WHAT I FOUND IN MY JAIL CELL.
We arrived at the Northeast Police station on San Fernando Road and the two police officers walked me, still handcuffed, into the station. The cops were talking about the Dodgers as if I wasn’t there. One officer lead me into an room where they took down my name, home address and mom’s phone number. They said they’d let her know I had been arrested.
Then they made me empty my pockets and put my stuff into a large plastic bag. I didn’t have much: a pen, some change, a small folding wallet with my library card and school ID and a small plastic baggie that contained a half dozen cow eyeballs.
One of the officers examined the plastic baggie. “What’s this?” He asked me.
“Cow eyeballs, sir.”
“Cow eyeballs? What are you doing with cow eyeballs?”
“A school project,” I lied.
I usually took some eyeballs or cow brains in a plastic baggie to snack on during the school day. Of course I was always careful that no one at school saw me when I eat my treats.
“Alright kid, let’s go.”
The officer walked me into a large room with six holding cells, three on each side of a narrow corridor. Two of the cells were occupied–one had an older man in rumpled suit and the other a homeless man who was asleep on the cot.
The officer undid my handcuffs, opened one of the cells and ushered me in.
“What’s going to happen to me?” I asked him.
“Your mom going to come pick you up. But later you’ll have to appear at juvenile hall where you’ll be charged with robbery. You’ll go to trial and when you’re convict you’ll do time. ”
“But I didn’t steal anything!” I protested.
“Yeah, well for not stealing anything they’ll send you up to Norco. You’re going to do time, kid!”
With that he closed the cell door and walked away.
I sat down on the cot and cried, long and hard.
After a while, I got up and examined my cell. It was small. A rectangular room about four feet by ten feet. On one side the cot was attached to the wall by two sturdy chains. The cot had a thin foam mattress and a single blanket. There was a commode at one end of the cell. The walls were covered with graffiti.
To pass the time, and get my mind off the jam I was in, I started reading the graffiti. They had taken away my pen and I figured they must take anything sharp from whoever they put in the cells. But people are inventive. Most of the graffiti was scratched into the wall paint using a finger nail. “Avenues Rifan!” “Highland Locos” “Crips Rule.” There was graffiti from gangs I had never heard about.
And then something caught my eye. It was in the corner of the wall, down at head level if you were lying down on the cot. When I saw it and realized what it was, I froze. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
I went closer and examined the art work. Some one had spent a lot of time on this piece, carefully etching out the image with their finger nail. I slowly traced the design of the image with my finger.
Suddenly, I heard the door to the holding tank open. The same officer that had brought me walked into my cell.
“Your mom is here, kid.”
I took one last look at the graffiti and then followed him out of the holding cell area. Mom was waiting outside. The officer spoke to her.
“You’ll be getting a notice in the mail when to appear in the Juvenile Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court. In the meantime, keep him out of trouble!”
“Yes, officer. I certainly will.”
They gave me the plastic bag with my belongings and then mom and I walked out to the police parking lot, got into our car and drove us home. Once in the car my mom unloaded on me.
“What did you do, mijo? Arrested? Stealing? How could you steal?”
“I didn’t steal anything, mom. Look it’s all a big mistake, really.”
“Hay, mijo, what are we going to do? What happens if they convict you and you go to one of those youth jails. They’ll find out you’re a zombie for sure.”
“Mom, it’s okay. I’m innocent. Really. Don’t you worry about it.”
Once I had quieted down my mom I stopped thinking about the arrest and the court date ahead of me. I had something more burning on my mind. All I could think about was the graffiti I had discovered in the cell, the image that someone had etched out on the cell wall. I knew it was central to me being a zombie. An open palmed hand with a circle in the center and a butterfly inside it!
Copyright 2012 Lazaro De La Tierra and barrio Dog Productions Inc.