Confessions of a Desert Dirtbag: Or Musings of a Convicted Felon and his acquisitions of taste.
Prelude: After the Fuck-Up
“Almond, Tommy Almond.” My voice sounded like metal on a lathe. I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. You rarely do in a drunk tank. The lady had definitely seen my likes before, yet I couldn’t help be feel embarrassed by my rugged exterior. My hair was uncombed, my clothes all wrinkled from being stuffed in a bag the night before. My breath stank of the runny eggs and hard biscuit I’d forced myself to eat that morning and the circles under my eyes probably aged me quite a bit.
Gabriella Florita, as her nameplate called her, was an old, fat Mexican woman. I can always tell a lot by looking at a person, and her I read like a book…now that I was calm. She had the holier than thou air of a woman who had lucked into a nice job after years of menial labor. Probably a high school drop-out, her make-up was overdone and her hair was straight out the books of a Super Cuts catalogue. If a younger, healthier woman had filled her position, she could’ve been a career go-getter. Mrs. Florita was an, more like, an early grandmother. It stood the test of logic that she hadn’t always been qualified for this position. Most likely she had attained her GED somewhere in her mid-twenties. Something between a semester of community college and an associate’s degree had taken a woman like her well into her early forties. Looking at her desk from behind the bullet proof glass, I saw several family portraits- an obviously under-achieving son she was oh so proud of, a daughter whose promiscuous dress hid her body image issues and a husband who had long since grown fat from years of pork rinds and greasy fast food.
“Just one moment, Mister Almond.” She said in her overly done New Mexican accent. She jiggled away, her Wal Mart floral coat breezing behind her. I looked at the clock to gauge what I should do for the rest of the day. 8:00 in the a.m. Plenty of time to set about my business. I had made a pledge. Twenty three years of living stupidly ended the moment I was read my rights. I was better than this bitch in all regards- smarter, more articulate, healthier. But yet she was still better off than me. That wouldn’t do.
It would be a long walk back to my apartment. Whether Agatha would be there when I got back remained to be seen, and would determine how I would spend a good portion of my day. No doubt she would take the position of power, dangling the fact that she could drop the charges if I subjugate myself to her over my head. She’d bait me, call me names, call me a fuck-up. Then the turn: she’d ask if I even loved her. It was a baited question. Answering what I meant- no- meant she would take my daughter and fight to ever let me see her again, a fight I would most certainly lose. Answering what she wanted to hear- yes- meant more degradation and more heartache. That is until now. I could not abide this way of living any longer, and she would just have to understand.
“Okay, Mister Almond. The lighter in your pocket was deemed dangerous so it was thrown away. Here’s your wallet, with a New Mexico driver’s license, social security card, Presbyterian medical card and library card. Do you see anything missing?”
“Yeah, the pictures of my daughter?” I glanced back at her, half knowing what she would say.
“Mister Almond, sir, given the nature of the charges against you it was decided to destroy those as well.”
“Right, so my wife beats me, gets some bruises from bashing me in and all the sudden my daughters photographs are destroyed because I’m dangerous?” I say incredulously, despite knowing my protests were futile.
“Sir, I wasn’t the one responsible to the decision. If you feel you have been wronged, you can contact the State Corrections Agency, here’s there number.” She replied, handing me a stock card full of phone numbers. I could have told her that the process would take months and that they’d probably rule against me anyways. I could have told her how inconsiderate they were to take a daughters photo away from her dad. But based on the look in her eyes I knew the record was spinning and it only played one song.
“Whatever. Look, what about the money that was in here.”
“Oh, sorry I forgot to mention that. Actually, sir, we’re not allowed to give cash money back to recently released inmates. So we loaded the six dollars and fifty cents you had onto this card.” She produced a white and grey Visa card from a nondescript envelope. “We did subtract a one dollar and fifty cent processing fee.”
“So wait a minute, you’re saying you charged me to load my money onto a card I didn’t want in the first place?” Again, I knew the answer.
“Sir, I had nothing to do with that decision-making process if…” She started. But time was burning and I needed to get out of there.
“…I feel I have been wronged I can contact the blah blah blah. I’ve got the number. Whatever. What about my other stuff?”
“Here are your keys.” She was obviously anxious to get rid of me also.
“Some keys are missing. My house key, car key, mail key…”
“Your wife took out a restraining order on you at the same time you were arrested. She specifically asked that you be denied access to any key to her apartment, her vehicles and the mailbox. You should be served within 48 hours.”
“That’s fucking retarded. The apartment is in my name, all the bills are in my name, both cars are in my name and the mailbox is in my name!” This was getting really ridiculous. I never thought Agatha would go this far.
“Sir, I had…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah nothing to do with that fucked up, retarded, bullshit decision-making process. I’ve got the fucking number.”
“Sir, please speak respectfully to me.”
Truth be told, it wasn’t her fault. My ire had gotten the better of me. This poor woman, no matter how worse she was than me, did not deserve to be degraded by me. I made a show of taking a relaxing sigh and rubbing my eyes wearily. “Apologies. Long night. You understand.” She didn’t respond. “What about my cigarettes?”
“Do I really need to tell you?” She asked. Stupid she might be, she did have a wit to her now. I lifted up the phone list she had given to me and pointed to the phone number, which drew her nod. “Great.” She gave me some paperwork to sign and I was officially released from the Marquez County Holding Facility. Great. I was more than stressed enough to need a cigarette right now.
Even worse, I wasn’t sure I had enough to pick up a pack proper. In Las Soledad, New Mexico the cheapest pack of cigarettes was five dollars and twenty-five cents. I knew that because there had been plenty of times I coagulated all of my change to get one pack, and knowing how much I needed was a boon. Now I had five dollars. If I was lucky someone was waiting outside for me- my mom, a lawyer, a bondsman- someone who either had a cigarette to lend or who had enough change to lend me to get a proper pack. If I was unlucky, I’d have to hope for enough change on my walk to the nearest gas station. If was really lucky, someone had discarded a half used pack. In any case I would still need a lighter.
My luck was obviously sour, something I realized the moment I stepped outside. The parking lot was completely barren save a few vehicles near the visitor port and it smelled of the nearby sewage treatment facility. And it got worse. Sitting in the back seat of the police cruiser I had totally lost my bearings. Las Soledad was a new city to me after all: I’d barely been here 4 months. I was totally tired, hungry and without nicotine…and completely lost.