In my thirty-seventh year, I divorced the father of my four kids after 16 years together, and I was arrested three times: once for assaulting him, once for assaulting his new girlfriend, and the last time for violating the order of protection he’d taken out after the first incident, when I upended a coffee table in his direction on Christmas Eve, two months after we’d separated. Aside from traffic violations, I’d never before been in legal trouble, never been in handcuffs, never seen the inside of a police station.
The third time was in some ways the most humiliating. I was arrested for incessant cursing at my ex. For almost a year, I used every interaction with Q. — every phone call, e-mail, and text — to insult and mock him, usually in vulgar language. He finally couldn’t take it anymore — he said the stress was killing him — and filed a complaint with the local precinct saying that I’d violated his order of protection. This was rock bottom. I’d always had rages and suffered from periodic depression, but what had happened in the year since I’d left my marriage was on another level altogether. I could sob for hours at a time, and the bitter poison that came out of my mouth when I got anywhere close to Q. was shocking in its relentless intensity. I felt out of control, truly crazy.
In situations like this, in which the criminal was a heretofore generally upstanding member of society, the police offer you the opportunity to surrender. So I did, per the advice of my lawyer. At 8 a.m. on July 31, 2007, I presented myself at the 84th Precinct in downtown Brooklyn.
Detective Sam Calhoun, with whom by this point I was on a first-name basis, checked me in, and instead of putting me behind bars in a holding cell, he offered me a dingy, windowless squad room. Except for when an officer took me to be fingerprinted and photographed, I spent the next 12 hours sitting on a plastic chair with my legs resting up against the wall in a sort of yogic position. Sam had permitted me to bring in two books and some newspapers, so I read Lionel Shriver’s novel We Need to Talk About Kevin (which I enjoyed so much I almost forgot where I was) and Betty Smith’s classic, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (depressing; it reminded me of where I was), then leafed through The New York Times, the Post, and the Daily News. When I finished those, a handsome bald detective took pity on me and offered what he had lying around on his desk: a volume on Celtic history, a stack of sudokus, and a book on New York State traffic law.
The police promised me that this was a bullshit charge — “What kind of pussy husband has his wife arrested for cursing at him?” — even though I’d indeed broken the protection order’s stipulation against verbal harassment. The police spent hours working with the DA to follow Q.’s request: Despite having me arrested, he didn’t want the judge to go beyond the “limited” order the court previously had granted; he still wanted us to communicate with each other about the children only. This negotiation lasted for what seemed like forever; at around 8 p.m. I was taken handcuffed in a squad car to Brooklyn’s Central Booking, where I’d be in a holding cell until I could get in front of a judge. My lawyer was pulling every string possible so I wouldn’t have to spend the night in jail.