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Banned for Life

So I sat with the cops who’d arrested me, and they took my account of the fight, asking where I lived, my date of birth and so on, jotting it all down for the arrest report.  And then they took me off to another room for fingerprinting, and the guy doing it looked at me kind of funny and said, “Hey, don’t you play football?”  And I said I did.  And he said, “Yeah, my boy was on your team.  Charlie McIntyre?”  And I said, “Oh, right.  Charlie.”  And he kind of frowned and said, “He ain’t much of a ballplayer, I can tell you that.  But you were doing pretty good there.  Too bad you got injured.”  And he started going through the whole season, every play of every game, just about, and the whole time I had my fingers in ink, and he’d go, “Relax the joint, that’s it.”  And then I was taken off to get photographed, and somebody said I’d have to post a hundred dollars for bail, and I said, “Well, I guess my mom will pay it.  Or I hope she will.”  Because I could see her walking in and somebody saying, “A hundred dollars, ma’am,” and her saying, “A hundred dollars?  Forget it!”  I mean, after all, I was “on my own.”  But then somebody else said, “Oh, she already paid it.”  And from there I was taken back to the front desk, where my mom was now waiting, and even though she was wearing sunglasses, I could see at a glance she was fit to be tied.  She barely even looked my way.  She just stood up and said, “You got everything?”  And I said, “There’s nothing to get.” 

So we walked out of the police station to a five-story parking garage right next door, and the whole way my mom was quiet.  I was, too.  And we got in the car and rolled out to the street, and I was just about to thank her for bailing me out, but then she started talking.  She sounded calm at first, but her voice was shaking, and the more she spoke, the more she lost control.  And she said, “Jason, I think you’re going to have to get your own place.  Your father feels the same way.  Sleeping with Megan’s mother, and sending people to the hospital, and getting kicked out of school!  You’ve got two younger brothers, did you ever think about that?  What kind of example are you setting?  Where did we go wrong?  What did we ever do to make you act like this?” 

“You live here, don’t you?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?!” And my mom never cursed, never, so I figured if she could, I could, too.  I said, “What the hell do you think it means?  Look around you!  We’re nothing as far as these people are concerned!  We’re shit!”  And, all of a sudden, she just hit the brakes right there in the middle of traffic and slapped me.  She got me in the face, the chest, the legs, the shoulders—anyplace she could land a punch.  And she said, “How dare you speak to your own mother that way!  Do you know what your grandparents would have done to me if I’d spoken to them like that? Do you?!”  And cars were backed up behind us, and pedestrians were stopping to watch, and somehow I managed to reach for the door and got out, and I went walking down the sidewalk, and my mom pulled up alongside me and yelled at me through the passenger window.  And she said, “Jason, you get back in this car!”  And I kept on walking.  And she said, “Jason, you get in this car or your father’s going to have something to say about this!”  And I stopped and said, “He already did!  I’m ‘on my own’!  And you’re saying the same thing, so, fine, that’s what I am!  You think I’m happy about this?  You think I enjoy being arrested?!  But you don’t give a shit!  All you care about is what other people think about you!  Which makes you just about perfect for this place!”  I was saying shit I hadn’t known I thought!  And people stopped to stare, and I couldn’t have given a fuck less.  Stare, bitches!  Stare at the freak having a fit on Main Street!  And don’t forget to tell the whole world what you saw! 

So, after that, my mom drove off and left me.  I was glad to see her go.  Well, I was and I wasn’t. But if I’d gone home there would’ve been weeks of lectures and cold shoulders and constant reminders of what a fuck-up I was—no thanks.  So I just walked on, not knowing where I was going, depressed one second, pissed the next.  And I came to a bridge and stopped in the middle, and I thought about Megan taking those pills and thought, ‘You know, she had the right idea the whole time.  You ought to just jump.  Boy, will people regret it then.’  And I pictured my family and all my former friends crying while I laid in my coffin and thought, ‘What, are you fucking nuts?  They’ll be so happy they’ll practically throw a dance to celebrate!  No, you’ve got to live and make them feel even worse!  And I hope Mark does have a concussion!  I hope he’s got fucking brain damage!  It’d be worth it to spend a couple of years in the state pen, knowing I cracked that fucker’s skull open.’ 

So I kept walking and got kind of hungry and checked to see how much money I had and found I had five dollars.  Well, there was one cheap meal.  What about the others?  And how was I going to pay for my own place?  There was a lot to think about, but first things first:  I walked back to school to get my car—it was still in the parking lot—and by then it was almost dark, and there were chains across the exits to keep kids from hanging out there after the school was closed.  So I got in my car and drove it over the curb and a bed of flowers planted to spell the school initials.  Ha!  How do you like your flowers now, motherfuckers?

I thought about going to the steakhouse, but if I did that I’d have to tell Nick how completely I’d failed to take his advice.  And then I thought, ‘Oh, shit, of course.  I’ll go to Grandma’s!” This was my father’s mother, and she was just crazy about me, being the eldest grandson, and plus, she knew something about scandal herself.  When I was four years old, she’d left my grandfather for another man, and for almost two years my dad and, by extension, our entire family, froze her out.  Meantime, she was the only reason I owned a car.  Right after I got my learner’s permit she got herself a new one and gave me the one she already had.  It was a 1971 aqua blue Chevy Impala:  not much to look at, but at least I had wheels. 

So I drove to my grandmother’s and told her I needed a place to stay and explained my reasons why.  I didn’t say I’d slept with Megan’s mom but, in so many words, I told her I’d fooled around, and a supposed friend of mine had spread the news all around school, and my grandmother said, “Well, you did the right thing, honey.  If I’d’ve been there I’d have smacked him a few times myself!”  God, I loved that woman!  And she fixed me supper and went upstairs to get the guest room ready and came back down and said, “Now, honey, you know you’re welcome to stay here as long as you want to. It’s been pretty lonesome around here since Luther died.”  Luther was the scandal-causing second husband.  “But,” she said, “don’t you think your momma and daddy are going to be worried about you?  Here, let me just go in and give them a call and let them know you’re safe with me.” 

Well, I’m sure you can guess what happened next.  She called them up, and I sat there listening and realized I’d fucked up still again.  Now she was mixed up in this whole mess, too, and I couldn’t let that happen.  So, while she was still on the phone, I went over and gave her a kiss and said not to worry, I’d stop by in a couple of days, and with her trying to stop me, I walked out the door and drove out to the steakhouse, where I told Nick the whole story and asked if I could stay at his place till I’d gotten a place of my own.  And, at first, he said I should go back home, but I said no way, I was never going back, so he said, “Well, I think Rico’s looking for a roommate.  Why don’t you go speak to Rico?”  Rico was the dishwasher, a Latin American guy from, I think, Colombia.  There weren’t a lot like him around town, but you could never really ask him about it since he spoke practically no English.  In fact, I wasn’t sure how Nick had managed to learn he was looking for a roommate in the first place.  But I walked back to the kitchen, where Rico was scrubbing the floor, and said, “Hey, Nick says you’re looking for someone to live with you.” 


“You.  Me.  Live.  With you?”

“Oh, yes yes yes!  Si, yes!”

“My own bedroom?” 


“Place.  Sleep.  Me.  My own?” 

“Sleep.  For you.  Yes yes yes, si, yes!”

Posted at 2pm on 10/15/2005 | comments are closed Filed Under: Fiction

"The sleep of reason
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