All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Biography of a Criminal
Alex waited patiently outside the pre-school principal’s office. To pass the time, she played hopscotch with the squares on the patterned carpet at her feet. A cherry-flavored lollipop, given to her by the nice lady at the reception desk, stuck out of her mouth and got caught in her already matted black hair. After working feverishly trying to get it out, she decided to leave it in there because, as her parents always said, “There’s not enough time to be clean.” As Alex rummaged through the box of toys that the pre-school left out in the lobby, she noticed the many strange looks that people gave her as they walked by. Alex looked around curiously but didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, so she decided to wave back at the people instead. One woman in a nice, well-fitted suit came up to Alex and kneeled beside her on the carpet.
“Hi sweetie,” she smiled, “What’s your name?”
“Aleks,” Alex answered slowly, as if she needed time to think about it.
“And how old are you, Alex?”
“I’m...” She held up four fingers and flashed a smile at the woman.
“Well, you seem very smart,” the woman said, almost sympathetically, “Can I ask you why your clothes are so dirty? Have you been playing in the mud?” She gestured to the ripped, grimy overalls that Alex was wearing. After looking down at them, Alex couldn’t find anything wrong. In fact, she quite liked them.
“Mommy says there’s no time for cleaning,” she said, eyeing the woman’s suit. Alex wondered how long it took to make the suit so shiny.
“Are your parents in there?” The suit-lady asked, pointing towards the principal’s office. Before she could answer, Alex heard the familiar sound of her father’s shouting come booming from inside the room.
“This is bullshit!” She heard him yell. “Why the hell can’t she stay here? This is a damn school! Her mother and I have somewhere to be!” The walls seemed to ring as each word was flung from his mouth.
“Hurry up Robert! The party starts in half an hour!” Alex heard her mother chime in.
“I’m going to need you all to leave,” the principal calmly stated, “Or I’ll have to call security. I don’t know where you’re from, but this is a private pre-school where alcohol is prohibited, and you both reek of it!” Alex didn’t know what the lady was referring to. All she remembered her father saying he drank was “beer”. “Besides,” the principal continued, “Your daughter isn’t registered and you don’t have the finances to keep her here.” Alex heard her father pound on the desk.
“You all are so full of -” Alex stuck her fingers in her ears.
“We’ll be back in a few hours.” Alex’s father grabbed the bottle of beer off the kitchen counter before making his way to the door.
“Make yourself something to eat,” her mother added, grabbing her own bottle along with the car keys, “And don’t forget the rule; stay awake until we’re back. You have to be able to open the door in case someone knocks.”
“Okay bye! Love -” Her parents slammed the door behind them, cutting Alex off. Then she heard the screeching of car tires against the pavement outside. It’s not a big deal, she thought. They always did this. She didn’t care. They’d leave for hours at a time, but Alex thought she was lucky. While other nine-year-olds were going to school, she got to stay home all day. There were times, though, when she’d get curious about what life was like outside of their tiny rental. Alex dreamed of finally learning what having a “friend” meant.
She glanced up at the clock beside the cupboards. The minute hand had broken off when her father dropped the clock during the move, and now it was only possible to tell the hour.
“8,” she said to no one in particular as she rummaged through the fridge, searching for something to eat. The first shelf was packed with beer bottles, but the shelves below it were relatively empty, other than some stale cheese, ketchup, raw chicken, a few cartons of milk, eggs, a half-opened stick of butter, and several other unsavory foods. Suffice to say that the menu wasn’t very long. Alex grabbed a piece of cheese and threw it on some bread from the pantry; dinner. She plopped down on the living room couch and, as she ate her sandwich, flipped through her favorite book, “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. Though she didn’t understand what it was about, Alex still liked to flip through the pictures and try to pronounce the words the way that her father had taught her.
Three hours later, she was still sitting on the couch, flipping through the book yet again. Her mother’s words rang through Alex’s mind: stay awake until we’re back. You have to be able to open the door in case someone knocks. And Alex was still awake when a few hours later someone did come knocking on her door; the suit-lady from pre-school and the police.
Billows of smoke formed around Alex as she sat on the roof of her group home, inhaling the nicotine. They put her in here after her parents’ accident five years ago. Drunk driving, they had said. Death on impact, they had said. It was all irrelevant to her. The accident made her an orphan and, along with several rebellious acts, had sent her here; to this home for juvenile delinquents. It started with robbery. Two chocolate bars from “Grocery Mart”. Just enough to survive, Alex had thought at the time. Then it was public disturbance and vandalism. She threw a rock through a whole and happy family’s window. Alex remembered the looks of pure horror on their faces; how just as the glass shattered, their hope shattered with it, like hers had. A while later, a fire started in the house neighboring hers as the result of someone tossing a match through the window. The police never found out who it was, but Alex added it to her track record anyway. Finally, there was the drinking and smoking. Apparently that was the last straw for her foster family at the time, so Alex was sent to the group home. Most of the other girls in the home didn’t understand her. They weren’t like Alex. They did things for the thrill. They got a kick out of making everyone else’s lives miserable, but Alex didn’t think of herself as a bad person. She was just broken, or so she told herself.
“You’ve got to put that away before the director sees.” A young girl stuck her head out of the window and gestured to Alex’s cigarette. Her name was Dana. She got busted for dealing drugs at her high school.
“Give me a second,” Alex mumbled, bringing the cigarette up to her mouth again.
“You can have three,” Dana said as she crawled out onto the roof next to Alex. Dana was one of the few girls who understood her. Like Alex, she too was broken. “What you thinkin’ about?”
“Them, I guess,” Alex sighed and threw her cigarette down onto the street below. “I was just thinking about how I should’ve known better. All the signs were there. They went out all the time. They partied. They drank. But I thought it was all normal and okay.”
“I get that,” she laughed, “My parents were total screw-ups and they treated me like crap. But you can’t blame yourself. We were young. It’s their fault.”
“Come on, let’s go back inside.” Dana stood up and began making her way back into the house.
“I’ll be there in a second,” Alex said.
As she sat atop the tiled roof, Alex looked out into the street that the home was on. It was a run-down area on the outskirts of the city, since a program for housing delinquents didn’t really generate much funding. Small houses with barred windows and vandalized walls were scattered through the streets. A cemetery was located at the end of the block, but even now, Alex had never visited her parents’ graves. It hurt too much, not that they had died, but that they had abandoned her yet again.
Alex awoke to earsplitting screams coming from the cell next to hers. It was probably Derek having nightmares again; a regular occurrence. Alex knew those screams well. But then again, when you’re locked up next to somebody for years, you get to know them pretty well. Derek was here before she arrived. He was probably about forty years old at the time. They’ve got him in here for murder, but Derek claims that he’s innocent and says that someone framed him. Alex wasn’t sure who to believe. She never was. She got locked up because her crimes as a teenager caught up with her, and she also burned down a building. Alex didn’t think anyone was inside at the time, but it turned out that an old woman had been sleeping in her bed just as the house went up in flames.
“Alexandra Reed.” Alex’s thoughts were interrupted when a security guard approached her cell. “You have a visitor,” he said as he unlocked the bars that caged her, “You’re permitted half an hour.” Alex slowly stepped out and allowed the guard to cuff her hands before making her way toward the visiting booths. No one had ever visited her before. After all, it’s not like she had anyone left who would. As she walked, Alex looked down at her blue prison jumpsuit and was reminded of the overalls that she wore as a little girl. She wished that she could go back to those days, when she was innocent, naïve, and didn’t know how cruel the world around her truly was.
Alex approached the booth and sat down. A young girl, probably about sixteen, sat across from her, separated only by a pane of glass. She had hazel eyes and long black hair that reminded Alex much of her own. She remembered a night in a hospital many years ago. Nurses and doctors surrounded her. She felt intense pain shoot through her. Then she was holding a baby girl with short black hair and hazel eyes. And then she wasn’t. Child service workers rushed in and took the baby from her. Alex was weeping and begging but they didn’t listen. She’s incarcerated. It’s the law, they said.
Alex shuddered as the memories that she had so carefully locked away came flooding back, and then she realized that the girl in front of her was speaking.
“Dad said I had to come see you.” The girl scowled. She looked so different from when she was first born. Tears welled up in Alex’s eyes.
“Are you…?” Alex couldn’t believe it.
“Surprise, surprise,” the girl said, a look of disgust washing over her face, “You don’t even recognize me. But that’s understandable, considering we’ve never actually talked. In fact, I don’t recognize you either.”
“I’m just surprised, that’s all,” Alex started to defend herself, “You’ve never visited before.”
“Visited my mother in prison? No,” the girl snapped, “And I don’t intend on doing it again.” The girl stared to the side as she talked, never meeting Alex’s gaze.
“Thank you -” Alex began.
“Don’t bother,” she retorted, “I had to see you and I’ve seen you. You may be my mother, but I want nothing to do with you.” The girl stood up and stormed away.
“Wait!” Alex desperately called after her, “What’s your name?” But the girl didn’t hear her.
Growing up, Alex thought that her parents were wild and irresponsible; that they didn’t care about her and had abandoned her. But maybe they were just broken, like Alex was. Maybe they had tried their best. As she was being led back to her cell, Alex kept trying to think of explanations for what her parents did to her; for what she was doing to her daughter.