Friday, September 12, 2014
The Chains That Bind
You're all my friends, so you know this, but in the winter of 2005 my life changed irrevocably. I went from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm to a criminal in one fell swoop. Me and the ex had the biggest fight of our lives after he was caught cheating and, in my anger and pain, I swatted him with a Dr. Seuss book.
Green Eggs & Ham. Naturally. If you're gonna swat someone with kid-lit, it might as well be the best.
I called the cops to have him removed from the house, but instead of asking him to leave, they arrested me for assault. When I freaked out, one of cops stuck his hand over my mouth to shut me up, and I bit one officer's gloved finger.
Without further adieu, I was handcuffed, charged with assault police and escorted to jail for the night.
Yada, yada, yada. I apologize if you've heard this a million times before.
No big deal, right? I mean, people spend nights in jail all the time. People on TV crime dramas don't think twice about it. But not "people like me." I was the epitome of Betty Crocker. June Cleaver. Mary Fecking Sunshine. I was a do-gooder, an environmentalist, a politically active world-beater. And I truly used to believe cops were my friends.
Basically I was a naive asshole who didn't know shite from shinola. Or a can from canola. (Substitute any grain or gluten-free product you prefer here.)
Since that time I have carried the weight of a criminal record. You'd be surprised how this affects you. On top of the morbid embarrassment of it all, you can't get a passport. You can't travel out of the country. You can't volunteer at a school or anywhere else that demands a clean record. You can't get life insurance. You can't be bonded or be hired for certain jobs. In short, if you can possibly avoid biting a cop's thumb and smacking your ex, I would highly recommend said avoidance.
Years passed. Life carried on and, in fact, improved. Everything has come up roses for me in just about every way. My marriage break-up was probably the best thing that could have happened. Still, the record lingered, reminding me every once in a while with a sadistic kick in the gut that "you're not normal, you're an outcast, you're a criminal."
This spring I finally decided to find out if my record still held, because honestly I wasn't sure how many years had to pass before the record was expunged. So I gathered up my courage and went to the local cop shop to get fingerprinted. I have to tell you, it was a really traumatic moment. My experience with police made me terrified of them. I don't like them. I don't trust them. When I see events like the killing of Mike Brown I have no doubt the cop was a vicious, racist killer.
That night I reached out for help when I needed it most and instead of helping, or showing any kind of sensitivity, they arrested me for swatting my ex with a book. I mean, seriously? The whole night could have gone so much differently if they had any brains in their heads. But I digress ... just trust me when I say I was shaking in my boots and filling my drawers with stinky stuff when I went to get fingerprinted that day.
I mailed the prints and a form off to Ottawa, to RCMP headquarters, and waited for them to do a criminal record check. I waited. And waited.
And waited some more.
And then got tired of waiting and almost forgot about it.
Last week I finally heard back. A letter from the RCMP was in my mailbox, addressed to me. I opened it with shaking hands and held my breath as I scanned the piece of paper for the verdict:
I can barely describe how awesome I feel. How nine years of pain has been washed away.
I am finally free.