My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Day 11

My second Friday in the SHU began with the trappings of a long day in Hell.  Every time a C.O. would walk by our cell door, my celly would leap off of the top bunk with the greatest of ease, pound on the door with his meaty fist, and bellow, “HEY!! YO!! INEEDMYDAMNSHOWERSHOES!”  He would repeat this mantra over and over, each time the C.O. would pass.  I wondered silently if he really had faith in his strategy.  Or was he just used to throwing a tantrum whenever he didn’t get his way?

The most remarkable aspect of this man was how he portrayed himself as a hardened street thug, yet he was literally paralyzed with fear at the thought of stepping into our stainless steel shower (which we cleaned ourselves several times weekly) without wearing shower shoes.

Even his boys on the other side of the hall seemed to get tired of his antics, shouting, “WHY YOU STRESSIN’?  WHY YOU STRESSIN’?”  To which I’ve come to understand is a pretty serious chink in your armor…to show that you’re “stressed.”

My celly’s retort?  He shouted back, “I’m too BLESSED to be stressed.  Ya hear me??  I said…I’m too BLESSED to be stressed.”

Yeah, we heard you the first time.  We may not have understood you, but we heard you.  And just why is he so blessed?  Because he is apparently getting out of the joint in 90 days.  Good for him.

After being chided by his boys for “stressin'”, he became more introspective…and started throwing down rhymes, as if I had requested to hear them.  For about the next 30 minutes, he would rap in front of the mirror (not using his inside voice, mind you), repeating the following over and over…and over again:  “Never been a square / a buster / a snitch / but most im-por-tant-ly / never been no BITCH.”

And then…in what might have been the event that would force me to believe in God — the C.O. put his face in the window and told my celly that he was being sprung.  He was to pack up all his shit as he was being returned to the compound.  Thank you, baby Jesus.

My celly and I exchanged well wishes and pleasantries.  I told him to be good and to stay out of trouble.  And then we had one of those real awkward moments when a black man and a white dude attempt to shake hands…fingers flying in every which direction, not knowing when to stop.  He seemed genuinely happy and I was happy for him.  I was also happy for myself that I’d be able to have some privacy and some peace and quiet in the immediate future.

While he was waiting for the guards to come get him out of here, he posed a seemingly thoughtful question.  He asked me, “Did you ever think you would wind up in prison?”  I didn’t quite know how to answer that at first.  So, I chose the truth.  I said, “I honestly never thought about it.”

That evening, I was anxious to finish the last of the 4 books from last week’s book cart in anticipation for the return of the cart the next day.  Typically, the lights are dimmed in each cell shortly after the 9:30 p.m. count, so I was hoping to finish by then.  Unfortunately, my luck ran out and the lights went dim, which made it nearly impossible for me to continue reading from my bottom bunk.  However, I noticed that what made it difficult to read wasn’t so much the dimness of the light, but the degree to which the top bunk further obscured the light.  Seeing that I was not yet tired, I hopped up on the top bunk and I ended up playing my first unwitting prank on one of the C.O.s.

As he was making his rounds that evening, he strode quickly by my door with only a short glance in my window.  This was the same C.O. that pulled my celly out earlier, so he knew that this was now a one-man cell and he also knew that I occupied the bottom bunk.

No sooner than he had passed my door that I heard his sneakers squeak as he ground to a halt and quickly backpeddled to take another look through the window.  I watched his eyes frantically search the room for my whereabouts until his eyes landed on the top bunk.  I sensed a sigh of relief…and we exchanged a big thumbs up.


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