happening. I have no pen and paper to write anyone.

I sit on the edge of the toilet and look around the bare room. I notice a sharp edge on the corner of the steel bed shelf. With no hesitation, I scrape my wrist against the pointy corner of metal and plunge my hand into the frigid, toilet water. It burns then numbs. I pull my arm up to examine the cut; it bleeds steadily. I swipe my arm again on the jagged edge, quick and hard, and splash my upper arm in the water. I look down and watch the liquid turn cloudy and


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