Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
Laura Lee Carpenter
Change is inevitable. Change can be good or bad, can evoke many responses in people, and happens each and every day of our lives. Changes can be profound, and without change there would be no growth, spiritually, mentally, or physically. There are times when changes in our lives seem so scary, so bad, so ultimately devastating that we feel there can be no recovery. We feel that from the moment of a specific change our lives will be a downward spiral. Sometimes this is where the most rewarding things we gain in a lifetime will be found. This may be the moment of clarity one needs to go forward, on to new and better ways, feelings and moments. One may dive deep into the downward spiral only to find that it was only a small part of the quest for a better day, a brighter future. Without the bad experiences people have, I must ask, how would we know the value of what is good, beautiful, and truly elating? We must have these comparisons in order to know anything about growth.
I have always been the sort to find trouble without even looking. I was always an easy target, not to be taken advantage of, but rather to go along with someone on an "adventure." One adventure led to another, and before I knew it, I became a statistic. In the system I had been given many numbers, as given out by all county jail facilities and state penitentiaries. Yes, I am an addict and a convict. Most people do not know this about me; however, I am not ashamed. Everyone has skeletons in a closet, a locked box, or possibly under a mound of dirt, deep behind a shed. It's a good thing I have a large closet.
For several years I had been off parole and had returned my number back to the state; then, I got arrested, once again. This time it was only a drug offense, but this was the arrest that changed my life. I was driving around at two o'clock in the morning in my 1984 Fiero, which was my home. I had vowed to myself that I would not have any passengers in it. Most of the people I knew would use me for their own personal gain, so somehow in my gut I felt carrying passengers would bring trouble to me. That is the natural thing to expect when you are me. I decided one early morning to go against my gut instinct and give a homeless man I knew a ride to his favorite camping place. With the back of the Fiero piled up with his camp gear we sped off. I was to drive him to the camp, go directly back to his place, put my belongings back in the car and go back to my usual place to park and sleep-a place that was quiet and devoid of people, a place where I felt safe. Off we drove.
We decided to go a different route than I would normally have taken through the neighborhood where I spent most of my waking hours. We did not get two blocks from the starting point and we were pulled over by a California Highway Patrolman. [How dare the California Highway Patrol be driving through my neighborhood, and at this hour!] I had expired tags on my license plate and my car was piled high with camp gear. This was plenty of reason to be pulled over. I had drugs in my jacket pocket. I was disgusted with myself for going against a gut feeling and a vow I had made to myself. Jail and prison is, to me, cake, so the fear I felt was not from doing time but from not knowing where my belongings would end up. I did not know what would happen to my car. My plan was to hurry up and get out of this mess so that I could retrieve the car and my belongings before my husband could. This plan did not work out. Instead, the worst thing that could have happened to my possessions did happen. My husband retrieved both my belongings and my car. Back to my husband was a place I was scared to death to go.
The arresting officer was the cause of my change. People plant seeds. We nurture the growth of what we receive, good, bad, or indifferent. This officer-who had driven past me several different times while I was parked in my safe place to rest-was the kindest, most compassionate, and most caring cop I had ever come across. When he arrested me, he did not have my car towed. He was not loud or violent. He did not put the cuffs on too tight or shove me in the back seat of his car. He spent time talking with me, not at me. He asked me about my life. He asked me how I got any number of the bruises that were noticeable on my face, arms, and neck. He asked me if I knew that there was a way out. He cared about me. He cared about me enough to threaten my husband with jail if I were hurt again. The officer pulled my husband over at a later date to inquire of my whereabouts when I was supposed to have been in court. He arrested my husband, who is now in prison.
Because of the caring, compassion, and concern of this California Highway Patrolman and his words to the judge in the courtroom, I received a much lesser charge than I would have received without him. He took the worst thing in my life away, drastic abuse. He gave me the opportunity I needed to become clean and sober. He gave me the opportunity to better myself. He gave me the opportunity to sit in class and the opportunity to write this essay. He gave me the opportunity to have a good life if I so choose. Without the love he is surely filled with, and without his obvious special understanding of human nature, I might never have received this opportunity to live life and to love life. I never saw it coming. Looking back, I am so grateful I was arrested by this particular officer. He has sown the seed, and now the task to nurture this delicate process of growth into full bloom is up to me. I dedicate to him the education I now receive.