“I can’t believe this,” the officer said after Sly (Sly didn’t like his full birth name, Sylvester) had been fingerprinted. The cop was paging through some documents at the podium where he stood.
He went on, “Didn’t you ever do anything wrong? There’s not even a misdemeanor on here. I’ve never seen a record so clean.”
“That should tell you something,” was Sly’s reply. Finally, this nightmare will be over. We were waiting on the other cop who gave me a breathalyzer test to see if I’d been drinking.
While giving the test that other cop said, “I know you’ve been drinking. It’s just a matter of how much.” Oh, he knew, right. Just wait for the results; he’ll be surprised.
I told that cop (kid really) that I didn’t drink but am sure he was listening like most others…not hearing.
It’s a fact that people do not like listening to me. My speech is less than eloquent. My left eye at times, floats, seemingly unhinged. So goes my visible disabilities, along with my unbalanced and uncoordinated gait.
Some are threatened by my unorthodox movements that had become natural to me. Some politely, consider me to have Parkinson’s. While others not so polite, assume me to be retarded or maybe have cerebral palsy. But most, and as is the case with this young man, consider me drunk.
Not wanting to be found lying, I volunteered some info to the officer at the podium, “My friend and I were pulled over for car theft once, but we didn’t steal the car. Some guy gave it to us as we walked up the alley behind the pool hall.”
“How old were you?”
“That doesn’t count,” he said.
Feeling good because I assumed the charges would be dropped now. Whatever they were. At last, this nightmare will come to an end. My character’s coming to light and that’s a good thing. Still, I was angry at the abusive, excessive, and overzealous treatment by the Stillwater police during the arrest.
Just then that kid-cop who administered the breathalyzer test entered the room and said to the officer at the podium, “Humph, I don’t get it. The breathalyzer came back negative. When he talks you can tell he’s been drinking.”
Talking about me as if I weren’t even there. Many do that. Would they mess with the results of the test somehow? I had always been taught to respect the police. I was taught to always be wary of them as well. He didn’t believe the test. I understood him not believing me because he administers that test to many and probably gets the same reaction. But how could he not believe the breathalyzer?
He walked over to me, his back to the podium cop, and asked quietly, “What did you do to the test; how did you alter it?”
The podium officer heard him anyway, “You should see his rap sheet. There’s nothing on it. Not even a misdemeanor.”
“Really?” I asked the kid cop, “Are you serious? I told you before taking the test that I don’t drink. The slurred speech is because of my disability, a traumatic brain injury (TBI). My speech slurs more when I’m tired, like now, I’m worn out.
Then too, I’m unable to find the correct word needed at the moment. Even when saying it in my own mind just seconds before. My speech disabilities are called dysarthria and dysphasia.”
“You probably noticed another of my disabilities, right? The way this arm,” Sly slapped his right arm, “sticks out like a bent flag, my whole right side is partially paralyzed. It’s as if a plumb line were dropped from head to toe. The left side of my body works. The right side doesn’t. I’m split exactly in half. Even my penis gets only half hard. The deadweight has to be lugged around with me wherever I go. I lost much of my balance and coordination in the accident too. I sound and look like a drunk but it’s my disability.”
These department cops didn’t seem to know what to do with me. Allow me to give you some background information on what led up to this wild and crazy day…
Months earlier the Woodbury Police had been called by me. They arrived at my door and I immediately spoke in an avalanche of jumbled madness. I told them the odd things that had been happening with my computer, in between gasps for air.
Once the police calmed me down, I more clearly explained the goings-on with my computer. One talked with me while the other looked about the townhouse. They then came together and said, “We want to help you but unless money has been taken, and you already said they didn’t take any money. There’s nothing we can do.”
I replied with, “Oh okay, so they didn’t take any money. They took my f%&#ing life!”
“Hey, calm down,” they both commanded!
But I continued, “So they can do whatever they want to me as long as my massive bank account (being facetious now) goes untouched? Where can I get some relief for what’s going on?” I asked.
“We don’t know. Computer crimes are pretty new to the force. I suggest that you try to bide your time. Stay off the thing for a while.”
“I can’t stay off; I need to be on that computer every day when not busy with my daughter. It’s how I look for work. I haven’t worked in ten years and the future looks empty too. I’m always trying to find a job but get turned down every time.
Raising my wonderful daughter apparently is all I’m fit for. I wish I had a job to go to every day, but I don’t. Life would be so much easier. The computer allows me to search for jobs. And I write using that thing. I can’t write with a pen and one paper.
When I go on an interview, they immediately see parts of my disability. They hear my drunk-sounding speech. Within minutes my hopes of being hired, have gone out the window. I do try.”
His female partner asked, “Your daughter. Is she the artist?” I had Liz’s school drawings pinned up all over the living room walls. Through her grade school years, Elizabeth’s drawings decorated the townhome.
Yeah, Elizabeth is my little prodigy. After her first day in kindergarten, I asked how it went? She just kept walking into the kitchen and said, “Fine Dad. But I’m not going back.” I asked why and she matter-of-factly said, “Because I already know everything.” I had to chuckle when my grade school comedian daughter said that.
July 26, 2000 – I got up the morning of the arrest with a clear head. An answer came to me while sleeping the previous night. I had a goal of immediacy, I needed to change all passwords on my computer.
Printing out my list of passwords and setting the list next to me on the small dining table, I began the arduous task. It took too long and made me more flustered and confused. I wasn’t able to get to all of the passwords before we had to leave, but I got a good start on them. By the end of the day, I’ll have them all changed, I thought.
For now, I had to take care of my daughter. Elizabeth had showered earlier so we went upstairs to the bathroom to brush her teeth before going to the dentist. From the dentist, we will go to her pool therapy at Courage Center in Stillwater.
Another flawless checkup was hers. We drove out to Stillwater and the Courage Center where her swim therapy would begin, but we were a half-hour early. Being ahead of schedule, we stopped at Caribou Coffee in that town to get a mocha and chocolate milk. Liz and I returned to our car. Everything was wonderful except for the gnawing pain in my head of somebody (and I was sure I knew who) messing with my computer.
Enter the devil…I can’t really blame the devil, that’s not right. It was me. I pulled the cupholder to the left of the steering wheel out. I set the to-go cup in there, but the rubber ring had flipped out. The cup hit the floor hard and the lid came off, coffee everywhere. I flipped out momentarily. Uncoordinated me leaned in to set the coffee in the center console holder. Again spilling…I went bonkers! Cursing me for the klutzy person I’d become. Then I picked the cup up and wiped underneath. Unbalanced me couldn’t set the cup in the holder. It spilled again! That was it; my tipping point.
I went insane. ‘Don’t go to the ex’s place while angry,’ I kept telling myself. My new normal had me doing exactly what I’d tell myself not to do. She had me unnerved by the stealing of my passwords at an earlier time, and I had watched her from a distance calmly write them all down. Of course, I didn’t know that’s what she was doing, but neither did I check. I believed her when she told me she was getting the addresses of her creditors. My fault for believing her without checking it out. Edith had never been honest with me going back to our beginning five years before. Allow me to give a little background info on that as well:
I sent her the money for airline tickets to Cebu so she could meet me at the airport. Edith didn’t meet me. We still got together even though I told myself to just mark it off as a loss and be done with her. She told me the circumstances and though not really believing them I thought…maybe? I mean the Philippines have different challenges than America.
While living as one, she stole my wallet, credit cards, etc., twice. I had to message her dad the second time and explain the dire situation. She had flown home to the island of Mindanao. Her dad had Edith back in Laguna on the island of Luzon that afternoon with my belongings.
All those devious deeds were flashing through my mind. The tires squealed as we left the parking lot. Driving like a madman we zipped by the Courage Center. One thought in my mind was to be early and wait for her appointment. I was too mad. To sit in a tiny room and wait.
My mind swiftly went over the wrongs done to me by Edith. I, not seeing anything but fire and daggers now, drove to her place. Driving pacifies me. It gives me a sense of control no matter how whacked out I am. Except for today. Today I am a total beast. Fit to be tied; that’s me. When we last spoke Edith said she’d be working on this day. I’ll just drive by her place, so I have a destination to go to. The few minutes it takes to get there will cool me off.
Within minutes we were on her street. Her car was parked out front. Edith lied to me again. Initially, I considered ramming it, but Elizabeth was in the car. Instead, I just touched her bumper with mine. Then I pushed her Dodge Neon back a few feet as chaos and furor took hold of my being. I drove down to the end of the block to leave. All I had to do was make a left turn. But I didn’t. Instead, I made a U-turn and parked in front of her car.
I tried to act calmly in Elizabeth’s eyes, with no success. All the unreal things taking place made me a mad-man. I asked Elizabeth if she’d be alright while I went up to talk to her mom? I’m not sure that I waited for a reply.
I hurriedly jumped out of the car and slammed the door. I wanted to stop myself but was unable to…self-control, I had none. The windows were left partially down so Elizabeth could have some fresh air, but I had the doors locked so no one could get in… She was safe.
Standing outside by the front of the car with Liz buckled in her toddler seat on the passenger side, I called 911. I feared my own actions. I wanted them to send a squad immediately to stop me. I was out of my mind. Instead of pacifying my rage 911 fanned the flames by asking if I were drunk? Our connection wasn’t the best using my cell phone. I hung up – then screamed, “Edith,” from the street. She didn’t come out.
Telling Liz that I’d be right back – I tried to bound up the steps two at a time like I used to before the crash but was unable. I tripped and fell which only escalated my anger. Picking myself up I continued along the walkway to her side door. I banged loudly on the door. All the while hollering her name. Edith did not answer.
Then after what seemed like an eternity of anger, a calm swept over me. I began walking back to the car thanking God that nothing had happened. Midway to the car I heard, “Sly?” I turned to see Edith with the door partially open. That’s just like her. Everything on her terms. I did an about-face and while she was still talking – I – as quickly as possible got to her door. She double-quick slammed it shut in my face. Again, I began the banging…
Bang and yell and push. During one of the pushes, she opened the door. I fell facedown onto her kitchen floor. I looked up. She was smiling, and lightly laughing while standing above me with arms crossed.
I asked, “Why are you doing this to me?”
“Doing what, Sly?” She impishly asked.
“Ruining my life.”
“What do you mean,” she knowingly asked while I got to my feet. Edith could take me in a fight, but did I care?
“Don’t be coy, you know what I mean,” and I wantingly asked “Why,” again.
She just kept toying with me while standing there in front of the stove looking so superior and proud of herself.
“Why did you steal all my passwords and and… I know it’s not you but probably your brother who you got to mess with my computer? You sent the passwords to him. You said he’s a whiz with computers.”
Edith walked to the couch as she began threatening to call the police. But…
“I already called 911 with my cell. They thought I was drunk so you call them,” and I lobbed the phone to her. She sat on the couch in front of the window. She calmly spoke to the operator while devilishly watching me as I stood watching her.
Then I grabbed the phone for a brief moment and said, “You couldn’t hear or understand me before when I called – I was on my cell phone.” Yeah right. As if that were the reason. I gave the operator my name, address, and phone number. She was only interested in speaking with Edith, however. So, I flipped the phone back to her. Even with her Filipino accent, her speech was clearer than mine. She was still on the phone with 911 when I turned to go check on Elizabeth, I let her know where I was going.
I got to the kitchen area, which means I turned around and noticed Elizabeth’s missing things heaped high in the corner. I asked Edith before over the phone, why Liz’s things were always missing when she returned her after a visit?
This was her antagonistic reply, “I don’t know Sly. Are you saying that I took them?” She had this irritating habit of answering a question with a question.
Seeing those items piled high in the corner like that upset me. No, it pissed me off! Before stepping out, I flipped the little table over and knocked the microwave off the shelf. She screamed into the phone while devilishly smiling at me.
The screen door silently closed behind me. Once outside I was not surprised to see policemen walking towards the house. On my way to see my daughter, one of the policemen asked, “Where are you going?” It was a non-threatening tone.
I stopped and turned to look at him while I spoke. I shouldn’t have opened my mouth because he then asked, “Have you been drinking?” Here we go again…
“No, when I get excited my speech gets worse.”
I didn’t see one of the cops go in the house but certainly heard him when he came out hollering, “Arrest him!”
That cop I was talking to grabbed me as I said, “Fuck you, ya’ gotta be kiddin’ me.”
I always thought it odd that those two one-syllable words were heard because they were mumbled under my breath. Yet, when I screamed and yelled about being disabled the police couldn’t, or more likely, wouldn’t hear me.
Immediately the cop I was talking with tried getting my arms behind my back. I shouted to him, “My right side is paralyzed! That arm won’t go back.”
The cop coming from the house shouted, “I’ll get it back” and he cranked it back. “You should see it in there. He’s got stuff thrown all over the place.”
Then two of the many cops that suddenly appeared held me and the one who had been talking to my ex inside the house smashed his fist squarely on my cheek and even shifted my nose with his punch. To this day, I have sinus problems.
I guess he realized that a little crowd had gathered and so as a safety precaution for himself hollered, “Resisting arrest!”
Those words excited every policeman within earshot. I, as loud as I was able shouted back – “I am not resisting arrest! I can’t! I am disabled! I can’t run, hit, or kick! I don’t have any strength! How can I resist arrest?”
But none would listen. I stopped trying and instead hoped for the ex to come out and tell them to stop, but of course, that never happened. After the police heard my voice I no doubt sounded real drunk by now because I had been shaken up pretty badly. The cop who hit me in the face hollered, “Get him down!” Two or more policemen pushed and forcibly shoved me down. My ribs and my chin taking the brunt of the smack-down. Because of my slowed reactions, I was not able to break the fall with my arms.
They pushed on my head forcing my chin to be scraped along the rough concrete sidewalk. Their knees were in my back. I told them, in agony, that they were hurting me. They knew that but brutally kept at me. Each time I moved – resisting arrest – was shouted. One even said, “Get the Taser!” Turning my head sideways for air I saw another cop running towards me from a distance. He blasted me squarely in the skull.
I was thinking, believe it or not, ‘How ridiculous. Now they have to arrest me to save face;’ I chuckled to myself. Not because it was funny but because of the ridiculousness of the situation. Resisting arrest was yelled again to justify the wrongs they were committing. I was being railroaded into being a combative suspect.
The cop who belted me squarely in the face now hammered me in the ribs. Twice, while being held down. It was as if he were trying to be the big man on campus or trying to impress the ex. I was unable to protect myself. It had gotten to the point where it was almost comical. My injured mind predicted what would happen next, and it was so.
I asked the cop who had spoken with Edith, “Who’s going to watch my daughter?” I knew they had to arrest me, otherwise they would look stupid. Not wanting to talk to me (he made that quite evident) but answering as if I were an annoyance he said, “She’ll be placed with the mother or child protective services.”
I told him, “Do not place Liz with her mother,” I had a good reason for saying that. Elizabeth had informed me previously that when she sleeps there, they don’t wear clothes. Daddy Harry, (as Liz was told to call him) Edith and Liz sleep in a single bed. I considered that nasty… I want CPS to watch her – not her mom. I have primary custody of her; can’t I say where she goes?”
The police officer’s surprised reply, “You have custody of her? Why doesn’t her mother? It’s normally the Mom who gets custody.”
I did not have time to put my thoughts in order, so I said that I didn’t know even though I did. Totally exhausted was I, and not wanting to talk because my energy was spent.
Giving up because I now sat handcuffed in the back seat of the squad. We took a ride to the new police department in Stillwater. Everything was blurring together. I’d never been arrested in my fifty-three years. I was asked a number of times if I wanted to see a doctor because of the blood and I did, but said no, thinking I would be let go sooner. I would take care of it myself probably, in like, an hour or so. But the ordeal dragged on and on.
As I said, I didn’t know what to do because I’d never been arrested. And my condition made matters a whole lot worse – mental as well as physical.
There I sat being questioned about my drinking. I rarely did that and not more than two beers at a time.
Steve Richie is a story weaver. He wants to share his inspiration and hopefully inspire others. His hometown was St. Paul, Minnesota where he lived for sixty-one years. He and his now seventeen-year-old daughter made the difficult, but right decision to move to the 'Show-Me' State of Missouri in 2015. Steve is happiest taking on a new adventure.