Editor's note: Part 1 of "Island Girl" ran in the Crosscut Blog on Monday.
For 21 hours, my husband was held in the county jail in a town 39 miles and several land masses away. He was not permitted to call his new employer and explain why he hadn’t showed up at work.
At the exam and cavity search performed upon his arrival, J’s blood pressure was 170/110. He explained that he had severe hypertension and needed daily medication. The jailer assured J that a medic would visit his cell within the hour to re-check his BP and give him a dose of Caduet. Neither of these things happened. Apparently everything I learned about the rights of the accused from Law & Order was wrong.
The next day, J was served breakfast at 5 a.m. then hauled into “court.” Several hours after his arraignment, once the paperwork had been processed, J was released with a bus pass and a check for the amount of cash ($10.83) that had been removed from his wallet. He was shoeless, because he’d kicked off his sandals just prior to the arrest but had not been allowed to go back for them. It took him six hours and three buses to make his way back home.
Of course, I knew none of this at the time. Because I was in a hotel — which kindly offered a discount to island residents: 105 bucks a night — so I wouldn’t violate the restraining order the judge had put in place.
My son, a college student who had accompanied me out here to help with the driving and do a little sightseeing in Seattle, waited in our empty house. No TV, no stereo, no wifi. Just a copy of Catch-22 and a blanket on the floor. He didn’t want his stepfather coming home from jail to no one, he said. So he sat, reading, while his 14-year-old sister and I camped out half a mile away.
She was bewildered. She’d only glimpsed J being led away in handcuffs as she and her brother — licking their after-dinner ice cream cones — walked up the hill. Now, she lay on a bed hugging the stuffed dog she’s had since she was 8, watching movies on TNT and trying not to ask me questions. This was good, because I didn’t have any answers. I had no idea what we were going to do.
The following morning, while she slept, I wrote a quick note on the inn’s stationery: “Back soon. Love, Mom.” Then I crept out and drove to a coffee shop where I ordered an Americano with five shots.
Thank God the place had wireless. I pulled out my laptop and checked my email but couldn’t stand the thought of explaining this situation back home. So I started Googling: domestic violence law, men’s rights, the ACLU. Then my reporter’s instinct kicked in; I pulled up a list of the island’s city council members and scrolled through the photos and names.
One guy had a particularly friendly face. And he’d been on the council for years. His phone number was listed right under the picture. It was 7:30 on a Wednesday morning, but I picked up my cell phone and dialed.
He answered in a damp, gravelly voice that indicated he might have been sleeping.
This is stupid, I told myself. He’s going to hang up on you. But I took a breath and started to talk. Fast. “You’re not going to believe this story,” I said. “We’re new to the island, I moved here three days ago, and somehow my husband has ended up in jail.”
I told him about everything: the argument, the wine, the dusky night, the car that nearly hit me, J’s bewildering arrest. Then the strange arraignment with J in his jumpsuit staring out from a white pull-down screen. The prosecutor, the no-contact order, our night in the island hotel. I finished with a ragged sound, certain I’d sounded like a lunatic. The police probably were gathering outside at this very moment, ready to snare me.
The councilman cleared his throat. “Do you remember the officer’s name?” he asked in that same voice. It was like something coming from the back of a wet cave.
I thought for a moment, then remembered: the large, bald man had given me his card. He’d handed it to me, along with a pamphlet about domestic violence. I pawed through my backpack, found the crumpled documents, and read the name out loud. The councilman sighed.
“Christ,” he growled. “I knew you were going to say that. Let me make some calls.”
(To be continued)
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