Sunday, July 28, 2013

Gone From the City Jail

The woman was lying there dead for almost half an hour by the time the technicians arrived (so the witnesses had said). Scurrying, no doubt, to do their work on a body whose essence had long withdrawn from it. They likely filed the other women out of the holding cell like wayward schoolchildren facing the reckoning after a marathon of misbehavior. And the women had misbehaved, by all accounts. They raised a ruckus with pleas that increased in octave and frequency as the hours passed. All the while, the lone sick woman had gone from clenching her arms around her stomach to convulsing on a bench that had been cleared off for her.

But now she was dead. There was nothing left to complain about, at least, for the moment. None of the police officers would have to be inconvenienced after all. There would only be anxious stares and mouths covered by hands as the body was hauled out; pulled from the cell of the city jail, carted down the fluorescent hallway and out the front door to some cold and remote place. The mother of the deceased would hear of her daughter’s demise and collapse somewhere far out of the imagination of that night’s precinct staff. The son of the dead woman would have to do all of his weeping in the periphery.

Alas, this is where poor brown women come to die; in the central booking station of the metropolis. They pass out of existence swiftly now, not slow, like the beginnings of an avalanche with a buildup of environmental forces pummeling at its core – but spontaneous like the accelerating snow, gushing and widening in its downward flow. This is the place where backs are turned upon cries for help, and the banging on metal bars, as if no actual people are crowded there. But no actual people could ever be assigned to such spaces in a culture that values them; piled in by the thousands like livestock or human cargo for the selling; crouching on floors or leaning on walls or pressing their faces against the iron; waiting to be called before a bench or to be laid out to die on one.

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