So it is no longer surprising to me that I might spend a day sitting outside the Wake County jail. With a purpose, no less.
It was a sunny, warm Thursday. Perfect, really, as it started out cool and inviting--the kind of late-summer day in North Carolina that hints at the autumnal delights soon to come. But by mid-morning, I was tanning a line into my arms where my sleeves were, sweat was beading on my neck, and I sought the shade of a scraggly tree at the sidewalk’s edge. I sat there for three hours.
When I had first walked up, I saw the adorable girl approach the frat-boy-looking guy at the next bench. He was barefoot and held his belt in his hands. He looked about 20, in baggy shorts and t-shirt, looking every bit like one of the eight gazillion college kids streaming about the Triangle every fall. She too appeared about 20, and was every inch of adorable, thin, blonde. Her natural-fiber wedges showed off her adorable feet, and her cropped pants and tank top had her looking like a youthful beauty who looked perfect at every occasion. She even looked perfect in front the jail at 9 a.m.
“How long were you in?” she asked our beltless friend. I noticed her wallet and papers in a large ziplock bag next to her. How does she get out of JAIL and still look better dressed than I on my best day?
“I wrecked my car last night. They brought me here.”
Silence as the pieces didn’t add up, and Pretty had to think about it. Beltless seemed to realize it wouldn’t fly. “I got a DUI.”
I passed them both, just as she got up to share his bench, and I wondered who you have to be to be that cute and pick up the barefoot wonder, hungover and dazed, the day after his DUI. I sat at the bench further down the sidewalk. I texted a description of the scene to my friend. He wrote back, “Even Hitler had a girlfriend.”
I read my book for a few minutes while the sun grew stronger, and eventually became aware that Beltless was gone, and Pretty was left alone on her bench. She leaned to her left, where she’d been sitting originally, and started chatting with a stringy guy who had his shoes and belt, but no front teeth. They talked for a while, and he moved over next to her, and I became aware they were exchanging stories of headline-grabbing murders that had happened in town. “Did you hear about those teenagers in Apex who all got together and killed that guy?”
I updated my friend on Pretty being abandoned by Beltless and now talking murder with Stringy, and that they seemed to be hitting it off. He responded, “Love in the ruins.”
They chatted a while, and suddenly I became aware of a loud, insistent honking across the street. A driver, alone at the intersection, leaning on his horn, his purpose unclear since he had no one in front of him except the red light. Pretty, interrupted in her analysis of local brutality, looked up. “DADDY!” she screamed as she leapt to her feet, arms over her head like a gymnast nailing the landing. In seconds she had gathered her things and run across the street. Before she would have finished the sentence she had started, she was in the sedan and they were driving off.
Stringy turned to me, “That girl does NOT belong in jail.” He told me the story of her getting out in 15 days--half of her sentence for multiple DUIs. Stringy, on the other hand, had not been in jail, but had been talking to the clerk of court about a mistake on his driving record. He turned out to be the most functional in the cast of the common-man drama I had just witnessed.
I texted my friend how lucky I am to witness this slice of life. He wrote, “Faulkneresque. If your own family won't have ya then who will?”
And then, “What a world, Jen. What a world.”