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Thursday April 12, 2007 10:00 p.m.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Salt Lake City. The temperature outside is 71 degrees.”
I’m still groggy from the Dramamine I took earlier. By the looks of it, I’m the only college kid on this flight too. My pocket vibrates with a text message from Bryan. He’s outside. I peer down the aisle at the line of people unloading their things from the overhead bins.
“Thank you for flying Southwest Airlines. Enjoy your stay in Utah.” I’d better lady. This is my spring break.
All 6-foot-5 of him is leaning against a silver SUV. His arms spread outwards in a bear hug and I leap forward into them as we both shriek like little kids. I haven’t seen the big guy for over half a year and it feels good to see a familiar face.
Friday, April 13, 2007 10:00 a.m.
I’ve visited a few other colleges, seen their campuses, met their students. None of those experiences can compare to that first morning at Brigham Young University. Tucked into the lush mountains of northern Utah, the sprawling campus has over 32,000 students. Only one percent of them are non-Mormons, and most of that number are the athletes. That’s why Bryan was there. Two years ago, he left our little neighborhood in Chicago to play volleyball at one of the best programs in the country, but he did it for a price. He explained this to me as we walked to his class.
“I mean it, not even a single curse word.”
“I know, I know, you told all this to me already.”
“I’m just making sure. And don’t even think about mentioning that we’re drinking tonight. I could get kicked out, somebody will tell on me.”
“Jesus Christ this ought to be a fun day.”
He doesn’t smile. “I’m not kidding. There’s an honor code. The other students are literally trained to rat if they see something against the rules. Keep your mouth shut for once.”
“Gladly,” I snap back. I need more sleep.
Later, as he was finishing a math test and I was sitting behind him with head down and iPod on, something occurred to me. I lean forward and tap his arm.
“Do you realize what day it is?” I whisper.
“Yeah it’s Friday, why?”
“It’s Friday the 13th numb nuts.”
“Just hope nothing bad happens to either of us.” We both snicker and he goes back to his test.
Friday, April 13, 2007 1:00 p.m.
“You’re sure you’re okay with this?” Bryan asks as we pull up to a giant liquor store with the name State Liquors in blazing red on the front.
“Yeah, my ID has worked in probably every bar and liquor store in Lincoln Park, it’ll be fine.”
“I can’t go in with you, if anybody recognizes me, that I’m a volleyball player … I could get busted.”
He hands me the money, I take a deep breath and hop out. As I stroll in, I stick to the usual script. I grab a bottle of rum and a handle of vodka. I walk directly to the cashier, look her in the eye, smile and act like I’ve done this hundreds of times. ‘Cause I have.
“Indiana huh? Well you’re a long way from home!” She shakes like Jello as she laughs. I immediately relax.
“Yeah I’m just here to visit a friend.”
She turns my ID over in her chubby hand. “I’ve never seen an Indiana ID before.”
“Well it’s actually a temporary license, I lost my driver’s license earlier this month.” That’s the third time this month I’ve had to use that line; just ring me up, lady. A voice starts whispering in my head. Get out of here. But my feet stay firmly planted on the ground. I’m not bolting, I’ve fooled dozens of Chicago bouncers and liquor stores. There’s no way this wooly mammoth thinks it’s fake. I begin to rock unsteadily on my heels.
“Listen, I’m actually in a hurry …” Just as my feet begin to wheel around, a steely hand clamps down on my shoulder. I look up at a tanned, out of shape man wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. His belt and gun holster tell me one thing though: plainclothes.
“How we doin’ today son?” He asks.
“F-fine officer …” I mutter. He steers me towards the back of the store. I turn and look back as the door, freedom and Bryan get farther and farther from me. My heart plummets.
He begins to lay into me. “Never in my 20 years on the force have I seen such a blatant show of disrespect, such a dishonorable and immoral act, something so against the Mormon faith!” It sickened him really. As he pulled out the Book of Mormon and began to recite verses to me, I begin to snicker. That just angers him a whole lot more. As homeboy finishes his speech, I begin to feel uneasy.
“What’s going to happen to me?”
“Turn around. Give me your hands. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney …”
Do you ever have a time in your life when you think maybe what is happening isn’t really happening, and that you’re just watching it happen on television to someone else? Well, that moment disappeared as soon as the cold steel of the handcuffs clicked into place. As they escorted me out of the store and into to a squad car, there was a moment that I’ll remember forever, a moment that’s burned into my brain until the day I die.
As they forced my head down into the car, sun beating down on my brow, I turned, and saw with scared eyes my best friend standing on the curb. He was scared too.
“Bryan,” I pleaded. He took a step towards me. “Do something!” I screamed. The door slammed.
To be continued ….