The Commitment Ring
I exerted every ounce of my ingenuity and strength, mustering a fierce, almost daemonic trance, which I exerted on this poor, not overly bright cop. He didn't stand a chance. By constant intellectual argument, and manic intensity, coupled with perfect bo
Once inside the jail I was divested of all my personal belongings except my commitment ring, which I refused to give up. The paperwork seemed endless, but finally I was led to a booking room where a different pair of cops was completing the paperwork for another arrest.
As I waited on the bench, a beefy, spunky looking lesbian (I assumed) cop absent-mindedly brushed her boot back and forth over the rung of her stool. In my loneliness, the soft repetitive thud of her boot against the chair sounded to me like the heartbeat of humanity and gave me hope.
Before I was processed, they allowed me to make a phone call. The rules for using the phone were very complicated. I racked my brain for any number except my boyfriend’s. I still hoped to keep him out of this. But I finally realized tearfully there was no choice. I called him and haltingly told him what had happened.
Eventually it was my turn to be processed, photographed and finger-printed, and photographs were taken of the bruises caused by the fight. I was by this time so deeply fatigued that I could barely move. They gave me a piece of paper on which I managed to scrawl my signature. They gave me a pink copy, but since I was too tired even to accept it in my hand, they stuffed it into one of my pockets. They un-cuffed and directed me, all but dead on my feet, towards what looked like an exit, where they said I'd be given my cell-phone.
The room was more of a tiny corridor than a room, and was locked at both ends, with an open grille into the booking room. I was not given my cell-phone. I sat patiently for what seemed like an hour, finally asking an officer what was going on. He mumbled something about needing the pink ticket. I scrambled through my jeans and found it, and pushed it out through the bars, and asked them why nobody had told me that all I needed to do to get out was present the pink ticket?
This was when I realized that something was very wrong. The officer got angry at me: he said they’d told me about the pink ticket; it wasn’t their fault I hadn’t listened. I started to cry with fatigue and despair, and, as I concluded days later, there is nothing more likely to aggravate an LAPD officer than a man crying. What happened next is a bit of a blur, but I do recall that they cleared out, not just a jail cell, but an entire jail block. They cuffed me to lead me to one of the freed up cells, which had presumably been holding several men just minutes earlier, un-cuffed me, and locked the door behind me.
It’s important, at this point, to step outside of my narrative for a few moments, otherwise the remaining events may not be easily understood. I was still (though I didn't recognize it) in the grip of the manic phase of my first bipolar swing. Each day, I experienced hundreds of times more thoughts than I was used to. It was now Friday, and I hadn’t been to bed since Wednesday night. For each of several days previously, I’d had no more than a couple of hours sleep, and those days had been filled with frantic intellectual activity. I’d spent a good portion of Thursday shopping; and that night there had been the long argument at the Ramada, into which the West Hollywood Sheriffs Department had been pulled; and then the series of confrontations at the Omni Hotel which had culminated in the fight that got me arrested. Because of the rapidity of my thought process, every minute spent in that cell seemed like an eternity.
My heart was racing. It was very hot, and I took off my shirt and doused my body with water. Now and then I'd hear the clinking of keys as a jailor approached, and my heart would leap, and then sink again as the sound dwindled. I wept and felt intolerably alone in the hot cell where nobody could even hear me when I yelled, which I did frequently. I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t been released.
You see people in jail all the time: in movies and on television. They’re not crying, you’re probably thinking. It’s a question I’ve posed myself: why was I so distraught that I’d cry more violently than at any time in my adult life? It’s one of many things I did during my manic episode that I can’t readily explain. When you’re in a level mood, it’s almost impossible to recognize in yourself that person who did those things. I literally thought I was going to die in that cell.
The phone in the cell didn't seem to work according to the same system as the one I’d used earlier. A passing, obviously psychopathic cop told me I hadn't listened, because the code to use the phone, although different than for the other phone, had been explained to me. I begged him to explain it again. He had nothing but contempt for what he saw as my weakness.
I eventually learned the correct code, but also learned it could only call land-line numbers, and I didn’t remember any. Nonetheless, although I was so tired that I had to hold myself up by leaning against the phone, I stood at the phone long minutes, randomly dialing numbers in the hope of reaching anybody who could help me. All I got was the busy signal.
Despite my fatigue, my mind was still running so hot that I felt I'd been eight hours in that cell, when in fact it may well have been as few as two.
I wept many times, groaned and roared with frustration, rattled the bars, trying to make a ruckus. Once, a cleaning woman went past, and I faked having a heart attack. I swear she didn't miss a single mote of dust. Later, when a female cop passed, I managed to persuade her I was close to having a heart attack, which, by this time, I believed to be true. She brought back the psychopathic cop who’d poured scorn on me earlier. He looked at me in disgust. "Be a man," he said, and walked away.
Somehow though – perhaps because of the female cop – my medical condition was finally taken seriously, and I was cuffed again. This time the cuffs were behind my back, and cruelly tight for my large wrists. I was led back to the holding cell next to the booking room; then taken into a medical room to see two nurses who took my blood pressure, which must have been very high – especially since, before they’d taken it, I’d deliberately excited myself internally in the hope of increasing it.
But the nurses gave me no information; nor did they prescribe medication. I was moved to a holding cell, in the same cuffed posture. The cell was at least an improvement over the distant cell-room I’d just come from, and I felt, since it was next to the processing room, that it was likely to be closer to where Ben was. It was furnished only with a wooden bench. I was completely depleted of all strength, barely able to walk; my only opportunity to rest was to lower myself backwards onto the bench. But in that position, the cuffs bit into my lower back, leaving bruises that lasted for weeks afterwards. The cuffs were so tight that my hands were turning blue.
I tried to be patient, but hours seemed to pass. They told me that my boyfriend was just next door, and I thought he was maybe just through the far door that the cops used to exit the booking room. Each time that door opened, I'd yell Ben's name, hoping he’d hear me.
From time to time, I'd sink to the floor and weep again, feeling hopeless and wretched. I had no idea how things had come to this, nor what to do about it, nor how it would end, if ever. I slammed my cuffs against the grille, careless that I might further damage myself, trying to wear out the patience of the cops. My heart-rate began to accelerate again, and once again I felt in fear of having a heart attack, with the cuffs cutting off my circulation. I demanded medical attention, and they kept saying I'd seen the doctor thirty minutes ago, which, by then, was clearly a lie. I faked another Oscar-worthy heart attack, which was ignored as the first had been. I began to feel they wanted me to either die, or commit suicide, anything to release them from responsibility over me.
I was in a dangerous condition of desperation, prepared to do almost anything to get out of that cell. When an officer temporarily opened the my cell-door, I thrust my foot through the opening to prevent the door closing. Everybody tensed up. I knew I was endangering myself, but I had to get medical attention, or reach Ben. I asked them if I could see Ben because he was an M.D and medical professor. I watched with all my concentration, to see if the cops were going for their weapons. The stand-off didn’t last long: I didn’t have the strength to hold the door open, and they pushed me back inside.
But the incident must have impressed upon them that I believed I was medically at risk; so they offered me the opportunity to see the nurses again. I refused, saying I'd only see Ben, my own doctor. Naively, I thought they'd have to let me see him. But that just wasn't going to fly.
I wanted desperately to reach Ben, to let him know I was nearby. I started talking to a Hispanic cop, and, despite my intense fatigue, my mind was now working again at a furious pitch. I exerted every ounce of my ingenuity and strength, mustering a fierce, almost daemonic trance, which I exerted on this poor, not overly bright cop. He didn't stand a chance. By constant intellectual argument, and manic intensity, coupled with perfect body language, I had him convinced that I was capable of seeing his soul. I made him believe that he, alone of all the cops, had a shred of a soul left, and that he could rescue that soul from destruction. There was not an argument that he could muster that I couldn’t instantly contradict with a telling blow.
I’m aware that this story would sound more convincing if I could recall the conversation. But when you’re manic, a lot of what you say vanishes into a black hole never to be recalled, except for the momentary brilliance before it vanished past the event horizon.
Finally, once I had him in my hand, so to speak, I let slip my commitment-ring so that it fell near him. I told him that he could save his soul from destruction by picking it up and giving it to Ben.
“But that would be breaking the rules,” he said.
He seemed to be good-hearted, indeed the only such cop I came into contact with that night. I didn't want to hurt him, but I felt an inconceivable urgency to get out of the cell, whatever it took. He kept gripping his head, saying, "Oh man, you're messing with my head." Other people, mostly janitorial staff members, were also watching, transfixed at the scene. I’d never, at any time in my life, been more focused and present than I was right then, intent on forcing this man to my will, even from my position of apparent helplessness.
I pulled his partner in, an utterly soulless German-American blond surnamed Weh, full of bravado. He tried to goad me, but I wouldn’t be overridden. I told him that I could see right into his head.
“What do you see,” he asked.
“Nothing,” I replied. “You have no soul.”
After more exchanges like this, he tried to laugh me off, but would not meet my eyes.
“Do you know any German?” I asked him.
“No,” he said.
“Do you know what your surname means?”
“The word “weh” means “empty.” ” (It doesn’t.)
A certain chill entered the eyes of both partners. My eyes and my relentless argument tore into them. Ultimately, almost beyond belief, I had both of them convinced that I was the Anti-Christ, and that they had two choices: one was to hand the ring to Ben, the other was to place the ring on my finger at which point, since I was the Anti-Christ, I'd extinguish their souls for good. I was in the grip of manic brilliance: I had them so scared that neither of them would put the ring on my finger.
They were saved from eternal damnation when the sergeant, realizing how dangerous my words were, reassigned the two cops.
My heart was racing again, and I was increasingly desperate. I knew I needed medical attention, or else I’d probably have a heart attack or a brain aneurysm, and there was only one trick left to pull. I announced very loudly, that at the count of ten I would commit suicide. I counted down very loudly, increasingly slowly. At the count of “one”, I sought for a way to make it seem like I could do it. But I couldn’t find a way of making it look plausible; I was too weak to climb up onto anything to act as if I was going to plunge to the ground head first, and, besides, with my hands shackled behind my back, there was no way I could even climb. I collapsed on the floor and wept more bitterly than ever.
For the first time, the sergeant voluntarily spoke to me through the grille, speaking the words for which I’d given up hoping: I was about to be released: but to a medical facility, not to my partner and freedom. They’d evidently believed I was suicidal; my ploy had worked in so far as it did lead to my getting out of jail. However it ended, wholly unexpectedly, with my being strapped into a gurney. As I was led by medical orderlies to the ambulance, I realized it was a beautiful summer evening. I was endlessly thankful that Ben was not there to witness me tied up as if I was a crazy person. It was completely beyond my comprehension, however, that I’d only been in jail for eight hours: it had felt like more then twenty-four.
I suddenly remembered, with panic, my commitment ring, still on the floor. But somebody else had had the same thought. The Hispanic cop came up to the gurney, and, without saying anything or making eye-contact, slipped my ring into the pocket of my jeans.
I whispered to him urgently, “Find a new partner!”