So yeah, I got arrested that September, and it pretty much changed everything.
Forever and ever...in my life, at least.
Why did it change everything, you might be wondering?
Well, not for the reasons you’re probably thinking.
Okay, yeah, it was really humiliating. I got thrown in jail for two nights. The cops treated me like some kind of PCP-smoking weirdo and wouldn’t let me call my mom for twenty-four hours. My mom flipped out. My brother Jon really flipped out. My friends all flipped out. I got a psych eval, as mandated by the state of California for all new violent offenders with no previous criminal records. I got a blood test...again. I had to pee in a jar.
Then, after all of that, I had to do community service. I couldn’t leave town. Worse, I had to check in with the authorities, and yes, wear a shiny new GPS bracelet that was even more awkward to explain when I finally got back to my job at Lucky Cat diner.
Who thankfully, by some miracle, hadn’t fired me.
None of that was the real issue, either, though.
The real problem, as they explained to me much, much later in time, was that I made myself visible. That little freak-out of mine with Jaden and the broken bottle and the bimbo band groupie was like sending up a great, big, noisy flare, one that got all the wrong people looking in my direction.
Why is that, you might be wondering?
Well, it’s simple. See, what I did was only crazy if you’re human.
If you’re not human, I was later to discover, it’s pretty much run-of-the-mill normal.
I tried not to fidget as I stared around the courthouse room.
I should be used to being in this place. I wasn’t. Nor did I really want to be.
I hoped I wouldn’t be called last. That desk jockey I spoke to promised me he’d try to get me put at the top of the list, but I was pretty sure he’d just been angling for my number. I still needed to stop by my mom's place before work, and the clock was ticking.
Just as I was starting to wonder if I should call my manager, Tom, and give him a head’s up that I’d be late again, the court clerk appeared in the narrow doorway on the other side of the low wall, wearing a portable monitor. He cleared his throat, and the sound echoed in the featureless room, a bland, institutional-looking space clearly designed to make us feel like rats in a cage, or maybe just numbers instead of names. The four off-white walls were broken only in a few places, by that pony wall that served almost like a balcony, and a one-way window above the two sets of double-doors at the back of the room.
A row of scuffed up wooden benches held most of us waiting on the clerk, with a few extra people perched on cheap-looking folding chairs that stood against the walls to the right and the left of me. The off-white linoleum had stains I didn’t want to know about.
I watched as the court clerk unfurled the monitor from around his wrist and spread it out on the podium-like table in front of him. He squinted at it for a few seconds, then drew on it with a finger, probably going through the list of our names.
Meaning, the ex-convicts’ names. Meaning people like me.
The thought still boggled my mind.
The clerk looked up at all of us a few seconds later. He squinted at us, too.
I wondered if he needed eye surgery, or if it was some kind of facial tic.
Finally, he motioned at me.
“Verify identification,” he said, indicating the small podium that stood across from him.
I walked up to that same podium, feeling suddenly like I should have dressed better for this. It was just a monthly check-in to make sure I hadn’t run off, or found some way to put my GPS tracker on my dog. I’d done six or seven of these already, but this time, I was nervous for some reason. I’d never seen this guy before, so maybe that was it. The last guy was more laid back.
He was also quicker about it, jamming through the list without a lot of bureaucratic grandstanding. When this new guy made another pointed gesture towards the microphone, I cleared my throat.
“Alyson May Taylor,” I said.
"You go by Alyson?"
I cleared my throat again. "Allie."
“Place of residence?”
“2119 Fillmore Street, San Francisco.”
I held up my arm, showing him the “H” tattoo on my inner arm.
“Speak into the microphone, please.”
“Human,” I said.
I hesitated. “Unknown.”
The man’s eyebrows went up, changing the shape of his thick face. The elongated skin pushed up the short bangs framing his square cheeks, confirming he’d had some kind of cosmetic surgery to tighten his skin. It struck me that he looked a bit like a cartoon pig.
“I’m adopted,” I clarified.
“No registered birth family?” the man said. He leaned closer, staring at me with an open, and somewhat morbid-seeming curiosity.