I have grown impatient with Danny V- it’s frighteningly easy to do- and I fear that in spite of my efforts to be fair, or to understand his predicament, I have latched onto the side of him that is grotesquely unlikeable. I find myself more willing to talk at him (rather than with him) in an effort to get him to retreat to his bunk. I see no value in being engaged in a long-winded, rambling dissertation on the insanity of his girlfriend or the unfairness of the system.
The fact is: Danny V just isn’t likable. He is consistently out of rhythm, out-of-step, marching to the beat of a different drummer than his surroundings and it manifests itself as an eerie, weirdness that is palpable to everyone.
In a moment of introspection, he had confided in me that he could “understand if I didn’t like him. No one had his entire life”. As long as he could remember, even back to grade school, the other kids had teased and made fun of him. It was easy to see why. His attempts at inclusion were clumsy and pressured. His humor was at least two steps behind the action and unleashed with a tinge of cruelty rather than irony. Following an unlock he sat on the toilet across from my bunk. “Would it be OK if I asked you your name?”
At precisely that moment, the guard swung the door open and there he stood with the nurse.
“Adams,” the guard said.
The nurse smiled. “I have your medications that weren’t in your packet this morning.”
“Oh, they were there. The other nurse threw at me and they landed on the floor…I mean, really…who could put something in their mouth that has been on this floor?”
“She threw it at you?” she chuckled. “Well, I won’t do that.” We both smiled, I took the tablet and followed it with my sip of water.
“Have a great day, you guys,” I said, and gently shut the door. “Well, there you have it, my friend. My name is Adams, and frankly, I hate being called by my last name.”
“I’m sorry,” Daniel said, and then made an attempt not to look me in the eye. When his eyes returned, he stammered, “No, I meant you first name, I don’t know your first name.”
“Jan,” I said, “but call me J.R.”
“Is your middle name Robert, because my middle name is Robert?”
“No, it isn’t. Robert isn’t even close. But just call me J.R.”
He agreed, reluctantly, and sat there in silence for a while thinking. He had seemed torn all morning but frankly I didn’t want to engage him in a discussion about it.
What I didn’t like most about him was that he kept trying to suck everyone else into his shit. That for one was in direct opposition to the tone of our predicament. We were in jail, for Christ’s sake. Everybody had issues, and the last thing any of us needed was to take on somebody else’s.
Danny V’s issue however, I had to admit if only to myself, was more. He was hanging himself due to his ineptitude. He was determined to help the district attorney do what he, Danny V, feared most, which was to put him away for life. He was actually getting the rope for the DA to hang him.
In the last couple of days we had received quite a few new colleagues to H mod, as others had been transferred out, and one was a tall, huge, very dark-skinned black guy. He was at least 6’6” and 300 pounds and for the first day he had been invisible. A lot of times guys come in here just after being arrested while drinking or doing drugs and for the first day they’re miserable. They’re quiet and they sit alone in the day room.
Yet by day two, he and Danny V were chummy. I certainly noticed because no one was chummy with Danny V. I thought nothing of it though, frankly because I really didn’t care. But at the end of unlock, I was forced to acknowledge him, and them, because he, this huge black man, was standing in our cell doorway.
I went to close the door, before the bellowing that was inevitable came from the tower guard to “shut it”, and when I saw he was talking with Danny V, I waited, holding the door open to allow them to finish.
As I stood there, this black giant finally noticed me and with a bit of sarcasm says to me, “You got a problem, African?”
“No, I don’t have a problem,” I said. “But that guard in the tower is going to have one if we don’t get this door shut. But to be honest I was just trying to let you finish your thought and not shut the door in your face.” I then stepped closer to him, purposely invading his space and in a whisper I said, “Why, should I be having a problem with you?”
He smiled and said, “Oh, no, no. I just thought you were mad-dogging me?”
“Why would I be doing that?” I asked.
He smiled and said to Danny V, “I’ll get it from you later.” I made no further issue of it and gently shut the cell door.
Danny V didn’t head for the safety of his bunk this time, but went directly to the table/desk and frantically began scribbling a note. When he finished writing, he folded the scrap of paper neatly and placed it in the front chest pocket of his shirt.
Danny V then snapped out of his pensive mood. “I’m glad that you are my cellmate” he said. I guess I should have been flattered, but I wasn’t, and what happened next was exactly the reason why. Danny called through the door to Tyler, one of the mod workers. “Can you give this note to the guy in 13 for me?” he asked.
Tyler held up his hands to demonstrate the soap on them. “I can’t right now, Bro, I cleaning. Give me a few minutes.”
Daniel came back to sit on the stool at the desk. He was facing me but even though it was obvious he wanted to engage me in a conversation, he did not speak.
After a moment I asked, “You passing love notes? Why do you want to get Tyler in your shit?”
“Uh – no – no; I just wanted to give him some information.”
“About what?” I asked. “You don’t know that guy. He just got here. What information could you possibly give him?” Hanging his head in shame, he began to cower toward the corner of the cell. “What?” I asked.
“Well…well,” Danny began. At that moment Tyler appeared at the window.
“What is it, Daniel?” he asked.
Daniel approached the door reaching into his breast pocket. “Can you please give this to the guy in 13? But tell him I want it back.” He slid the note under the door. Tyler bent down to pick it up and then disappeared.
“So what is it?” I asked. “You guys exchanging recipes?”
“It’s Sheila’s address. That guy says he knows people and can keep her from testifying.”
“What!” I screamed… Are you completely nuts?”
“I’m fighting for my life here.” Danny V said.
“No, you’re not,” I countered. “You’re throwing it away. Suppose someone gets a hold of that letter. Dallas is down there in the cell with him. Suppose he reads it? You’re the one who said a lot of the people in this wing are in a protective custody because they acted as informants. You don’t know this guy. Suppose he informs on you? You say you didn’t do it, but you sure look guilty to me.”
“That wasn’t very smart, was it? I better get that back.” Daniel returned to the cell door and began screaming, “Tyler, Tyler.” Tyler appeared at the window. “I need you to get that note back right now.”
“I just gave it to him,” Tyler responded.
“I know but I need it back right away,” Danny V pleaded.
“You see, Bro,” Tyler began. “This is why I don’t like doing things for you. The guy just got the note, now you want it back.”
“Well, it’s got a ….”
“I don’t want to know what it’s got. Just don’t ask me to do something like this for you again. I’ve got my own stuff, and I don’t want to be in yours.”
“I’m sorry,” Danny V said apologetically. “But can you tell him to send it back now?” Tyler shook his head and then disappeared. Danny V was in a full panic now. He began to pace and mumble to himself. “That wasn’t very smart. I’ve got to get the letter back.”