Tuesday, 14 January 2014

5--To The Cells

January 1, 2013--8.30 am

In a daze I showered and got dressed. I tripled-locked the door again, expecting not to return for a few days. Gingerly I made my way out of the close into the street, wondering if the Police might be sitting outside watching for me. I know my crime may not have warranted a full-scale alert but paranoia was taking its grip. I must have walked past Karen's imposing town-house but I really can't remember doing so. I should have been checking for police cars outside, an ambulance maybe ... some signs of life, but I don't remember walking past however hard I try. Was this the naissance of my blind-spot of all things Karen? I believe so.

I remember getting to Balgillo Road and I phoned my son. Surprisingly, he answered. I told him the police were looking for me and what I'd done. He was less than impressed. He's not easily impressed by much and normally even less so by me, no matter how hard I try. I told him I was going to my eldest daughter's house. He put the phone down, and I guess, went back to sleep.

I walked the 3 miles to Nadine's house and banged on the door. Of course, everyone was asleep in bed. Eventually, Nadine answered the door and could see my obvious distress. She made tea and I told her what had happened. Phone calls to the rest of the family ensued and it was decided to meet at my younger daughter's home, the scene of the family party we'd had the night before. By now word was circulating and I had some phone calls from incredulous friends. The concensus was I should go to the police station as soon as possible. Well of course this was always my intention but I didn't want to do that until I'd spoken to the people that mattered.

My son-in-law drove me to Bell Street in silence. It was around 2 pm when I approached the desk and told the Sergeant on duty that the Police may be looking for me. No one seemed to know about me and they couldn't find anything on the computer. However, they took me at my word and guided me through to an interview room. Presently I was visited by two cops who said they still had no information on my crime but would take me down to the cells till they'd made enquries. They said I'd likely be home in a few hours but I knew instinctively this wouldn't happen.

Downstairs I was taken to a high desk and stood to attention thereat. The cops took up position either side of me and I was told to lean forward with my hands on the desk. As I did this the cops laid their palms in a passive way across each of my wrists. I've no idea to this day what this ritual achieved. However, the police were all polite and reasonably respectful in the process. I was divested of my belongings, my shoes and coat. I was led to a cell, given a blanket made from old Brillo pads and invited to enter. The door clanged shut behind me with a heart-stopping err clang.

Inside the cell was a concrete plinth with a 2-inch thick plastic mattress-cum-excercise mat. There was a non-flushing toiled attached to the wall. I lay on my back on the mat on the plinth and stared up at the cold concrete ceiling. How did it come to this? How could I be in this situation? When I went out last night I was happy and content and proud to be celebrating New Year with my family. A few short hours later I'm banged-up in a cell and have committed my first criminal offence. Good God, I've not even had a parking ticket before. The knots in my stomach tightened and my heartbeat stepped up yet another notch.

I don't know for how many hours I lay there, unmoving, staring upwards till my eyes were sore. I wondered what my family and friends were doing now. It was New Year's night, everyone should be partying. Have I ruined everyone's New Year? What was Karen doing? She saw the horror unfold, probably in slow-motion. What was she thinking of me? I've brought shame to myself, my family and my friends. It was too much to bear. Really it still is.

Every hour the cover over the spyhole in the door would slide open with a clang and a security guard would shout my name, or in some cases, hey you. They wouldn't leave until you answered. Every so often there would be a disturbance from another inmate or someone else being admitted. Every time there was any movement the clanging was intolerable. I thought with modern materials we could eliminate clang from anything. However, I thought of the first inspection day after the cells were finished and the man in charge saying "There isn't enough clanging in these doors. Put more clang in there, we need more clang."

Sometime during the night a policewoman appeared at my spyhole (with a almighty clang). She was thoroughly pissed at me and through the hole she formally charged me. When she'd finished she asked if I'd anything to say. I said "how is she?" This seemed to piss her off even more and she clanged shut the spyhole and left. These words were read out in Court. The only words attributed to me throughout the whole year. Three words after a dozen visits to solicitors' offices. Only in hindsight, a dozen useless, worthless visits.

In the morning I was offered a dry roll and some water. The attitude of the guards was fazing me and I refused everything. In the 48 hours I was there I took nothing save for some water. I didn't feel like eating anyway and somehow I didn't want them to feel like they were doing me any favours.

I lost all track of time and knew that I was hugely misjudging the passing of the hours. I discovered I was miles ahead, in my mind, of the real time. I knew that come January 3, I would appear in Court and hopefully get bail. I dozed from time-to-time but never sleeping properly. The mat was so thin my hips were aching. I folded the mat in two to double the thickness but it hardly helped. Occasionally, I would do press-ups and sit-ups on the floor, working up a sweat like Rambo preparing his revenge.

No one spoke to me save to offer water or a dried-up roll. No information was offered, no contact was given. No visitors allowed. The guards were surly and rude. Every possible dignity was removed and my humiliation was complete. I thought my despair could never deepen and nothing could ever be worse. Well, turns out I would be wrong about that.

And then came the letter . . .

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