I'm escorted to a counter where someone asks me my name and pulls out a box with my skates and backpack inside.

"Disgusting." They say, looking at their gooed up hands.

"Yeah, I'm sorry. I um... Yeah it's in my hair too. I wish I would have had a chance to clean up." I say. I'm so embarassed this whole thing is so strange. I had so much in that apartment and they tracked me down for some crates of old magazines? Did Dail realize that Lime screwed him out of some merch and he sent the cops after us? He wouldn't do that.

"Well at least now you can get your nasty self out of here. Did you know that you smell terrible?"

My heart is beating so fast. I feel like I'm going to die.

"You do. You smell terrible. And you made this, my place of work, which I have to inhabit for most of my waking hours- you made it smell. So please, take this personally."

My vision is getting blurry. They start laughing. That was a joke? It was a completley valid complaint. I should be laughing with them maybe? I try to smile at them. They are laughing still. Holy shit what am I supposed to do? I want to run away. Can I run away? How do I get out of here? I try to make a laughing sound and look around. There are a line of chairs. I just need to sit in one of those. Before I collapse. I should just sit down in one of those. I grab the arm rests with my hands and twist myself into a chair. I feel nauseous.

"You're going to stink up my chair now!?" The person behind the desk shouts. I zoom up out of the seat.

"I'm sorry!" I reply.

They start laughing again. I am trying to hold onto the wall over the chair. My brain feels like it's been lifted out of my body and my stomach is trying to find it.

"You must have been here a while, you are really cracking up." They shake their head, looking back to their monitor. "Just sit down! You can sit down!" They look straight into my eyes. I feel like I'm going to die. I'm going to die, right? Can I at least die? "Sit down!"

I feel like they are trying to trick me. I can't rememeber what the joke was.

"I'm fine, thanks." I manage to weeze out and smile.

"Sit down!" They repeat.

"I'm okay. I'm really I'm okay." I take my hand off the wall and fold it over my chest and focus on keeping my balance and breathing.

"You have to wait for the release officer to sign you out."

"Okay. Thank you." I say.

"Will you just sit down, you're making me nervous, hovering over there."

I haven't sat down yet. I sink down to the chair. What's happening? Why am I here? I feel my face burning red. I push my hair back. My sweat is holding it back for me.

I try to slow down my breathing and focus on a spot of black on the floor. Everything is fine. They said "release." That means they are going to release me soon. I'm leaving. I breathe in and out start to slowly calm down. I'm never this stressed about anything. I can't believe I almost lost it just now.

An officer walks up to the desk next to the row of chairs I'm sitting in. They look familiar. It isn't until I see the small yellow spirit on a leaf by their keyboard that I recognize them. I can't remember their name though. They look tired and keep touching their nose. I realize I have been staring straight at them for minutes and they haven't looked to see who is staring. The person behind the main counter isn't paying attention anymore. Should I say hello? Why should I? I guess I just really want to feel like a person again. I want to ask about their spirit. I want to feel normal again for a moment. Are they going to be nice to me? I don't think I've ever thought that before. Have I always felt that way? I feel myself tearing up. What am I doing here? I take a deep breath. When I exhale, I can hear my throat puttering. Why am I going to cry?

I look over at the small yellow spirit. It's gazing at me, sliming down closer and closer to the edge of the desk. I see the officer look quickly to me and then back to the desk. They pick up the leaf and drop it in to a square container on the floor. They walk over to the main counter and speak low to the worker. I scoot over and scoop the spirit out of the bin and hold it in my hand. "[I'm sorry little one. They didn't mean it. I think they are mad at me. It's my fault. I'll find you a new home soon. Please forgive me.]" My eyes grow wet again and I wipe them quickly with my other hand. The officer walks away and the worker pushes a box on the counter towards me. "Your things are in here. You have to sign out." They place a signature tablet on the counter next to the box. The box has my skates and backpack inside. I look around for my hair ties but can't find them. I look inside my backpack but they aren't there either.

"Um, my hair ties aren't... in here..." I start, but stop when I see their face rolling their eyes at me. I look in my skates. My socks aren't there either. Lime just gave me those socks. I can't believe I'm about to put my skates on with no socks. I slide my feet inside. The hard bend over my heel is an instant reminder of past blisters. It's okay. I just need to get to a shop and get a pair of socks. I ask the worker where we are. They sigh and pull out a printed map from a drawer.

"This is us." They circle a strange block with a pink marker. "You can pick up a free transport over here." They make a star a few blocks away. "Since you qualify for section 228, you are alloted 1 free transport within our jurisdiction, and $3500 to keep you from comitting any new crimes in the next 4 months. I know, it's not enough but the rate that it increases per year is based on an out-dated algorythm and that's just how it is. Complain to your local representative." They're speaking very fast and I'm trying my best to catch every word.

"Do I just show my ID to the transport... person?" I ask.

"There is a card reader on the vehicle, and you will enter the address or select "home" and it will take you to your registered address. But don't click that unless you know your registered address is correct because once it gets there, it won't take you anywhere else."

"Okay thank you" I say. At least I won't have to stop anywhere to buy socks.

I place the spirit carefully in my backpack.

"So am I free to go?" I ask, still confused that they aren't looking at me.

"Yeah." They say, still watching their monitor.

"Okay thank you" I say.

Wow. I mean $3500 isn't much but it's more than I made in 2 weeks work at any of my registered jobs. I used to work 12 hour shifts and never make that much. This is enough to pay a whole month's rent on my place. I look down at the map. I might as well take this transport home. The sun is bright and full. I must not've been there as long as I thought, it doesn't even feel like 4pm yet out here. There is a parking structure filled with small vehicles. I look around. There is no one attending. I walk up to one. They are all painted white with a long blue stripe that says "LAPD TRANSPORT" in bold lettering. There is a card reader on the outside. I retrieve my ID. They took the ID that Lime gave me. Why didn't they ask me about that? Isn't that a felony? I slide my ID thorugh the reader. My name and ID number appear on a tiny screen. "Is this you?" It asks. I click YES. It shows a strange photo of me with the same question underneath. I expected to see my registered ID photo but this is somehting else. Here, I have white hair pulled back into pigtails and my eyes are barely open. Is that me? I guess so. I click YES but don't feel great about it. Was that my mug shot? Did they just take that of me? I try to remember standing for that photo. "Would you like to go HOME? Or OTHER ADDRESS?" I want to go to Lime's, sit under her shower and get blasted with clean water until I feel like a human again and then crawl into her bed and pretend that none of this happend. I pick HOME. The door opens and I climb inside. There isn't much room to sit. I put my backpack on my lap and a seatbelt zooms across the front of the dash and back down to my side, holding me in place. The car lurches forward and turns sharply out of the parking space. Citizens can't program their cars or even buy registered driverless cars but the city uses them freely. To be honest, I'm releaved to not have to skate home. After a few blocks, I start recognizing that I’m downtown. My body feels so tired but I can't fall asleep. The seat is so low to the ground and I can feel every bump in the road. Each turn we make, I feel like I am so close to the curb. The little car moves swiftly and I'm zooming on to the highway. The highway isn't as scary when I'm boxed inside this thing instead of skating next to cars, my body exposed to any stupid driving mistake they may make. There's a display inside listing off my rights as a citizen in an LAPD transport vehicle in one language and then another. There's also a calming voice reading swiftly through each of them. I turn up the volume in time to hear the Indonesian version. Indonesian always sounds so nice. I miss speaking it sometimes. Lately I've only really been using English and Spirit Tongue. It feels lonely sometimes. But hearing Indonesian again, it's almost like I'm back talking to my old friends from school. I wonder if I still have my job. I know that some positions with the city are easily lost if you get arrested, or at least that's what I hear. Although that officer acted like I wasn't even going to be charged with anything. Or maybe I was but they knew I couldn't pay the fine. No one mentioned I had a court date. Maybe they will mail me the info. I don't really have any way to check my mail regularly. I could go to the library to check. How often is often enough to go? Will they have already sent me everything? I don't know why it would take time to process, isn't all of that calculated immediately? Honestly, I have no idea. I just want to take a bath and relax for a while. I missed my jobs for the day. I'll have to contact The Directory to get them. Maybe I can rescedule them for tomorrow. I've never had to miss a day of work before. My mouth is watering. Why is it watering? I feel nauseous. Did they not give me back my water bottle? Maybe I didn't have it.

©2019 by Zita