A novel by EJ Spode.
Chapter 9: Triggered
The next day I slept until noon and then dozed until about 3 PM. I got up and ate a bowl of dry granola. (I was out of milk, but really, did it matter?) I took a quick, cold shower and then remembered that I had missed my laundry day; now I had nothing to wear except a T-shirt that had a male pheasant on it and which said, “South Dakota is Big Cock Country.” Whatever. I threw a sweater over it. As I said before, layering is a good idea in the winter, but it can also hide your blown laundry day fashion sins.
The plan with Athena was again to try and go see Penny at the Stockman, but my resolution was not as unyielding as it had been the night before. As the San Pedro cactus began to lose its grip on me I began to lose my grip on my god-defying courage. I had the idea that it might be better to stay home and play video games, but Athena insisted that it was go time.
I picked up Athena around 6:00, and we went to a truck stop restaurant out at the intersection of Interstates 29 and 90. Athena had a thing for their sticky buns, and I will confess they are pretty tasty. I ate one too, since there wasn’t anything else edible. I also ordered coffee, but it tasted like they had used a used oil rag as the coffee filter. Shit was nasty. But what the hell, it was coffee and thus badly needed.
Athena laid out the plans: Penny was working at the Stockman, so we were going to drop in and have a drink and Pen and I were going to arrange a get-together before I left leave town.
Athena and I paid our bill and left a fat tip and went out and got in my car. I noticed a highway patrolman sitting in the parking lot, which was not entirely weird; those guys eat sticky buns too. But then as I pulled out of the parking lot the highway dick pulled out behind us. I also had the sense that he was following me. Whether he was or not, I did not want a highway dick on my ass, so I pulled into the parking lot of the dry cleaner next door. He came in right behind me, blocking me, and turned on his hazard lights.
“Athena, do you have any idea what this is about?”
I rolled down my window. The cop walked up and asked for my license and registration. He looked in and checked out Athena and then the back seat. Then he walked back to his car.
“Shit EJ, do you know who that is?”
“Fuck no, you know him?”
“That’s Lou Anne and Pauly’s dad.”
“Oh shit… but… Funmaker was supposed to keep him off my nuts.”
The dick (i.e. Lou Ann and Pauly’s dad) came back. “You are going to leave your car here. I am taking you to the station. Step out of the car Mr. Spode.”
Athena leaned over me and addressed the cop because I was more or less not at all sure what was going on. “What is this about, Officer?”
“Don’t tell me how to do my job, young lady. Unless you want to come to the station too.”
That got my attention. “Whoa dude…” It was all I could think of to say. I had seen cops on mad power trips before, but this guy was leaving orbit. His nostrils were flaring, and a spidery cluster of veins was throbbing on the right temple of his meaty ass head. I guess Athena saw this too because she could not help but comment on it.
“You are going to stroke yourself officer. EJ didn’t do anything.”
“Shut the fuck up lady or you are going to get cuffed.”
“Fine,” Athena said as she jumped out of the car and ran back to the truck stop next door. As she ran away, she shouted back “I’m calling Funmaker!…”
The highway dick, a.k.a. Pauly’s dad (and from this point forward a.k.a. Officer Dickwad) had me get out to the car and put my hands behind my back at which point he zip tied them together in an excessively tight and kind of mean way. I should have been more scared than I was, but seriously, the fucktupedness of this made me marvel at the situation more than fear it. All I could think in the moment was What The Fuck???
Officer Dickwad dick-marched me to his squad car, opened the back door, and then dug his fingers into the back of my neck as he guided me head first into the back seat, then kneeing me in the glutes and launching me into the car so hard that I hit my head on the opposite door. Conflicting waves of pain traveled up and down my spinal cord, and I couldn’t make out whether my head or ass hurt the most or even whether I could still feel anything in my ass. Paralysis! Fuck! Plus I couldn’t feel anything in my hands either. Then he took me on the ride of my life.
I don’t know how long we drove around, but it was five minutes to the Minnehaha County Jail, and I would say we drove around in the country for a good half hour. He did some quick stops, hard turns, and managed to find every pothole in the county road network. Now this might not sound so bad, but it seriously was. In the first place the back of a cop car is not exactly padded for comfort, and with my hands zip tied tightly behind me there wasn’t anything I could do to prevent my head and ass from getting banged over and over.
By the time we got to the jail I was super pissed off.
Officer Dickwad pulled me out of his car by grabbing the back color of my shirt and my belt and more or less lifting me out in one motion. He was a big strong motherfucker, I’ll grant him that. We walked me to the processing desk.
“Wreckless driving, DUI, resisting arrest, creating a public nuisance, broken tail light…”
“That’s some bullshit.”
The desk officer looked up at me as he keyed in the charges – I guess he could type without looking, which, I suppose if you sit at a desk long enough, will happen. He didn’t say anything but printed out a document for Officer Dickwad to sign.
Officer Dickward left with a smirk on his face and another officer came and got me and had me remove my belt and shoelaces. They took me through a series of gates and doors and finally deposited me in a holding cell by myself. The cell looked like it had just had a makeover. The bars had recently been painted green – so recently that the cell smelled of fresh paint. Well, fresh paint, WD-40 and recently scrubbed concrete. The WD-40 must have been used to oil the cell doors because they opened and closed with absolutely zero squeaking. Without the anticipated sound, it struck me as unnatural movement.
There were some steel benches bolted onto the walls of the cell but they looked less comfortable than the floor, so I deposited myself in the back corner of the cell and sat on the concrete. For some reason, I kept muttering “what bullshit.” My ass hurt like all fuck so I took off my sweater and sat on it. I felt the top of my head and was pretty sure I was going to get a lump before the day was done. It was really sore. “What bullshit.” My ass still hurt too, so I lay down on the cement floor and used my sweater as a pillow.
I couldn’t sleep.
It dawned on me that I was about to have a full-on panic attack. My handling by Officer Dickwad triggered some pretty intense memories from when I was a kid, mostly stuff having to do with my mom on one of her alcohol induced emotional meltdowns. They were not pretty. When I was young it involved physical restraint and physical abuse. When I got older and physical punishment had no effect, it involved endless psychological abuse. I would bug out and hide at a neighbor’s house or in the neighboring woods until it was safe to go home.
Running to the woods. It’s what I still do.
Triggered. What the fuck does that mean even? Everyone talks about triggering, but that probably means no one knows what they are talking about. One imagines it works the way that psychologists talk about operant conditioning. You put a bunny in front of a baby and make a loud noise and behold: The baby is now afraid of cute and cuddly things. You come to associate a stimulus with unpleasant emotions. Your brain becomes miswired.
I guess that’s how it is supposed to work, but I can’t escape the thought that I’m letting it happen – like it is an excuse for me to wear any fucking emotion I please, amplify that emotion as much as I want, and do any fucking reactive thing I want and basically be a total dick while still claiming the moral high ground. “Oh, you don’t like my shitting all over your day? Well, I was triggered so fuck you.”
I’m not claiming that this is how it is for other people; I’m only talking about myself here, but: I wonder. I mean I get the phenomenology; there are these experiences are out of my control. To this day I have nightmares about people grabbing at me and I have very vivid dreams of them physically restraining me and verbally abusing me. And whatever, I dream about plane crashes too, but the problem is that to this day if someone grabs at me I freak the fuck out. Well, that’s one problem. The bigger problem is that if I begin to feel any sense of emotional abandonment and/or verbal abuse I peace out – I run to the woods.
I wonder if it has to go this way. Putting together meaningful lives requires that we act against urges and fears and panics. If we weren’t doing that, we would just be corks floating on an ocean of impulses. There is always a powerful current taking us somewhere fucked; we always have the handy excuse that the ocean took us to that fucked place. But we don’t have to bob helplessly in the ocean. We can swim.
I could feel myself going under water, sinking into the concrete floor to avoid the panic that came with standing up and facing the world. I needed to tread water. I needed to start swimming.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Image: Jana Astanov.
Chapter 1: Giants in the Earth:
Chapter 2: The Welcome Inn:
Chapter 3: Dimebag Bob’s:
Chapter 4: The Trojan Horse:
Chapter 5: The Turtle Diaries:
Chapter 6: The Cartagena Diaries
Chapter 7: Penny
Chapter 8: San Pedro
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, December 25th, 2016.