Sunday, July 13, 2014


Day 16

Tuesday – September 5, 2006: The guys who excelled at being incarcerated, grizzled veterans of society’s seamy underside, were good at odd skills which rarely translated to any purposeful function on the streets. Sleep-eating at breakfast was one of those skills. Guys would come out of the cells resembling zombies with concealed weapons – in case someone woke them – and lifelessly traverse stairways and other vertical mobile sleepers without bumping, as if possessing the same innate sonar bats have. They would eat breakfast asleep, a chore simplified since none of the food required chewing. Everything I ate for six years seemed to have the consistency of thick cream of wheat; even the soy burgers. If meals were served on a paper plate instead of a tray, I would have rolled the contents into a funnel and poured them down my gullet. That would have saved time, especially at lunch and dinner when the grizzled veterans are wide awake and lecturing simultaneously. There is an unusually high percentage of loud speakers in there; Sunday morning religious ceremonies aren’t the only place reserved for screaming. There is often thunderous woofing in the bathroom and shower due to the acoustic echoes which the guys would then attempt to shout over by raising their voice even more. There are few things as bewildering as being on a toilet or in a shower while someone holds you hostage by attempting to scream over himself three feet away from you. Whether standing in the shower naked or sitting on the toilet, it's a no-win situation; a yell-a-thon where everyone wants to win. How does one determine the winner? Apparently volume is the pivotal factor, because often I would struggle to make sense of what was being said, especially in the shower, but the spit and wind flying out of the lecturer’s mouth would indicate importance. Also, it helped to recognize changes in the shades of the face barking out brilliance and spot bulging veins as tells. I almost never understood what a guy who had his face stuck in a can of paint for nine months before arriving was trying to express to me, but during the nine year term I did at St. James elementary school at the hands of the so-called “Sisters of Mercy” (a bigger lie than calling prison guards “Peace Officers”) I developed a survival mechanism which allows me to appear completely zeroed in on what’s being said to me, nodding on cue instinctively when needed, and live to walk away. None the wiser.

After breakfast the professionals lay immediately in their bunk and there’s no way of knowing if they have any recall of breakfast or not, it is rarely discussed. I would stay awake either reading or writing letters. Gangster had not fallen into any discernable pattern of sleep yet since ending the dry heaves and fade ways.  This morning he was up and pacing by nine. Every few trips, he would pause by the cell door and glance out through the tiny window, eclipsing it from my view with his head. He talked to me and asked less provocative questions than he did to BD, not trying to incite me, but just to control the air in the cell. Finally, he stopped and stayed planted by the door. “Well alright,” he said in a tone I long ago associated with pep talks before readying to charge onto the field of play. “Gilly, it looks like my new chew toy is about to be delivered.” He turned around rubbing the palms of his hands together, a typically maniacal look covered his face. He always looked as if he might be thinking something devious and evil, and on some level, he probably was too. To this point, I had heard nothing make me think otherwise. “I am gonna make this sonofabith wish he had more respect for the laws of our society, Gilly!” Another new feeling crept over me; I was feeling sorry for someone unseen and unspoken to in my life, that I knew was walking into an ambush, and I never gave thought to trying to prevent it from happening; not a remote consideration. Jungle rules were in effect.