Subject: car alarm
He was awakened by the turbulent sound of a toilet flushing. He felt as if he had been awake for days, and he just wanted some sleep. The thin foam mattress he found himself on offered little comfort, and the starched sheets and blankets provided little more than the illusion of warmth. He wasn’t used to a high level of comfort and hospitality, but even for him this was a step downward from the stark realities of home. He began to hear some shouts in the distance accompanied by a few clanks as metal met metal. It’s not the way to begin your day in any lifetime, but as he watched one of his cellmates head back to his own world of discomfort he was reminded of where he was.
A sigh. “That fucking car alarm.”
It had been less than 24 hours earlier when his troubles began, or rather when they finally caught up with him. After a night of partying with his crew, he had left the apartment of a girl he had met that night to make the walk home. He didn’t live far from here, just a few blocks to the north and then a short hike to the east, so he decided to make a workout out of it. Beginning a slight jog in the cool morning air, he had soon made his way halfway home when he heard it.
“That fucking car alarm.”
It wasn’t rare to hear car alarms in his neighborhood, but it was rare to hear it at this time of the morning. Usually everyone was asleep or getting home, or leaving some nighttime rendezvous that went too long, so alarms at this hour were rare. He kind of laughed to himself realizing they actually may not be all that rare. What was rare was his being up this early. Even through the haze of his hangover he could sense the stillness of this time of day. It seemed unusual compared to the busy-ness of the urban life, and he admitted that he actually liked it. The sidewalks were empty, and besides the occasional street vendor he saw no one. He could actually stretch out his arms without fear of hitting anyone. He stopped his jog and did just that, and the feeling of space actually felt liberating to him. Yes, he said to himself, he could get used to this.
The car alarm still blared in the stillness of the night. The sky was just beginning to turn that light hue of blue that announces the imminent arrival of the sun. He didn’t have far to go, and he knew that he would have to hurry if he was going to make it to his room before his grandmother caught him. He wasn’t worried about getting in trouble for being out all night. He had done that more times than he could count. His fear resided in the fact that she would ask him to attend Sunday services at her church. He always had trouble saying no to his grandmother, and today would not be any exception. She would not bother him if he was sleeping, but if she caught him awake all bets were off. He loved his grandmother, and realized it now for the first time in a long time. Maybe he would even stay awake until she woke up, and he would give her a hug and surprise her by asking to go to church with her. That would not just make her day, but her entire week! Maybe he would even watch the sun rise for the first time in memory. Maybe he would tell his grandmother about it. She would laugh, grab his cheeks with her aged but strong hands and plant a kiss right on his lips. He would act like he hated it, but that was just an act. Yes, her entire week would be made as would his day.
First, he would take a slight detour. He wanted to see what the car alarm was all about. A part of his brain was screaming “just go home, there is only trouble where that alarm is” but he just couldn’t help himself. It had only been a few moments since the alarms started, but the fact that it hadn’t stopped piqued his curiosity. Now he just wanted to see what was going on.
So, he crossed the street in a jog and headed toward the direction of the sound. The flashing red brake lights of the car made finding it easy, and as he neared it he could see that the passenger side window had been broken. He continued to run past it and didn’t stop to look to see what, if anything, had been taken from the car. No, the fucking car alarm and the broken glass was all he needed to see. It signaled trouble, and all he could do was hope that no one was still in the car as the sound went from in front of him to behind him. He kept his eyes straight ahead, and even stopped breathing as if the act would somehow make him more noticeable.
As he neared the next intersection he began to go right when another set of flashing lights appeared. The police were on their way, and soon they would discover not only what he saw, but what he didn’t see. Let them discover what was going on with the car, he just wanted to get home to his grandmother and the breakfast she was sure to make. He could almost taste it.
The police car screeched to a sudden stop and the driver yelled, “stop, and stay were you are!” The jogger did as told and complied when the officer ordered him to put his hands on the trunk of a nearby car and “keep them where I can see them.” After a short talk on the radio, the female officer got out of her car and headed toward the jogger. She almost reminded him of the girl he was with last night. Definitely a little older, but just as pretty albeit not nearly as fun. At least not at this time in this setting.
She asked him the usual questions. Where are you coming from? Some woman’s house. Why were you running? Just decided to run home rather than walk. Why were you running from the car broken into and isn’t that a strange coincidence? No, actually, I heard the alarm and wanted to check it out. I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
She began to frisk him. Something seemed oddly strange about having a nice-looking woman touch him like this. He couldn’t say he didn’t like it, and given different circumstances it might actually be fun. Then it dawned on him as the sudden wave of fear grip him just as she grouped his pocket.
“A pipe ma’am.”
Fuck. He had forgotten about that pipe. He and the girl he was with had smoked some weed the night before, and he stuck the pipe in his pocket so he wouldn’t forget it the next morning. Alcohol and pot seemed to dull the memory the next morning and he really wanted to leave her place with everything he came with. Well, minus a couple of condoms and well, you know.
“Alright, put your hands behind your head, you are under arrest.”
He didn’t say a word as she read him his rights. He didn’t say a word as she put him in her car. He didn’t say a word as she reported “one in custody”. He didn’t say a word as they drove to the place where the holding cell, the bed, the toilet and the cellmates waited. He wasn’t silent however. His mind was speaking loudly even as his mouth remained still. He was thinking about his grandmother. He was missing her breakfast. He was missing going to church with the beautiful old woman who raised him. He was missing his bed. He wasn’t going to see the sun rise this morning.
All because of that fucking car alarm.