Prologue: Caged

(February 19, 1969)


I was caged.

Then, I was driven.

Driven to Cherokee.

A hazy memory of riding caged in the back of a police car.

Two shadows in the front seat, the county sheriff and a female escort.

Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” buzzing from a tinny transistor radio.

Outside, the Iowa landscape bleak:

Cloudy and cold, condensation and frost riming the windows, piles of dirty snow dotting the countryside.

I, cargo.

Destination: Cherokee’s other place, the outline on the hill.

Shifting, crossing my legs…

Please, can we stop?

Hot and steamy inside.

Shivering, my teeth rattling.

Please…I have to go!

Hear something, George?

Naw, nothin’ important.


Cargo has no voice.

Madness has no voice.

Listen, crazy girl…

Two voices: We have come to take you away, ha, ha…

“I’m crazy, crazy…”

Fragments, crazy-quilt impressions, acid flashbacks…

I, crazy?

* * * * *

From I, Driven: a memoir of involuntary commitment ("Prologue")

© 2008-2010, by Jennifer Semple Siegel

Excerpt may not be used or copied without author’s permission.


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Friday, September 5, 2008

Excerpt--January 16, 1969: "...While I Kiss the Sky"


(United Airlines, Flight #266, on approach to Denver, Colorado)

Purple haze all in my brain

Lately things just don’t seem the same

Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why

‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky

–Jimi Hendrix, "Purple Haze"




I hate flying, especially when I’m going somewhere I don’t want to be. Last summer, it wasn’t so bad flying to California–somehow, the prospect of crashing to earth and becoming part of a smoldering heap doesn’t seem so likely when you’re going somewhere fun.

But I’m headed for Sioux City, in the dead of winter, my grandfather snoring next to me, my grandmother lying in wait for me at the Sioux City airport.

I can’t wait.

We’re approaching Denver–I hate landings the most–then we get to do it all over again where we’ll catch our connecting flight to Sioux City.

A nighttime flight.

Just get this bucket of bolts safely on the ground!

We’re flying in a figure 8, stacked somewhere over Denver, my stomach lurching, in sync with the winding and curving of the plane.

Why did I agree to this trip, anyway? I’m 18, for God’s sake, a woman now.

Though being 18 floats you in a no-man’s land of not-quite-adulthood, 18 to 20, a purgatory of conditional freedom: be good, get married, or fight in Vietnam, don’t make waves...Don’t drop acid and live with your drug-dealing boyfriend. Exile to Sioux City: my sentence for not conforming to Establishment rules. I was so na├»ve back in October, when I turned 18.

Enduring the entire afternoon with my family and their friends didn’t seem so bad: the reward of true adulthood awaiting me, a final shedding of parental rules.


Excerpt copyright 2008, Jennifer Semple Siegel.

Text may not be reposted or republished without permission.



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