The following is a chapter from my book Welcome to Hell World: Dispatches from the American Dystopia available here.
“I woke up, and it’s kind of hard man, talking about this, how they violated me,” Torrence Jackson said from jail. “I woke up fourteen, twelve hours later…I woke up in a room, I asked what happened…I go the bathroom and I see got blood in my drawers. I’m bugging, I’m distraught.”
They took Jackson to court and released him after that he said and he soon realized he had a broken hand and ruptured interior in his anus. What had happened as an investigation of records by Syracuse.com reported is that the Syracuse police, a city judge, and St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center all conspired together to violate him in more ways than one.
On a Monday in October of 2017 Jackson was pulled over after failing to signal correctly in his car which is what the cops say that you did when they are already planning on fucking with you. He was well-known to local police for a lengthy list of arrests some of which weren’t so great such as armed robbery and others that shouldn’t even count as a crimes such as drug possession and in any case none of which have anything to do with the way he was treated this particular time.
I shouldn’t mention his prior encounters with the law should I isn’t that what tabloids and local TV news does whenever something bad happens to well let’s be honest a black guy such as their rights have been violated or they’ve been murdered by police because then it softens up the delicate sensibilities of the reader or the viewer who is presumed to be white because white is the default thing a person can be right at least based on my experience as a white guy the unique protagonist of reality.
It’s like when you hear that someone died and you ask the person telling you how it happened what oh man what happened you say and they say it was whatever it was and you’re hoping it was something they did to bring death upon themselves because that way you feel less bad like they had it coming. You hope it wasn’t that an air conditioner fell out of the sky and crushed their head for example because that could happen to any of us at any time no matter how virtuous a life we live. You hope it’s something like they smoked for forty years because then you can go well I don’t smoke so I’m not gonna die and you distance yourself from the little oil spill of death that has entered the room once the conversation started you sort of lift one foot up and get out of the way of the death spill so none of it gets on you. Like not long ago I read the news that Colin Kroll the thirty-four-year-old founder of the popular HQ Trivia thing died of an apparent drug overdose and lots of people online were saying how sad it was he was so young and so on and so forth and then I saw a guy post something like how is dying of a drug overdose a tragedy and I guess by that what he means is that once you do drugs you relinquish your subscription to normal human empathy. You either get to do drugs or have strangers be sad when you die is what I’m saying.
That’s what the typical rap sheet disclaimer paragraph in a crime story does. No angel this guy Torrence Jackson in other words. When it’s a white person they tell you what they majored in in college or what the name of their horse was when they grew up on the farm twenty years ago even when you chop up your family and put them all in an oil drum they say you were a family man and show pictures of you smiling but when it’s a black person or a white person who’s addicted to drugs and does petty crimes which is almost the same thing in the local news humanity calculus they tell you what crimes they had done before and then you go this guy seems like a real piece of work and you adjust your sadness dial like you’re turning down the heat on the stove top coil where you boil your upset.
So the cops pull him over and like I said he was known to police which means a lot of things but also in this specific instance means he was literally known to one of the police that pulled him over who didn’t like him very much at all and the cops said he had a baggie of marijuana on him and there was cocaine residue in the car. One time like fifteen years ago we were driving to New York City for a show in this beat-up four-speed Toyota my grandmother passed down to me when she couldn’t drive anymore and me and my drummer were doing coke on the way down and I somehow spilled the baggie all over the place and it got into the stick shift well and mixed in with all this tobacco residue and I dunno granola bar crumbs and dog shit and whatever else a dirty person has in their car and I tried to salvage as much of it as I could but even I wasn’t gross enough to do more than a bump or two of the tobacco granola dirt. I have some self-respect.
“While stopped, Officer Anthony Fiorini wrote in a police report, he saw Jackson raise his buttocks off the seat so far that his head was sticking out the window,” Syracuse.com reported. “That is consistent with someone hiding drugs in his rectum, Fiorini said.”
So there’s another thing to keep in mind if you ever get pulled over don’t shift around in your seat too weird.
Jackson denied that he had any drugs hidden in his rectum but the cops said he was taunting them about it and maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t maybe it was a means to fuck with the cops because they’d been fucking with him or maybe he was on drugs and not in the right state of mind and saying shit he didn’t really mean. Then again people on drugs as you’ll remember from a couple paragraphs ago have it coming. Whatever it is they signed up for it when they did the drugs.
The cops put Jackson in a spit mask and say he was being combative maybe he was maybe he wasn’t I don’t know and I also don’t know what I’d do if I were being arrested while on drugs something that has never happened to me despite having done drugs approximately a thousand times in my life due to I’m a white guy. One time I got pulled over in that same grandmother car just after leaving the dude’s house and I was shitting my pants but they let me go. A few years later I’d gotten so many parking tickets on the car that it wasn’t worth paying them off to save it so we just sent it to get junked.
The cops wanted to search Jackson’s rectum for the drugs and Jackson was refusing and some of the doctors had refused to do it against his will because doctors are not cops they are the opposite of cops their job is to help people. They are cops when it comes to getting their money though aren’t they. So the real cop went and got a search warrant at a judge’s house late at night and the judge signed it. Thinking about being a judge sitting at home in my library or kid-fucking dungeon the two things most judges have at home and then a cop shows up and says hey we need to search a guy’s ass for weed and after having spent all that time in law school then in practice and then on the bench you summon all of your decades of jurisprudence knowledge and you say ok go look up the guy’s ass.
Typically by the way in this type of scenario police will wait for you to go to the bathroom to see if the drugs they say you have up there come out or maybe they’ll give you a laxative to speed things along but they couldn’t wait in this instance.
Some of the doctors were like fuck this we’re not about it but the hospital’s lawyer soon got involved and told the medical staff they needed to comply with the warrant and one thing gave way to another and Jackson was sedated and while unconscious they inserted a colonoscope into his asshole to see if they could find the dime bag or gram or two of coke or whatever it was. There were something like ten cops there and multiple doctors and nurses and a lawyer and all of that just to snatch this dude’s hypothetical bag. Oh wait I forgot to mention that they had already done an x-ray which showed he had nothing inside his rectum or anywhere else but you never know you gotta go and see things for yourself sometimes up close.
Welp they didn’t find any drugs and they dropped the drug charges and gave him a traffic violation and he left the next day.
“I felt tampered with” is what Jackson said when he woke up and he didn’t realize how badly because then the hospital sent him a bill for $4,500 for the procedure that was performed against his will while he was unconscious at the behest of the cops.
Later on the mayor’s office said one of the things they have to take into consideration is the well-being of the suspect because what if the imaginary bag of drugs had exploded?
I went back to the Pain Center yesterday the one I mentioned previously and I filled out the forms they make you fill out every time on that clipboard there Welcome to Pain Management it says which would’ve been another good name for this book.
It’s essentially page after page of a questionnaire asking you about whether or not you’ve ever gotten into trouble for having drugs or if you’ve ever misused your drugs or had encounters with the law due to drugs or if people have ever told you you have an issue with drugs and for most of the answers I answer no because it’s the truth and mostly what they’re interested in are opioids anyway but the real thing they’re trying to figure out here is whether or not you have your pain coming. They are gonna treat you either way but if you’ve already used up your physician empathy points and went and fucked around with medications then they’re not going to treat you as well or as effectively as they might have otherwise. When they see you’ve been addicted to things in the past the doctors just like the cops and the TV news and the readers and the viewers who delight in distancing ourselves from other people who are more deserving of pain than we are think that it’s a just penance.
Another thing they have you do is try to describe not just your degree of pain but also the specific qualities of pain. They ask like is it burning stabbing piercing throbbing dull aching and I don’t know how to answer those things because I never graduated from the Pain Sommelier Academy. I am not equipped with the vocabulary to tease out the subtle notes of pain inside of my own body and I don’t think we’ve all really gotten together and come to a consensus on what the specific difference between any of those terms are have we or did I just miss it? We’re speaking in a language that we don’t understand and that no one else understands and the person who’s trying to interpret it the doctor might as well be imagining a monkey playing the cymbals in his brain while you’re talking which is what they do because your doctor never listens to you anyway.
One thing the doctor said they could do to figure out what’s going on with me is poke needles into the nerves in my back and the front side of my body at the same time and try to see which ones light up or something when they sent a little charge through my body. I think. It’s a very painful procedure he said but I didn’t really listen to what else it entailed because you never listen to your doctor anyway.
Every time I talk to a doctor it’s like I just walked into a room and met nineteen different people at a cocktail reception or something and you know there is no way you are going to remember all of their names or where they’re from or what they do but the people are actually things that are wrong with you. So you try your best to pick out one of them that will stick.
Experiencing pain sometimes is like suspecting there’s a dead mouse in your walls like you can vaguely smell it so you go poking your snout around by the sink and under the stove or wherever and you know you know you know it’s there somewhere but you can’t find it or tell anyone else where to go to pull it out. You know it’s in the kitchen say but that’s as close as you can get to narrowing things down and then you just have to wait for decomposition to take over eventually and in the long run none of it will be there and it will have never been there.