Mr Johnson returned with a stack of papers, the patient’s chart. He attempted to hand them to me, not realizing that with my arms cuffed to my side I couldn’t reach to take them. “Oh,” he said, “I’m sorry, I forgot,” and he moved closer to hand me the papers.
I placed them beside me and began fumbling through them but I knew at this point this deposition was not going to happen. There was no photograph of the patient and half the operative note was missing. Nonetheless, I continued to read on and found nothing disturbing.
After a while I was ushered next door by one of the guards in fatigues. “I have to go through this in chains?” I asked.
“Sorry,” he said, “its protocol.”
I shook my head in disgust and shimmied on into the conference room. I sat opposite Mr. Johnson, and Ms. Leighton sat to my left. To my right, at the end of the table, sat the court reporter.
Court reporters are sort of like make-up artists; they all are very attractive, and this one was no exception. She was a petite brunette dressed in a summer weight light business suit and as I sat down I noticed she was a lot older than she looked at a distance. She said hello but her eyes betrayed her comfort level as me and my chains eased into the chair.
Mr. Johnson began the process. “Doctor, my name is Michael Johnson. I am an attorney and I represent the plaintiff in the action that is currently pending in the Circuit Court for Orange County. Have you had your deposition taken before?”
“Yes.” I said.
“Okay. I’ll just go over a few rules. The court reporter is taking down everything we say. I would ask that your responses be verbal. The court reporter can’t take down a nod, or a shake of your head. Also, if I ask you a question you don’t understand, please stop me and let me know; otherwise, we’ll assume that you understand all of the questions and your answers are in response to the questions. And, if you have to take a break at any time…”
“Look” I interrupted. “I recognize that you guys spent a lot of money to fly here and all that, but the fact of the matter is I’m not confortable answering questions about a case I haven’t had time to review.”
Mr. Johnson glared angrily but did not say anything more. Ms. Leighton simply shook her head in affirmation. I stared back at Mr. Johnson. I was really trying to understand why he was “mad-dogging” me. It made no sense and in fact his threats were impotent. All I could think was “Dude, I live down the hall with 27 of the worse people (and I use the term lightly) society has to offer: murderers, gang members, drug dealers, rapists, child molesters, and sociopaths who would ‘shank’ you at the drop of a hat. If you think you can come up here in a cheap suit and stare me down, you’re out of your mind. You wouldn’t last a second in my world. So stop it. You can’t scare me.”
The deposition was terminated. I was the first to leave and the guard, true to form, was standing there when I reached the door. I asked each lawyer for a card, but apparently that was against the rules also. The guard placed me back in the holding cell to await transfer back to the module.
The walk back was particularly painful because the chains around my ankles dug deeper into my flesh with each step. “I’ve got to remember socks at all times,” I thought.
Even the guard commented on it. “Where are your socks?”
“I took them off to shower,” I said.
He joked, “Well, keep them on to shower next time.” We arrived at the elevator and took it up to the second floor. A quick right and about 100 yards later we were at H-mod.
Officer Powell was waiting to remove the chains. He called for the tower officer to open the door, and I was back in the day room in a matter of seconds.
As I walked across the room, a few of my colleagues appeared in the small vertical slits in their doorways. “How’d it go?” Dallas asked from cell 13.
“Fine,” is all I said because that was all that was necessary? There was a grinding sound and a pop, and the door to 2H-11 swung open. I was home. I walked through and gently shut the door behind me.
I was satisfied that the right thing had taken place. I hated the process because for lawyers it wasn’t about the facts or the truth, it was about winning. So no matter how heavy the facts to the contrary, they were going to try to twist them to make certain theirs was the version – however false – that was told.
It was difficult to sleep that night, but it wasn’t’ the deposition or the lawyers. Tyler, our mod worker, was being transferred to the penitentiary at San Quentin and frankly I was a bit sad. He was a young kid and had this tremendous desire to learn. Many of the books I read while at Solano County – The Political Brain, The Mind and the Brain – came from him. Three or four years ago, at the age of eighteen, he was involved in a fight where another guy was seriously hurt – a stupid, horrible act make no doubt – but the person I had met some four years later at Solano County was not the Tyler involved in that fight.
Oddly, I was awakened by my own volition at 0315 a.m. and instinctively looked out my cell for the clock only to see Tyler descending the steps with his bedroll and an envelope. KC was following him. He turned to get a last look at H mod and saw me standing there. He walked over to the cell door. “All right, Jan, I’m taking off.”
“You hang in there,” I said. Tyler turned and walked back across the day room to collect his things. There was a buzz and a click and he pushed open the day room door. He stepped through without taking a look back. Tyler was leaving Solano County behind, and although it was sad, it was a good thing. The entire process was moving forward and soon – hopefully, real soon – it would all be behind him. I know he had planned to take college courses while at San Quentin, so it felt good to know his head was in the right place.
At lunch KC and I talked about it for a few moments. KC had been at Solano County for eight years, four to them with Tyler as his bunky. It was clear he already missed him, but it was also clear they had a bond that would last their lifetime. KC was going home in a month or so, but right now he was more concerned about helping his friend, and planning to do whatever he could, including writing the parole board.
I was lucky to know them both. My life and my perspective were considerably better having had them be a part of it.
The most difficult part about being here for me now is trying to understand where exactly I ever fit in out there. The world from this vantage point seems so mean and hateful. The newspapers are actually scarier than my colleagues.
I am constantly warding off melancholy and depression. It’s as if they both are always in the room with me, one seat away, awaiting the opportunity to sit down beside me and introduce themselves.
Physically being here actually prevents you from moving forward. It is impossible to put into motion any of the revelations that come to mind. The system here is designed to hinder your progress. In a world that is moving at nanoseconds, the speed in Solano County is days and weeks. Incidentally, it has been two months and I’ve yet to receive a reply from the sergeant concerning my heel lifts. And despite the fact that I’m starting to experience increasing hip pain, I find my complaints to the doctor and staff fall on deaf ears.
Particularly disturbing for me is how I’ve come to hate Tuesday nights, laundry day. It first represented a wonderful time because let’s face it – clean sheets and underwear are everything. But it now has evolved into a time where (and when) I’m awakened two-three hours after falling asleep, and then toss and turn for the next three hours waiting on the medication nurse to wake me at 0400, and then breakfast to arrive at 0500; so by the time 6:00 a.m. arrives I’ve been up all night and am miserable.
The haunting thought today, tonight, this morning – whatever – is the deposition I just had? The recurring thought that won’t let me sleep is the realization that unfortunately you can’t take the high road. The entire process is foul and evil and the only way to deal with it is to expose it for what it is. The worst thing you can do when the other side is operating under the cover of darkness is to leave off the light.