One thing was certain, though. I needed to wake up more than I needed to sleep. I was getting much too comfortable with my surroundings. This is a very dangerous place with a lot of very dangerous people. I need to never lose sight of that. I need never to forget that; not even for a moment.
Of course, the next morning at “unlock” all my colleagues wanted to know what happened to my bunky, and why he was gone so fast – apparently sneaking off like a thief in the night. And here is where you learn a lot about the secrecy issues involved in a prison setting. I’m explaining to Smitty – the guy in a wheelchair – about how odd this guy was and how he moved in and then refused to talk. Turns out Smitty had “the same interaction with him two years ago”. Also turns out that Mr. Nigeria is a repeat sex offender, and was more worried about us hurting him than I should have been worried about him hurting one of us, namely me in my sleep. But I said to Smitty, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
His answer: “It’s not my place. Who am I to out this guy?”
Point well made. Remember earlier I explained that no one really talks about why they’re here? Well, they also don’t talk about why other people are here, that is, at least until they’re gone.
Dallas too was in rare form today with the remote control to the TV. He even had guys from the upper tier screaming at him from their cells to stop channel surfing.
I feel like I’ve made a connection – as much as one makes a connection in here – with Tyler, the other mod worker with KC. Tyler has a thirst for knowledge, and even though he hasn’t taken the opportunity to read them yet, he’s collecting books that are a little more intellectual than the inmates’s regular romance novels. I got Drew Weston’s The Political Brain from Tyler and he was eager to discuss every detail in it. In actuality it was fun to think again.
So that evening when they were cleaning, Tyler calls me to the cell door and says to me, “Your friend Dallas wants to know if you have any ibuprofen.”
So I say to Tyler, “What do I look like, a fucking pharmacy?” We chuckle about that for a while and then I say to him, “First of all, would you tell Dallas we are not friends, we’re in jail. And secondly,” … (which I never got out because Tyler couldn’t stop laughing at the first one. I guess there is a lot of humor in the truth. Anyway, when Tyler regained his composure)… “Tell Dallas, I’m not a fucking pharmacy” was all I needed to say.
At any rate, I sent a piece of candy – grape Jolly Roger – and asked Dallas not to speak to me for the rest of the night.
I must have fallen asleep reading because I never heard the guard nor his keys approaching so I was startled when the door swung open, and there standing in the doorway was a short, round, bald, clean shaven, almost cherub of a black man standing there holding his bedroll. When I rolled over, he stumbled back a step or two and simply stared at me with an innocent childish smile. He turned back toward the guard desk and then back toward me. “I have seizures,” he said, “and I have to have a bottom bunk.” I didn’t say a word; I just stared back at him. He turned away, back toward the door and the safety of the guards.
Then the voice came booming through the intercom, “Why is your door open?” it demanded. I continued my silence. I had neither opened the door, nor invited this obviously gay black man to be my bunky. And why obvious? In here you just know.
Again, I could hear him confiding to the guard, “I have seizures and I need a bottom bunk.”
Officer Powell, whom I respect, then stuck his head in, looked around and turned to the little fat cherub and said, “Shut the door.”
A few moments later, Powell opened the door again. I’m going to put Dallas in here. You all right with him?”
“Oh no,” I screamed, “Not Dallas. Please not Dallas.”
Powell laughed shook his head, and left. He knew I had respect for him and wasn’t going to challenge his decision. I rolled back over comfortably under the covers, closed my eyes, and thought about whether it was a good idea. I liked Dallas, and I enjoyed listening to him because I can’t even remember what it was like to be 22 years old, but living in a closed space like this might force me to hate him, or worse in my mind, for him to hate me.
There was a conversation outside my suite which aroused my attention just a few short moments later. The door swung open and there stood Danny, Danny V, the 28 year-old facing four life sentences for raping his girlfriend, in all his glory. “What is he doing here,” I thought. “This isn’t Dallas.”
Powell could easily see the confusion in my face. All he could do was shrug, and shut the door, quickly making his exit without having to explain the switch.
Dallas on the other hand had played his cards well. He preferred his unlock with the younger fellows from the top tier, and by being the first to solicit a move, he got to the front of the line. When Powell went to his cell, Dallas changed his mind at the last moment. Danny V, who the younger guys characterized as weird and teased, was drafted in Dallas’s place. In a swift move Dallas was free of Danny V, and now he was my problem. Well played.
I lay there watching this “socially” awkward kid bringing in his bedroll and blue storage bucket. “This is a horrible idea,” I thought, but I said nothing. I just watched him.
After he had finished fumbling around for a few minutes, Danny V’s eyes turned toward me, I looked directly at him, and then his gaze turned away. “You’re not going to hurt me, or anything like that?” he asked almost apologetically. “I mean, you’re not violent or anything like that, are you?”
“No, I’m not,” I said, “But why are you afraid someone’s going to hurt you?”
I knew the answer; everybody in the module knew the answer. We had all seen and heard him screaming and crying to his mother on the phone about his predicament like an 8-year-old child. And Danny V was not completely a fool. He knew the consequences in here of a charge like his. “Because of my charges…but I didn’t do it. My girlfriend, maybe I should say my ex-girlfriend is trying to frame me for something I didn’t do and I can’t get anyone to listen to me.” Spreading stacks and stacks of legal papers out along with mounds and mounds of handwritten legal pads, he continued, “I’m writing everybody I can think of, other public defenders in Fairfield, private lawyers, family members…anyone who can help me.”
“Why?” I said abruptly, almost angrily. Danny V had also solicited the help of every inmate on H module, and frankly, we were all tired of his whining.
He stopped talking abruptly, looked at me sheepishly, and when our eyes met he turned away again, almost like an animal conceding dominance to an alpha male. “Why?” I said again, only this time with even more force. “Why would you send out those rambling, incoherent letters and make yourself look like Ted Bundy? You need to stop including other people in your shit and start to focus on what you are going to say and do in that courtroom.”
“My lawyer said we’re gonna lose,” he said oddly and without much conviction or emotion, as if he were referring to someone else. “He says unless I take the deal I’m going to jail for life, actually four lifetimes because my girlfriend and the DA are saying I raped her four times. It was consensual sex. And I was parked outside her house and she tried to say, well, did say to the judge that I tried to run her over, but there are no marks on my car. And the cop…the cop who came just listened to her because she had a shirt on that was see-through. I want to fire my lawyer, but my mom likes him; she says he cares about me, but I don’t think so.”
“Well, I don’t know about your lawyer,” I said, “but one thing I’m sure of is you need to stop writing all those letters. It makes you look like you’re crazy.”
“I’m not crazy,” he said calmly and flatly, “but I have to do something. I don’t belong here. I’m not like the rest of those guys…you know who I mean?”
“Actually, no, I don’t. What does that mean?”
He continued to be distracted by all the papers, working desperately to arrange them in neat piles, taking care not to engage me in any direct eye contact.
“Let me ask you a question,” I said. “Did you rape this girl?”
In a flash his eyes well up and he began to produce tears. His mouth puckered like he had been crying for hours, but he hadn’t. He had just been absolutely fine. “I didn’t do it. She’s lying. She’s trying to hurt me.”
“She’s not trying, homeboy,” I said. “It sounds like she’s got you. And I’m here to tell you, all those papers you’re fumbling around with aren’t the answer. Nobody wants to hear your story. Hell, half the jury’s going to be asleep anyway. But I know one thing; you better walk in there like you’re innocent….That jury isn’t going to hear the story. They’re going to be looking at you, and if your look and your body language don’t say I’m innocent, you’re going to prison. And frankly, if the reports of my last bunky are correct, you’re not going to do well there. They’re going to eat you alive. You’re a sex offender and you’re unaffiliated. Each stairwell you walk down, or corner you turn, they’ll be ten to 12 guys waiting to rape you. You won’t make it there.”
“I’m not going there.”
“Sounds like you are.”
“If I lose my case…I’m…I’m just going to end it.”
“What does that mean? You are going to kill yourself?”