Davis Wartfield and the Grease Monkeys of Dorchester
Three years ago I stood accused of a crime that I — at least in the psychological sense — had not committed. I qualify my answer because well, physically-speaking, “I” (i.e., my body) had in fact committed the crime, at least that’s how society came to see it based on — I admit — irrefutable DNA, eye witness accounts, and CCTV. But I have no memory of this crime and I dare say the person who was me when this crime was committed is not me now. Or perhaps the other way around.
It’s not like I once had a memory of the crime that was later forgotten or repressed to the subconscious of my inner most reptilian brain. No memory ever existed to be forgotten or repressed in the first place. Because, you see, although the face of the chap in the video has my same face and the fingerprints on the cash machine are my same fingerprints and the DNA on the poor victim’s face is my same DNA, that person — “the assailant,” as described in the legal indictment — is not me. I intentionally say “my same fingerprints” and “my same DNA” rather than “my face” and “my DNA.” While this other person (Mr. Assailant) and I do have a sameness, I need to be clear that we aren’t and never were the same person. It’s like you and your Uncle Rodger, assuming you have an Uncle Rodger. Also assume you and Uncle Rodger own a boat. You both own the same boat, but you aren’t the same person. We — me and Mr. Assailant — we share the same face, the same fingerprints, the same DNA, but we aren’t the same person.
Now, I suppose we could get all philosophical, which — fair is fair — I guess I’m already getting. Proceeding a bit more into my little rant, I believe that who you are really is the product of the mind. The body is merely a vessel. So is the brain. They’re all blood and guts and proteins — the tangible, physical world. But the physical doesn’t matter. The mind matters. The mind is the metaphysical. The ethereal. The mind is what makes the self. The mind registers senses (what it interprets to itself as senses) and it registers memories (what it interprets as memories), and that is your reality, that is your self. Nothing — nothing — actually exists unless your mind registers it as existing. If the mind is lacking a specific memory, it’s not part of the mind and it’s not part of you. And me, well I’m simply lacking and never had the memory of holding someone up with a crowbar at an ATM on a relatively busy market street on a Tuesday afternoon. I see the video, I see myself, but nothing registers. It is simply not me.
One can posit an alternate view of personhood of course. It’s not about who you (i.e., your mind) think you are — it’s about who others perceive you to be (or, perhaps aligning more closely to my worldview, how you perceive others to perceive you to be.) And I guess there’s no sense in arguing it. Because the judge, jury, the prosecutor and all the societal what-nots judged me on that day to be the same guy who was in the CCTV video. They viewed my physical appearance in court and they viewed the physical appearance of the chap in the video, and at the end of the day the physical won out over the mind and they said “Sorry, Mr. Wartfield, ol’ chap, 3 years in jail for you.” An unwarranted reality was imposed upon me based on what I looked like, but not who I was.
I took the bad medicine and, 3 years to the day, I stand presently in a prison parking lot clothed in a three-piece suit. But as the wind blows industrial smog into my hair from the nearby mills , I can’t help but remember my utter shock when I was arrested for the ATM stick-up.
I was eating a peanut butter sandwich at my kitchen table, all ready for bed in my pjs. I remember I had a tall, cool glass of milk. The police knocked on my apartment door and said I was under arrest. “Under arrest?” I protested, with a mouthful of peanut butter sandwich. “For what? I’ve never committed a crime in my life, dear boys.” Well, they barged in and threw me down on my stomach. At this point, I remember looking up and seeing my cat, Sad-eyes, perched on my bookcase. The cat looked at me, seemingly embarrassed, almost to say “I knew it all along you were a scammer, you.”
The last grains of dignity were scraped from my bucket of humanity when the cops placed my hands against my back. You’ll remember I was in my pjs — meaning, for me, a comfy “wife beater” and boxer shorts. Only for some reason or another, I had the boxers on backwards so the “convenience slit” is at my backside. I was still holding my peanut butter sandwich and, in order to cuff me, the cop forced my hands against my backside in such a manner that, like a large mouth bass, the slit opened up, exposing my arse crack to the cop. I had the peanut butter sandwich still in hand and it was hovering precariously over my arse crack. I did my utmost in a very uncomfortable situation to avoid lowering the sandwich onto my bare crack. The hand is a very powerful instrument. It can crush cans, inflict huge damage when balled up in a fist and move very heavy objects. But it’s amazing how such a powerful instrument becomes a wet noodle when, for even a short period of time, its placed in a position it never, or rarely, has been in. Tiny muscles in my palm, wrist and forearm started to shiver and tense up. Slowly my hand, in cuffs, started to lower. I remember feeling the odd sensation of peanut butter first touching my bare arse, like an awkward first kiss. And then I had to resign to fate. My hand was in too much pain, my wrist too weak. I let my hand flop, the whole of the peanut butter sandwich settled onto my crack like the Titanic settling to the ocean floor. An awkward silence settled over the cops behind me.
I remember my talk with the little rat-faced copper who drove me to jail that night. Officer Wormser, I believe the name was.
“What the hell is this all about?”
“Your being charged with felony robbery with a deadly weapon,” he said, as he pushed up his rather large glasses.
“Felony robbery! I haven’t committed a crime in my life! Where’s this all coming from?,” I pleaded.
“We have CCTV footage of you 4 years ago robbing, biting and head butting some poor feller at the ATM during his work break on Cilcaney Road in Manwellsfield. You’re going to be transported there tonight to face trial.”
“Manswellsfield!” I scream, “Never been there in my life, officer!” Oh what a relief. Now I’m convinced they got the wrong guy. Really, truthfully, I had never been to Manswellsfield. I felt so relieved. Some awful mistake had been made. Bureaucracy decided to get drunk one night and turned its awful gaze on me, wrapping my head with red tape as I slept. But it was okay, because it was just red tape, I said to myself. I was truly innocent and I’d be free of it soon, probably would take just a day or so to clear up.
But then Officer Wormser asked me a question and everything soon changed: where had I lived 4 years ago? That caused me to think. And I realized I had never actually thought about that, or really anything from my past. And the more I thought, the more worried I got because that’s not the type of question that should require thought. After a minute, like a lost puppy I blurted out “I don’t know.”
It’s called a fugue. If you are the classically inclined sort, you’ll probably recognize that it shares commonalities with the word “refuge” or “refugee.” The word derives from Latin for “to flee.” The psychological meaning is a period of loss of awareness of one’s identity. It’s often associated with trauma or hysteria. Sometime in the 4 years prior to my arrest, something had happened to me and I became a new person, although — during my fugue — I had no idea I was ever “another” person (let alone the kind of person who sticks up innocent chaps in broad daylight.)
[Dear kind reader: Thanks for reading so far. If you’d be interested in the rest of this story, I’ll keep writing it. But — and I know this is pathetic — I want to know — is it good? Is it worth carrying on? Let me know with a comment or a “recommend” please! And thanks dear chap.”