Inside the Forbidden Outside
Jamie took a deep breath before he opened his eyes. Something woke him up. He wasn’t sure what. He didn’t really want to be awake yet. If he didn’t open his eyes he could be anywhere. It’s a game he played sometimes. He could pretend the sounds he heard were the kids getting ready to go to school. He could pretend it was a bright sunny morning and Morgan was in the kitchen coming breakfast. He tried to hold onto the illusion as long as possible. Actual reality was hard to bear, but each morning when he wakes it meant one more day had passed. One more worthless day that had no good come from it’s passing. One more wasted day separated from his blood.
He tried to sleep as much as possible. The more he slept the less he didn’t have to deal with the turmoil that constantly went around inside his brain. He had a hard enough time making his own head shut up without having to listen to everyone else inside these walls slowly lose their minds. Some men had something to live for and some didn’t. If no one cared, what’s the point? Seventeen years is an awful long time. When he realized, ten years ago, that he didn’t have a choice, he tried to convince himself he could do the time. What was the alternative? But unless you have to go through such monotony and have to withstand such degradation and inhumanity you can never fully understand the depth of loss, knowing there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
But he wasn’t completely alone. He had Sonni, his son’s grandmother. Morgan’s mother. He didn’t have Morgan so he didn’t have his son, who is now nine. He doesn’t really have his mother. She rarely visits and never writes or helps him get even basic hygiene products. But Sonni has stood byom. She calls him Son. It helps having someone who cares.
He really didn’t sleep too good much of the time. There was a lot of noise. During the night it was worse. Men screaming or even just moaning that they can’t take another day. They have to be let out. Beating on the door. Beating themselves. This is what probably woke him up. All these sounds from down the hall. Someone having a bad time of it. There were lots of men here with problems in their head. If they weren’t crazy when they got here they got crazy pretty fast after they locked them up in solitary confinement. It’s easy to reach the point where they can’t cope with it any more. Having all forms of human contact taken away and left with only the thoughts in their heads, when the thoughts are often irrational isn’t a fun place to be.
So they start crying and banging on the door, screaming, “Let me out of here mother fuckers!” Choking and spitting and yelling out really fowl stuff. Half of what they said you couldn’t even understand. He just tried to block it out the best he could before it got to him. No one was going to come and help them. Hopefully, they’d just pass out and go to sleep. Sometimes they would find ways to mutilate themselves or commit suicide. He tried that once, but he thinks he really just wanted people to remember he was still in here.
He heard all the stories. He heard about guards who walked too close to a cell door and got hit with shit and piss that someone was saving up to thrown on someone. Word got around. We might not be able to see each other, but we could hear and talk about what happens. It’s cruel, what the guards do to get their kicks. A person can only take so much of banging around a small concrete cell no wider than the span of your arms. The dirt. The filth. The grayness of it all.
It’s easy to get disoriented because you don’t know what time it is. He was lucky in this cell. He has a window. He got moved around a lot and lots of times he didn’t have a window. When you don’t know if it’s day or night then paranoia can set in. You can’t judge if a day goes by. The food is often the same so you don’t know if they’re giving you breakfast or dinner.
When a guy really goes off his rocker the guards don’t want to go into that cell. No telling what you’ll find but you can be pretty sure that it’s going to be bad and it’s going to stink really bad. If they don’t put their hands out the slot so they can cuff them, the same slot they serve their food through, then they have to get their riot gear on and go in and mace the dude into submission. Prison guard brutality. . . .