*For those of you new to the story please don’t fret, I’m not currently in jail. This happened two years ago. Please go back and read the other parts to get caught up. 🙂
When I last left off, visions of A-Rape-A-Hoe was dancing in my head. It was around midnight and shortly after a guard opened the heavy cell door and shouted out “BREWER” at the top of her lungs. There were only four of us in the cell and three of them were sleeping, or, at least, they had been sleeping. One shot up off the bench and swore at the guard for being too effing noisy. My head shrunk into my neck as I tried to sink below everyone’s radar. The guard motioned for me to follow her. I looked around to collect my belongings only to realize that I had nothing to collect.
I followed the guard through at least five doors. Each buzzer she pressed allowed a massive door to close behind me, obscuring me further and further from freedom. Each new cell held a more stale and stagnant odor, confirming my dread that I was, indeed, moving further away from the world. Then we came upon the “pod” where I would be spending the night. The door slid open and she ushered me in to my new housing. It was very unromantic. No one handing me the jingling new keys to my dream home, no groom carrying me over the threshold. Just me, shuffling in my ACJ issued shower shoes that many other people had worn before me, terrified of what was waiting around the next corner.
The communal room was completely devoid of activity at that late hour. All the ladies were squirreled away behind numbered doors that outlined the room. I noted one TV mounted high above the tables and I briefly wondered how the remote was shared, or if there was a vote on what we got to watch, or if it was court mandated. It made me rethink all the bitching I had done about not having a DVR at home. And there was a clock! Oh, Praise God! How beautiful it was, ticking away the seconds. I got a bit misty as if I was being reunited with an old friend. Anyway, the guard took me through one last door, which revealed my good friend from the holding cell, Shona, and a woman named Cricket. I assumed this to be a nickname, but I could be wrong. They were both standing up in the tiny cell, waiting for mattress pads to be delivered.
The cell had bunk beds that towered three high, with the space between each bed just enough to afford the comforts of a standard coffin. I think even Houdini would have suffered from claustrophobia given these conditions. The top bunk featured a wafer thin sliver of window but the triple-paned glass was lined with what looked like a miniature version of chicken wire. Even if someone could break it open, there was no way that even the tiniest XS jail size could shimmy through to freedom. But, it was a slice of light in what seemed to be the darkest place in the world. I wanted that top bunk but wasn’t willing to speak up for it. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit, right? Plus, I didn’t think this was the environment for debating.
We couldn’t lay down because there were no mats yet and the bed frames were thin, metal slats. So, we just stood there staring at each other. I decided to take the tour, which consisted of me spinning around on one foot for .5 seconds. I noted a small desk that held three buckets of toiletries: a roll of toilet paper, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, a small bar of soap, a towel, and one change of undergarments and socks. One was marked “S” (for Cricket) and two were marked “L” (for me and Shona). Apparently, if you can’t remember your issued Inmate Number (which I did have memorized for about a year and then finally allowed my mind to let it go) you can just identify yourself as your jail size. Anyway, between the tiny desk and the tower of beds, there were three hooks to hang your towel (or another inmate) and then a tiny metal toilet/sink contraption. (At least I only had to share with two other women!) And that’s the extent of the cell. Oh wait. The fluorescent light bar that sputtered on and off enough to induce a mild seizure, which Never. Turned. Off.
Just then, the door slid open and a guard threw in one mat. We all looked at each other and Shona picked it up and handed it to me. “Crawl up, sister.” As I climbed to the top, I thanked Heaven for allowing me to have the highest bunk, pleased that I would smack my head on the ceiling instead of a cold, metal bar when I shot up during the night having a guaranteed nightmare.
I laid the thin, blue mat down over the metal slats and pulled the itchy wool blanket over my standard issue blue jumpsuit. Size L. I thought about changing but then remembered there was nothing to change into and NO WAY was I going to sleep in my standard issue skivvies.
I estimated that it was 1:30 am (our cell door didn’t face the wall that held the clock in the communal room.) I rolled over to face the wall, started mentally humming my “Don’t You Dare Freak Out” song, and rocked gently. A couple of tears escaped to pool on the hard, cold plastic mat as I listened to Cricket and Shona complain – over the buzz of the fluorescent strobe – about not having mats yet. And then, I think I fell asleep.
“Good morning, Ladies!” The eerily chipper announcement crackled over the loudspeaker that was piped into our cell. My eyes squeezed tight in an effort to forbid the shocking proclamation from entering my delicate ear canal. I remembered immediately where I was and recalled that there was limited air space between me and the ceiling. I slithered to the bottom of my mat, aiming for the rungs so I could dismount as gracefully as possible. The doors of all the cells automatically opened at the same time and I considered scooting to the back of the cell to allow my cellmates to exit first. I didn’t want to seem too eager to meet those I was co-habitating with. Shona and Cricket remained on their bunks so I had no choice but to exit first. Besides, I wanted to know what time it was.
I ignored the stir of other inmates beginning to congregate in the communal room and looked up at the clock. Imagine my shock to realize it was five thirty. AM!!! Why on earth would they wake us up at five-effing-thirty-in-the-morning?! Apparently, I said this out loud, which garnered an “AMEN” from one of my “colleagues.” I had drawn attention to myself without meaning to, so I kept walking across the room like I had a purpose. I didn’t know where I was going but I just kept walking. An inmate on the other side of the room held her towel and was pressing a button on the wall, yelling at someone to bring her an effing razor. Apparently, you had to ask for such dangerous articles, but that meant a guard would bring one in to you and stand there watching as you used it, taking it away as soon as you had completed your task. I spun on my heels to retreat to my cell. Once inside, I quickly gathered my toiletry bucket and ran like hell to get to the shower before razor girl and the guard had a chance to spoil my solitude.
There was no hot or cold settings. Just a timer. I was starting to understand why The Institutionalized were such experts with using swear words. As I stood under the sputter of alternating icy and scalding water, I used a tiny bar of Super 8 Motel soap to wash off some of the jail grime. I’m sure my face was twisted in a grimace as I dodged the dingy, green plastic shower curtain that kept threatening to flutter into my personal space. So help me God, if that material makes contact with my person, I was going to scream.
The towel was not much bigger than a wash cloth, but I tried as hard as I could to wrap my long, luxurious hair up in the swatch of worn terry cloth. I swear I heard my hair emanating tearful moans of having to exist without my standard Aveda Rosemary Mint. And when my hair met the flimsy black comb that had to navigate the jungle of unconditioned tangles, I shed my own tears. This had been the most unfulfilling shower EVER. I pouted on the trek back to my cell despite the the tight pull of my un-moisturized skin as I frowned. I maintained my scowl as I glanced at the clock, depressed that only four minutes had passed. The foul-mouthed inmate was still yelling into the intercom for someone to bring her an effing razor.
I noticed that someone had left a brochure of Standard Jail Procedures with my last name printed in block letters along the top. I picked it up and crawled back to safety, noting that the sliver of window still only showed black. I flipped open the brochure and started reading rules that I never thought I’d be exposed to, a list of consequences that would occur if I broke any of those rules, and the time off I would earn if I didn’t break any of those rules. I laid there, feeling completely defeated. I started to hum my “Don’t You Dare Freak Out” song as my thoughts turned to so desperately wanting my mommy. Too bad she had passed away seven months earlier. Her timing really sucked.
“BREWER!” A guard yelled into my cell, making my cellmates jump awake. Luckily, no one smacked their heads as the shock wore off and they groaned at her inconsiderate use of volume. I craned my neck to the side to make her aware that I heard her – but I was trying to not smack my own head. She let me know that I needed to be ready in 30 minutes to go to the courtroom. I told her that I’d be ready. The crackling loudspeaker alerted us to the fact that breakfast was being served. The three of us shuffled out to see trays holding something that resembled oatmeal (which I never eat) and a choice of coffee (which I detest) or tea. My look of disdain must have sent a silent signal to Skinny Angel, who magically appeared beside me and asked her standard question: “You gonna eat that?” I slid my tray over to her and shuffled back to my cell to get ready to head to court.
It was 6:30 am.