October 6, 2011 — Delaney Hall Detention Facility, Newark, New Jersey
As I hear Eni start to snore lightly from the bunk above, I am glad. Let him rest even if I can’t. My heart is still beating too quickly to relax. All I can focus on now is what the last several hours meant to me as a man and, by extension, my family. It’s a way of dealing, I suppose. Worry for my wife and business were put in a box. Compartmentalizing was one way I’d coped with life’s circumstances since childhood. A mechanism I used so I could put one foot in front of the other, despite what has happened. As a child I’d learned it, as an adult I’d perfected it. But I’d soon realize in the days ahead that this well-honed trait would be upended.
I supposed I should be grateful that at least we were in a safer place now. The bed was warm, there didn’t seem to be an impending attack by my fellow cellmates. I thought about the indignity of the holding cell, earlier that day. Why couldn’t the guards see that I wasn’t like the eight other guys in that holding cell? I was clean, a contributing member of U.S. society – that’s got to be in the folder if they’d been collecting information on me. I answered questions respectfully, did what I was told with no argument. The others spoke Spanish only as far as I could tell, sported tattoos on their necks and arms, and had weird facial hair that I had no idea how to interpret other than intimidating.
What had they done to get here? I could imagine all kinds of horrible gang- or drug- related offenses, and I worried for Eni and my safety as we stood in that holding cell. After all, isn’t that the best defensive posture? I tried my best not to turn my back on them, but realized I must do so to use the steel toilet in the corner. Eni would later whisper that he thought I was trying to be a bad ass, turning my back on this group. I laughed, the one time that day I did, because I really just needed to pee and me a bad ass? But if these guys interpreted it that way, it couldn’t hurt.