Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 19

Friday – September 8, 2006: I got the call over the intercom around 9AM to get dressed. I’d be going down to meet with my new lawyer. Being absent at that point meant I’d miss the arrival of our cellie de jour and the reception he would receive by cell 24’s very own, one-man unwelcome wagon, which suited me just fine. It was not yet comfortable for me to watch another human, being emotionally flogged and mentally disemboweled in the name of creating space for junk food. Over time, I fully would come to understand, even welcome such logic, but at this early stage of the journey through the societal cesspool, I still had more than mere remnants of my former self floating through my worldview.

The guy I went down to meet handed me a business card with one hand while shaking my hand with the other, as a method of expediency I suppose, because he was in a hurry and had two other clients to meet with after me. No point wasting too much of his time; it was my life after all that was at stake, not his. The card said he was the same guy I had spoken to on the phone. Everything else associated with the phone conversation had changed. He spoke to the DA, and afterwards, came away working for them. “They have a really tough case against you here.” I said nothing in response. Not a single word, and if my facial expression changed, well, then I guess corpses can change facial expressions. He was waiting for something from me, to rebuke and shove back down my throat. He had already been paid. He did have a few questions for me, which, as I reviewed them later in my head, did not really pertain to the case. He wanted to find out if I could raise any more money; borrow from a relative, sell a car or some other possession. Then, in retrospect, he asked me the strangest question of all; “What’s [the “victim’s”] cell phone number?” I didn’t hesitate, I just gave it to him. Later it dawned on me; ‘why didn’t he ask the DA for that number?’ Probably because the DA knows my attorney is not supposed to be entering into a personal relationship with someone in that position too. Not being familiar with the inner workings of the system, I could not quite explain my uneasiness after meeting face to face with this man other than to say intrinsically I knew he was not on my side. I just did not understand the corrupt, but completely legal, back room dealings which go on between defense attorneys and the DA’s office. All I knew for certain at this juncture was the man I spoke to on the phone was completely different in every way from the guy who sat before me then. He reiterated the deal for five years at 85%, offered to me on my visit to court by the public defender, except he stated the five years at 80%.  Later, much later, I realized he was so uninterested in my case except for bartering purposes regarding reduced time for other clients, that he simply did not care enough to get that detail correct. Having refused such a deal then, it was even more deplorable coming from a guy who just accepted $5,000 to negotiate on my behalf.

“As your attorney,” and he delivered this line in believable fashion, with a straight face, “I highly recommend you take this deal.” I could not believe the gall, but I had read a little Shakespeare. In Henry VI the line, “the first thing we must do is kill all the lawyers”, relates to the common man’s frustration, I believe, with the power the law has, through its ‘officers of the court’, to wreck someone’s life. I understood the play just a bit better than when I woke that morning. My mind was both blank and racing at the same time. Nothing came out of my mouth, I could not formulate words yet. The only word coming to mind – and it came over and over – I kept to myself; scumbag.

I returned to the cell a little after 3PM. Though it was probably less than 200 feet each way, moving the miscreants about is low on the priority list. And while not leaving the building, strip searches complete with a quick peek up my ass were still conducted. After seeing the cell full of food Gangster pulled from his ass, the County employee’s penchant for looking up there made a little more sense to me. Gangster was alone in the cell when I got back. “Why the long face, Gilly?” One thing I quickly realized about Gangster, he had this surprisingly astute ability to read people. Climbing back up onto my bunk, I began to explain how things went with the lawyer. Before I really got started, he interrupted me. “Hey Gilly, I really do wanna hear how it went down there, but before you tell me, I have another thing I wanna ask you about.” I could hear my brain say, “uh oh”, and my stomach knot up. He paced back and forth with his hands behind his back, looking down at the floor. “You’re up there writing all the time, what the fuck are you writing?”

I felt myself pause, hesitant to answer even though the truth should not result in a pseudo-heart attack, nervous breakdown or even a permanent stutter. “I’m writing letters.”

“Duh Gilly, what the fuck else would you be writing? I didn’t think you were up there rewriting the Constitution, I mean who are you writing the letters to?” ‘Where the hell is our new cellie?’ This was occurring to me then, ‘why isn’t he here yet?’

“Friends, and some of the people I worked with.” I heard my voice apologizing in tone, at least, if I could not figure out why I would apologize yet.  

“What are you writing about? I mean, you’re up there all fuckin day writing these letters, what the fuck is so interesting that you have to tell them? Why are you doing that?” He was not looking at me as he paced and interrogated, different than his tactics with BD and the guy I think was Glenn.

“No one I know was ever in jail, and I just write about stuff, you know, that's here, that I think they might find interesting, or funny.” I was acutely aware I was discussing Gangster’s home, even if he was not, and I was treading very carefully not to insult the guy who was essentially my host by suggesting the place was absurd or ludicrous to the uninitiated.

“So you write funny stuff, huh? Why don’t you read me something that’s funny? Ya know, I could use a good laugh too. C’mon Gilly, read something funny to me.” He looked up finally at the conclusion of his request. He did not have his regular war-face on, but I had no indication what this new face meant. So I scrambled through the six page letter I was working on and tried to find something funny, and I read it to him when I did. It was immediately rejected.

He made a brief snarky sound followed by, “Yeah, that’s real funny Gilly, read something else.” The way he said it, so quickly and so curtly, was different. So I read something else I thought might be funny.

Then he answered, “Yeah, that’s real good too, but that’s not it either. Read something else.” I heard the word either, and I saw the devious smirk on his face he attempted to hide by keeping his head down while he paced, and I knew what he wanted. I cleared my throat and began.

“The new guy I have for a ‘Cellie’, who goes by the monicker ‘[name of town] Gangster’, might just be the scariest person I’ve ever met. Whoever has week four in the ‘When will Frankie die in jail’ pool, your money is looking good.” At which point he spun around and exploded towards me. I did not know what was about to happen, and my first reflex was to raise my arms to shag incoming blows. But his right hand which began whirling in my direction as he spun stopped a foot in front of my face and had a finger extended, pointing to my nose. “Whoever’s got week four should double down,” he yelled in as gregarious a tone of voice as I had heard from him yet. It spooked me. Then I watched him laughing hard at my reaction and shaking his head. “Gilly, don’t leave your personal letters and shit laying around on your bunk when you go out like that. Fold ‘em up and tuck ‘em under your bedroll or something. People don’t care around here, they’ll pick your shit up and read it.”