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April 15, 2011
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It was at an unlikely place in an unlikely situation. I stood at the Campbell County Public Library, feeling the cold metal of handcuffs around my wrists. The ironic thing is it ended the same way it began, with something so small.

For three months I lived with a little bit of paranoia tugging on the back of my mind. It started about mid January I suppose, and grew with each day since. I knew I couldn’t run forever. It was early April, the most bi-polar weather season for Gillette, Wyoming. Unlike most places, it wasn’t rain showers or sunshine. The abnormally flat landscape was either pasted in a light covering of white snow, or it was in the mid-seventies and the locals were seen in tank tops or t-shirts. It was one of the warm April days, and it was a Tuesday. Tuesday and Thursday I had community service at South Campus high school. I was assigned twenty-five hours for a case of sticky fingers at the local Kmart. Someone should have told me that there was extra security during the Christmas season! I had done twenty-two hours of scrubbing, washing and picking up garbage already, and the custodial manager, Leslie, who had to sign my canary yellow community service papers for me to turn into the juvenile probation officer, had taken a liking to me. She didn’t mind if I stopped to talk to a crowd of my friends when the 3:30 detention let out, or if I snuck to Chico’s car to have a cigarette at 5 o’clock.

School had just gotten out and I had fifteen minutes before I had to report to Leslie for my last day there. I was outside, at the back of the school, soaking up some much needed warm sunrays. I looked at my phone again, a crappy flip phone that felt heavy in my hand. My friend Jessica gave it me after a demonic four year old that I babysat stole my last one. I opened up a message from Cody, a guy I was talking to at the time. In the month that Cody and I had started to really talk he had moved out of his ex-fiancé’s house and was spending his nights on everyone’s couch. His phone was shut off so there was no sure way to get ahold of him. He was the one that contacted me. The message said to meet him at the library by his sister’s house, which wasn’t that far from the school. Gillette was a small town and nearly everything was within walking distance if you had the patience.

It was my last day of community service, I thought to myself, when I finish today I’ll be free with nothing but a little blemish on my record. The un-rational side of my brain, which was usually the most dominant, fought against this thought. I hadn’t seen Cody in over a week. He was in jail for a couple of days from an old warrant that he had. I also hadn’t been able to talk to him either. I stared down at the message one more time, slammed my phone shut, and hopped off of the cold, worn stone table I was sunbathing on. Trying not to think about what I was doing, I raced across the parking lot to a white jeep parked in the back. Leslie liked me enough to fib about a couple hours anyways. I popped open the back hatch to the jeep and climbed into the trunk, since the front and back seat were full. “Let’s go.”

When I arrived at the library Cody wasn’t there yet, but a crowd of people I knew were. The bus from North Campus high school just dropped a load of people off. Campbell County Public Library was in the center of town, surrounded by suburban neighborhoods crawling with teenagers. It was the place that everyone knew how to get to and it was great a cover story for nosey, overprotective parents. I treaded over to a crowd of teenagers ranging from thirteen to seventeen. Chanissa, a tall, butch, Mexican seventeen year old lesbian stood close to the center of the group with her new girlfriend Tressa. Tressa was the exact opposite of Nessa. She was medium height for her age, pale with long sand colored blonde hair, and an attitude that you knew not to mess with. She was with two other girls; one of them appeared to be a few years younger than me. The older of the two was Shanoa, a ninth grader at Twin Spruce Junior High School. She had long, glistening black hair pulled up in a tight pony tail and a bandanna. You could tell it was just recently dyed, for it was an unnatural raven color. I vaguely recognized her as one of the girls I would chill with at the skate park on the early afternoons my best friend Kayla and I should have been in science class. The younger girl was shorter, pudgier, and you could tell she was new to the group. She put on the front of trying to be bad ass, but you could still see the little girl in her eyes. I don’t know if I ever got her name, and if I did, I forgot it long before now.

I climbed on top of a horse statue nearby, feeling the cold iron, or metal or whatever it was made of under me. I took off the white hoodie I stole from Wal-Mart back before Kmart Security stopped my little habit. I threw it on the plush grass that was the perfect shade of green. By June all the grass would start to turn brown and die, and I would spend my days with the same people, but at the public pool on the other side of town instead. I was anxious, waiting for Cody to show up. I had no idea which friend he was staying with at the moment and I had no way to contact him. I sighed, already frustrated with the wait. I laid back and enjoyed the sun’s rays once again. Jesse, often a partner in crime with me, reached in his pocket and pulled out a nicely rolled joint. “Wanna smoke?” he said to me. Jesse was always the one to offer me a pick me up when I was pissed. He always knew when I needed to talk, cry, or just smoke. I hopped off the statue and headed to the side of the library. The snow had just recently melted and it was a little muddy. At the side of the library was the end of a subdivision that reached all the way to Wal-Mart. There was a passageway between two houses that led down one of the streets. It was a shortcut we would always take on a way through town. Years later when I came back to visit it would be blocked off, for the residents of the area were weary of the fights, arrests, and teenagers trekking through their yard causing commotion. I sat on the sidewalk that led to the back parking lot. Jesse, Tress, Shonoa, Nessa, the younger girl and several other people followed suit. The sidewalk felt warm and relaxing around me. Jesse sat towards my right and sparked the joint. I could smell the sweet smell of the weed in my nostrils. He passed it to me, and I sucked in the sweet herb. I closed my eyes and passed the joint to Shonoa. I wondered how much longer I would have to wait for. I had to show up at the school at 6, when I was supposedly supposed to get done with my community service. Lost in my thoughts, eventually the joint traveled back to me. I hit Shonoa on the arm and she reached around to grab the half smoked joint out of my hand. At that moment, we all saw the cop car pull up at the side of the building, just as Jesse shouted “PIGS!”

It was one of those moments where everything happens at once. The length to the back of the library was probably only about 40 feet or less, but it seemed to stretch out for miles. My instinct came to run. Shonoa, the younger girl, and I hopped up instantly and started bounding towards the back of the parking lot. No one knew where we were going, but we knew we had to get away. My feet pounded against the pavement. About halfway to the back parking lot I heard a slam on the ground. My phone fell. Damn it ran through my head. I looked back; the cop was sprinting behind us. I looked forward and saw Tressa at the front, running for her life. If she was caught she would get sent back to girl’s institute she just recently got released from. She was still on Intense Supervised Probation and probably supposed to be home. I knew there was no way we were outrunning this pig. The area around the public library was open and there was no place to hide. I knew he could find out who I was with my phone in an instant. Either way, I was screwed. I made a split second decision and turned back to face my consequences. I knew if I turned back it would provide a long enough distraction for the girls to dodge into a backyard and find a hiding spot in the subdivisions we were all so familiar with. As I turned around the cop slowed down, out of breath and picked up my phone. Dread filled my body and it felt like it was physically dragging me down. Jesse, Nessa, and the rest of the people sat shocked. They all knew my record very well, and they knew that I had a three month old bench warrant that I had been paranoid about since I missed my court date back in January. The cop turned to me, “Is this phone yours?” I nodded, and then locked eyes with Jesse, because he knew how scared I was at the moment. The adreline I had from running was still coursing through my veins, soon to be replaced with ice cold fear. Suddenly Shonoa and her short friend were in my line of view. Somehow instead of taking my move as an act of sacrifice so they could escape, they took it as a move of leadership and followed me like sheep. It made me angry, because they had the chance to escape. Luckily, Tressa was nowhere to be seen. All of our eyes scanned the area for a sign of her. But the area was empty except for the after school traffic down Boxelder St.

I could hear Jesse remark, “Damn that girl runs fast.” He always had a smart comment, even in the worst situations. For the first time that day my mind was not on Cody in anyway, but on the fate that I had been dreading staring me straight in the eye. I sat down on the pavement as the cop asked Shonoa, her friend and I our full names and birthdates to run for warrants. The dread just kept on building and I could taste metal in the back of my throat. My palms were sweaty and I rubbed them on my dress as he looked at me for my information. I could lie to him, like I have to an authority figure once before. But it back fired on me last time as they found out I was no Jessica. I tried to keep my voice from wavering as I spoke, “Alison Nicole.” My heart pounded. As he went to the car to run our names through the computer, Jesse turned to me. “You’re screwed, Alie” he said, and I nodded, having thought the same thing to myself over a thousand times in the past three minutes. The younger girl started to cry, but I just ignored her tear trailed face, for I had much larger problems than that. As I saw the cop come back, I held onto a tiny glimmer of hope that maybe nothing had come up under my name. I hung my head down and picked at one of my nails. He asked me if I was aware that I had a warrant, and shattered any bit of hope I still grasped. I was most likely going to jail, I thought. He told me that he would take me away as soon as his female partner arrived to pat me down and make sure I wasn’t carrying any weapons. My mother was going to kill me. He turned to Shonoa and the little one to tell them that he would not press charges on them for smoking marijuana, but would be calling their parents to come pick them up. The pudgy girl broke down in tears, and I turned to her and said, “Seriously, you’re crying because your mommy is gonna find out that you smoke weed. I’m getting arrested right now!”

I sat on the steps, and let everything sink in, in a way through all the despair and worry, I felt a tiny seed of relief that all the paranoia over my warrant was over. Jesse turned to me. “Hey, maybe your cellmate will be KT.” I chuckled and a smile broke threw my mask of self-pity. KT was one of my best friends who never came back from her court date the week before. Rumor had it that she was in jail for violating her probation when she stole her mother’s car to go to a party. I saw another cop car pull up and the female officer open up the driver’s side door and step out. Kids coming in and out of the public library were all stopping to stare at me. Well, this would be a story for the next day, or week, or month. I’m not sure if anyone has ever gotten arrested at the public library before. I stood up as the officer patted me down in front of all my friends. I envied them, how after I was gone they could go about the rest of their day as planned. My day had taken a dramatic turn for the worse, and not just my day but my life. After I was done being patted down, I was ordered to turn around and put my hands behind my back. I felt the cold slap of metal handcuffs against my wrists. It was a feeling I would never forget and it sent shivers up my entire body. I was escorted into the back of the cop car. It was over.

But I learned something that day; you can’t hide from your mistakes forever. I knew I had a warrant for accidentally missing my court date months before, but instead of owning up to my mistake I ran from it. In hindsight, I realized I could have just rescheduled my court date, and taken the consequences. But instead I let it all build up to that moment of being escorted from a familiar and comfortable place, into the confines of the backseat of a cop car in front of everyone I saw on an almost daily basis. A lot of things caught up with me that day, my warrant, skipping community service for someone who didn’t have the decency to show up, being just two of them. That wasn’t my first encounter with the cops, and it wasn’t my last, but it was the one that made one of the biggest impressions on me.

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