Entry 16: Prison Harassment
Do you ever feel like you are the only real person in the world and everyone and everything else is just there to test you, or more often, screw you up and over?
This morning I missed my door break for breakfast. In here, I usually wake up naturally, almost all of us do, and I dream almost every night. Always vivid, and recently about being pals with movie stars (often a dad-bod Brad Pitt?). I’m not even sure they are famous in my dreams. We joke around while drinking, charter fishing, things of that sort.
I once dreamed that Arianna, Blake Anderson, and I were trying to save telepathic dolphins from an alien aquatic planet experiencing an apocalypse. In the end, we had to evacuate by launching ships into space as the planet exploded, but don’t despair, our mammalian brethren had their own ships that encased sea water, so most escaped the supernova.
That was a really fun dream.
Last night I dreamed I walked in the woods with a friend I love more than myself. We were approaching something magnificent when reality yelled at me to wake up. I didn’t want to leave–we were so close–but food is limited here, so I transported back to my eight by six cell, and jumped up to catch my door.
I missed it by less than a second. Normally, a guard will be cool, come by, and unlock a cell when someone misses. I happened to miss my door when a sadist was working (since the ring leader left, it’s down to one in three need a positive attitude injection).
So by nine thirty in the morning, I am very hungry. I have a fifteen minute phone call scheduled for that time, and the way the doors break, I only get one a week, so I’m anxious. I have serious issues to discuss that must be resolved in a limited window that is closing fast.
At nine twenty eight, the guard yells for nine-thirty callouts to come to their doors. Guards will soon be on their way to open them. I hear one climbing the stairs. My hands grip the bars in anticipation, and then a siren goes off. Not the timid one from the fire escape door, but the deafening wail that means immediate lock down of the whole facility. The guards scream for everyone to lock-down. Inmates who had been out of the building were ushered back and locked in their cells.
Phone calls were cancelled. Lunch was served two hours late. I still have no books…
There is one last hope of making my lifesaving phone call. All previous indications are that it’s not going to happen, but I’m an idealist; a diehard optimist.
We get yard at six thirty in the evening, and if they break the top tier first, which I assume they must, since they have released us last five times in a row, and if I scoot as fast as my legs will churn (because running gets you a ticket), then I can get to one of the twelve phones, or at least get in line.
At six thirty, our doors were opened last for the sixth time and I missed my chance to make a phone call.
But as I strolled the yard, in the rain, I marveled at the realization that I maintain a positive attitude. Even here in prison, under the most bizarre circumstances imaginable, I feel good.
For the first time in half a decade, I got angry. Anger only affects the body for a maximum of ten seconds. So, if you’re anger outlasts the count of ten (more often three), it’s by choice. But behind these walls, anger can be useful.
I was in the shower a few days ago. They are designed for two men, perhaps eight feet by ten feet, and encased in tile. Two of us were in there. I stepped from under the stream and began to towel off. Another man, who was older and built, which to me indicates many years in prison, rushed in with a smile, and started to chat while he undressed.
There was no threat of rape. Guards were just outside as were dozens of inmates, but in my opinion, this was a subtle press. A test of me and my fellow shower mate’s perimeter defenses, if you will.
I puffed up and asked him if he minded waiting until I was out. He scowled, assessed that I was going to make this an issue, and relented.
I soothed my Jekyll down below, but appreciated that he was ready to make an appearance.
The second incident was today at dinner. I happened to be seated with three kids who were all in jail for a crime they committed together. They were having fun insulting people who passed. The one across from me kept glancing at me. I kept my head down and focused on eating, but I knew what he was thinking. ‘Can I be rude to this guy, or is he serving life?’ Five minutes in, he sent a scout by asking if I wanted my orange.
My tray is half-full, and people always bring their oranges back to their cell, more to have something to do rather than out of reserve hunger. I said yes and know if he touches it, I’m going to push his tray into his lap, and as he glances down, I will drop my best haymaker across his jaw, jump over the table, and rely on instinct from there.
He sensed this, nodded, and looked around for weaker prey. His friend two seats down was not as bright and said, “Man, just give him the damn orange.”
“Why don’t you come down here and take it,” I said. Jekyll was clawing to come out. Everyone in earshot went quiet. Convicts are like packs of wolves. We can chum around and live together, but any two can draw each other’s blood, and the rest always teem with encouragement. We all want to see a scuffle. All want to move up in the hierarchy, but you can go down just as quickly. So, you sniff the air, read the nonverbals, and pick your battles.
This kid waved his hand as if it wasn’t worth it, and dug into his spaghetti.
One thing inmates do exceedingly well is observe. Personally, I lack this quality. Unless focused, I’m often aloof, but I know this was a minor victory. People saw. They stored it away. And though it wasn’t enough to instill caution, it can only help me in the future, and was a crap-ton better than allowing them to have my orange.
I saw the guy from the shower on the yard. He came right at me. He was smiling, but he’s strong and carries himself like a predator, so I’m on my toes. He said, “Got me a muthafucka. Eight years.”
I exhaled a short burst, and said, “You’re pretty fucked.”
He cocked his head a moment and then laughed. “You a crazy muthafucka.”
“How so?” I was genuinely curious.
“Most muthafuckas would tell me, ‘get back on appeal’, or ‘it’ll go by fast’, some shit like that.”
We both laughed. Most muthafuckas are liars.
He told me to be cool and walked off. That man will give people problems, this I’m sure of, but I won’t be one of them, which is good for us.
Three down, forty-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six to go.
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