He had not had breakfast.
He sat in a Waffle House booth on a Saturday morning, dressed in a white t-shirt under a denim jacket. He ordered an omelet with cheese, tomatoes and ham, a double order of hash browns, bacon (a little crispy), and two toasted slices of white bread.
The waitress forgot the tomatoes, and he told her so she would not charge him for them.
Breakfast is his favorite meal of the day. He is a diabetic, so he makes sure he eats.
“But not too healthy,” he laughed.
As he ate, he talked about his stubborn momma, and how he did not know what he would do without her. He talked about his grandmother, and relying on her recipes. He told of his daughter, how she made the honor roll last year, and when had she gotten so tall?
Reggie Davis was arrested two days later in his neighborhood in Autauga County for trafficking drugs. His bond was set to $45,000.
Davis had lost his job before Christmas, and his ex-wife wanted to know how he would buy the kids’ presents.
He was 45 years old, living with his mother, his youngest sister, and her four children.
He was desperate. He could not pay his bills, or his traffic tickets.
“I was in survival mode.”
Davis was indicted on a grand jury charge for being a middleman. He said he brought the two parties together, but did not touch any drugs or money.
“But I was there. I put it in motion,” Davis said.
He wanted to make sure his children had what they wanted, even if it was just a little bit.
Davis started with his omelet, and talked about being 16. He grew up in Prattville, Ala., with three younger sisters. His parents divorced when he was three, after a marriage of 15 years. He went to Prattville High School, and “played every sport.”
“I hung out with a lot of white people,” Davis laughed.
He graduated in 1986 and entered the military. He worked and traveled everywhere from California to Germany for 18 years. He married a woman who was also in the military, and the two lived in Germany. They had two children, and separated in 2004.
“She told me to move back to Alabama, and save us some money. I told her if I moved, we weren’t going to make it,” Davis said.
He moved back to Alabama. They were divorced in 2008, and he married a woman named Tamie, whom he had met when he was 16. But Davis was too settled for Tamie, and they filed for divorce in January.
He lives “from here to McDonald’s” next to Tamie. The Waffle House and the McDonald’s sit side by side.
Davis’s mother has lived in the same house since he was three, and he moved back in when he and Tamie separated. Davis said it isn’t so bad, but he and his sister argue a lot. She dropped out of high school and never moved out.
“That’s why I work so much. I’m trying to get something to get out,” Reggie said.
He salts his hash browns, and says being in Prattville has reminded him much of his past.
He recalls a bonfire with his friends when he was 18. He was the only black man there, a circle of teenagers on private property that was buried deep in the Autauga woods. They laughed and drank until the police showed up.
Two officers cornered Davis, and threatened to drag him into the pond.
“Do you have any parents?” the cops asked. “Do you even have parents?”
Davis had never met racial hostility so frankly before. His friends stood back with wide eyes, and tried to laugh it off once the officers left.
“I just told them to take me home,” Davis said. “I wasn’t in the mood after that.”
He has never told his mom of the night, even 27 years later.
He left many of those hometown friends as he traveled with the military.
Jackie was his best friend, and the two reconnected once he was back. She passed away in December after being diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy. He stops chewing his hash browns, and the look in his eyes shows his mind is not on the cooling breakfast in front of him, or where he will get the money for next month’s bills. It is in another time, one of memories.
“I don’t talk about her a lot,” Davis said.
He eyes a greasy slice of bacon and says he regrets leaving the military.
He works for Amcom Home Theatre L.L.C. in Wetumpka, Ala. He gets up Monday through Friday and injects himself with a shot of insulin and arrives at work by 8:00. When he first started with Amcom, Davis made $350 a week. He makes a little more now that he installs three or four satellite dishes a day.
His pay scale has changed a lot since the military. He said it is hard to get a good paying job, and that he is always looking for better pay.
“I thought, ‘I’m finally going to get that job.’ I still haven’t gotten that job.”
The military had comforted him with security. He knew his bills would be paid whether he went to work or not.
Now, his electricity or hot water will get cut off.
“I live check to check. And it hurts.”
He said when his son Kimone came home from Auburn, Ala., last week he was able to give him $40.
“That felt good. But it didn’t feel good when I needed it the next week,” Davis said.
Kimone was an offensive lineman at Huntingdon for two years after high school graduation. He is 6’3” and 298 pounds. Davis thought his son would play professional football and take care of the family for the rest of their lives.
Davis said many people dream of being rich, but not him.
“I want something better,” Davis said. “I want to be able to pay my bills and live comfortably.”
He butters his toast, and covers the top with purple jelly.
On Saturdays, he cranks a white Ford-150 truck, turns left off Cosby Court, and heads towards Chip Cleveland’s farm. He does whatever the Clevelands need doing. He will wash cars, clean tractors, repair fence boards, or cut the grass when it is too tall.
Cleveland is a lawyer in Prattville, and met Davis the first time he was in jail for writing bad checks. Davis was part of a work release program on Saturdays at Cleveland’s farm. He has continued to work on Cleveland’s farm since leaving jail.
“I think Reggie has had a hard time,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland said the structured environment in the military suited him more. He thinks Davis is happier without the military’s control, but the financial means are not enough.
Cleveland bought Davis a truck when he watched him struggle to survive. He helps Davis because he knows Davis has a good heart.
“I trust him,” Cleveland said. “He puts his feet under my table and eats sitting next to me.”
But he said Davis must grow up. If Davis is convicted of his charges he’ll spend 10 to 20 years in prison.
“Our relationship will be severely strained if he is convicted, and greatly diminished,” Cleveland said.
If Davis is not convicted, he will still pay him to work on his farm, but he will have to wean Davis from his financial support.
“It is a fault of mine. I can’t keep doing this forever,” Cleveland said.
Reggie Davis had gone to reinstate his license on Monday morning when the DMV told him there was a warrant for him. He was arrested immediately.
He had not had breakfast.