the last time i saw john, i id-ed him in a cop car after he'd been picked up for choking me. I live in the same house he lived in two years ago and again briefly last winter. And, yes, sometimes I feel like a sitting duck.
John is an alcoholic and homeless. We get along, but I usually don't speak to him when he's been drinking, which -- except for jail and hospital -- is almost always. He rang the doorbell at 9 am Saturday. I'd had three long days of work; dishes had been neglected since Tuesday, there was no milk in the house, I was well behind schedule. I knew it was him, but I looked out my window anyway.
"Can I come in?" pleading.
"Oh. Well, can we just talk? I'm sort of depressed.... And can I have a smoke?"
I ran upstairs, got my smokes and we sat on the front porch. We talked about the things that were making him depressed. I suggested rehab; he asked for noodles. Flustered, I thought about my kitchen and the fact that I don't want John hanging around when he's been drinking, so I said no.
Then could he use the phone?
No. He slowly got up and moved toward the door. I got up to block it. He put his arm over my shoulder, tightened his elbow around my neck and forced us in.
I turned around to grab the phone; he was right behind me. I yelled to my 18-year-old son to dial 911. Both John's hands were now around my neck, and I couldn't breathe. I don't know how long it was -- it seemed long, very long. He loosened his grip without releasing my neck. My son came into the room.
"Let her go."
"Cancel the 911 call and I'll let her go."
"I'll cancel the call if you let her go."
The police arrived five minutes later, got a description and picked John up shortly afterwards. He'll do time.
He'll do time for violating an existing restraining order, plus "assault." (What about forced entry, choking, attempted murder?) Yes, he'll do time.
But to what avail?
So he can learn his lesson? He should learn not to drink. He probably has FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) and had serious problems before he was adopted into an abusive home, so it's not that simple, but a rehab with bars makes a lot more sense than jail.
Beyond keeping him alive several months longer and out of my face for the duration, I have no idea what good jail does.
I spoke to a detective at 55 Division, told him what John needed was rehab. He agreed.
They see it all the time, he said. Drunks and addicts getting re-arrested, going back to jail, getting freed with the same problems, same addictions, same crimes, getting re-arrested, etc.
"Unfortunately," he said, "our system doesn't have mandatory rehabs or compulsory anger-management courses."
I've sat in court. He's right. There is definitely room to improve our system. In the meantime, I'll be nervous every time my telephone or doorbell rings.
Helen Gray is a pseudonym