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Call Me Sparky
I didn’t mean to get caught. I was invincible. I was charming. I knew it was stupid, but I was sure that everyone did it sometime – and I wasn’t planning on doing it forever. I admit that it wasn’t a one-time thing. But I was going to stop, at some point. I wasn’t that naïve.
When the creases my eyes made from smiling looked more like crows feet and my cute dimples made my round, youthful cheeks sag, I would find a husband. A nice, low-key kinda guy. We would have a kid. Maybe two, if I really loved him. We’d move to a nice, inconspicuous town. Maybe somewhere in California, or Florida. I’ve always liked the heat. Maybe I’d even get a job. But that day was far in the future as far as I was concerned. I was happy. Young. My hair had a nice shine to it. I knew not to be too flashy. Not too noticeable. I had one of those girl-next-door faces that are pleasant to look at, but not too strange or memorable. As far as I was concerned I’d have a run of at least five more years. Maybe six, with some brightener and concealer dabbed onto my face. Ruby red lipstick. A big smile.
Anyway, when it happened, my parents didn’t even know where I was. My brother had already passed on – leukemia. No, don’t pity me. I always get that – Oh I’m so sorry… That look of embarrassed pity. Gaze distant. Eyes averted. Fidgeting.
I think I was in Oklahoma. It was definitely Summer. I can still feel that short sassy skirt brushing my knees. Strappy sandals. There was always a nice fresh-cut grass smell by the park, so I spent my days there.
But evenings, I’d hang out with Mickey and Jim. Found them at a bar one frigid night back in February. We became a team. Of course, I was the smartest. And the prettiest. Jim… Jim had no brains. No brawn either. I don’t know why we let him stick around, waiting in the corners, telling bad jokes. He didn’t deserve a penny. Mickey was great, though. Well, as good as any thug could be, I mean. A relatively nice guy, save for a tendency towards liquor. Beefy. Hardly any neck. But sweet eyes. I can still see them, now, crinkled and laughing. Never serious – never a care in the world. These kind of guys weren’t going anywhere.
Back in the park, a book opened in my lap. But I wasn’t really reading it. I was daydreaming all the time, then. Shifting position, the skirt clung to my sticky thighs, scratchy and acrylic. Felt sleepy. Probably the heat. So I was in a pretty mellow mood then, when the first one sat down on the grass beside me. In his blue suit and white cap, I didn’t think much of it. He had a purposeful bounce to his step, warm hands, a firm handshake. Can’t recall his name.
I tell him – “Oh, hey there. How are you? It’s a gorgeous day.” Laughing. He looks up at the sky. Blue sky. White clouds. Very picturesque. I got a big smile from him. A nod. A –“ Yes, ma’am.”
“Would you like to sit down?” I ask, polite as ever.
“Oh, why not?” He takes off his hat. Was that a tinge of a southern accent? He has really gorgeous jet black hair. It’s a bit wavy, a bit mussed from being held in place by the cap. We made small talk. He seemed amused by me and I thought – oh, how nice. How perfect it would be for me – heavens! – me, married to a cop! How ironic! I pondered our future.
We yakked a while, then, just for the heck of it I let slip about Jim. Not Mickey, though. I’d find a way to save him. Send him a note maybe. Or a quick phone call. I’d be awfully sad if he was caught. But me! It never even crossed my mind—that I could…would…be found out.
When the second one came, I smiled politely. Probably just his friend. I thought. More polite conversation. What name am I using?
“Oh, hello. I’m Betty. Nice to meet you.”
“Didn’t you just say Eliza?”
Quick thinking. Pulse pounding. I remember feeling my face flush, glad for the blush and cover-up I’d applied that morning.
“Elizabeth. Friends call me by both names.”
I’ve always been a good liar.
Raised eyebrows, then shrugs.
When number three comes along, he brings a baggy with him. It smells cloyingly sweet, makes me a bit nauseous. A pool of viscous oil is beginning to collect at the bottom of the clear plastic. The first one sticks his hand in the bag and pulls out a fat donut. My stomach rumbles. I look up at the sky, the sun has shifted. Didn’t eat breakfast. Lunch is way overdue.
“Hey, can I have one?” Polite smile. I know I look good today.
I’m wearing a light blue and white checkered dress, matching white sandals, round white thick framed sunglasses tucked into my hair. A modest blue purse by my side. My eyes are big, wide like a child’s.
Number one looks at number three, eyebrows arching up.
Number three shrugs. Pulls out another thick sugary treat. I bite into it, ravenously. Chew quickly. Swallow. I feel the coarse sweet crystals slide down my throat.
When they brought me into custody I was all tears and mumbles and “ I’m so, so, sorry for what I’ve done.”
I pulled out my rosary, kissed it. Waved it in the air.
Cold tears numbing my cheeks. Eyes sparkling. Lips working like a fish out of water.
My life was over. Criminal record. Jail. Probably will be raped. Rape. Rape. Rape. It fills my mind with an eerie, deafening silence.
All I knew about prison was from Saturday morning cartoons. People with heavy metal balls chained to their legs. Black and white striped suits. Big beefy men like Mickey. Well of course, Mickey and Jim were caught too. They’d been caught first. Later I heard it was Mickey who spilled the beans on me.
But through it all, through the drama, the tears, the shrieks and apologies, I felt detached. I felt my soul, my mind, floating away somewhere safe and distant. I saw everything that happened in a sort of hazy filter. I could hear the questions asked of me, I heard myself numbly respond…but at the same time it was like watching it all through a movie lens.
It looked almost romantic. Like a romantic tragedy. And me, playing the role of the beautiful heroine.
Of course they tried to send me to jail. But I knew as soon as I saw Mickey’s face in the courtroom that I had to find a way out. I couldn’t stand spending even a week in the same building as him. My betrayer.
Oh, my mind was strangely positive throughout that grueling experience. I knew what I’d do when I finally got out. A movie. A documentary. Much classier than a regular old movie. It would be a chronicle of my life. I would be the brave, misunderstood survivor. I’d become rich. Maybe I’d even become a philanthropist. Start a cause for children dying of some horrible disease. Then I’d go back to school. Maybe even move on to get a graduate degree.
I knew I had to figure out how to evade this problematic jail thing first, but it shouldn’t be that hard. They do it all the time in movies, right?
I remember when I was a kid, my dad often repeated that my looks would be my downfall. My mom laughed. She knew better. She said,” No. She’s a dreamer. Head in the clouds sort of person. She won’t get anywhere in the world because she’s not looking where her feet are taking her.”
Whenever I taste a donut, I think of that day in the park. I can hear the birds mocking me. Their sing-song voices echoing in my head. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. That’s what they are singing. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.
Tomorrow I’ll turn twenty six. My face is still pretty. Wrinkles will not come for another decade, at least. I hope. But come they will. I know this because I saw it happen to my friend, Jean. She had reddish hair that’s always pulled back in a bun. Jean was mid-thirties when I came here. Now she is pushing fifty. And looks about seventy five! I swear it’s the food in here. Can’t find a decent boiled potato in this place.
Nurse Anna told me to start this journal. She said.
Begin where your journey started.
She is all New-Age and hocus-pocus. She brings us acrylic paints, cups with water, brushes and paper. She says, “Vent.”
Venting will bring calm. I am so calm. This place. Cold. White walls. No padded cells, no thank you.
Syringes. Lobotomy. Those words scare me.
She told me, “Write about the past and how it brought you here. Just keep on writing or drawing even when you think you’ve said everything.. Keep your pen moving.”
I used to think I was going somewhere. Even if that somewhere was prison. A jail sentence now seems so much shorter than this. Endless days. When will I leave? No clear answers, only cheerful smiles and winks and “Here, have a donut.” A Treat. I feel like an animal. Hi call me Betty. Call me Eliza. Call me Sparky.