Weird stuff has happened today, and it’s too coincidental to ignore.
Five years ago tonight was the incident.
I was wondering why I had felt so dark these past few days. It occurred to me this morning that it was June 11th. It was the day my old life died and my new life started taking shape.
Nah, that sounds too dramatic. But it is something I haven’t written nor talked about much. And I’m starting to feel more comfortable talking about it now. I’m still not sure if it’s a good idea to put this on the web site. If not, I can always take it down.
Years back, I was married with three children. My wife, though, was ill. She had been diagnosed with a series of mental illnesses after she pretended to have an affair and pretended to be pregnant with this imaginary person’s baby. This was in 1998.
Around that time, we had joined a gym, and one of my college friends worked there. My wife and he became good friends. Even though I suspected them of having an affair, she grossly denied it. She did start taking working out more seriously and became an amateur body builder.
In 2000, we moved to upstate New York. She still kept in touch with him, and I started to accept that the marriage would never be the same.
In 2001, a series of misfortunes related to the dot-com bust led to us leaving New York and returning to Alabama. I got a job doing computer work and tech writing for Blue Cross Blue Shield in Jacksonville, Florida. This required me to be away from the family and live in Florida while they lived in Alabama.
During this time, it became obvious that my wife’s affair had reignited and was gaining momentum. She also started doing amateur boxing. Her temper also got more violent.
My entire team at Blue Cross got laid off, so I moved back home full time. It was a totally different environment. Yet I still had to keep the finances going. There were no jobs in Birmingham, so I interviewed for jobs in Atlanta.
After one interview, an old flame of mine said she was in town. We met, and I told her about my frustrations. It was one of those “one thing led to another” situations. Not something to be proud of.
I returned home, and my wife immediately confronted me about it. I’m not a good liar, so I told her the truth. She, the body builder amateur boxer, punched the crap out of my face and proceeded to pummel me while throwing whatever object she could get a hold of around the house. I ran upstairs to my son’s room, thinking it would be neutral territory and she would calm down. She took something heavy and threw it so hard it made a hole in the wall. I pushed her out of the room and locked the door.
I held on to my son and tried to calm him down. He was very shaken. An hour later, there was a knock on the door.
It was the police.
I came down and explained the situation. They had us separated.
I found out later that she had showed them the bruises she had gotten from her recent boxing match and told them I gave them to her.
I was arrested and put into the Birmingham City Jail. That was a nightmare. That was the greatest nightmare of my life. For one thing, they wouldn’t even let me put in my contact lenses (my wife had ripped my glasses apart in a previous fight). So I couldn’t see much of anything.
They put me in an unventilated hot holding cell with a bunch of other people. Someone had just taken a dump in the toilet, and a pissy drunk had taken over the bed, the one comfortable place to sit down. So it was hot, smelly, and hard.
Nonetheless, I talked to a few people there and, in my opinion, a good handful of them did not belong there. There were a few minor drug offenders, as in, they got caught smoking a joint. One kid was in there because he finally stood up to his abusive father-in-law and punched him back. And the good ol’ boy Alabama police put the wrong one in jail.
I spent a good six hours in the holding cell. It was daylight by the time they processed me. They put me in a faded striped shirt, elastic band pants (no underwear or anything) and flip flops. Oh, and a towel (for any Douglas Adams fans out there).
I was put in an area with cells and one common area. It was clean, and that was it. There was nowhere to sit. The towel and flip flops were used to make the floor less hard. People just sat there and did nothing for a while. Then a buzzer rang, and everyone went back to their cells and did nothing. Then the buzzer, and everyone went out. Buzzer. Back in. Buzzer. Back out. That’s the way it was.
My cell mate was a lowlife car thief. I met some decent human beings in the common area, but my cell mate was scummy. He was actually proud of what he did. He said he didn’t feel like walking home in the rain, so he saw some lady loading her pick up truck. He pushed her down and took her truck. There was a big police chase and ended up being an off road chase with news cameras in tow. He actually described one of the cameraman, who I was sure was one of my buddies I worked with when I worked in TV news.
He bragged about all the nasty stuff he had done and what he planned to do when he got out. He talked about how long he’d last before he’d start having sex with other inmates, which he admitted wasn’t long, depending on circumstances.
I myself was trying to figure out how to get out of there. Somehow, even though I was processed, I had gotten lost in the system. You know that one phone call you’re supposed to get?
I never got it.
They never gave me a PIN number to make outside phone calls. I tried to tell the guards, but they ignored me.
More people got to know me, and I got to know them. I actually started making friends there, or at least a group of folks who thought I was an okay guy. They all hated my cell mate. And they couldn’t believe that I was still in there.
It was three days.
The lights came on around 5 AM, and they woke us up just to get us out of our cells to just sit around and do nothing in the commons area. I started picking up on the routine a bit. I saw how there was a barter system there. People would sell items from their lunch trays or other things to get stuff from different parts of the building. My cell mate somehow scored some cookies and treated it like it was a great find.
I was still new enough there to see that as pathetic.
I did trade one of my meals with an inmate to get access to his PIN. I used it to call my mom to tell her what had happened. No one knew I had been in jail for three days. I didn’t know what she could do to help me. She was in another town on the other side of the state.
I wore on the rest of the day. In the cell. Out of the cell. Back in the cell. I looked forward to nightfall so I could just sleep. I started writing little notes with a stubby pencil to keep my sanity.
My cell mate went on another one of his bigoted redneck tirades, and I just told him he was a loser. My mouth always gets me into trouble.
He slapped me in the face and asked how I felt about that. I told him that he was even more of a loser because violence was the only way he could win an argument.
He hit me again. I pushed the guard button.
The guard asked what was going on. Before I could say anything, the redneck said, “This guy here is giving me lip.”
The guard replied, “Kick his ass, then.”
Redneck calmed down after a while and went to bed. I started drifting to sleep when the speaker crackled in the cell.
“Your brother’s here. You can go.”
My brother and his girlfriend picked me up. They took me to Atlanta, where I began the next phase of my life. The nightmare was still not over.
My wife had moved out of the house and hooked up with the guy she had been denying she had been having the affair with. She took the kids. She tried to make herself look like a domestic abuse victim.
I had a hearing a few weeks later. I was sequestered in a room when the hearing started and my wife gave her side of the story to the judge. My lawyer got me and led me to the courtroom.
The sight of the courtroom itself was like out of some movie. The only decorations in this judge’s courtroom was a large picture of a chain gang (yes, Alabama is backwards enough to have reinstituted chain gangs) and a letter from a prisoner thanking the judge for putting him on a chain gang.
I literally had let out only one word when the judge ordered me in handcuffs. My lawyer at the time, a fishing buddy of the judge’s, was able to convince the judge to let me out of the handcuffs. Thus was my introduction to how personal relations figure into the justice system and how flexible and organic it is.
In the end, the criminal case against me was thrown out by a different judge. I got the divorce, even though the particulars about child support were a bit messy. The divorce itself was finalized during my second month in Korea.
Even though I’m supposed to be able to have free communication with my children, I haven’t been able to get in touch with them in around two years. I send the child support faithfully each month, but it is unconnected with visitation, legally.
My ex-wife has done a few strange things over the years, including sending strange letters and blank envelopes to my family and accusing them of harassing her. We have been saving all evidence of my ex-wife’s, um, eccentricities, which we plan to make use of in the future if she pushes things too far.
It’s because of my experience with her that I have been able to handle my legal battle with Unnamed Hagwon Owner from Unnamed Hagwon. I’ve been through worse than this. And I’m tired of seeing good people get punished while bad people get off for free.
One of my friends got arrested and put in jail today. Today, of all days. Turns out he taught for a while illegally in 2005, and they’re just busting him for it now. Yes, it’s true he broke the law. And I always hear the law-and-order types (who have never been wrongfully accused of anything) say, “Well, he broke the law. Simple as that.”
Yet it’s another case of a good person getting in trouble while bad people go free. Yes, it’s true for many laws. If you break them, it’s a bad thing. Yet there are many other laws that are there to protect the powerful. Laws that are put in place out of fear and ignorance. Laws that are clumsy band-aids passed by lazy lawmakers who don’t want to tackle the real issues behind society’s problems.
It was stupid for my friend to break that law. Yet what was his crime?
He taught kids some English.
He didn’t go through all the red tape properly two years ago.
That was his crime. He’s going to get deported for this. He had built a life here, and it’s all gone.
Yet the person who stole over $6,000 from me? No jail for her. At most, she got a $500 fine.
Forgive me for being a little grumpy tonight.