The cell I’m in is pretty loud because it shares thin walls with the other ones full of shit-talking and drunk dudes, but all I keep hearing is the fake camera-click sound that my phone makes when you snap a picture. It echoes in my head. I keep my eyes open because if I close them, every time I hear that sound, I also see a freeze-frame of Brendan’s puffed-out, blue face with the blood vessels all busted in his eyes so that they’d turned red like a monster’s.
I’m at the East Precinct, so it’s usually just adult “offenders” in here. They don’t have a space for minors, which I guess is normal. You wouldn’t be able to tell by the graffiti though—seems like the messages people have somehow scratched into the cinder blocks’ thin paint and the plastic coating on the door could have come from the minds of my classmates for sure: Fuck, Run, Fight, Drink! and Fuck the Police and whatnot. The one just below the rectangle window on the door keeps grabbing my eye, though: Kill Faggots.
If he didn’t have anything else, Brendan would have used his canine tooth to scratch that out, or, more likely, some witty response. But I don’t feel like honoring him by trying it myself—a lot of good it did him, all that wit, all that fight, all the ways he stood up and hit back.
What happened was that Brendan skipped school Tuesday, which was weird, because he was obsessed with getting perfect grades so he could go anywhere he wanted to for college. It’s true that after school on Monday Brett and Spencer and their little crew of assholes had tackled Brendan out by the buses and stuffed a banana—peel and all—down his throat till he almost puked while some girls screamed at them to stop but lots of others laughed and moved around for a better view and Mr. Abrams, the Spanish teacher, who was talking on his cell phone, and the bus drivers all looked away. But it’s not like that’s the first time they’d done shit like that to him and besides Brendan got up, brushed off his clothes and spit after them as they all ran off, giggling and high-fiving like it was a big joke. I’d talked to him later that night on the phone and he was making jokes about how he wished Brett and Spencer would just come out of the closet already so he didn’t have to keep choking on bananas for them. He didn’t say anything about how I froze up and didn’t help him at all. I knew he wouldn’t.
So that’s why I went to his house after school on Tuesday, why I climbed the fence to get his spare key when he didn’t answer the door, and why I found him hanging from a fluorescent orange cord tied to the beam in the basement, puffy and blue and dead, Whale Rider still playing on the cheap-ass DVD player he kept down there. Why I took out my phone and snapped three pictures of him as he spun there, though, I’m still not sure. And I’m not sure why I tapped on the Facebook app and posted them, either. But I am sure that’s why I’m here. Even though the next thing I did was dial 911, like seven people from school showed up at Brendan’s before the cops did. They figured out pretty quick why and instead of just questioning me or whatever, they arrested me. I asked them what for but the Detective just spat on the ground kind of like Brendan did after the banana thing and shouted some shit at me about interfering with an investigation, invasion of privacy and suspicion of murder, too.
Looking through the little rectangle window, I can see through another Plexiglas window to where my mom is standing at a desk, arguing with a big cop. I can only see her back, mainly, but a couple of times she’s turned in profile and her makeup is running and her hair’s gone all wild, which she hates, and it makes me feel awful.
I sit back down on the bench and trace a swastika carved there with my finger, knowing I’m in for a lot of shit, knowing that I’ll feel awful for a long time. But not for posting the photos. Not for showing everyone what we’ve done.
Eli Hastings is an author and family counselor living in Seattle. He’s a leader at Pongo Teen Writing. He published Falling Room (essays) in 2006 and Clearly Now, the Rain: A Memoir of Love and Other Trips in 2013 and many pieces in journals and anthologies. He was recently profiled by the Seattle Times and KUOW as one of 13 artists “changing the future of the arts in the Northwest.” Visit him at www.elihastings.com
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© 2014 Eli Hastings