We all turned to look as the principle came to the door of my tenth grade English class. He was with two people dressed in brown suits. I can’t remember what we were learning, what my teacher even looked like or if it was a man or a woman. We spent whole class periods writing notes to each other. Sometimes long letters, telling each other about who we kissed last night or if we snuck out of the house and what drugs we took. We wrote about how we would run away from home or steal a car and drive to the beach. Or just “Meet me on the corner after school and we’ll take the bus to the boardwalk.” I was instructed to go to the principal’s office. I’m scared shitless, what did I do? What did I get caught doing? Then at the end of the concrete path, in front of the administration offices I see my mom. We get closer and I can see she’s been crying and has a worried look on her face. I’m in big trouble, my legs go weak. In the office we all sit down and the mysterious couple flashes me their gold badges. Cops. I have to escape, I’m thinking. I’ll climb out of a window. “I have to go to the bathroom.” I say. The female officer accompanies me. She waits outside the stall, there’s a window but it’s too small to crawl out of. I’m panicking, I don’t know what I’ve done but I have to go back to the office to be questioned. “Do you Know Darnell Penkerd?” One of the cops asks me. “No.” I say. “Did you write this letter?” They show me a letter. “No.” I say. Automatic Lies. I do know Darnell, I did write the letter. I keep lying even though they tell me, “just tell the truth and you won’t be in trouble”. But I don’t, I can’t, the truth is buried so deep. After an hour the interrogation ends. For now. My mom has to go back to work. The cops leave and I’m walked back to class.
Saturday morning we get a visit from the same two cops. They bring the letter in a plastic sleeve and ask me the same questions again. I lie. “I didn’t write the letter.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Keep saying things like this and begin to believe my own lies until they say, “The handwriting specialist said the writing in the letter is a match to your handwriting.” Oh shit. Then my mom asks me, “Have you been accepting collect calls from jail?” I lie. “No.” She had asked me about the collect calls awhile back when we received a $400 telephone bill. “No I don’t know anything about that.” I told her. She had been trying to convince the telephone company there must have been a mistake. Now all the evidence was pointed against me. I am starting to realize the next time someone says, “Just tell the truth and we’ll go”, I need to start thinking about how exactly I can do just that. I’m in big trouble. O.K., I break, I tell the truth. Yes I wrote the letter, I was just joking when I said “I’ll kill the judge if he doesn’t let you out of Jail.” Of course I was. I’m fifteen years old. My mom is crying and mad, so mad. We can’t afford a $400 phone bill, “Who were you talking too? Who do you know in Jail?” she asks. I could have told her everything, all the guys I know in jail. One: The guy who got me pregnant. Two: The first guy I had sex with. Three: The guy who tried to rape me but I got away, but still talk to. Four: Guys I don’t even know, but accept collect calls from instead of doing my homework. I could have told her, “Mom I’ve really messed up, I’m really messed up, I need your help. I need lots of help.” But I didn’t and she didn’t try to help, she was so mad she sent me to my room and said I was grounded for ever.