No Safe Harbor: Criminal of Innocence
Charlie walked into class on Wednesday, like he did every Wednesday (and as he did every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday as well). This was, however, not an average Wednesday, as after the announcements were over, a girl walked into his class room, and delivered a note to Mr. Wiener (pronounced Whiner, but this did not stop the junior class from making the jokes).
“This is going to be me, I just know it.” Charlie said to himself. Of course, he said this to himself every time a note came into his class, as did every other student.
Charlie Wells was a 16 year old boy, who grew up in a small town in Kansas, just south of Topeka. A sandy haired boy, who had good grades, good friends, and was a good athlete. His favorite sport was wrestling, which had a meet coming up this Friday. Charlie was shorter than most of his classmates, but in general a high achiever. Rarely got in trouble at home, and never got in trouble at school (even won a student of the month award once).
“Mr. Wells,” Mr. Wee-ner always seemed to have a condescending tone, he could tell someone they won the lottery, and they would instantly think of all the things their parents taught them about money. “You have been requested to the office by Mr. Jay.”
Mr. Jay was the vice principal of the school, though typically the students call this position the “disciplinary principal” around adults. Though, when they were in private they would of course call him “Mr. BJ” due to high school students uncanny ability to find a sexual reference in anything.
“Will I need to take my stuff?” Charlie asked, as does every student who is being called out of the room, there should be a check box on the little slip that comes to the room… of course Mr. Wiener knows about as much about this trip to the office as Charlie does. Mr. Wiener simply told him to leave his stuff under his desk and he can get it after his meeting, and if class was over he would set it on the counter.
As annoying as Mr. Wiener was, Charlie always had a certain respect for him. Sure he sounded condescending, but Charlie’s voice was still relatively high and he mocked himself that he sounded like a girl. That’s not his fault as much as it was Wiener’s for sounding like a dick (there it is again). Wiener always looked out for his students, and on more than one occasion has even wrote Charlie a late pass to his next class, just so he could stay and finish up some math problems, so he wouldn’t have homework.
Charlie didn’t even see the girl who brought the note leave, he must have been in the zone or just didn’t care, but now as he walked to the office he wanted the company of that girl. He didn’t even know her name, she looked like she might be a freshman, “How do you even become the office helper person?” he quietly thought to himself.
Charlie didn’t want to talk to the girl because he was particularly attracted to her, though at his age he was attracted to anything with breasts, he simply wanted to stop thinking about what awaited him at the office.“They caught me for using the proxy to check my Facespace account.”
He turned the hall to the office.
“No, I was signed in under a guest account, they would have no way of knowing that.”
Charlie entered the office, and smiled at the receptionist. She greeted him, and told him to take a seat and that Mr. Jay would be out to see him shortly. “The receptionist could have been working at Wal-Mart,” Charlie thought to himself.
After sitting in the uncomfortable seat, trying to focus on reading old magazines which were probably scrounged from the library’s discard pile, Charlie finally told himself that the best response to this situation was to have Mr. Jay tell him what he did wrong, and to only answer questions with short direct answers until this situation played out for him.
Charlie started to get a little frustrated, because it had been about ten minutes, and Mr. BJ (Charlie chuckled to himself), had not called him into his office. For a guy who cares about education, he sure was disrupting Charlie’s class time... though of course Charlie was not concerned about his class, rather, he just didn’t like stewing in his chair, not knowing what he did wrong.
As the door handle turned, Charlie jumped. Inside the room were the stern faces of Mr. Jay, and school resource officer (SRO), Officer Clark. Their eyes seared into his soul, like that of his mother’s when she would catch him in a lie (which, admittedly, was not that often). He was ready to throw everything out the window and confess for everything he did, even the things he wasn’t sure were against the rules like leaving Physical Education after he had already changed clothes, but before the bell like his classmates.
“Son,” This was the only pet peeve Charlie had, the names “son,” “buddy,” “champ,” “boss,” etc. It wasn’t necessary and made it seem as though the person was talking down to him. Of course in this situation, Mr. Jay was. “Do you know why you are here?”
Charlie knew he had to give them something, but thought he should start with something light. “I leave Physical Education a couple minutes early, so I can have some time to get to my locker before the bell rings?”
Officer Clark raised his eyebrow, and looked to Mr. Jay. However, Mr. Jay seemed to have been somehow offended by this answer, and raised his voice slightly “Charlie, we are not here to play games with you, what you did was serious, and if you do not cooperate with us… your punishment will be very severe.
Charlie didn’t know what was going on, if he wasn’t being yelled at he would have laughed and thought it was a joke. He tried to stammer out that he did not know what Mr Jay was talking about and so the SRO turned on the TV that had been behind them.
Charlie watched the screen, as he watched himself come around the “C” hallway, which was the furthest hallway running horizontally cutting though the two main hallways in that wing of the school, and walk down main hallway 2 until he was out of the frame.
Charlie was very confused at this point, and asked “Can you please explain to me what this is?”
Mr. Jay was very upset at this point and explained to Charlie that he had given him plenty of chances to explain himself, and that he had pushed his patience to the limit. Jay further went on to explain that there was a bag of pot found in that hall at the end of that period, and that Charlie had been the only student to have been using the hall.
“Sir, this must be a misunderstanding,” Charlie exclaimed, nervously “I don’t even smoke pot, I don’t think any of my friends do either!”
“Charlie, why would you be walking down that hallway at that time? You were supposed to be in Science, and that’s on the other wing of school. The only class you had down that way was your math class, and it had been a couple periods before.” Officer Clark seemed to talk much more reasonably; however, he too stared at Charlie like he was a criminal. Heck in their eyes he WAS a criminal.
“I left my binder in Math class, I didn’t need it in any of my other classes after Math, and so I went back to get it so I could turn in an assignment for Science.” Charlie felt guilty, like he really had done something wrong. That feeling like going through US Customs trying to re-enter his country, where after you tell them the trip was for pleasure, they ask what kind of pleasure, what did you do, how long... to the point you start questioning it yourself.
“I am growing tired of your lies, Mr. Wells,” Back to Mr. Jay (‘was this some form of bad cop, worse cop?’ Charlie was thinking to himself). “We had spoken with Mr. Wiener, and he insisted that you never came by his class... and also if you look at that video there is no binder.”
Charlie was so scared, he should have been frustrated… of course he should have been, but he didn’t get frustrated. Heck, he hadn’t even cared when they put up these dumb cameras. He didn’t do anything wrong so there was no fear of him getting in trouble for them... so he thought.
Charlie explained that he saw Mr. Wiener was instructing his class, so he decided to get his binder later. This caused Mr. Jay to believe that he was changing his story, and decided this was enough cause to search his locker for drugs. As Charlie, Officer Clark, and Mr. Jay reached his locker, the end-of-period bell rang, and all the students flooded the halls. Charlie didn’t realize how many students there were in his school, or how many went by his locker, until every single one of them were staring at him.
More embarrassment came to Charlie as he opened his locker. All the things that had seemed funny, stupid, or weird that he had put in the door of his locker, now seemed much worse when he had the cop and disciplinary principal behind him. Charlie could just feel the eyes burning into the back of his neck, knowing they were judging him for the picture of the midget swimsuit model, or the comic about teachers running off a cliff after a penny.
They didn’t find anything in Charlie’s locker. However, it was not over for Charlie. The principal gave him a day of in-school suspension for wandering the halls, and the resource officer called Charlie’s parents to tell them that their son had been suspected of at the very least being in possession of marijuana, and potentially distributing it.
After this whole ordeal, it had changed Charlie into a very anti-authoritarian person, he had started putting tape up over the cameras, and fighting (to a degree some would consider excess) for the rights of other students, even ones he didn’t know. Charlie would tell the other students, “I thought that as long as I would go with the system, I would never have to worry about rights, or any of that stuff, I was wrong. Even the innocent are treated as guilty in a system that takes away rights. If the system wants to treat innocent people like criminals, well then I am going to be a criminal.”
THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE AUTHOR'S WEBSITE AT http://travismccrea.com