Even though I was high on ecstasy, I should have known the jig was up. And even though I subconsciously wanted to stop living a lie, it wasn’t right then. I was too hungry from an adrenalized day of risk taking and partying. I’d forgotten to eat and needed to gorge calories. I balanced a to-go plate of barbeque in one hand, opening my hotel room with the other. With the opening of the door, hunger became the least of my problems.
Four uniformed cops seized me and introduced my face to the nearest bed and yanked my hands back to cuff me. My wrists burned from breaking skin, but I felt lucky anyway. If I must be subdued by burly officers of the law, a pillow top mattress in a luxury hotel room was a pleasant place for the indignity. I cooperated with the buzz kills in blue, avoiding a tazer shock and earning a loosening of my cuffs.
I felt immense relief, of all emotions, bordering on gratitude. What awaited me was certain to be awful, but at least the stress of living the lie of illicit gains would ease. Perhaps my failed life plan could be corrected.
The Asheville cops that subdued me were dismissed by John Thornmartin, a plainclothes North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement officer, and his sidekick. “Sorry y’all had to wait around all night, fellas,” he said as they left.
This pleased me. Better the police idling in my room for six hours than harassing my Widespread Panic concert-going brethren as they frolicked about the town. I’d “taken one for the team” by accident.
Thornmartin proved genial; a credit to law enforcement. “I’m starving,” I told him. “Who knows when I’ll be able to eat again?” He changed the handcuffs to my front, then I sat on a bed and endured questions as I chowed.
“Where’d you get the drugs?”
“I plead the fifth.”
“Are you working alone?”
“I want my attorney.”
My mouth was full for every response, which I found funny. I nearly choked from talking, and even laughing, while eating too fast, and finally just kept shaking my head in response. I welcomed the distraction, though, otherwise I might’ve broke down and cried.
“Hey, thanks for letting me eat,” I managed at one point. “Mind grabbing me one of those waters there?”
Thornmartin glared as I nodded towards the water. “Now you’re really pushing it!”
Probably wishing to avoid a captive choking on his watch, the cop fished a bottle out of a nearby cooler. Next to the cooler sat a large Tupperware container full of drugs. Twenty bags of high-grade pot, and forty-five grams of MDMA powder (a/k/a molly), which is over four hundred doses. Also dooming me was an ounce of the supercharged psychedelic smokable DMT, multiple non-prescribed anti-anxiety pills, and various tools of the drug dealing trade like digital scales. I’d need a good lawyer.
Clearly I wasn’t going to talk, and Thornmartin soon lost his patience. He halted my greedy gorging before I was through and cuffed me behind the back again. I protested as he directed me towards the door, but he scoffed.
“We’ve been here for six hours,” my arresting officer explained. “We need our own fucking food.”
We passed through the plush lobby, my first of several genuine Walks of Shame over the next few years. My molly buzz was waning, but still active. It shielded me from the embarrassment I normally would’ve felt. Bystanders gawked, and it felt like each person I passed saw me as the shit stain I had become. Thornmartin shuffled me to an unmarked SUV, and I headed to jail for the first time since my misdemeanor, twenty-five years earlier.
Only Thornmartin and I boarded the police vehicle for a two minute ride, me riding shotgun. I noticed my long arms and fingers allowed me to probe my back pockets and took advantage. I fished out several small zip-top packets of molly the cops failed to frisk out and slipped them into the seat crack, undetected. Ditching this evidence couldn’t hurt my case, and I hoped the jailbird who next cleaned the vehicle enjoyed the powder as a tip.
I tottered into Buncombe County Jail booking, and into the modern hell of trying to recall a phone number. I had two for my lawyer memorized (you know, on the off-chance I was ever arrested), but both went unanswered and the blocked jailhouse number prevented a call back. I sat amid several other bustees who likewise lacked phone number info, under the pressure. So began an agitated countdown.
Snippets of cell numbers and those of old land lines bounced around in my head, but none of them worked. Worse, the attending cops ignored direct questions, as if they were deaf, and each use of the phone required begging. I felt the discomfort of being a second class citizen. Disordered thoughts invaded and the fog of my fading buzz worsened my dilemma. How long would I be locked up if I never contacted anyone?
I needed to be sprung fast, to clean up my apartment in case a federal raid was directed there. What about my belongings left behind in the hotel room? And what of my car parked there with a $6,500 stash earmarked for a potential resupply purchase? Oxygen seemed hard to come by. A panic attack loomed.
With my fingertips freshly ink-stained, they barked directions to the next stage of booking. There, I watched my belongings being cataloged when salvation, in the form of a phone number, finally came to me: an Atlanta restaurant owned by one of my best friends, Ted. I’d worked there years earlier and knew someone might still answer the phone as three o’clock neared on a Friday night. My heart soared.
“May I please, please, please use that phone over there, officer?”
“After I’m done booking you in you can,” she mumbled. Minutes seemed like hours as I pictured the restaurant manager killing the lights and locking up.
I finally placed the collect call and spoke my name at the tone: “Ted’s friend Garrett.”
Eons of silence passed, followed by the sweetest voice: “Garrett, it’s Lauren.”
I knew her the best of all the managers. I spat out my situation. “Damn! Okay, I’ll call him right away. I know he’s still awake.”
In theory I’d be sprung quickly.
In the meantime they stuck me in a holding cell. They call it the cooler, since it’s as cold as a goodbye from a cheap hooker. Hours passed as I sat with teeth chattering and my t-shirt pulled over my knees, confused by the delay. Had one of my best friends forsaken me? My thoughts ran to other dark places, including suicide. I began beating myself up for a long string of poor life choices, and the relief I felt at my arrest was gone like my creature comforts. I’d fucked myself good. Oh to return to six days earlier, when all seemed to be in order…