WATCHING THE INSIDE WORLD
Jamie was laying naked on the cement floor. Summer hit in full force. Sweat was dripping down every crease in his skin. He didn’t know how he was going to make it through another summer, and there were many more to go.
After midnight when heat trapped inside the walls began to cool, the cement floor seemed appealing. He stripped off his whites and stretched out hoping it would bring relief.
He had already passed out twice so far this summer from the intense heat, and had one seizure. The only good thing that happened was being taken to the medical unit which had air conditioning. It was a small reprieve but it only made it worse when he was returned to his cell.
He needed more water, good water. He was dehydrated and was afraid to drink too much of the water that came out of the faucet. There was an odor to it and sometimes it wasn’t exactly clear. There was a brown tint to it, some days were worse than others. Would it make him sick? He sweat so much he knew he needed to replace the minerals, like the ones in sports drinks, but he didn’t have any. They sell it at commissary but it was sometimes a month or more before he was taken there.
There was no energy in him to move, and no reason to move. His body felt so heavy. His blood pressure was pounding in his head. How could the warden do this to everyone? He had to know how much they were suffering. Was this his way of rehabilitating them? Yeah, they were learning things; how to hate the prison and everyone in it.
How much anyone suffered depended on what level they were on. There were three levels in adseg. There was no power and no AC on level three. They even covered the vents to cut off any possibility of air circulation. That was a good punishment wasn’t it? If you owned one of the little fans they sell in the commissary you were out of luck because it didn’t work on level three.
Jamie thought they were trying to teach them a lesson about how screwed they were. Whoever created these punishments had be masochistic.
If he was level two he would have power and it would be cooler than level three, but not by much. That was the level he was on before the knife was planted. He had to do thirty days now to get back to level two and sixty days to get to level one. Three more months total. During summer that was a lifetime. He heard it took 90 days at level one to get moved to G4 where he could go to chow, but he wasn’t sure about that.
He knew the guards didn’t like him. Not for any real reason. They hated most everyone in here. They didn’t take this job because they were interested in doing guard duty. There wasn’t much else in town for a steady job.
They found a way to put him in adseg, but it wasn’t because of anything he did, he was set up. He did react back and that was his fault. If the guards didn’t like you they found a way to mess you up. It didn’t matter that he was trying to play by the rules, not if he didn’t get along with one of them. This one guard, Rodrigues* was an asshole, always making sarcastic remarks trying to piss him off, and sometimes succeeding. Then they’d write up a case on him. He needed to learn to keep his mouth shut.
The unit went on lockdown. The guards were going from pod to pod ripping up everything. They tore apart the cells looking for weapons, drugs and cellphones.
While the guards had fun destroying their property, the inmates were locked in cages barely bigger than a phone booth. There was a ledge they could sit on to wait until they were done. Then they had to go back and clean up the mess. Most of it was unnecessary. The guards destroyed things because they could.
The guard who had consistently harassed Jamie “found” a homemade knife sitting on the edge of his sink. He tried to make it look like Jamie was stupid enough to leave a three inch piece of sharpened metal laying out in the open, even though he knew they were coming to toss the cells. If the sergeant believed that, then he must have been in on it. It was his word against theirs and there was no way he could win that argument.
He had been fixing to get his level one. The weapons charge knocked him back down to level three. The main office for Texas prisons, TDCJ, in Huntsville, was contacted and the knife was sent to them. This was one way they added extra years to someone’s sentence. He only needed one more major offense for that to happen. At the least it would now take longer to get out of adseg.
He didn’t even own a knife. It made sense now what the guard said when he was sitting in the cage. He walked by, then stopped and smiled at him.
“What are you smiling at?” Jamie asked.
“You’ll see,” he said, and laughed as he walked away.
Jamie knew then he was the one who planted the knife. It wasn’t right. He didn’t do anything, but then he got angry defending himself. He played into their hands. He needed to stop reacting and think before he spoke.
They sprayed him with chemicals. It was the first time. It felt like his skin was burning off. Three days he lived with it before it started wearing off. When he tried washing it off it made it worse. Being burned in a fire had to feel like this, only you couldn’t see anything on his skin except a little redness. Was it legal to use that kind of chemicals on people? Probably not, but who was going to stop them?
No one would do that to an animal. The guards plotted a way to lower his level in adseg and then punished him with cruelty that was beyond inhumane. It was the guards who needed to be sprayed so they could feel what they we’re doing. There was nothing he could do about it now but someday they will get it back.
Today was July 12, 2011. Jamie’s son was five years old. He sat on his bunk and sang Happy Birthday to him with a heavy heart. He wished he could see him right now. He wanted to put his arms around him and hold him.
“Morgan said he seems happier now,” Sonni said said as she sat down next to him. Little Jamie had been acting out with tantrums.
“We all been mad at the world a few times,” he nodded in agreement as he glanced at her and smiled a sad smile.
Jamie was still convinced he was losing his mind each time she came to talk. Sometimes it was days or weeks before he saw her again and thought maybe those were times when she, too, was feeling bad.
Sonni was on the liver transplant list and had moved to Pa to be close to a good hospital and her family, but her family didn’t care about her. It was hard on a person when they realized they didn’t mean much to people who they thought loved them. This is why she understood how much it hurt when no one answered his letters or came to visit. It hits you from out of the blue. A lot of dudes in here had to go it alone for many reasons. It wasn’t easy and it made it hard to survive when they got out.
She recently sent him some money for commissary and ordered a magazine subscription. He had nothing to read and was really bored. Time dragged. Every bit of kindness meant something to him. Nothing was taken for granted.
“Once a week the guards are supposed to give us one hour of dayroom time,” he told her, “but they are too lazy.”
“It’s easier to provoke someone and make him mad so they have a reason to not take them and call it a punishment,” Jamie added.
“They do the same thing when it’s time to take us to shower. It’s crazy back here and that’s just half of it.”
When he had passed out from the heat and had the seizure they took him to medical. Then they took money out of his commissary and paid themselves for the effort.
“They cause the problem then take what little money I have because it made me sick.” He knows he doesn’t have to tell her everything. She seems to know what he’s thinking.
“They probably look forward to the hot months,” she said back, “because of the extra money.”
If he didn’t have any money in his account they would wait until she sent some, and then take it out.
“To tell you the truth there is not a day goes by I’m not worried,” he continued.
“I never know what’s going to happen or when it will happen,” he said starting to get an upset edge to his voice.
“That is why I cry when I think about the visits.”
“No one in my life knows what happens to me.” Jamie stood up and turned his back to her so she wouldn’t see his face.
“And I don’t know what’s happening with them,” he sighed. “I worry about my mom and nobody tells me nothing.”
“Do they think I don’t want to know?”
“Since I’m big I’m supposed to be tough and take no shit from anyone,” he said, lowering his voice.
“My family is not seeing this inside world the way I do,” he tried to explain. “They don’t have to watch it happening, so they don’t have to worry.”
“Yeah, I know they are going through some stuff, too, but not like this.” Jamie paced back and forth.
“They don’t understand how bad this is. They have never been through it and I wouldn’t want them to.”
Jamie stopped talking to think for a minute. “I don’t think they care enough to even try to understand,” he frowned.
“Not that I can tell.” He turned to face her again.
“If I’m not sleeping, I’m day dreaming,” he said.
“Playing old moments in my thoughts are like movies in my head, imagining where those movies would have taken my life if I wasn’t here.”
“I know for a fact me and Morgan would live closer to you. I don’t know if she ever told you, but she tried to get me to fly down to visit you. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but I’ve never been on a plane. Driving there was too far. I’ve never left Texas. I didn’t know the freeways. I wish now I would’ve come to see you.”
Sonni stood there silently listening.
“I’m sure you got upset with me when I told you I was fixing to get locked down again,” Jamie began again.
“Stop right there,” she said, putting her hand up to quiet him.
“I am not upset with you, about anything,” she said softly, putting her arm back down by her side.
“You have not done anything,” she explained. “These people have been determined to punish you. Some people enjoy causing others to feel pain.”
“You have not been trying to hurt people, and I know there are people here who do, who think this is their castle and they are going to rule it.” She moved closer and looked him in the eye.
“That would be different,” she told him. “But that is not you. I wouldn’t be here if I thought it was.
“And I’m not going anywhere,” she added sternly.
“I’m not going away. I am not everybody else.” she wanted him to believe it.
“Even when you don’t see me, I’m not far away.”
Jamie could feel tears behind his eyes so he closed them. When he opened them she was gone.
*Rodrigues – not the real name of the guard
Almost everything in this chapter was taken word for word from letters Jamie wrote in 2011, broken down to create dialogue. Background Description is added to better understand his environment. Some incorrect English is kept in the dialogue because it gives a more accurate feel for his state of mind. As years go by and he reads more his use of words and phrases improves. None that has anything to do with intelligence, but rather the lack of basic education.
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