Sunday – September 3, 2006: At 8:45 last night, BD went “Man Down”. The institutional term for being found on the floor or unable to walk and calling for medical help. Maybe with the Gangster sleeping just above him, it was more of a premonition than actual medical condition. Gangster picked at BD with casual truculence when confined to the cell, which was 20 hours per day on average. He was remarkable in his creativity involving mental and emotional disassembling and battering of people, if the word can be used to describe a brand of cruel torture where the ultimate goal is provoking a swing, so he may then mercilessly pummel BD without a new charge; ‘Mutual Combat’ is the nomenclature for beating the shit out of each other. All the sleeping and dry heaving left Gangster invigorated and refreshed and incapable of keeping it to himself. With his newfound zest, he immediately put everything he had into draining the will to live from all around him.
Each cell in county jail, in addition to the pristine if not lavish metal furnishings and turbo-powered toilet, comes with the final antiquated vestige of the once admired and noble concept of ‘Presumed Innocence’; the cornerstone of the American Judicial System, which has been replaced by a bundle of cash. A speaker/intercom system built into the wall and covered by a nice metal plate which blends aesthetically with the metal stool and matching table. It is an inside joke among the roll-callers and overeducated ticket punchers which is not funny if financially unable to make bail. You are guilty if you are still there and the wheels of justice now turn strictly in attempts to maximize the sub human’s worth to them, to keep the defendant in their gooey web, to feed the strongest union in the history of California; The C.C.P.O.A. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association. This politically active covert group influences everyone from judges’ sentences to State Assembly people when laws are being created or redesigned, or anyone who campaigns for office with their hand out. People who are ‘Presumed Innocent’ still have rights such as being able to ask for help in a medical emergency. Prison cells have no line out for emergencies, and ambulances less than a mile away on ground can take an hour to arrive. It is made abundantly clear to anyone who can take a hint: we are a commodity, not a human. They care enough not to let one escape, but it’s ok to die. Realizing I am siding with the “scum”, not just because I am in the group, but because hypocrisy for monetary gain is wrong when I did it, and it is profoundly worse when institutionalized and sanctioned by the State. Why is certain immoral behavior and corruption acceptable if it appears to be only hurting bad people? They are still stealing from the taxpayer and they are typically returning an angrier, more dangerous individual to the streets. The system as it is set up now, polishes the anger, refines the danger, and then redirects back into society more volatile than before. I do not see how that helps anyone except those union members.
BD, in a new dramatic voice he must have held back for the occasion, screamed quasi hysterically into the holes of the metal plate as he held the button. As he pleaded, using his best life-and-death voice, Gangster stood behind him yelling equally loud and without the oscillation in tenor BD was so effectively injecting into his voice to give it more of a cry for help or wailing effect, Gangster’s barking was drowning him out.
“Don’t listen to this piece of shit, he’s fine. He just wants to get out cause he’s scared. He’s a dumpster diver. If he’s lying on the floor when you get up here, don’t put him on a stretcher, wipe your boots on him. He’s a piece of shit dumpster diver.” As long as BD tried to speak, Gangster went on behind him. After a half dozen tries or so, BD just started screaming, “HEART ATTACK! HEART ATTACK!” repeatedly till even the most uninspired county employee on the other end could not feign confusion. They both looked psychotic, and then it hit me: once BD was gone, I would be the lone depository for that 255 pounds of egregious psychosis until someone else shows up. One need not be a student of psychology or human nature to arrive at the conclusion, once BD left, Gangster was not suddenly going to undergo a personality change. All the venomous baiting and innuendo Gangster hurled about like well-aimed harpoons were going to continue to fly. I suddenly felt like Poland on August 31, 1939. What I could not help but be taken aback by – and everything from the cuisine to swastika tattoos on foreheads were constantly knocking me for a loop – was Gangster’s refusal to tone it down even when the staff entered the cell. As the medical crew scooped BD from the cement floor and uniformed county officers stood by at the doorway, he seemed to turn the volume down, and the venomous content up. “You’re a piece of shit and you always will be BD. Next time you dive into a dumpster why don’t you stay there!” The officers told him to tone it down. He did not seem to notice them. “Save everyone some time guys, just take him upstairs and toss him right into a dumpster. You hear that BD? They’re taking you home! You fuckin coward!”
After everyone was gone and the cell door locked, Gangster got up and started pacing. I never looked up from the letter I was writing. “You hear those fuckin cops tellin me to shut up?” It was only the two of us, so he had to be talking to me. “Yeah, I did.” The awkward silence prompted me to fill it. “How come you didn’t just do it, make it easier on yourself, aren’t you worried about retaliation?” He stopped pacing directly in front of me forcing me to look up into the eyes of the predator. “What are they gonna fuckin do? Arrest me? Fuck them.”
It was not as long or bad of a night as the potential suggested. Gangster was behaving like someone who lived for food just leaving an all-you-can-eat buffet. He was temporarily satiated I hoped, long enough for them to get someone else in here, which I knew, due to the overcrowding, would not take long.