Previous: How To Get Evicted From Prison, No. 4
It’s first thing in the morning and I’ve started counting blessings.
Like the squeaky-wheeled meal cart that wakes me for breakfast: Gone are the treks across dark, weathered breezeways, and single-file marches through overcrowded hallways.
I’ll no longer be distracted from mealtime interactions, or short stretches of legs, or sunshine and windows.
Here we dine for breakfast adjacent to alfresco: dosed with warm air when our rusty door opens and a spit-shined boot kicks an innocent jug of coffee across our enemy threshold.
As a collector of free, I’m guilty with pleasure — foreseeably smitten in their tropic hospitality:
O’ purple, my plastic, my precious delight, suspected of holding all but eight ounces, in light of the option for no-limit refills, I arrange for you now to be married: Do you, cold, chlorinated, chicory fuss — imbibing dull, sulfuric undertones — take my Bob Barker container in marriage, with no handles to hold, until death do its part?
But the honeymoon itself is a bit short-lived: Doubts circle my mind if the coffee is virgin, and I’m formally inducted through the terrors of bris.
Offering consolation is a short line for breakfast: we only have eight and they come awake easy. With all of them having trickled into formation, I contest from the back who’s our Bed-Head of Champions.
The competition is stiff, there’s no clear winner. Short on prizes, they all tie for nothing.
I note the food operatives as surprisingly friendly: all smiles and jokes and it’s not even six. Finding this curious, I question if its standard, and am given the respect of a well-reasoned answer:
They say their commute, combined, one way is three hours — giving plenty of time for them to drink coffee. Also boosting morale are their coveted paychecks: They’re among demographics that support extended families: local to Texas, with origins in Mexico — their coin commonly stretches to straddle the border.
Which leads me to ask if they take care of us, or do they consider us as taking care of them? We split the difference knowing they’re grateful we’re incarcerated, and I wonder aloud the definition of “remittance”.
From the front of the line comes a guttural echo — when my cellies take turns trying to study their meals. Their faces and trays couldn’t choreograph better: it’s a mushy little dance of synchronized disappointment. I’m reminded of Grandpa, after his stroke: always trendsetting — forever the showoff.
I grab my tray and my seat at the table. Where eight of us live, they can only seat six. Fortunately a few don’t mind eating on their bunk. It’s still a bit cramped, but tucked elbows fit.
Having slept under the push of industrial air, the warm, soupy rice feels good on my throat. Which makes my stomach jealous — and my cellies find me funny — but I didn’t come to prison to try and please everyone.
Our early morning table-talk will be hopeful at best. We only communicate the rush to lay back on our pads. It’s easy to welcome dormant hibernation when a vegetable coma produces less rut.
From back on my bunk, in a peaceful meditation, I hear the door open to a pitter patter of feet. With nothing left sacred, nothing needs protected, so none of us care to investigate the occurrence.
Seven rolls around early and someone screams, “Rec!”
One of us leaves — to return in an hour.
Nine o’clock comes with the familiar sound of shuffle — a signal it’s time to be up and awake. Where cards start the day, they also fill and end it. Breaks are only for meals, and sometimes checkers and chess.
Whispers growing louder, I’m thankful there’s coffee. I can’t imagine acclimating with caffeine-withdrawals. I flash with a fantasy about my day’s adventure: coffee with a book and a plot with a twist. Higgins touts their library as somewhat remarkable. Maybe the staff are willing to see something delivered.
I sit up to stretch and–! The coffee jug has left. Thusly explaining the pitter patter of feet.
Acknowledging I was wrong about nothing-left-sacred, I’m now trying to hide the fact that I’m loosely unhinged. Since negativity is contagious, I’m processing silent — and it’s taking me a moment to cycle the bends:
Lamenting. Aggrieved. Distraught, I need answers. Denial. Acceptance. Sorrow. Defeat.
Newly inspired to take something apart, the “excercise bike” is contending for first. Interrupting my process, from the other side of the hall, another fellow dealing with a similar blister. “WHERE’S THE FUCKING COFFEE?!” This is worth getting up and peering down the hallway.
Mystery unravels in an angry, squishy face: Someone’s trying to push through the bars of another service window, disgruntled, perplexed, and genetically imbalanced.
Suspicions come quick, the diagnosis is a given: this one’s infliction is adrenaline plague.
Such is a job for my best Jane Goodall. “Gotch’ya, didn’t they? Hell, they got us too. We figure we should probably take the bike apart. What are you guys gonna do?” Trisomy playbook, signal 47: quarterback fake to chromosome rage.
“Did you know why they have the Chinese Shopping Network on TV?”
“I don’t know, man. They got me lost in the drama of the Arabic soaps. All I can tell you” — looking around, to make sure that nobody’s watching — “is that this is how it starts…”
Back in the house, the day will unfold:
A game of cards.
A game of chess.
A game of I bet you some pushups you can’t take that apart.
Whenever the guards pass, I ask for a book, and it’s either “on the next walk” or “let me see what l can do.”
Someone on phone.
Someone in bathroom.
Cards and checkers.
Checkers and chess.
Chess and cards and bathroom breaks.
Then squeaky wheels stop and we break for some beans. Also, steamed cabbage and a warm slice of bologna. I’m not sure if it serves as joke, or to wash things down easy, but with the meal we’re given some pretty good juice.
I ask again, before they leave with our trays, if they can find me a book to stave off the insanity. They’ll see what they can do, maybe on the next walk. I must not be properly conveying the benefits of me busy. Another day of this and it’s out of my hands.
Cards and checkers. Checkers and chess. And all of a sudden…
Bathroom! Bathroom! Bathroom! Bathroom! Bathroom! Bathroom! Bathroom! Bathroom!
… a callback from lunch.
Back to more cards and checkers and chess. And every time someone uses the phone, “Say hi to your mom!” comes from the bathroom.
Squeaky wheels at dinner bring beans, rice and corn, with a soupy entrée of colors and ground. Also, again, some really good juice. I mean, this juice — it’s pretty amazing.
Nighttime comes and it’s more of the same: Sums our first full day of being out-of-state corrected.
As I close in on midnight with a book that never came, I can’t say that tomorrow I’ll let it be okay. What I will say for now is that I found the Cartoon Network. And my cellie’s going to introduce me to the talents of the benevolent Rick and Morty.
Assuming they don’t teach anything at this facility, I suppose I’ll have to learn from what I find on TV…