Listen to I’m Someone Time Forgot by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud
I’m Someone Time Forgot
Jamie was stressed. It created a restlessness inside him he couldn’t get under control. He craved the feeling of walking. To go outside in the fresh air and push his legs to walk his full stride, and feel his arms swinging by his side. He wanted to walk with purpose because there was someplace he wanted to be.
He wanted to walk and breathe deep until his body was exhausted. He couldn’t do that in his cell with only two full steps of walking space before he had to stop and turn around. If he was outside the cell, walking down the hallway, he could walk in a slow, shuffling stride of about twelve inches, the length of the chain between his ankles. If he went any faster he would fall on his face. Since his hands were cuffed behind his back it would be a pretty nasty fall. Even so, the more he craved walking, and couldn’t, the more stress he felt.
He knew what Sonni would say, “Chant about it.”
Taking in deep breaths to chant was like meditating and it had a calming effect. But right now he felt too hopeless to chant because everything in his life was out of control. It was so hot and that made it hard to concentrate. How was he going to make it through the remaining years he had when he could barely make it through the day?
Earlier, Jamie asked to be taken to see the doctor because he was having bad dizzy spells. All the doctor did was tell him to get some rest. Beyond that there was nothing he could do for him. What did that fool think he did all day in a segregated cell?
Jamie was afraid of falling. He had a couple bad falls during seisures and there were only hard things to fall on. He had some bad cuts and around here cuts got infected. The nurse always let injuries get infected before they did anything about it because they didn’t think there was any need to keep it from getting infected. Then, getting it treated by the doctor took time. Nothing ever happened fast. Infections could be prevented but they didn’t see it that way.
The doctor don’t treat nothing until it’s about ready to kill you. He seemed to hate his job, especially the inmates, like they weren’t worth helping. He never even said hello, or anything like he hoped you would feel better soon. A smile of friendliness? Forget that. It was part of his job to make you feel like shit because you were in here.
He didn’t like treating inmates. There were some scary ones he wouldn’t want to be around either, but he didn’t need to make sure everyone who needed to see him knew you were inferior to him because he was a doctor.
This job at the prison was probably the only job he could get. Why would you be a doctor in here if you could get a job a somewhere else? Did they even have a valid license that hadn’t been revoked?
Jamie was lightheaded and passed out a couple times and now this fool told him that to fix it he was to go rest? Wasn’t it part of his job as a doctor to find out why it was happening, especially because of his epilepsy? Was it too far above what the prison allowed for the “adequate” medical care the law dictated. Ordering rest as a treatment didn’t cost the prison a cent. Running blood tests does. That ate into the profit they made off the inmates being here. They were kept alive with minimal food and care like other caged animals.
Sleep was beyond him at night because all he did was toss and turn. When he finally did fall asleep he would jerk himself awake. He was sure it had a lot to do with not knowing what was happening with his family on the outside.
He constantly thought about them, especially when he was trying not to. He hadn’t heard from no one in his family for a long time. Maybe no news was good news but he still needed to know. How was his son? Morgan wrote sometimes but she often put a lot of time between her letters.
Jamie lay on his bunk thinking about everyone he knew, one at a time. He didn’t have the mental strength to stop. When he got depressed this always pushed him further down the hole, and then he wanted to let it all go, but he couldn’t stop himself. He felt he was someone time forgot.
Out of sight, out of mind. He didn’t exist for them anymore, until he got out. No one thought about the effect it was having on him right now as he lived it.
During these times of depression he always said he was going to give up, cut them off and never write to nobody again. He said that over and over through the years. He needed to hear from the people in his life who knew he was in here and that rarely happened. Almost no one took the time to do that to let him know they cared or write to tell him what was going on out there. No one cared that little Jamie needed him. Being in prison made it doubly hard for his son. He needed a relationship with his dad. All this made him terribly lonely.
He was worried about Morgan. She was working two jobs. She had no choice with kids to take care of. He needed to be able to do his part and couldn’t, and that made him feel guilty.
Sonni was sick and that was probably why she hadn’t written or come to see him in her dreams. Maybe she was saving her strength. Not knowing, he could only guess when it was time for her to get the liver transplant she was waiting for. She wouldn’t know until the last minute, so there wouldn’t be time to tell him.
When too much time passed between letters he always worried the time had finally come, that she was in the hospital and no one would be there with her except her husband. No blood family. A time when family should be there to wait for her to wake up and know she was okay – to support her and make her feel loved. He knew deep down that this was going to happen. No matter what differences there were, her family should be there. They didn’t live too far away. The writing was on the wall and he felt bad about that. He knew what it felt like and would there if he could. He knew he would.
This was the worst thing that kept him awake at night, tossing and turning. It seemed to him that family thought they had the right to hurt you the most. It was important to him and important to Sonni to be there for each other. It’s hard to go through things like this and be alone. It messes up your head and makes you feel helpless to not be able to help. If only he could shut off the thoughts.
He liked calling her Mom. She knew he needed family and because she was his son’s grandmother they really were connected like they were family. It meant a lot to him because she stuck by someone like him the way she did. Some people look down on people in prison and treat them bad even after they get out like they weren’t already punished enough. She didn’t see him as a bad person. She never tried to make him feel bad. If she wanted, she could be angry at him because he did something that made her daughter’s life hard, but she didn’t. Now she was the only connection he could count on who always remembered he was here.
Now she needed him to be there and he wasn’t good for nothing and was letting her down, too. He loved her because she took the time to be good to him. He wanted to do the same for her.
It wasn’t unusual to hear this same story in here. He heard it plenty of times. Family stopped writing or visiting, or the drive was too long, or they got tired of being asked for money, like somehow the inmates found a way to get the things they needed without doing something that could have far reaching consequences. So they stopped answering letters. Maybe they didn’t want to know what was happening inside. Maybe they couldn’t scrape together twenty bucks between them to put on his account. A lot of dudes were on their own with no help. He had Sonni. He would never forget that.
Jamie knew his family hadn’t stopped loving him. They just didn’t know how to show it. Maybe they took his love for granted. He would love them no matter if they wrote. And he would, he always would, but it was hard to keep making excuses their absence. He knew they had their own problems to deal with. He wanted to know what was going on in their lives and they didn’t tell him. But he knew what was going on Sonni’s life because they wrote to each other. He could pray for her about that and feel like he did something to help because he needed to do something besides sit here.
Whether someone prayed to God or simply prayed and put it out there, it was the focus of the prayer and the mental energy that went into it that mattered the most. So he prayed urgently that she was okay. He needed her to be okay. He didn’t want to be without her. She was all he had.
Jamie looked up at the sound of banging on the cell doors. It broke into his thoughts and he stood up to go stand at the door. It was time for the meal cart to bring dinner. It had lots of shelves with trays stacked on top of trays. He was hungry tonight. There hadn’t been much for the mid day meal except two baloney sandwiches with nothing but a slice of meat and cheap bread. That wasn’t enough for a man his size.
He thought about a real sandwich. Lots of meat, tomato and lettuce, two slices of cheddar cheese with lots of mayo and pickles, too – and chips. That made him hungry. He laughed a little. He shouldn’t torture himself like that.
It had been a good while since he had a hot meal. No matter what they brought to eat it was always cold when it was put through the slot. Sometimes he thought they never heated the meals at all.
The trays were prepared ahead of time and kept frozen in big freezers in the kitchen and were brought to them just as they were. They couldn’t prepare them at mealtime. How were they going to serve hot food to all the inmates? Were they going to heat them up in microwaves, or prepare trays one at a time like they would at a hospital? Fat was congealed on the meat like it hadn’t been heated again. It was bland, no seasoning of any kind. It was horrible food and he was always afraid of getting sick eating it.
The dudes in gen pop ate hot meals because they walked to where it was served. He was trying to get back to G4 so he could walk to chow. In the chow hall it was important to have eyes in the back of your head because you never knew who was gong to start trouble with you, but it was worth it for a hot meal. It wasn’t exactly fine dining but it was better than what was slid through the food slot.
Jamie had lost a lot of weight since he was locked up because he couldn’t choke down a lot of what was given to him to eat because it was so bad. No use complaining about it, though. It wouldn’t change anything. Jamie looked down at himself. It was getting hard to keep his pants up. He hadn’t been this skinny since he was a kid, and he was chubby then, too.
He heard laughing and the bang of a food slot slamming shut a few cells down.
“Oh, you thought you was gettin’ food tonight?” he heard one of guards say, laughing.
“I’m sorry,” he added sarcastically, drawing out the words. “I guess they forgot about you in the kitchen.”
A few seconds later he heard, “Too bad if you’re hungry. It’s not my fault. It’s too late to go get more. I’m not your servant and I’m not going to make a trip to the kitchen just for you.”
The guard’s voice started to get a threatening edge to it because the dude in the cell wouldn’t quit talking and getting louder, too. The guard only worked here. He didn’t make the rules. If he wanted to keep his job he did what he was told, and he was told to bring food to only some of the inmates. Was he supposed to care if they were hungry? They were fucking criminals. They should be glad he brought them anything at all. Sometimes he felt like a goddam babysitter.
“So I guess it’s no dinner for you tonight,” the guard sneered as he turned to walk away. “You’ll have to wait until morning. Deal with it,” and continued on to the next cell.
His drawn out Texas twang had a nasally sound like he had a marble stuck up his nose. It grated on Jamie’s nerves like hearing fingers scraping up a chalkboard.
He could hear the dude in the cell raise his voice, calling him every name he could think of, but that only made the guard laugh. He turned around and stood there, far enough away from the door, hands on his hips where he couldn’t be reached through the bars. What a dick.
Jacking their food happened at at least for one meal a getting food. There was no reason for this. Messing with the inmates might feel like a sport to the guards but it would end up causing a lot of problems for all of them. You can only push people just so far before they come back at you.
The guards were finding ways to make the segregation inmates miserable. No one was going to stop them. They were probably encouraged to do it. Even if they all filed a grievance about it nothing would come of it.
It didn’t do it at every meal, but it happened enough times to make them all worried about being hungry. The food might not be worth feeding a dog, but it was the only food they had. Sometimes, when they brought a tray half the food was missing when they put it through the slot.
Some of the dudes planned to get even with the guards because they had nothing to lose if they got in more trouble. Some were going to be here for most, if not all of their lives anyway. They didn’t care.
The day before, an inmate cut an officer pretty bad when he didn’t get his food. A lot of these dudes had a weapon of some sort they had made. They could get creative when finding materials they could sharpen and turn into a something they could stab into someone. This dude was waiting for just the right time and he cut him. He was lucky he didn’t kill him. What did the guards expect? They thought they could be assholes and no one would try to get even? These dudes had all the time in the world to plan what they were going to do.
Fires were set inside the cells and there were no fires extinguishers anywhere to put them out. It caused a lot of chaos and it was a mess to clean up. Others flooded the halls by stopping up the toilets and overflowing the sinks. It stank in here. The heat made it worse. Imagine breathing in that stink with every breath you take and you can’t get away from it.
Jamie didn’t want to be included when the officers retaliated so he drank a lot of water when they passed him by with no food and didn’t say anything. He wasn’t going to react emotionally. It wouldn’t do no good. It wouldn’t make them bring him food, so he was better off in the long run if he just let it pass.
Joining in when they started getting crazy wasn’t a good idea, either. He tried to stay cool. The last thing he wanted was to do something stupid he would later regret that could get him written up or have more time added to his sentence.
That is where this was headed if it didn’t stop. He guessed that was what Sonni meant when she wrote about cause and effect. What he chose to do right now could affect his future and he needed to make the right choices.
The officers were taking it out on everyone on account of that guard getting cut. It wasn’t right, making all of them pay because of what one dude did, but that is the way they did things in here. There is no justice on the outside and there is damn sure no justice on the inside.
Jamie tried to do his best to cope with everything, but sooner or later he knew something would happen. Things got crazier every day as it got hotter. Tempers rose. Days went by. Hopefully things wouldn’t get any worse.
The next month didn’t get any better. Each day was like the one before it. When the heat started rising in March everyone knew it was fixin’ to be a long, bad summer. No way they were going to spend the money for AC unless they were made to do it legally.
Money the prisons paid out to families 11 people died was less than the cost of installing an AC or heating system. The winners cold get pretty cold, too. There were a few articles written each year but nothing was done and when it got hot the next year they wondered if would be bad enough to make the prisons fix it. The newer prisons were built with it, but not the older ones.
Jamie passed out from the heat one year. When someone gets that hot, and they haven’t been given their meds every day, it puts those people in danger who have high blood pressure or diabetes and other illnesses like him with epilepsy. But it keeps happening.
This year bad heatwaves were happening everywhere in the country, even up north. It seemed like it was getting worse every year. It was up over a hundred for weeks. That meant it was doubly hot for inmates in the south.
It was mid July and Jamie hadn’t heard from Sonni in more than a month. She had been saying the doctors told her to expect July would be her turn for a transplant because she was getting close to the top of the transplant list, but there wasn’t an exact day and all kinds of things could go wrong.
The reason she moved up the list so fast is because two cancer tumors were growing in her liver. If one more developed they would take her off the list because her chance of surviving the transplant would be less. If one got out of the liver it would over, too.
He wished he knew why she hadn’t written. If something happened, what if no one told him? The more he thought about it the more he worried. Add to it that it was so hot breathing was an effort and the water that came out of the faucet was rank. Terrible as it was he couldn’t drink enough of it. He couldn’t drink enough of it because he was so dehydrated.
There was nothing to do and nothing new to read. He didn’t feel like re-reading his books again or more time so he took out his letters and began reading them from the beginning. They were in order by the date so it was almost like reading a book. Some of the letters were almost memorized. He knew all the good parts. He held the images they created in his mind and tried to imagine living inside the stories.
He laid back down on his bed and had almost fallen asleep when he heard the mail cart outside his door along with his name being called.
Jamie jumped off his bunk and moved the few feet to the door. A Jpay letter was pushed through the slot. He thought it was from Sonni until he looked closer. It was from her sister, but she must have used Sonni’s Jpay account. He recognized her first name.
The waiting was over. It was finally over. The relief was overwhelming. She had the liver transplant two weeks ago and was home now. She hadn’t been able to write or type, that is why he didn’t hear from her. He was right in feeling so unsettled. He had been worried about her because he didn’t go this long without hearing from her, but she was okay. The stress of waiting was finally over. They had talked about the transplant happening for a long time.
The letter was dated, July 17th, 2012 and this is what her sister wrote:
“Sonni has asked me to write to you. She finally had her liver transplant on Sunday July 1. The six-hour surgery went well. She spent 10 days in the hospital and they have finally sent her home to start the slow healing process. Her recovery is amazing. She wants a normal life so bad.
When I visited her on Saturday she told me she had received a letter from you. It will be some time before she can sit at her computer but she wanted you to know her long wait and surgery were finally over. She looks like my sister again, not a puffed up marshmallow. I know from our talks she cares alot about you and she didn’t want you to worry.
Take care and I know she will write herself as soon as she is able.”
On August 6, he got his first letter from her. He could tell it wasn’t easy for her to type. He was relieved to finally hear from her. Life was going to be rough for her for awhile but she made it this far and the transplant was over now.
” dear jamie-im getting a little better every day. slow and hard. i tried 2 send u money but my card was out of date. i have 2 call 4 a replacement. im learning how to walk n talk all over again. i am bored we each have a cell but i know that yours is much worse. i chanted nam myoho renge kyo so hard in my head-screamed it. pain meds dont work on me and i have felt everything they did 2 me.but ive turned a corner n its a little better. i think of u every day hoping u werent 2 worried. everyone has their own choices and does things that cause unhappy things to happen. my grandfather taught me from childhood – To thine OWN SELF be true. no one can know u really. some think once a loser always a loser. that isn’t true because i guess that would makes me a loser 2 – former drug addict and all that comes with it. i just didnt get caught. u arent a loser. neither am i. i have to go. nurse is here. be good! Mom”
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