DUI pt.3 Dirt Ball Joanie

Booked and sitting in my open holding cell I can’t help but shiver. I am not one to get cold easy but wearing a tank top and a thin gypsy skirt didn’t help me stay warm in this  dark cement room. I could venture out in to the lobby area where maybe under the bright beaming lights from above I could warm up a bit, but there were guys out there. These men looked wild, their stare bearing into your soul. Most of them stayed quiet but then you had those few that would whistle at girl calling for her attention. I didn’t feel like dealing with that. I would much rather freeze in here. There is one other girl sitting in here with me. A Latin girl with short spunky black hair and a meek personality. I could tell she was meek by the way she spoke, her tone barely more than a whisper. I noticed her earlier in the booking area, she kept her head down mostly, even when she spoke to the cops, her eyes always shyly averted. At first I thought maybe she was rebelling and not wanting to bother with the police. She had three piercings on her face, which of course they made her remove. One on her upper lip, One on her nose, and an eyebrow ring. A girl with that many face piercings had to be hardcore, no? Well, no. She was polite throughout her entire booking and now sitting here in the holding cell I could hear her silent cries. I’m a soul who can pick up on energy and hers told a sad sad story.  I decided to lay back down, using my hands as not only a pillow, but to keep a safe distance between my face and the “bench”. The seating area in this holding cell was a wrap around bench that pretty much extended out from the wall. It of course was made out of cement and was maybe about 2ft wide at the most. I curl up with half of my body hanging over the edge. It wasn’t comfortable but it’s about 1am and I am tired. This entire ordeal has completely depleted me of any sort of energy I had left. My feet are cold and no matter how hard I try to wrap the bottom of my skirt around them, it doesn’t manage to shield them from this endless cold that penetrated deep down into your bones.

I don’t remember how Ronnie and I began talking. We had been sitting there a while neither of us sure what it was we were waiting for.She was the first to ask what I was in for.

“DUI…” I answered

“First time?”

“Yea.. I’ve never been locked up before.” I looked at her and noticed a slight smirk.

“Don’t worry, you may get off easy then. This isn’t my first time in here. Tonight I was driving while under the influence but they also found a baggie in my wallet. Coke. So who knows how long I’ll be here. Hopefully I can bonded out tonight.” She said all this without a care in the world. I was almost shocked at her nonchalantness of it all. I guess she wasn’t so meek after all. I was getting ready to ask her why she had been crying earlier when in stumbles an old lady dressed in a light colored, sleeveless, beach jumper and truly beat up flipflops. She had her arms crossed over her chest, each hand holding onto her shoulders. She sat down without saying a word. By the smell of her I could tell she was drunk, that, and the fact that she had been outside all day. The smell of underarms had slowly made its way onto our side of the holding area. She sat by the door gazing out into the lobby. Every few minutes or so, her eyes would get heavy and attempt to close, but her body would lose balance and quickly would fall forward. She would pop right up and begin to stare out into the lobby again, her gaze and her thoughts floating far away from where we sat.

I hadn’t even noticed that I had laid back down and fallen asleep when I felt the energy in the air shift. My eyes popped open and immediately focused on the older woman. She was pacing back and forth rubbing her shoulders and arms, trying to get them warm. I sat up and looked over at Ronnie who was asleep, mouth wide open, with her head tilted back resting on the wall. I have totally  lost my sense of time. I don’t know how long I had been asleep and it honestly didn’t matter if I knew or not. Once you set one foot inside of this facility, time stops. It doesn’t fly by, it doesn’t even move, it just stops. The only concept of time that you have is that of the past. You find your mind constantly  focused on the past, most of those thoughts being of what mistake had led you here to being with. There was no future. In a place like this you saw no future. The present was so grim and powerful that it stopped you from believing in the future. Instead of living in the present and its depressions, that’s when you escape into the past, making it the only true concept of time one has while in jail. I looked back over to the older woman who had sat back down. She had her legs crossed, one leg wrapped all the way around the other one down to her foot. She was shivering.

“You must be super cold.” I said without even thinking. As soon as the words tumbled out I thought to myself, “If this were a movie, I would have shouted out to that character, “No shit, moron -_- ”  She turned to look at me and nodded her greasy head. She looked old. Her eyes gave away her tired life. The light from the lobby shined on her and what I saw was dirt. Dirt everywhere. I noticed that her beach jumper was made out of a towel like material. What was meant to be white was now a light colored brown with small accents of darker brown, proving how dirty it was. The crotch part sagged far more than anyone would have liked to have seen, and was soiled beyond belief. Her silver hair was wrapped in a tight greasy bun that sat right on top of her head. Huge flakes of dandruff threatened to jump off her head with any sudden movement. No wonder this lady stunk. I couldn’t take it any longer. I stood up and walked out of the holding cell we were in. This lady was not only freezing but she was covered in filth. I was sick of seeing it and..well… smelling her. I walked across the lobby to where the front desk was. Behind the counter was a young lady cop who was so short that it looked like she was sitting behind the counter. I stood there for a couple seconds before she looked up.

“Hi..sorry to bother you..” She just stares at me, expression blank. “I was just wondering, there’s a lady in there with us and she’s really cold. She’s shivering, maybe turning blue, I don’t know..” I added that part to make it sound a bit more urgent.”And her clothes really smell.. I think she may have pee’d herself?” Still this cops continues to just stare, not even blinking. “Do you guys maybe have a jumper so she can change into?” She stares for a few more beats before she asks, “Is it the old lady with dirty flip flops?” I would have used another description  but hey, that worked. I nod yes. “Ok, that’s Joanie. She’s been in here often enough to know better. With the problems she’s got, she should know to always pack a sweater because she never knows when the next time she’ll land in here.” And with that she turns away a goes back to gathering up paperwork.

I stumble back into the holding cell and sit back on the bench. Joanie is looking at me.

“I tried to get you a jumper, Joanie, but she said no. Sorry.” I told her. She looked away and then a few seconds later asked, “How’d you know my name?”  Her voice was high pitched, old, and shaky. I would imagine an old mouse’s voice to be like hers, like if Mickey Mouse had a grandmother, it would sound like her.

“The cop told me. Apparently you’re in here quite often.” I say.

“Yea…well…yea…” she mumbled. It seemed like she was still drunk. Her breath still smelled of it. She sat there stiff as a board, her skin lined with goosebumps. Every so often she would sway to one way or the other, but she never really did completely fall over.

“Well, what are you in for this time?” It was Ronnie who broke the silence. Joanie just stared at her for a bit, blinking her eyes at her a few times, so much so that it was starting to feel  a little awkward.  It kinda seemed as though that with every blink she gathered more and more of her thoughts, carefully collecting them before answering the question.

“It’s my boyfriend’s fault,” She finally answered slow and steady. “He was stinkin’ drunk and called the po’lice on me for no reason.” She pulled up on the front of her strapless jumper. I was hoping she’d pull up her sagging crotch area, the view was not pretty, but it seemed as though she didn’t seem to notice much.

“He wouldn’t have just called the cops without a reason. What did you do, Joanie?” Ronnie pried. I liker her. I could appreciate a person who wanted to get down to the nitty gritty of things, even if it wasn’t any of her business.

“No! All I did was walk on the property and he just called the po’lice! Like can you do that? I didn’t even do nuthin!” She started to get agitated and began running her hands on the sides of her greasy head, hiding all the loose hairs that haloed around her head.  To me it sounded as though maybe she was trespassing. Or maybe she was in violation of a restraining order? I wasn’t going to ask to find out. I’d leave that up to Ronnie to keep prying, and she did.

“Were you allowed to be on the property? What’s really going on Joanie? Why would your boyfriend call the police on you? That’s not a really nice boyfriend.” She looked at me for confirmation. I nodded and looked at Joanie. For now that’s the only participation either of them were getting from me. Joanie just stared at us again, her gaze jumping between staring at me and then staring at Ronnie. Her eyes began to water just a little bit. I wasn’t sure if it was due to drinking too much, being tired, or the fact that the topic of conversation was making her sad.

“He isn’t nice. He put me in here and I didn’t do nuthin’. He broke up with me a couple weeks ago for this young girl where we live. But I didn’t care. I knew he would come back. He even put a restraining order on me but then we worked it out. All I did tonight was walk on the lawn. I was coming over so we could have some dinner but when I got there he called the po’lice. Now I just wanna ask him “why?” ” She spoke with the heart of a heartbroken school girl, confused as to why her boyfriend was acting so strange.

At this point I couldn’t help but comment. “Are you sure you guys worked it out? Maybe you thought you did but you guys actually didn’t? He probably called the police because you were violating the restraining order?” It didn’t take rocket science to figure out that that’s exactly what happened, but at the moment Joanie wasn’t all here. She was still drunk, her eyes fighting to stay open.

“He called them because she was there. His stupid new girlfriend who doesn’t even love him. She just likes him (hiccup)  because she gets free beer all the time. The good stuff too. He gets her Rolling Rock because that’s what she likes. She was there and she was going to have dinner with us. He didn’t want that.” I couldn’t believe what Joanie was saying. This had to be the booze talking. “He never bought me the beer I liked. It was only Bud Light for me all the time. That’s not fair! I was with him the longest!” She was upset.

This lady was old. She had to be somewhere between the ages of 55-60 years old at least. I couldn’t imagine myself being this old and being in and out of jail, especially for a douche bag  boyfriend who couldn’t even buy me the beer I liked. But then again, I never saw myself sitting in jail period but here I am.

“So wait? Did you just show up to his place hoping to have some dinner with this asshole and when you got there, there they were together??” Ronnie didn’t even give her time to answer. “Damn that fucking sucks dick!! But see Joanie this is why you call before you head over! No! Fuck that! This is why you don’t mess around with guys like that! Honestly he probably called the police to look cool in front of this newbie chick. I would be so fucking mad!” Ronnie was laughing an incredulous laugh while at the same time fueling Joanie’s fire. Joanie was simply staring off into the lobby. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.I couldn’t tell if she was mad, sad, or maybe neither. Maybe she was too drunk to really follow what was going on.

Suddenly Joanie stands up at attention. A few seconds later I hear the guards begin to  call out our names. Ronnie was first, I was second, Joanie last. But when they called for Joanie, instead of calling out last name first then first name, they simply called out DB Joanie. While standing in the lobby waiting for our next set of instructions, I turned to ask her what DB stood for?

“Dirt Ball Joanie..” She begins to laugh, “They say every time I come in here I look dirty.” She wasn’t even offended. It was like they had given her a cute nickname except for it wasn’t out of affection nor was it cute by any means.

“It doesn’t bother you that they call you ‘Dirt ball’ like that?” I asked her. I’d be pissed honestly.

“Look at (hiccup) me. They’re right. I am dirty. I’ve been wearing this jumper for two whole days!” And then she begins to roar in laughter, almost like a little kid when they tell a joke that only they think is funny.

I suddenly got a little queasy. The condition in which her jumper was in was disgusting and I couldn’t help but wonder, was that pee stain from days ago or recently? As I was taking in all I had learned about Dirt Ball Joanie in the last 15-20 mins, the guards walked over and cuffed my right arm to Ronnie. As one of the guards did this, the other one told us that we were getting transported to the Ortiz location where we would be going in front of the judge to talk about the possibility of being bonded out. Possibility?? So did that mean that there was a possibility that I would have no bond if the judge decided it just that way? My mind began whirling. I couldn’t sit in jail past today. There was no way. I had work to attend to, my dog that needed me, and I couldn’t see myself hanging out with DB Joanie for more than a day. This was ridiculous. She was standing right beside me and all I could breath was her stale stench. Then the unthinkable happened. They cuffed my left hand to Joanie’s.

As we stood in the middle of the lobby waiting for transport, the guys in their holding cell were just whistling and hooting, hoping for one of us to react. I heard murmurs from them talking about Joanie and her dirty jumper. I heard murmurs about the “girl with all the tats” and none of that bothered me as much as the fact that I was cuffed to Joanie did. The smell of her was so horrible that I had to strategically breath out of my nose at a certain angle so the smell wouldn’t get to me as much. Breathing out my mouth was certainly NOT an option.

“ALRIGHT LADIES! Face the door! We’re heading out to the transport vehicle. I need you to move quickly and quietly!” Shouted the short guard who was stationed earlier at the desk. “DB if you need to use the bathroom you better hold it this time!” and with that the doors buzzed loudly and opened.

We shuffled  out and the entire time we were walking I kept replaying the guard’s last words through my head…”you better hold it this time!” Had Joanie pee’d herself the last time she was in here? I think that was pretty obvious. God, if she pee’d this time…I’m cuffed to her…. Oh god.

We reach the garage area where the transport van was waiting for us with open doors. We hopped in, first Ronnie, then me, then Joanie. There was absolutely no leg room. We had to sit sideways in order for us to fit. Without a word, the guard shut the door behind Joanie. It was pitch black. There were no windows, no lights at all. Thank god I wasn’t the claustrophobic type or else this would be a true feat to have to overcome. We sat there in the dark for quite a bit. I could hear Ronnie breathing next to me. I could smell Joanie even more now, the air just sitting there stagnant, allowing us to marinade in her smell.

“Fuck! I really wanna get to where we’re headed. I hate the dark and this is way past dark. It makes no difference if my eyes are opened or closed!” Ronnie said. No wonder her breathing was heavy. If you were one to be afraid of the dark, this was not a good place to be.

It was like the driver heard her because within seconds the van pulled out. I knew the ride wouldn’t be too long. The Ortiz location was maybe 10-15 mins from downtown. It wasn’t even 5 mins into  pulling out that I hear Joanie moan. It was a loud enough moan that made me question, “Joanie, you alright?”

Silence. A few seconds later I heard the moan again. This time Ronnie asked, “Yo, DB!” I nudged her with my elbow to let her know that she shouldn’t call her that. She didn’t care, “DB you ok?” She asked. Then, a few seconds later we smelled it. It was silent but deadly. The horrible smell over powered Joanie’s B.O which I thought was impossible to do, but leave it to Joanie to break her own smelly record. Then Joanie spoke,

“I have to go to the bathroom…bad.” She groaned. I inched closer to Ronnie who had inched closer to the wall and quietly prayed that we would get there soon.



Death Under Intoxication pt.2

So I’m a changed girl. It’s true what they say, people and circumstances can and will change you. Situations that we place ourselves in  allows us to encounter beings of another kind. These encounters mold who we are. They captivate our being with just one word or maybe a simple gesture, and POOF, our world is changed. We become slightly different.

Within seconds of getting my DUI (which recently has been dropped down to a reckless driving charge..another story for another time), I met people who with a look, a sentence, or just a simple vibe, altered who I was and how I thought. I went from being an outsider looking in to actually wearing the shoes and walking the path. From the moment the cuffs were placed on me and I sat in the backseat of that squad car, I had become one of “them”. My inner dialogue was pretty calm. I knew I was guilty and the fact that after multiple times of doing what I was caught doing without getting caught, I was resigned to the idea of just taking whatever punishment was going to be dished out. I was laughing at my self because I knew I had gotten away so many times before but yet time and time again here I was pushing my luck. Through out the entire time while heading back to the station I stayed relatively quiet and calm. I had seen so many shows, like Cops or Caught on Camera, where individuals get rowdy and rambunctious, trying to kick out windows and cursing at the officers, and I always thought… “Well, who put you there? Who’s fault is it? Not theirs! They’re doing their job!” Officer Good Heart was a doll. I don’t know if it’s because the moment he pulled me over I was cooperative and respectful or just because he was a good soul, but he definitely set the tone for rest of my ordeal and that is for sure. It wasn’t until we got into booking that it all hit me… the shots, the beers, and the realization of what the future was going to bring. I was cold and there was no way of warming up for I was in a tank top and a long hippie skirt. The inside of the booking station was depressing. made up of just cement blocks painted grey and cold to the touch. Officer Good Heart sat me down in a grey plastic chair that sat at the end of a long  grey table. I picked up on the running theme in this place. Grey. Cold. Depression. On the table sat the breathalyzer, a clip board with paperwork on it, and a couple zip lock bags. I agreed to the breathalyzer because again.. why was I going to fight it? He and I both knew I was intoxicated. So there I blew and his shock was apparent. “Ma’m I don’t know how it is that you passed the roadside tests and are coherently speaking to me. You just blew almost 3 times the legal limit. With your size you should be passed out in the corner.” He didn’t say this in a condescending manner, not rude, or angry. He said it like he was concerned. As if he actually cared. The amazing thing with this officer is that I never NOT looked into his eyes when he spoke to me. His eyes were deep blue pools of warmth. I fell into them every time and never wanted to get out. He wasn’t handsome by any means. He was in his late 40’s and wore a tire around his belly and acne scars on his cheeks. He looked as if he spent way too much time drinking ventie caramel frappaccinos and wasn’t ashamed to admit to having a sweet tooth. But still those eyes were kind and so when I heard him say this comment while at the same time looking back into those big blue eyes, I felt a ping. I actually felt like I had let this stranger down. I remember  my initial reaction to his comment and thinking to myself, “Well that’s because I’ve got a high tolerance. I’m a girl who can handle her booze.” But then thought better of it. Maybe that’s not something to be so nonchalant about.

Next up were the zip lock bags. “M’am, I’m going to need you to remove every piece of jewelry you have on your person and place them right in here.” I did what I was told. I took off my earrings, my necklace, my bracelet, rings, and finally my belly ring. I hadn’t taken out my belly ring in ages. I didn’t even know how long ago was the last time I had removed it. When I slipped it out and placed it in that bag, I teared up. That was when I lost my calm demeanor and went full on “blubbering like a baby” mode. Anyone that knows me, KNOWS that unless it’s a reallllllly sad movie or a bad ass book, I DO NOT cry. Inside I was yelling at myself, “Look at you! Wipe those tears away! Suck it the fuck UP!” But that simple gesture of me taking out my belly ring made me feel completely vulnerable and naked. He grabbed the clip board and began asking me basic questions. Throughout the entire process I was sobbing. I didn’t stop. It was like now the floodgates were open and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it… Except of course Officer Good Heart.

All the questions were over and it was now time to get my fingerprints and that infamous mugshot that would be forever lurking for anyone to see. I was still crying. My cries weren’t that of a beautiful movie scarlet where my tears just flowed down my cheeks, yet I stayed pristine. No. I was gasping for air like a child throwing a tantrum. Boogers were flowing so quick, no amount of tissues handed to me by the officers would put an end to them. I’m sure that by looking at my face you wouldn’t have been able to pin point where the tears ended and the boogers began. Officer Good Heart takes me to where my photo was to be taken and while we’re walking he says to me, “Hey. It’s OooKaaay. It’s not like you’re in here for murder. Think about it. In a few hours you’ll be outta here. You’ll be ok. I promise.” I simply nodded my head back at him but inside those words had meant the world to me. The fact that he wasn’t cold and demeaning about the entire situation was the most touching thing that could have happened to me that night. His words were comforting and almost supportive. Not supportive in the way that he condoned what I was in there for but supportive in the way that truly led me to believe that everything WOULD be alright. It wouldn’t be for another 14 hours later that I would realize not even the friend who had bailed me out of jail would be this kind to me. She who barely talked to me on the ride back to pick up my car from the impound, and when she did speak, the only words that came out of her mouth were condescending and belittling. A tone which not even my mother took with me once she found out about had happened. But that story too is for another time. So there I stood in front of the blue screen with his words echoing in my ear. I had stopped crying and had come to realize only seconds before the picture was taken. “You’ll be ok. I promise.” is what I heard in my head and SNAP..a flash of white light and presto my mugshot had been archived. Officer Good Heart and I parted ways. He gave me a tap on the shoulder and pointed to a holding cell that was wide open, “Just go in there and wait hear for your name. They’ll be calling you in a little bit. Good luck.” he said with a warm smile. I proceeded to walk towards the holding cell, but not before I  made sure  to say, Thank you.

Later on I would look at my mugshot. I can’t say that I was too disappointed for it captured the overall experience perfectly. If I had to pick a mugshot, I would have definitely picked my own. In my photo there are two tears streaming down, one on each cheek. My nose is a little red but down below lies a slight smirk painted across my lips. My eyes look as if they’ve been crying but there on the surface is a glimmer of hope. I believe the photo captured the exact second I replayed Officer Good Heart’s words in my mind.

When I mentioned that Officer Good Heart had set the tone for how the rest of my dealings with this case would go, I meant it. I feel that if those last few words he uttered before my picture was taken would have never happened, I don’t think I would have carried on with the strength I did. It was like his kind words snapped me out of this negative reality that was swirling around in my head. I am a firm believer in the Law of Attraction and feel like I would have just found myself in a thoughtless cycle of desperation and depression. I would have just given in to the feelings of misery and anger for having put myself in the situation that I did. But ultimately he was right. I had made a mistake, Yes. But had I damaged my life permanently? No, of course not. I hadn’t killed anyone. I hadn’t hurt myself. The worse that could possibly come out of this entire situation was a very  healthy learning lesson. I look back on this moment everyday and I think of how grateful I am to have actually gone through all of this. There has been much good that’s emerged from my initial charge of DUI, many experiences and treasures that I will take with me forever, and that would have never happened if it weren’t for this. There are other characters that are waiting to be mentioned. There’s Toothless Tammy, Dirt Ball Joanie, Shawna, and Tamika, who were just a few of my cell mates for those 14 hours I was incarcerated. There’s my DUI School Instructor Andres, a Colombian native who had gone into law enforcement and had been held hostage by the guerrilla for 14 days, and later came to the states to further his career in Criminal Justice. I’ll speak of Judge Handlen, My therapist Mary Sue Jonesie, and even those involved with my community service. Each and every one, making an impact. Each and every one of those characters playing a crucial role in what is to be Natal Galvan’s life. For I am a watcher of people. I soak in my surroundings, every detail, every encounter, nothing goes unnoticed. Nothing happens in vain.

Death Under Intoxication

In the months following my DUI, life for me did a complete 180. Nothing to me mattered other than buckling down, saving money, and making sure I completed every step and order demanded by the courts. I did everything with no complaints and no hesitation. When I initially succumbed to all that was going on (not to me but BECAUSE of me) I told myself that I would just go through the motions. I would do what I needed to do and just move on with this chapter of my life. What I didn’t expect to happen was that I, the person I was on the inside, would truly change.

It has been only three months since the fortunate night I got pulled over. *Note here that I said “Fortunate” for I am firm believer in that every thing that happens, happens for a reason.*  This night was peril for my soul’s evolution. A change I always knew I needed. A change I desired but never knew how to set those wheels of change into motion. I’ll begin today’s blog with who I was before all this. I’ll speak of that ordinary night when I was pulled over (because for me it was just another ordinary night), and how it completely changed my life for the better. If you’ve just begun to read this, I hope that you’ve got time for a little bit of family history is needed for where I’m going with this.  Do also realize while reading and taking in a little snippet of my life, that although I have been more than honest with friends and family about this incident, this will be my first time speaking so openly about it with people like you.. strangers. So here goes nothing:

Growing up in in a Colombian household, the motto always was work hard, real hard, and when you got the chance, play harder. During the holidays, it was the norm to watch the adults drink, and drink to excess. Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays, ect… are all memories wrapped up in blankets of liquor induced laughter and roaring good times. As kids we would watch our parents work their asses off, strictly. Most of them worked back breaking jobs and not just one, but two even three jobs at a time. When they were given time off and were able to all get together, they drank. I always knew it was going to be a party when I’d watch them come home with bottles of Aguardiente, cases of beer, tossed within the bags of food they’s be cooking that night. The excitement within me would build because I knew this was their time to let loose and enjoy themselves. I loved watching them tell jokes and stories of when they were growing up. They’d play music all night long and dance. You could always tell once they started reaching past the point of being drunk because their dance moves weren’t as precise, their jokes became more absurd, and the laughter was just non-stop and over everything. I loved it.

10616553_800352903319854_1642631823_n-2  Photo Credit: Natal Galvan Location: family gathering in NJ ’14

I’ll never forget the first time I ever got drunk. It was Christmas and I was 14 at the time. I was at that stage where I was no  longer a kid who wanted to hang out with the little ones and was slowly making my way into hanging out with the grown-ups. That night I was in charge of pouring the shots of Aguardiente for them. What they weren’t aware of was that I was being sneaky (imagine that). Anytime I saw that one of them didn’t finish their entire shot, guess who’d make sure to clear it to make room for the next shot? THIS GIRL of course! Before you knew it I was letting loosey goosey. I was funny and goofy, making sure everyone’s eyes and ears were on me. It wasn’t long before they realized what had happened and instead of being upset, they let me steal the show for the night. Even my super religious, always serious grandfather (whom I adored so much) was laughing his ass off at the ridiculousness of it all. The very next morning I was awakened by my crazy aunt (who we now know is literally crazy) nudging me, “You were grown enough to drink last night, you’re old enough to get up and clean with the rest of us adults. Now get up.” As I went around picking up shredded wrapping paper, empty beer cans, bottles with only about a shot or two left in them, dishes, all and any evidence of a good night before, I had realized how “fun” could be amplified by what I call today, the devil’s brew. It didn’t matter to me that my head was pounding like a jack hammer, or that the smell of food was making my stomach churn. The night before had been FUN for me in a different way.

Now don’t go thinking that this began my love for drinking. At 14 I had no time or business getting drunk. It wasn’t for  few years later that I began to have a drink here and there. Be it at a house party, special occasion, or on the rare nights I was able to sneak into a club or bar, which was extremely easy to do in the city. When you’re a girl all you have to do is bat those lashes and slip the bouncer a $10 and presto, this 17 year old was being let in to 21 and over clubs left and right. Normally, I was always known as mother-hen among my friends. Sure I would drink but not enough to loose my senses. I always felt like I had people to look after, friends to help out once they had a bit too much. When I began sneaking into the clubs and bars, I tended to just have one or two cocktails. I loved to dance so for me I had just enough to help me feel the music better. With maybe just a night or two of over doing it in public, embarrassing myself by falling or what not, that at the time was enough for me, for I knew I didn’t want to be “that” girl. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to overdue it.

I’ve got a nomadic nature. A care free spirit who wants to roam every inch of this earth and experience anything and everything. So it was no shock to anyone when I moved out of state at 19, away from all I knew, to a place I knew nothing about. The first few years all I did was work. I was responsible, I paid my bills, went to school, saved up money, ensuring to make my momma proud. By 23 I began to really follow in the steps of my elders. I worked hard, real hard, and played harder. By this point I was what you would call your average stoner and in many ways I was totally ok with that. I found that under the influence of pot I was able to control myself and my spending way better than when I went out to drink. Weed is what I would say my substance of choice was. It relaxed my always “on the go” nature as well as sparking my creative juices. Still, I would join my friends out for drinks a couple times a week. By 25 I was an expert at handling myself no matter what influence I was under. Or so I thought now looking back. Hindsight is truly amazing. How many times have I not driven knowing I had one too many? But I was ok. I made it home every night safe and sound. Even on the mornings I would wake up, not remembering half of my night, not knowing how I got home, yet looking out my window and seeing my car there, I felt ok. I hadn’t harmed myself, or most importantly anyone else. I was a happy drunk each and every time. I never once woke up feeling down about myself or my life. Again, drinking was my “fun” juice. It amplified my inner joy and unless I KNEW I was going to overdue it, I always drove. I was what my friends could call the designated drunk driver.

In March of 2013 I decided to move all the way across the U.S to California, my dream. No I wasn’t headed out there to find fame or fortune, but adventure and change. Originally from Jersey, then living on the gulf side of Florida, life for me became boring and stagnant. I had money saved and had one day randomly decided, “Hey, why not?” As a kid I had read so much on California. I’d seen awesome pictures of the mountains and hiking trails. The beaches looked way cooler to me than those here on the east coast. I was young and thought better now than never. When I arrived, I was bombarded by how cool it was. There was anything and everything to do. The art scene was awesome. The music scene even better. I was centrally located to all I loved to do. Naturally I went ham.

It was maybe my second month there when I had my first thought to lay off on the drinking. My sister, who had also moved with me, and I were at a bar we both liked to frequent. It was quite a ways from where we lived at the time but the drive through the mountains and into the city was totally worth it. That night we had both had way too much to drink. So much, that on the way back to the car, I tripped on an uneven sidewalk and fell face first busting my entire face. Neither of us truly remember the details of the fall and the reason I even know this was because once on your way back home, my sister who was black out drunk at the time of the fall came to, and was horrified by what she saw. There was blood all over my face and clothes, “What the fuck happened to YOU!!!!!” I too barely recalled what had happened. I was so concentrated on trying to get back home that I hadn’t even looked at myself to see how bad it was. Needless to say we were BOTH freaking out. In all this, I get lost, and there begins an argument between her and I. That night there are bits and pieces of what I remember. Sort of like snap shots taken of my life. I do remember that at one point, we were shouting at each other, loudly. I went to take a u-turn to head back on the right direction, and I was so angry that as I turned the wheel (quite aggressively) the car turned and at one point was on two of its four wheels. We had almost flipped.  By the grace of god or some unseen force we made it home that night. We went to our separate rooms and it wasn’t until morning that we both put the fragmented bits of our memories of that night together.

We made it exactly a year in Cali. We were both flat broke. So broke that in order for us to get back home to Jersey we had to borrow money from friends and family (and paid back every penny). You would think that a night like that would have scared anyone straight. But no. We were lucky and what do lucky people do? Well they push their luck of course because in all reality, things happen, but horrible, worst case scenarios never happen to you. They happen to other people, right? I could tell you all the drunken stories I have up my sleeve but this would turn out to be a novel not a blog. So let’s fast forward to the night of my DUI.

I’m in Florida again. I decided to move back since Jersey was just NOT for me, hence why I had moved away in the first time. So here I am in my own little comfort zone of familiar places and new friends. On this night, I was out with two girlfriends of mine. I was to spend the night at Emily’s house. I had to work quite early the next day and at this time I was living out in the middle of bumble fuck in order to save up for a better place (this is another blog for another valuable lesson to be learned). In the mist of hanging out with these two girls, I ran into a buddy I had not seen since I had initially moved away to Cali. We’ll call him Jake. Jake isn’t the best of influences. He’s a business man who wheels and deals in the drug trade. Whenever you hang out with Jake you KNOW it’s going to be a hell of a hangover day the next day. The girls I was with at the time know of Jake and don’t like him very much, which is understandable. They’re “nice” girls who’s idea of going ham (a term I stated earlier) is going out for beers to the same bar, sitting in the same bar seats, while chain smoking cigarettes, as Papa Roach plays in the background and ordering soft pretzels with extra dipping sauce. I don’t mind Jake. Yes, he’s trouble. But I have never been one to judge people on what they do in their spare time. If I can laugh and have a good time with you, hey, we’re friends. Anyhoo- on this particular night I gave in to the pressures of Jake and had shots, which I RARELY ever do, especially if I have to work the next day. But after being at the bar for a while with my ladies, by the time Jake came into play, I was pretty boozed up on craft beers and it was easy to talk me into shots. By the time “shot” time came around, the mother hen of this group had gone home. Before leaving she had told me to make sure I stay at Emily’s that night and not to drive home. By this point Emily’s boy toy had also arrived on scene. The four of us had decided to take our group to another bar right down the street since they also served liquor vs only beer.

010-2  Photo Credit: Natal Galvan

A long story short, and many shots later, I had begun feeling uncomfortable for Jake had begun to insinuate I stay at a close by hotel since I was pretty toasty. I wanted to go home. Emily was having a great time with her guy and in my drunken stupor I had thought that the two were going back to her place and I didn’t want to be the third wheel. It was getting pretty late, midnight was creeping up and I had to be up for work by 5. As we got back to the cars, I reassured everyone I was with that I was ok to drive home.To be honest, I had driven home in even worse conditions than the one I was in so I felt quite confident that I’d make it home just fine.

I tore out of that parking lot like there was no tomorrow. In my mind, I had almost an hour drive home. That meant if I hurried, I could make it home and at most have four hours of sleep before heading into work. Tunnel vision kicked in. All I saw was the road ahead of me, so 30 mins later it was a shock to me to find cop lights flashing in my rear view. “Where did HE come from? Err, No problem. I got this”, I said to myself. Once pulled over and asked the typical initial questions, “Mam, Do you know how fast you were going? Do you have license and registration with you? Proof of insurance? Have you been drinking? How much have you had to drink? Do you have any weapons on your body or in your vehicle? Any weapons of mass destruction? Any drugs of any sort or drug paraphernalia?….” He took my information and ran my plates. I at this point still wasn’t worried. It wasn’t until he came back and handed me my documents and asked, “Would you be ok with doing a few field sobriety tests just to make sure your not impaired to drive?”, that I kind of became a little worried. I obliged. What was I going to say, no? So I played his game. I followed the pen with my eyes. I walked the line while looking straight ahead. I touched the tip of my nose with my index finger. Passed every one. So WHY was I arrested for drinking and driving? The police report reads, “due to the heavy scent of alcohol present on her breath and watery eyes..” Cuffed.

The police officer was doll. You can look into his eyes and see he wasn’t a mean cop. He was doing his job. He left the cuffs loose on my wrists, so  much that while I sat in the back of the cop car on the way to the booking station, I slipped my left wrist in and out quite easily. He made small talk on our way, much of which I don’t remember. My mind was too wrapped up in the situation I had found myself in. I laughed at myself for how stupid I had been. I even told myself that this is what I deserved and more since I had been so careless not only this time, but many of times before. That night, sitting in the back of the cop car, the girl I had always known had died. Death Under Intoxication. In her place sat, a humble young lady who stood at a fork in the road. She looked to her left and saw a path in which she could just step over the twigs and branches that stood in her way. I was a semi familiar path, slightly darkened, but still it was familiar and not all too scary, so it would have been easy to find her way through. It was a path she seemed to have taken many times before. Then as she turned to her right, she saw a forest full of thick trees and hardly a path to follow. It was unfamiliar, but as she looked deeper down this direction, off in the distance she noticed the brightest light she had ever seen. She knew that if she truly wanted to, she could make her way through the thickness of mother nature’s greenery and appear on the other side, with not a scratch on her. Only life.

The details of my ordeal while going through booking, then being locked up for 14 hours and within that time having to stand before a judge, and even all that has happened since then will be for a later blog. But for now I will leave you with this. Although I am still in the beginning phases of my “punishment” for the crime I had committed, I feel victorious. In this small chapter found within the novel of my life, I did come out sitting on top of the world and although what goes up, must come down for even briefly, for now, I am a very happy and positively changed girl who’s been living happily so ever after.