It doesn’t matter what we do, where we’re going to.

I already knew what she was going to say, I just couldn’t believe she’d actually said it.

“Remand her into custody. Please place your belongings on the floor and place your hands behind your back.”

I put my Steve Madden leather tote on the floor, turned to face the officer approaching me with gloves and handcuffs, and put my hands behind my back. The deputy walked behind me as he put the blue gloves on himself and the cold cuffs on me. He picked up my purse, grabbed my arm, and led me out through the back of the courtroom into a hallway with benches lining the wall.

The judge behind me called out another person’s name. Court went on for others, but not for me. This is where it ended for me. Every person’s nightmare.

Nausea overcame me. Sitting down, I focused of my black flats. They were pretty scuffed. I hadn’t even bothered to shave my legs when I decided to wear this black and white striped dress. I don’t even think it was clean. This dress that I’d worn to work so many times. My professional job. I’m a professional, things like this don’t happen to professionals. I wasn’t a professional, I was a drunk. I was hungover as I sat there on that cold bench, answering questions from the deputies, my head pounding, trying to act professionally.

The deputies, a man and a woman, were really nice. They went through my purse, made jokes about the junk I carried, “Your purse looks like mine,” the lady deputy laughed, “All receipts and no money… I should really organize my purse.” You should really organize your purse lady, if you don’t, you end up arrested like me.

She dumped out my change from my wallet into a plastic bag. She checked every pocket of my wallet. In that moment, I was glad I didn’t do drugs. I feel like I would’ve hidden my drugs in my wallet. But I wasn’t a drug addict, I was an alcoholic. In that moment, I was glad I had dumped the mini wine boxes from my purse into my car that morning. That would’ve been really awkward.

The male deputy held my phone in his hands.

Earlier that morning when I’d first arrived to court, my public defender let me know that I’d be going into custody, the judge was very mad at me.  Well guess what, I wasn’t too happy with her judicial system, either. I asked my public defender, Kaitlin, how long I had to turn myself in.

“No,” she said, very earnestly shaking her head, “You’re being taken in today.”

As she continued to explain to me what would happen, I pulled out my phone and texted my dad what was happening. I let him know where my car was. That everything would be OK. I’d call him when I could. Then I’d texted my friend Karli a ‘happy birthday’. Then I’d walked into the courtroom.

The deputy now holding my phone let me read a final text from my dad and my friend. This phone that was practically inseparable from my hand was now being shut off and placed into a plastic bag. Bye, phone.

After all my belongings were in plastic bags, I was walked down the hall to another hall where I was to wait for the court bus to take me to my new home. Being seated across from a holding cell gave me only a glimpse into what would soon be my reality. There were girls banging on the metal doors, asking for lunch (it was about 10:30 am.) There were girls yelling through the door for more sanitary pads. There were girls yelling at the deputies for more toilet paper.

A girl dressed in greens (green jail clothes) was walked past me and sat at a bench away from me. She was sobbing. I tried to avoid eye contact. Why was she in green? I don’t look good in green.

“Excuse me, can you pray for me?” I tried to ignore her.

“EXCUSE ME, can you pray for me? I just found out what I signed for… I signed for three years. I didn’t even know that. I didn’t know what I signed for. Please pray for me, that I can appeal this. I can’t be away from my kids that long…. They think I tried to run her over on purpose, I didn’t! Please pray that I get out of greens, its horrible!

I looked at her like, what the fuck.

I prayed with her.

The deputies took her away through a door that led to the outside. Outside, was a giant San Diego County Sheriff’s bus. She was walked into the bus. I got really nervous. Everyone has jail clothes and I’m going to be the newb with the black and white striped dress. Great.

Hours passed, and the girls kept yelling about toilet paper, and I was still sitting on a bench. The bus had left and I was alone. Finally, two deputies came up to me.

“Gomez?”

I would now cease to have a first name to anyone in control.

“Let’s go.”

I was walked to the door that led outside. There was a police SUV waiting for me.

“You get a special ride! Jump on in, here let me get the door for you.” What the fuck was he so damn chipper about! I was going to jail.

I climbed inside. It’s actually really hard to board an SUV when you can’t really use your arms to climb in and you’re wearing a dress. It was awkward but I made it.

We drove through downtown San Diego and I got to see all the places I hadn’t visited yet. I’d lived in San Diego for over a year and spent all of it drunk and hungover, so I didn’t really sight see much. I regretted that, now. I felt sad at that moment for everything I was missing out on. For everything I had missed out on. I prayed to God, a prayer so deep I still remember how sad I felt, I prayed, “Please let everything be okay.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew there wasn’t anything I could do now to make anything better, so God was the only one that could.

“Hey, what’d you do? Why are you going to jail? You don’t seem like you belong there!” One of the deputies abruptly asked me.

“Um, DUI, I guess.”

“Ah, yeah, that’ll get you. Can’t drink and drive, you know. You’ll be okay, don’t worry.”

The officers jabbered on and on about nonsense. They talked about working on Labor Day, and how many arrests they made on each holiday. (Apparently, Christmas is the worst holiday. They attributed it to drinking due to family stress.)

They drove and drove and drove. I recognized that we were in Santee. Then I followed the same booking process I had gone through on my two previous arrests that had landed me here. They took my picture. They took all my jewelry. I went through a scanner machine. I faced a wall as I got patted down by a stranger. I got fingerprinted and the lady deputy fought with the fingerprint machine. They took my shoes. They gave me a wristband with my black and white photo on it. My hair looked huge, I wish I had brushed it.

Then they uncuffed me and took me to a room with three stalls with curtains.

“What size are you?” the deputy asked.
“Um, medium?” How do you know what size you wear in unisex jail clothes?

She threw me some faded blue pants and shirt along with white granny panties and off-white sports bra.

I got changed and immediately started laughing. I looked fucking ridiculous. This cannot be real.

It was real.

Like this, except the back of the shirt
and the pant legs said “SD JAIL”

She took my black and white striped dress, pink underwear, black bra, and put them into a brown paper bag. She threw me a size medium pair of orange plastic “shoes”, ugh these were THE WORST!!

I slipped these bad boys onto my feet and slipped and slid into the next holding cell. I waited.

After a while, another deputy came and grabbed me and another girl and we walked down the hall. We had to walk only on the right side of the hall and only with permission. We were each handed a  card, mine said “3C” and given a rolled blanket, folded sheet, grey sweatshirt, socks, and a ziplock baggie full of mini toothpaste, a toothbrush, two small bars of soap, and a bottle of clear shampoo. This was going to be a tough ride.

We climbed into a golf cart thing and the chipper deputy (do you notice how happy the deputies all are? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? Don’t you know I’m in jail) asks us where we are going. I’m like, totally clueless. Can I go home? Oh, she meant the card. Where am I going, my housing unit… “Umm.. 3C” I tell her. 3D is the other girl.

She drives me and this other girl through the facility.

We finally arrive to our housing units. I have to push a button and the heavy metal door clicked open. I carried in my blanket and jail comforts and walked to the deputy desk.
I was actually cell 20
I don’t really know how to explain what the inside felt like, besides….depressing. It looked okay, it was clean, the chairs were a lime green color, there was a mural of the ocean. There was a giant window overlooking a giant wall, reminding us gently that we were in jail. There were girls sitting around tables and in chairs. Some were walking around. 
But everyone stopped when I walked in.
“Um, hi.” I said to the deputy.
“Let me see your card.”
I gave her my card.

“Go to 20.”
I looked around like, what the fuck. I instinctively went up the stairs, not really knowing if that’s where 20 was but I wasn’t about to ask any of these criminals for directions.

A girl that was staring at me from her door popped out of her room.

“20 is right here, next to me. Here, let me introduce you to your bunkie. Frankie, your bunkie is here.”

I pulled open the door and saw this cute little rockabilly girl sitting on the toilet and she eyed me up and down.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry, oh my god, I’ll come back…”

She smiled at me and flushed the toilet and was like, “Here is our room, you can read these books if you want to, here is your shelf. Do you want me to help you make your bed?”

I stared at her. I stared at the pad on top of a plastic frame. I stared at her.

“I don’t know what I’m doing. This is my first time in jail.”

“Oh okay, you haven’t been here before? No problem.” She laughed and then proceeded to give me the total Surviving Jail for Dummies lowdown. We instantly connected and I clung to her like a safety blanket for the rest of my week in that room. She was likable and friendly and funny and we had the best talks until we fell asleep.

There was something very sterile and peaceful about being on lockdown. We were locked down most of the day except for meals. Frankie and I would mostly sleep and then take turns asking the deputy what time it was. The room was air conditioned and I swear there was something being pumped into the air to make you sedated. Or maybe, I just finally felt at peace.

Finally, everything I was running from had caught up to me. I had zero control over what was happening right now and I felt kind of okay with that somehow.

One morning, I woke up to hear her talking to a couple of girls at the table overlooking the outside.

“No, she’s totally normal. She’s cool. I like her — oh hey! I was just telling them you weren’t kicking heroin or anything.”

We laughed.

I proceeded to walk in on her going to the bathroom like 10 times during my week stay with her. I tried really hard to convince her I wasn’t a creep but she didn’t make me feel awful about it.

“That’s just jail living” she’d say.

Everyone wanted to know why I was there. I didn’t “belong” there is something I heard a lot. I met a lot of girls that were there for drugs. Some grand theft auto. Some credit card theft. My story was a little more complicated than that, so I just said DUI and left it at that.

“Ah yeah, the alcohol, that’ll get ya” some girls would say.

There was this one girl that would stand next to the giant window with me, the giant window that would overlook the giant wall reminding us we were in jail. Just baaarely, you could see the streets of civilization outside. Just enough to make you remember that you want to be on the other side of the wall. Me and this girl would stand there, and she’d always end up crying. I’d leave her at that point.

I couldn’t cry yet.

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