Drunk Dreams: Life Without Police

“How many drinks did he have?”

I hate that question, let alone when it’s mockingly from a stranger laughing smugly as he strolls out the bar. Who really counts if they’re having fun?

I tried to respond groggily, as Main Street swayed in front of me; it felt like a cruise ship hitting choppy waters. I just needed something — scratch that — anything — to lean on for a second. The feel of my palms against the cool, exposed brick just outside Dean’s parlor settled me as I tried to balance myself.

“I’m fine.” I murmured repeatedly to myself as affirmation.

The bouncer smirked before wryly replying, “You can be whatever you want, but we already called you in.”

Ugh.
A few stragglers wandered like zombies to their cars while I stumbled to the street corner, before finally slumping down against the wall. I placed my hands over my face, shielding my eyes from a street lamp glowing like someone had squeezed the moon into a lantern. My head was throbbing.

“Are you okay sir?”

The woman’s voice was soft, and more importantly she was blocking the light that seemed to be causing this headache. I nodded hesitantly, and she continued,
“You know there’s permanent housing on Fannin Street, right? I can call you an Uber and you can get your own place today…”

Wow. She thinks I’m homeless. I knew exactly what she was referring to — since the pilot program for NOBLE (“Not One Body Left Excluded”) Housing had started 6 months ago, there were literally no homeless people on the streets downtown. The program provided unconditional housing to people without, or between homes, and connected them with the resources to repair other aspects of their lives that would help them become permanent, paying tenants. It was an overwhelming success, but…I’m not homeless.

I’m just drunk.

I tried to articulate this, but as my mind distilled thoughts into coherent words, I literally heard myself say,

“F*ck you Becky — leave me alone!”

Welp. Black man reflex. Almost immediately after the woman walked away, I dozed off. I awoke to a tap on my shoulder and a gruff voice.

“Sir — SIR! Wake up. Come on…”

Another voice chimed in from above, “There he goes — Hello Sunshine!”

Two uniformed men were in front of me, one crouched and tapping my shoulder, the other standing over me.

“Long night, and a few too many, eh?” the one crouched next to me chuckled. I recoiled, suddenly feeling he was too close. He reached for the holster on his hip…

I froze.

He fumbled a bit, then from the holster, he pulled out what looked like a large iPhone. “My name is Chuck and I’m a Sobriety Analyst — Can I get your driver’s license?”

Momentarily sobered by the presence of the two men, I reached slowly for my wallet. I handed it to him and after milling through it, he pulled out my license. He inserted it into the device he held and after a few seconds, the screen lit up with my picture and what looked like pages of information on me.

“Ok Mr. Kingsley — let’s get you on out of here.”

The two men helped me up, as one of them commented,

“We should take him to the tank on Crawford…”
“Nah — I just looked and they’re full — we’ll head to Hutchins.”

The men placed me in the back of a small SUV with the city’s emblem plastered right below the word “CORD” on it’s side. The guy driving typed rapidly on a small screen while confirming with his partner.

“Did you ask him if he’s used any drugs in the past 24 hours?”
“You were right there — of course I didn’t ask him…”

He turned to me, “Mr. Kingsley have you used any-”
Before he could find finish, I shook my head no.

Over the past year or so, late night drives on a Friday through Downtown Houston feel eerie; the luminescent, pulsating glow of red and blue police lights have been replaced by the occasional flash of cameras catching the latest offender running a red light, and the orange glare of “YOUR SPEED IS ____” on radar signs with built-in cameras to snap license plate pics. Since the abolishment of the police and the subsequent reinvention as CORD (City Oversight and Reformation Department), the city is different. Officers with guns were rarely seen; they were only dispatched to handle violent crimes. Most “policing” was handled by a combination of neighborhood officers and social workers. The thoughts in my head quickly dissolved as we pulled up to the Substance Abuse and Sobriety Center on Hutchins. The two men escorted me through the front doors, where I was briefly held in front of a camera; the facial recognition software quickly identified me and synced with the sobriety report filed by the officers who picked me up. After slumping in a chair in the waiting area, a young man and older woman, came over to me a few minutes later, and escorted me to my room for the night. The room was sparse; a small mattress lay lifeless in the corner, a few sickness bags, a protein bar, 2 bottles of water and a digital clock near the ceiling built into the adjacent wall. I fumbled for the bottle of water, and took a few gulps before placing it on the floor and sprawling on the bed, face first.

I awoke in the morning with a massive headache. I pushed the green button on the door notifying the attendees that I was up and ready to go. I was taken to a desk where I spoke with an agent.

“Good Morning Kingsley! Just wanted to have you check out; we will send you your documentation via email, so just make sure the email address we have on file for you is ok. Keep in mind, since this is your first time with us, this is considered a courtesy stay, however any subsequent visits within the next 60 days and you will be mandatorily transferred into our Substance Abuse program, which takes place on the opposite wing of the facility, for a minimum of 1 week — do you have any questions?”

She damn near sounded like an automated message. I shook my head no, and signed the check out forms. Immediately, my phone alerted me to the survey that CORD already emailed me, asking about my stay and the service rendered. I ignored it and ordered an Uber as I walked out of the building. Almost directly across the street I could see the construction was almost complete on the newly funded mental health facility for the city. The six story building swallowed half a block, and looked like it just needed the landscaping to complete the vision.

A young, long-haired white guy walked up to near where I stood, and sat down on the steps. His blonde hair waved lazily in the wind as he swiped through his phone. He looked up at me expectedly before finally asking…

“How many drinks did you have?”

Ugh.

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Kingsley Okafor

Kingsley Okafor

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