daniel, kelly, and kelly’s sister erin came to see me at the last craft market of the year on sunday. erin was visiting from brooklyn, and kelly wanted to show her some cool places in town, so she asked me where i thought they should go for lunch.
“ooh, go to baba yega,” i said. “it’s not too far from here. the food is good and they have a great patio. with live parrots! and a little bridge and a fountain!”
“okay,” kelly said. “how do we get there from here?”
“you’ll take westheimer until you get to montrose, where there’s that diamond shamrock gas station on the corner. you know the one i’m talking about? it’s where i got arrested.”
“yeah. it happened right there on the corner of westheimer and montrose. that’s how the cops got there so fast. the parking lot of that diamond shamrock is where they made me do my field sobriety test. and then i had to do another field sobriety test. and then they handcuffed me and put me in the back of the squad car, and i could see them giving andy the field sobriety test, too! and then they put andy in a squad car, a different squad car than the one i was in, but we could see each other through the car windows! then they took me to jail.”
“you never told me any of that.”
“really? i guess it happened before we knew each other. after the light at montrose you’ll take a left on grant; it’s the very next street. baba yega is a few blocks down grant on your right.”
until i said all those things to kelly out of the blue, i hadn’t realized how much i still think about my DWI, even though it’s been almost two years. it’s not something i worry about multiple times a day like i used to, but apparently it’s still with me, lurking around in my subconscious. i think my feelings about it are best described by something i said to billy and my sister megan at 20×2 2.0:
“do you feel remorse?” billy asked me.
“of course i do!” i said. “what kind of person would i be if i didn’t?”
“i didn’t want you to take that the wrong way,” he said. “i guess i just want to know what you think about it.”
“mostly i think about the sequence of events that night,” i said. “i think about what would have happened if even one tiny little thing had changed. if andy and i had left the bar earlier or later, or if the guy in the car in front of me had stayed home that night, or if someone had decided to cross the street at that exact moment. if any one of a hundred things had gone differently, i might have killed someone.”
we were quiet for a minute.
“that’s interesting,” megan said. “i thought for sure you were going to say that if any one of those things had gone differently, then it might not have happened to you. but i’m glad you said it your way instead.”
“well, sure,” i said. “that part of it isn’t about me.”
and really, very little of what happened that night was about me. the reason i was arrested wasn’t about me. the harm i could have caused wasn’t about me. i was the perpetrator, not the victim. there are only four things for which i feel that i personally deserve sympathy:
1) a week after i was arrested, a friend of mine had a party at his apartment. it was a barbecue-and-beer sort of party, so it started in the afternoon and continued on late into the evening. next door to the apartment building there was a dive bar with coin-operated pool tables, so some of us wandered over there to play a few games. my friends matt and jon, both of whom are good at pool and were quite drunk that evening, got a bit competitive with each other.
after the bar closed and we went back to the apartment, matt and jon decided they wanted to go to a pool hall. we tried to stop them from leaving the party, but they were adamant. so, with andy holding me back, i had to watch my two drunken friends get in their two separate cars and drive off to find a game of pool. they nearly hit several parked cars as they drove out of the lot.
2) four months after i was arrested (three months after my sentencing), i went to see a local band play at a nearby club. after their set was over, i said goodnight to everyone and went home to sleep. the next day, one of my close friends told me that he’d been so drunk at the club the night before that when he drove himself home he had to hold his hand over one eye so that he could see the road clearly.
this friend knew that i was on probation for DWI. he knew that if he’d called me from the club, i would have come and picked him up, no questions asked, no matter how late it was. he knew, too, that i’d have given him a ride back to his car in the morning. but he punctuated his tale of one-eyed drunken driving with a silly laugh, as though he thought i’d find the story amusing.
i didn’t. it made me angry. if you’re not going to learn from my mistake, there’s little i can do about that. but don’t repeat my mistake right in front of me, and for god’s sake don’t tell me about it afterwards.
3) i had to provide a urine sample once a month for the entire year i was on probation. urine samples (UA’s) were taken by the same woman every time. in my head i called her the pee-test lady. the pee-test lady would sit on a stool and watch you like a hawk as you went into the doorless stall, sat down on the toilet seat, and peed into a little plastic cup with a lid. when you were finished, you’d snap the lid shut and and wipe off the outside of the cup with a wad of toilet paper. you’d hand her your cup of urine, and she’d slap an adhesive label on the lid and tell you where to sign it.
“sign your name where it says ‘donor,'” she’d say.
“‘donor’?” i said to her once. “‘donor’ is rather subjective in this case, isn’t it?” she didn’t laugh.
it was difficult to pee while being watched, so difficult that each time it took me a full minute of intense concentration before i could do it. i always wanted to ask the pee-test lady if everyone else took a long time like i did, but she never seemed like she wanted to talk.
on second thought, maybe you should feel sorry for her.
4) when people who don’t know me well find out about my arrest, they sometimes get this look in their eyes that i really don’t like. it’s a look i’ve seen fairly often, but i still can’t get used to it, and it hurts every time. it’s the judgmental look, the one that says i’m a horrible person. it’s the look that doesn’t care how badly i feel about it or how much my behavior has changed since it happened. it’s the look that hates me for what i did.
that look is one of the reasons i don’t go out much anymore. it’s why i don’t enjoy meeting new people like i used to. it’s what makes every problem insurmountable, every task daunting, every single new thing utterly terrifying.
i think i might take a break from writing, at least until the new year. for now i don’t have anything else to say.