I’m stuck on the transport bus next to this crazy mother I did time with in Juvie. Ohhhhhh what memories.
“This guy?,” I think. “Really? Of all people I never thought I’d see again and here he is, just like me, cuffed, shackled and in a metal box, I mean bus.”
I turn my head away hoping to stay inconspicuous, leaning against the area where a window would reasonably be expected, except, not here. This is a prison transport bus and nothing opens or shuts without assistance. Windows? I wish. Doors. Cuffs. Shackles. Our minds.
We were young, Derrick and I, when we robbed that jewelry store after finishing our last day of tenth grade. I’ll never forget his enticing smile and beguiling words, “C’mon, what can happen?”
Nineteen long months in Broward Juvenile Detention Center helped me re-assess the effectiveness of some of my behaviors and attitudes. I probably wouldn’t have finished high-school and definitely wouldn’t have graduated law school. Conversely, Derrick, I heard, took a detour straight into a “dead” end.
I wonder, “Does he recognize me? How could he NOT?” I knew him immediately. Those eyes, still warm and brown, only now, hard as diamonds.
I feel something poking my side that I try to ignore. I just want to sleep until we get to Gates Correctional Institution. After booking and processing, we’re gonna be locked down in the medical unit for twenty-three hours a day while being evaluated and oriented; the first week is nothing nice.
Again, poke, poke, poke. No longer able to feign ignorance, I slowly open my eyes and actively shift my body, indicating potential waking behavior. Peering out narrowed eyelids, I gaze upon Derrick’s familiar smile and brown eyes. Again he presses his index finger into my side, this time holding the pressure point until our eyes meet.p
We have an entire conversation in those twenty-five seconds. Shaking my head, I look away. I know what I heard was true. Derrick was sentenced to death row for shooting someone during the commission of a robbery. In the process of defending his own life, he inadvertently took someone else’s, capital murder.
He’s twenty-seven years old. So am I. I’m looking at my three to five year bid for embezzlement with the possibility of parole in eighteen months, a year and a half total. Now I’m looking at Derrick. I want to switch places with him, save him, hug him, cry.
We do not move. Still looking into each other’s eyes, we smile. Some minutes pass and a few highway exit signs go by in succession. A deep rumble sounds out, a lot like distant thunder, startling the bus occupants into communal silence. Again. Louder. Closer. Rumbling. Rumbling, rumbling, rumbling like an avalanche, but, from where?
Everyone is on their last nerve, including the driver and two armed U.S. Marshals. As we round a bend and begin the last twenty-mile stretch of roadway until we arrive at our destination, we feel the entire bus lift off the ground, as if by a tornado, front end first, spinning. Rather than a whirlpool-like circular motion, we are moving forward and revolving in a perfect spiral, as if an NFL quarterback tossed the bus. We are traveling at such high speeds, it feels still.
The other passengers seem frozen in time and space. Derrick elbows me in the side, making and holding direct eye contact. The driver’s head is stuck to the ceiling, and the two Marshals locked in the front cage with him are also suspended in space, physically frozen and visibly unable to move. Derrick and I maintain eye contact throughout this ordeal. No one knows what is happening. Even more curious, no one seems to notice or care. As the bus careens forward in this spiraling manner, I practice the meditative breathing I learned from my mindfulness coach, keeping myself grounded long enough to see a spinning vortex out the front windshield. “A portal?” I guess.
In an instant, everything becomes pixelated. From it’s hind end, the bus and all of its contents and passengers start to disappear in front of my eyes.
Wait, what is going on? Where are my legs? Where is Derrick? I’m me and I’m conscious of that fact, but I don’t seem to exist anywhere, when suddenly another portal opens, spitting me out whole and fully formed.
It’s sunny, hot, actually. What happened to the suit I was wearing in court? Where’s the unfinished dragon tattoo on my forearm?
I’m wearing acid-wash jeans and a fluorescent tank top? Nothing is registering. I begin to pinch my skin where my tattoo had been moments before, when, who drops out of the sky in front of my feet? Derrick. He starts walking next to me as if we had started out together and talking to me as if we had already been involved in a discussion about what a dick Mr. Landsman is for giving him a “D” in chemistry.
“Summer is starting, let’s make some fast cash. I know you want to take your girl out tonight. The Galleria Mall is three blocks away with a jewelry store that’s got a back entrance into a secluded area of the parking garage. We can catch the owner as he’s leaving with money and diamonds he locks away every night,” Derrick suggests.
“How do you know all this?”
“I make it my business to know these things. The elements we studied in chemistry make up the jewelry, but in this world, who cares where they come from or why? C’mon, what can happen?”
My throat constricts as my heart pumps adrenalin into every cell of my body. I hear the sharp and final thwack of a judge’s gavel and automatically put my hands behind my back. I feel cold hard metal encircle my wrists and hear each click as the cuffs tighten. For a reason I don’t understand, I have a burning need to touch something soft, walk freely, breathe fresh air.
“Uhhhhhh, I don’t think so, Derrick. I promised Sherman I’d walk his new puppy after school. You in?” I beseech with my eyes; and add with wry grin, “C’mon, what can happen?”