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.