Saturday, June 21, 2014


Day 11

Thursday – August 31, 2006: Around 6 A.M. Tim’s name was called over the PA system and told to “roll it up”, which meant gather whatever was passing as possessions together and prepare for departure. He would be going to one of the County’s two camps for the remainder of his six weeks. By 7 A.M. Tim would be the first person I met along this sordid path, get to know only the most intimate and gruesome details of their lives, then abruptly depart and never see them again. In about 98 percent of the cases that was just fine with me. As soon as he was gone, BD hurriedly moved his bedding material into the middle space of the three bunk stack. I was in the top bunk which suited me as well as any bunk in a toilet could. It was the only bunk with enough visibility after lights out to read and write. The lower bunk was a couple inches above floor, and to the minds of those unfortunate enough to care about such logistics, the least desirable. The middle bunk mattered to the same minds far more than it should have, and such significance to seemingly meaningless statuses would become an ever increasing part of life now. Around 11 A.M. I watched through the small window on the metal cell door as the latest arrivals, none of whom looked new, entered single-file to their new residences. Two were dispatched to lower tier cells and the third walked slowly behind his uniformed escort up the stairs towards us. He was tall, well over six foot, and though appearing exhausted, was not too tired to scowl constantly. Our cell door clicked to unlock and the officer swung it open for our new cellie. He walked in and stood silently until the cell door clicked closed. I was sitting on the top bunk writing a letter, BD stood as the official greeter. “Is that your shit on the middle bunk?” he asked BD, to which he replied affirmatively. “You have five seconds to move it or I’ll flush that shit down the toilet.” I tried not to stare, but there was nowhere else to look. BD moved quicker than I had ever seen him move as he returned his bed roll to the bottom. While he was relocating, the new tenant looked at me. “What’s your name?” I said “Frankie”, and nothing more. He extended a large hand which I shook as he said, “I’m the [name of city] Gangster.” I did not quite catch what he said, or so I thought, or hoped. As he repeated the ritual with BD I listened more closely, and sure enough, he said it again. Nicknames were everyone’s way of trying to remain anonymous to those charged with recording our activity and punishing us accordingly. The theory was it would make it more difficult for a snitch to tell on someone if they did not have a real name to give to the authorities. Plus, everyone seemed to think it made them slicker and more unique. After rolling his bedding out on the middle bunk, Gangster proceeded to dry heave in the heartiest fashion I had ever the displeasure of witnessing for about 45 minutes. Then he laid down and slept – only grudgingly waking for meals and to sporadically though violently dry heave – until the next morning.