Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 32

Thursday September 21, 2006: I woke up feeling more depressed than normal. Envy of the sleep eaters is growing within me. How they traverse the stairs, get their muck, eat it, and go back up to sleep is beyond me. All of the vital functions sustaining life have begun to abandon me. I never sleep more than an hour or so without waking up startled. Going to the bathroom has become a gut-wrenching chore, inducing sweat and cramps every time I park my ass on the Boeing. To top things off, it looks like our three man cell is really a three man cell now.

Just as dayroom was about to open Gangster began quizzing me about my visit the day before. He is intrigued by the still existing normal facets of my life; people from work, friends, etc. Just as he inquires about my letters and who I am writing each one to, he wants to know who drove all the way down here for a visit. There is no point resisting, he will not be ignored.

“So how do you know this guy?” Gangster does not meet many new people on the streets, this much is clear.

“He’s a friend of mine for years. I guess we met at the place where I worked.” He walked faster than I did when walking the perimeter with me. I am not sure what point he was trying to prove by doing so.

“So you worked with him?”

“No, he was a guy who came in there. I guess you could say he was a customer or something. It’s a weird business, when you work in it you meet a lot of people.”

“What is he to you?” Realizing Gangster had some social hurdles to get over was not surprising. Once I began to understand how high these hurdles were it staggered my mind.

“He’s a friend.” It seemed obvious, but he misses those on the streets.

“Don’t get wise with me, Gilly. I’ll stick your head through the wall. I mean, what is he to you that he drives all the way the fuck down here to talk to you through glass on a telephone? You can call him and talk on a phone from right there.” He gestured at the bank of phones.

“Well, my friend Tommy is more of a prop comic, and he can’t get the laughs he needs over the phone, it’s very visual what he does.” To this day, I do not know what I was thinking. Gangster let several seconds go by with no response. I suppose he realized how unsettling I found it.

“Every step we take Gilly, there’s a wall right there on your right for me to stick your head through, and yet you still give me an answer like that? What’s the matter with you? You feeling suicidal or something?” If he only knew. Gangster was the kind of guy who opposed suicide and would kill you for thinking about it.

“What I meant was, he’s a good friend, and he’s probably worried about me, how I’m holding up and things like that.” He smiled, and gradually began shaking his head, as if he understood or now it made sense.

“What did he have to say?”

“Well, he didn’t have much to say, just small talk about how people we know are doing, and stuff like that. Nothing of note or interesting really.” He was so satisfied to hear this, it confused me at the time.

“Man Gilly, that’s nice. He married?”

“Yeah, wife, kids, the whole nine yards. A regular guy.”

“You know them? The family, you ever meet them?”

“Yeah, it’s hard to avoid them really. They live at his house, so….” Before I could make another sarcastic mistake, he cut me off.

“They like you?”

“Well, I can’t really say. I’m not so sure anyone really likes me. I’m a bit of an obnoxious jerk.”

“Yeah, no shit, I’m dealing with it, I noticed. Do they mind you coming over and hanging out with him?”

“I don’t think so, but I can’t be certain about what anyone else is feeling or thinking. It’s all conjecture on my part.”

“Yeah Gilly, I’m sure it’s all that. Do you realize, when you get out of here, if you do any significant amount of time, they ain’t gonna look at you the same. And most people you know won’t want anything to do with you. Things change.”

“How’s that?” Gangster did not fish around for reasons to make me feel bad, like he knew it was unnecessary.

“Gilly, whether you’re guilty or not makes no difference, you’re in here. That’s all that matters in the end. People might believe you now, or when you were on the streets, but the longer you stay in here, the guiltier you become in everyone’s mind.”

“Why is that?”

“I’m not a fucking psychiatrist Gilly, I can’t explain why it works that way. I’m just telling you it does.” I remember feeling sick to my stomach, even more so than before.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day 31

Wednesday September 20, 2006: Today I had my first visitor as a detained suspect of violent crime. Being 40 miles away, in the furthest jail possible from where I lived might just turn out to be a positive thing. The visit itself with my friend Tommy was nice. He tried to keep the conversation lighthearted and joke, but Sisyphus had an easier task. The fact our conversation was conducted through a pane of thick protective glass, and spoken through telephone, did nothing to lend normalcy to our chat. There was so much wrong with having to speak to someone in this manner, I hoped never to have a visit again. Leaving the visiting area, to begin the series of hand-offs taking me back to my cell, I felt an oppressive sadness come over me. Running over the things Tommy said, the comings and goings of daily life as a human being rather than a societal miscreant, seemed so far away and removed from my life. The urge to cry was felt as strong as it had been since my arrest. Already my mind was taking me through future projections, of where I might be, and who I’ll never see again, and who I might see again. Always the thoughts went to my children, with whom I already I had missed so much. Calculating their ages – in a worst case scenario - the next time I might see them made me simmer with anger as much as induce sadness. Even if one is not a criminal deserving incarceration, certainly life has been misguided at best, and immoral in scattered but consistent patches at the worst times to be in such a mess. All I could think about in the wake of my visit were the people gone from my life. The sense most were gone for good overwhelmed me. I could not exhibit the least sign outwardly of my crushing sadness, lest the jackals who feed on other’s pain would rise on their haunches at the scent of weakness – as a shark detects blood droplets in the ocean from great distance - never passing on an opportunity to derive joy from someone else’s pain. I knew letting someone read my state of mind could lead to trouble, because in my entire life, I never experienced the urge to simply beat someone senseless as I was experiencing when I could pull my mind from sadness. I fluctuated between rage searching for an outlet and sadness seeking a deeper hole inside me in which to hide. Never seeing anyone I cared about again was a real possibility, and the circumstances, regardless of my role and responsibility to them was held apart from my newborn desire to hurt someone, anyone I could perceive as deserving. Right after the visit, nearly everyone was deserving. I began to reason to myself, ‘If I’m going to prison for being a violent thug, why not get my money’s worth.’ It was natural to rationalize violence in this setting, but under no condition did I think I might succumb to the notion violence would help. Now I did not care if it helped.   

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Day 30

Tuesday September 19, 2006: Lenny and his cellie Bandit were moved to the ‘White Rep’ cell, number 1. Three guys from each of the races which make up the vast majority of occuppants – Hispanics, Blacks and Whites – occupy the first three cells. They are allowed out of their cell from breakfast till the end of the last dayroom when everyone is locked up for final count. They are charged with cleaning the dayroom, showers, serving meals, and running errands for the guys who are locked in the cells 21 hours a day. Boone – the white rep who was here when I arrived - is the third man in the cell with Lenny and Bandit. He goes to court Friday to be sentenced, and if the rotation holds true, I would be next to go down there. It’s hard to understand how much moving to another cell providing the opportunity to clean toilets after 75 maniacs fouls them, appeals to me. Life is taking turns I just could never believe possible. Whoever said “everything is relative” might have been in such a situation as myself.

Jeff bothers me. He constantly offers me advice out of the clear blue with no encouragement from me. He operates under the assumption he is some type of wise man. He is a 39 year old dope fiend who inherited enough money once to travel to Australia and China then return to live in his van. The trip was over 15 years ago, yet I heard about it within five minutes of meeting Jeff, and he spoke about it as if he returned yesterday. He has been in and out of jail so often, he cannot remember exactly how many times he has been arrested. When he told me again, after I insisted he must know, he shook his head and laughed. “I don’t know, cause I don’t care!” This made me wonder if this was how my lawyer viewed me; did he think I could not remember my arrests and legal entanglements, like Jeff? Half his teeth are gone, he was a 10th grade dropout and has not worked regular – ever! How does someone make it to nearly 40 years of age without ever having to be on time for work? Without ever paying a utility bill? Or had a bank account or driver’s license, and yet still view himself as a beacon to turn to in times of troubles? How does one reach that point of self-delusion? I would really like to know, because on some level, I envied Jeff. He was not stressed out by his predicament, in fact, he did not even see this as a predicament. It was a place to get some sleep, eat three meals a day, put on some weight and get healthy. While I was producing something with my insides rivaling the worst sewer odors any third world slum ever emitted, stressing over what to do with a lawyer I was fairly certain was working against me, Jeff slept. While I waited in the line at the phones to call the attorney, Jeff filled out forms to go to the dentist. “Think I’ll get this tooth that’s been bothering me pulled while I’m here,” he said to in passing as I stood in the phone line, forcing bile back down my throat. It was like a day spa for those mentally relieved from the ability to engage reality. When conversations around Jeff circled back to the inevitable topic, ‘What I am going to do first when I get out’, Jeff never hesitated to respond. “I’m gonna get high,” he would say time and again with nonchalance. Then the conversation would veer into everyone talking at once about their drug of choice, and how it was second thing they were going to do. Jeff was not a liar. There were no false airs trying to impress other cesspool dwellers, when he was on the streets he was doing big things. Jeff was not doing anything, did not intend to do anything – except the aforementioned ‘getting high’ – and did not want to do anything. As the other guys struggled to come up with the word ‘Broker’ or otherwise explain their vast wealth and holdings which must be tended to before they get high; or the supermodel girlfriend who is suffering through a painful celibate period in their absence and must be carnally satisfied before they can think about a dalliance with dope, Jeff just threw his plans out there without regard for the collective think tank and their responses. When myself or someone else could not or would not eat an unidentified object on our meal tray, Jeff gladly accepted it and scarfed it down greedily. He never complained, never used the phone, or expressed worry in any way detectable. He really bothered me.

Two phone calls to my attorney were unsuccessful in making contact. His secretary did not know his schedule for the remainder of the week. That is what she told me. I am sure Jeff would believe her, but I am just a bit more skeptical. Not that it’s doing me any good.    

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Day 29

Monday September 18, 2006: As soon as the dayroom opened, I went over to the phone bank and got in line. There were four phones, and some of the guys spent nearly the entire time allotted for dayroom yelling at their estranged subordinates on collect calls that had to add up to quite a tally. One thing I quickly came to understand, I was in the societal VIP lounge from another’s perspective, not the cesspool. It was perplexing how many of the fella’s seemed to think without them out there to tend to things, the world might spin off its axis. When the guy in front of me completed the thorough verbal flogging of whoever was unwilling to hang up on him, it was my turn. I only had 20 minutes, but knew it was plenty of time if I could get the Officer of the Court on the phone. I waited on hold for five minutes before he picked up. Following as brief a greeting as possible, he asked what was on my mind.

“It’s that arrest that was supposed to have occurred in May of 1996. What does it say I was charged with? Cause I got to thinking, it’s not so much the fictional arrest that worries me, but the fictional charge.” As I spoke, I struggled to maintain a calm voice and speak at a slow enough pace not to tip off how worked up I was over this bureaucratic liable. Later, I realized how hopeless my situation had become when considering I did not want the man hired to defend my rights to realize I was upset with his negligent and nefarious attitude.

“Damn, when you began speaking, I thought you were going to tell me you remembered the arrest after all. I don’t have your paperwork right in front of me. I’ll dig it out. Can you call back in 15 minutes?” I looked up at the clock.

“No, I doubt it. I probably wouldn’t be able to call till this evening and I know that’s too late. How about tomorrow?” Hate for this man was evolving from dislike within me as I had never known. How far could the papers have been from his desk? How big was this office? He knew my situation and accessibility to a phone. In hindsight, I think he withheld information so no specific action could be requested on my behalf.

“Well, tomorrow I’m scheduled to be in court all day, but you can try. Court gets cancelled all the time.” We said good-bye and I just knew I would never get the information on the phone from him. I returned to the cell as the announcement dayroom time had come to an end rang over the speakers. As I walked slowly along, my name was called from a cell. I looked over and saw Lenny’s and the ‘Big Drink’ Bandit’s faces crowded into the small window of their cell, calling me over. I walked close enough to speak through the door crack without screaming.

“Where are you from out there? Where did you live?” Lenny and young Bandit had actually bet on the response I found out later. So I told them the name of the city I had spent the prior 15 years living in. Lenny recognized the town right away. “Oh yeah! I know that area real well. We used to go up there all the time to steal cars.”

I almost laughed at our connection. “Hey, that’s interesting. I had a car stolen from me there!” My head was spinning all the time now.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Day 28

Sunday September 17, 2006: The religious service from crazy-land lost some appeal this week. Nothing makes me feel hopeful or see light, nothing brings a smile to my mind or distracts me from the oncoming ruin. It feels inevitable now, as if there is no use in trying, or even asking the attorney to do his job. My thoughts are so one-sided it is hard for me to do much besides walk in circles, read, and write letter after letter making derision of my plight. In the morning, as most everyone sat watching the NFL pregame shows, Gangster circled the room with me. Certain tidbits of my court appearance Friday were omitted from details shared with Gangster earlier, mainly because I wanted to spare myself his response. But those very details were eating me alive, and I had to tell someone just to see if anyone else ever experienced or heard of such a thing.

“On Friday, I saw my previous arrests sheet, my lawyer had it. There was an arrest on there which – I am telling you – never happened. I’m not mostly sure, I am absolutely, 100%, sure.” I sprung this out of nowhere, till then the conversation focused on food.

“What the fuck are you talking about, Gilly?”

“On Friday, I saw this piece of paper saying I was arrested in May of 1996. I am telling you it did not happen. I was never arrested in my life at that point. I think I could remember the first time I was in that sort of trouble.” Just talking about it I could feel an anger ruminating through me like a simmering demon with horrific potential, and that was new.

“So you’re telling me on your list of priors, there’s a mistake, right? That happens, someone enters a date wrong in the computer.” He was not getting it, perhaps because he had a rap sheet with as many pages as a novella.

“No, no, this is not a wrong date. Understand, I was not arrested on a regular basis; as in never until March 12th 1998, and that was for missing two days of community service on the DUI I got in August of 1996.”

“Then you were arrested in August of 1996! Get your fucking story straight Gilly! The DA is gonna love you the way you tell your bullshit.”

“No, I was not arrested. I rolled an old pick-up into an avocado field, crawled out from under it, walked two miles to a phone, then the police showed up while I was waiting for a ride to the emergency room. I broke some ribs and hurt my shoulder. They put me in an ambulance and followed me to the hospital. They wanted blood from me since I passed the seven Breathalyzer tests they gave me, I refused and got a DUI.”

“Why’d you refuse Gilly?”

“Pot stays in the system a long time. And I smoked it a lot, so they were going to get me on that anyhow, so I refused. But the point is, after six hours or so I was released from the hospital and never arrested officially, never taken into custody. I would not forget the first time someone looked up my ass while coughing.” He did not respond, he was listening, which meant I should continue. I was getting good at reading maniacs. “So I was never arrested or charged with anything then, or even questioned about something.”

“What does it say you were arrested for?” Gangster thought pragmatically on these matters even if his final conclusions would often end in savage beat downs, the decision to administer the savage beating was arrived at pragmatically.

“I don’t even know. I was so flustered by the appearance of an arrest, I didn’t get around to asking. I just figured, if it says I was arrested, and I wasn’t, the charge is a moot point.” Gangster shook his head at my naiveté on the particulars.

“Gilly, if it says you were passing bad checks back then, it’s gonna make no difference. If they’re claiming it’s any kind of violence charge, they’re gonna use that to run your sentence up. Just like they do with the three strike law.” I voted for the three strike law. On a purely superficial basis, it seemed to make sense, until understanding its implementation, at which point it imploded logically. “I never heard of someone having some phantom charge appear on their jacket before, Gilly. Mistakes regarding actual arrests – sure. But this is some other bullshit altogether. Better call that lawyer first thing tomorrow. So he can tell you you’re wrong and don’t remember your own life as well as the police papers do.” Gangster never stopped driving home his point unless to punch someone in the face, driving his point home via the alternate route. I welcomed his verbal belligerence.

“Yeah, I guess I better.” I knew he was right though. That lawyer – the heir apparent to the barrister who must have inspired Shakespeare – was not even going to try and rectify something working to his benefit. It was a screwed up situation, and I put it together, I was in the middle of it, screaming inside for the truth.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Day 27

Saturday September 16, 2006: I did not sleep well last night. I met the latest lower bunk occupant, whose name is either Jeff or Jim, then spent the rest of the night trying not to answer Gangster’s inquiries. He was not content to be right, he wanted to take over my case. In hindsight, I probably should have done everything he recommended. Logic as I knew it – and granted I was no Socrates – dictated people with life size tattoos of Jesus being shot-up by the devil on their bodies cannot be taken seriously as counsel in what I viewed as a life and death matter. He was not hostile with me, or angry. He exhibited more hostility in order to clear space for junk food. I answered every question he asked me, except one; “So what are you gonna do Gilly?” I just did not have an answer, there was no money for another lawyer and I heard nightmares about the appointed attorneys.

The day room was on full weekend schedule, so everyone was out at the same time. During the 6 hours of time out of the cell, I must have walked 5 or 600 laps. Walking and counting, trying not to let the doom I felt welling within me take control. There’s a lot of mind games in county jail. The guys have one objective; receive as little time as possible. Everywhere the lap walking took me, I would drift in and out of the same conversations. Someone telling his story, another guy offering his opinion, both exuding superficial optimism that was paper thin along with confidence which was a complete pretense. The guys want to be lied to, and I wished Gangster would lie to me. Maybe I would be able to sleep then. My mind entertained options on how to deal with my problem ranging from firing the lawyer to killing myself. The place was designed to make killing oneself a difficult task requiring much effort, but I saw a way or two it could have been done. I could not sit down at the table and watch college football when asked to join the football fans. I could not stop writing letters in the cell. It was growing increasingly tense in my head and I was feeling myself slipping away, or at least slipping into something I did not recognize.

Simple things, like paper to write on, or pencils sharp enough to write with, began to take on such significance. We were not allowed to have pens because they too much resembled knives, and we were expected to stab each other with them, instead of writing. Gangster walked a couple dozen laps with me, to follow-up on my case.

“Ya know Gilly, I’ve been thinking, running through my mind if I can remember anyone ever having the initial offer raised and I can’t. You know what this is like? It’s like you walk onto a car lot, the sticker says ten thousand. So you offer the salesman nine. But instead of bargaining with you, kind of meet you in the middle, your salesman’s is saying 12 thousand. He’s going above the sticker on the car, and it don’t make sense. The DA starts high so he can come down. They started high with you, and went up further. I can’t explain it.”

“I thought you stole cars, you didn’t buy them. What do you know about haggling over price on a car lot?” I tried to smirk, but those facial muscles were not working properly.

“Gilly, I used that example because I’m trying to speak your language. What do you think, I don’t know anyone who has ever bought a car? You’re a funny fuckin guy and all, but you better fire that clown you hired as a lawyer. I don’t think you’re taking this serious enough.” I said nothing, but it did not matter.

“I know what you think about the court appointed shit, and you’re right. You might have to request new counsel a few times then too, till you find the right one. But that won’t cost you anything.”

“Maybe it doesn’t show, but I am taking this as serious as I am capable of taking anything. If I joke or seem hesitant to fire him, it’s because joking keeps my head from exploding and I just can’t believe this guy isn’t going to make the proper effort. I just can’t believe that.”

“You’re a stubborn motherfucker, Gilly, anyone ever tell you that? I know you ain’t stupid, but if you’re going to be this stubborn, shit, it doesn’t matter if you’re smart. You’d be better off being stupid; stupid people can at least listen to reason when their life is on the line. You’re gonna fuck yourself!”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Day 26

Friday September 15, 2006: Holding cells – the accused, randomly selected by the calendar of the court – are loaded with variables and potential problems. It stems from the shocking number of enemies people in jail have. Every time someone is moved to a new facility, part of the intake process, or screening, is asking the question; “Do you have any enemies?” which I found odd. They keep a list of everyone’s enemies? I guess I found it depressing too; gang members with enemies’ lists’, just like Nixon. The first time I was asked, it so caught me off-guard I responded sarcastically, a reflex I soon lost. “Well, JJ Murphy used to look for me in the 6th grade to beat me up, but he’s got to be dead by now.” County employees take their job very serious when someone tries to be funny. He looked at me without so much as a smirk, “So no enemies then, correct?” It did not take long to stop going for laughs in an environment where everyone wants to beat your ass. It is one big tough room.

As each miscreant is fed into the holding cell, they search the faces for the familiar. Being with a world-class weasel was preferable to being alone. But no one ever seemed to be alone – except me. Everyone else coming through the door needed two seconds to find someone they knew. It was like a reunion, or me going into a bar, except with bizarre-world nicknames; “Hey Worm! Yo, my dog Vermin, how you been?” and so forth. The camaraderie often looked forced, motivated by fear. I never spoke to anyone first – except once, which I’ll explain later – in a holding cell. For the most part, these are people who go to jail for a living, forced temporarily together, then tossed and tossed. There are at least two holding cells before boarding the bus to court. Once there, three or four more is typical before court, then at least two more while waiting for your ride back. Another one back at the home facility, so they can look up your ass, then back to the 5.5 x 11.5 foot three man cell. As bad as the cell was, when I arrived back each time from court, I was genuinely comforted by its confines.

Before going into court, in the last holding cell, I was permitted to speak with my attorney. The conversation was conducted through a 3” x 12” slot in the door, located about two feet from the floor. Standing there, bent over and screaming so he would hear me, my seven newest best friends in the world hung on our every utterance. He tried to explain to me what this day’s hearing was addressing, but I could not understand him, and did not feel comfortable enough to ask him to repeat something I most likely would not have understood had I heard every word. I quickly grow tired of screaming “What’s that mean?” when trapped and surrounded by genius. But it was there, bent at the waist with my ear as close to the slot as I could get it, I learned the five years at either 80 or 85% had been removed as an offer and replaced by an offer of seven years at whatever the correct percentage was, which my lawyer did not care enough to determine. I had been bargained up. I am sure it happens, initial offers going up; it just was so rare I could not find another example of it in the coming six years. My case had quite a few of those infrequent peculiarities, beginning with being arrested twice, and ending with a little known and seldom seen parole surprise.

In the courtroom, the man who would become the poster boy for spurious legal representation and gluttonous bottom feeding sat next to me in the villains section, dressed in a suit clearly distinguishing him as a visitor and master of disguise. My best effort to read and comprehend the paperwork he shuffled before me was futile. At best I could pull out snippets of data.

"Hey, what's this here? Says my first arrest was May 17th, 1996?! I was never arrested in May of 1996. That's wrong." Now, at this juncture, I really hoped for some supportive response, this was cut and dry matter-of-fact stuff. Instead, he focused in on the page and rebutted me.

"Yes you were, it says right here . . ." he proceeded to read the "facts" pertaining to the arrest that never happened, as if my problem were illiteracy. Momentary out of body experiences gripped me. When I reiterated the date of my first arrest, as in actually taken into custody, just as I was then, he dismissed me, sure that, simpleton which I was, had the dates mixed up. As soon as he felt I was properly defused he started to resell me on the idea of accepting the seven year offer, "Before they raise it again." I wondered if I refused deals long enough, could this grow into life sentence. When he paused from retelling me bad news about rescinded offers and other assorted tragedies relating to how screwed I was, I asked a question. “Can you file a Pitchess motion on my behalf regarding the way the stories changed?” I saw the expression on his face do something. Until then, he mindlessly spoke nothing specific enough to require thought, only heaping discouragement upon me, hoping to suffocate me, so I would succumb. He remained a scumbag even when he gave his words thought.

“Where did you hear of that?” Spoken in a voice reserved for the preposterous.

“I went to the law library at the jail and looked some stuff up.” No way was I going to let him tell me what an idiot Gangster was, or I was for listening to him. I thought each jail was required to have a law library available, but then, I also believed innocent until proven guilty. He simply switched targets, telling me the books are outdated and the application . . .blah blah blah. He was not going to file the motion. So I asked more questions. “I looked up mayhem and I do not see how they can charge me with that, what are the grounds?

“There’s retina damage to the right eye, that requires surgery, otherwise it’s a permanent injury.” I sat still, trying to stay focused as rage gathered momentum within me. It took a while, but calmness still controlled the surface.

“That retina damage is 17 years old. It occurred when an older sister flipped a car over while driving drunk. There was already surgery scheduled for September, this month, before this happened. If someone is in chemo and something like this happens, would I be charged with causing the cancer? Can’t we get ahold of medical records to prove this? How hard can that be?” He never answered any of my questions directly which I did not realize at the time.

“Can you come up with $3,500?” Lawyers never ask questions unless they have the answer. “If you can, then I strongly suggest you hire a detective to get started on this.” Words to that effect anyway, I went into a state then, where I do not hear or comprehend my surroundings, something I imagine people must experience on an airplane that is going down.