Well-intentioned. That’s what those birth moms are. The ones who won’t let their kids be adopted by do-gooder, middle-class strangers. Year after year, they try to get off drugs, give up the abusive spouse, and get themselves a permanent job so they can provide a stable home. Sometimes they succeed for a while, and the kids come home. Then something happens and they fall back to worrying more about where they’ll score their next hit than who’s hitting on their daughters.
They make me sick. They remind me of Claude, a cat I used to own, who would catch a bird in its mouth, drop it, play with it until it was half-dead, then walk away. I know the drugs are to blame but it’s the kids I feel sorry for. While the politicians and activists argue about mothers’ rights versus children’s rights, nothing changes and the kids keep getting chewed up in the system, until they end up in the same sorry situation their moms were in.
Enough is enough. Someone needs to do something drastic, and that someone is me. It won’t be pretty, and a few people may have to suffer along the way, but it’ll be worth it. You’ll see.
It's raining when they arrest me. Not a light New England drizzle, but a heavy, Florida- summer downpour, the kind that creates puddles in seconds, and floods in minutes. As the two police officers hurry me out of the front door and down the drenched, flagstone path, I have to keep myself from slipping on the wet ferns and sodden, scarlet hibiscus scattered in the storm. Barker looks like she is in shock. She keeps repeating in a low voice, “I’ll get you out of there,” like a Buddhist mantra. Poor Barker, she must be beside herself with worry.
It all happens so quickly. One minute we are sitting in the living room, watching a re-run of one of our favorite episodes of Friends (the one where Ross finds his red sweater); the next, Barker answers the door to two uniformed police officers who tell her they need to take Wynn Larimer down to the station for questioning. I don’t know who was more shocked—her or me. I could understand being arrested if I had committed a crime, or if I knew someone who had, or if I were connected in any way to any kind of criminal activity; I could comprehend it if I had a hidden past that had finally caught up with me; but I have been a model citizen, from the time I was a straight-acting kindergarten teacher in my twenties to my current status as a middle-aged, suburban, jewelry-making, lesbian.
“She’s on Aricept,” Barker yells at the officers as one of them pushes down on my head, shoving me into the patrol car, “it’s very important she doesn’t miss a dose.” She thrusts a prescription bottle at the male cop but he holds his hand up and says he isn’t allowed to take it. The young, female one tells her to put it in my pocket. “She won’t be able to keep it, but when they take her property, they’ll have an accurate record of the dosage. If they keep her, they’ll make sure she gets some, eventually.”
My memory medication is the least of my worries right now.
The A/C blows harshly on my wet legs and arms as I shiver in the back of the car, shaking out my dripping, lanky, curls. I try to get the attention of the cops, but there is a metal grille separating us and they have no intention of turning around. When we arrive at the police station, and they bundle me out of the cruiser, I ask what I’m being charged with. The mean cop mumbles contemptuously, “like you don’t know,” while the younger one says, with almost a hint of sadness in her tone, “we’re just arresting you; we don’t have to bring any charges yet. But if we do, it will most likely be for false imprisonment.” False imprisonment? Isn’t that what you’re doing to me? I want to ask, but it doesn’t seem like a good idea. When I used to visit Mom in the nursing home, half the ladies there would tell me they’d been kidnapped and were now falsely imprisoned. I hardly want to sound like one of them. But I’ve never imprisoned anyone in my life. Why would they think I have? Who did I imprison?
The next part is a blur but I know it involves being photographed and fingerprinted and repeating my name and address several times. Then they tell me I’m going to a holding cell. I can barely bring my feet to move as a large-boned officer walks me down the corridor. We pass cells that have no doors, just metal grates from top to bottom, where you can see everything the women in the cells are doing – slouching on their cots, shitting on the toilet. A young woman in a red bustier, black leather shorts, and boots that come up to her thighs, yells, “what did the old lady do? Rob Medicare?” I’m offended that she thinks I’m old, but I feel grateful for my age when we stop at a cell that has a proper door, with just a small metal grate in it, where they can pass food through.
After the door clangs shut, I look around me. Mom would have described this cell as barely having room to swing a cat, and although I detest that expression, it’s true. Two steps in one direction, three in the other and I’m at the perimeter of the cell. A foot away from me is the lower of two concrete slabs, each with a mattress so slim it would be more accurate to call it a gym mat. The slabs are attached to the wall and narrow enough to preclude two cellmates lying together should they be so inclined. I ought to claim one of the bunks as mine, since it appears I may be here for a while, but my choice is between a rock and a hard place. The upper bunk involves climbing up a little ladder, but lately my balance is so bad, I don’t think I should risk this. However, if I lower myself onto the other one, which is about knee-high, I may not be able to stand up again. So for now, I perch on the stainless steel toilet, which is awkward and extremely uncomfortable, as it has no lid and the rim is cold and hard.
Sitting on the edge of this metal toilet, my whole body aches. I can feel the arthritis in my hips starting up and if I really have to sleep on that yoga mat, I won’t be able to move by tomorrow morning. I want Barker. I want a lawyer. Nobody comes to get me, nobody interacts with me. As the hours wear on, I feel like I may go crazy in this cell, all by myself, with no one to talk to. It must be late evening by now. I thought they’d have had a detective ready to talk to me as soon as I got here, but perhaps they’re trying to psych me out by making me wait. They want me to confess to something I didn’t do. I’ve read about upright citizens who committed crimes with the Black Panthers or the Symbionese Liberation Army in their youth, who finally get caught when they’re middle-aged, but I’m not one of them. (And yes, I get that Ms. Bustier and Black Boots might not categorize me as middle-aged, but when she gets to be my age, I guarantee she will no longer think of fifty-nine as old.)
I wonder what Barker’s doing now. Did she walk the dogs? Of course she did. I’m the one who sometimes forgets, until I see them standing in front of me, their mournful eyes begging me to give their bladders some release. Did she heat up the curried vegetables I cooked earlier today for our dinner? Probably not. If she had any appetite she probably took a hot dog from the freezer, microwaved it, and slapped it on a bun with some ketchup. Hopefully, she’s frantically calling anyone she can think of to get me out of this mess. She knows enough people in her line of work. One of them has to be able to help me.
I keep going back to that idea of false imprisonment. Who could I have imprisoned? The only people I know of who are kept somewhere against their will are either spouses—and clearly Barker’s at home, so that’s not it—or girls who go missing and are forced into sex work. Barker has two clients who are missing right now, fifteen-year-old foster kids who disappeared when they were being transferred from a foster home over a week ago. She’s voiced her fear several times that they were abducted and are being kept somewhere. Could it be them? Do the police think I had something to do with their disappearance? That makes absolutely no sense.
Which brings me back to the thought that went round and round in my head while I was shivering in the police cruiser.
Someone has set me up.