I’ve mentioned before that I’m a convicted felon. What I haven’t talked much about was the life changing experience of being locked up in the Wake county jail for ninety nine days. It may not have been prison, and it may not have been that long, but I certainly consider it one of the experiences that has most impacted who I am and how I view the world. Please allow me to share with you my memories of the time I spent on the inside.
I committed my crime while blacked out. I had drank eight shots of Jagermeister, approximately, and had a mixed drink, and also drank a little over twenty beers that evening. I am not going to go into the details of my crime, my story for you starts much like it did for me, waking up handcuffed in the back of a police car with the lights flashing, and a full force of other cars and officers milling about in their typical cocky, I’m-the-fucking-shit policeman way. My immediate reaction was one of general panic and confusion. I hate the pigs anyway, and clearly I had had some sort of confrontation with them which I couldn’t get away from. As my eyes cleared, and I blocked out the pounding pain in my head, I began to take further note of my surroundings.
I was chilled and shivering, my jacket nowhere to be found. When I sat up and twisted my arms behind my back I noticed my shoes were also missing. I had no idea where I was, or what had transpired to land me in the back of a police car in the middle of what appeared to be ground zero for some sort of mass murder scene. The sheer amount of law enforcement on site suggested some serious shit had gone down.
When I got to the police station, still drunk out of my mind, they explained to me what I had done. I didn’t really think my crime was that big a deal. Certainly not one that would warrant a force capable of defending the fucking Alamo. And like the cock sure little bastard I
am was, I began talking pure shit to the pigs in the station. Although funny as hell, it was quite possibly the worst thing I could have done in that situation. Over the next eight hours as I was processed through the Garner station, I gradually sobered up some and one by one battered my way through every emotion on the spectrum. Things were beginning to sink in, and I could feel a mental cage quickly closing in on me. There was nothing I could say or do that would stop me from getting locked up for a long time. And I cried. I felt sheer fear and helplessness sitting there in cuffs, just waiting to be thrown in a box with the worst criminals my city had to offer. I broke down at that moment, and all my fear and rage and raw emotion came out in one base expression.
By the time I actually made it to the jail house and got processed I was painfully sober, and feeling the full effects of a Guiness world record hangover. Blow in this machine son. I coughed and sputtered on the verge of vomiting. Look at the camera boy. My eyes screamed against the flourescent lights. What were you thinking punk? What does the law allow us to charge him with? Fuck you pig. Fuck you.
I sat in the holding cell for another twelve hours. Who could I call? My family was on vacation in another state. They wouldn’t be back for several days. My room mate never checked the answering machine. The work office never answered at all. And no one I knew would accept a collect call from an inmate. I was alone, and scared. I tried to get some much needed sleep on the bench, but it’s designed to be uncomfortable. My jumpsuit was scratchy and simultaneously restricting and unnecessarily loose. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t rest. The lights never go off. The concrete walls echo every scream from every inmate, every mechanical door slamming itself shut, every time an impatient ass hole beat on his window to get the guards attention. Each thug scum bag would eventually ask me why I was in. “None of your business” was my only response. Time came to a crawl, and I waited, craving a cigarette, occasionally throwing up the water I drank. Slowly, I waited.
And soon enough the next shift came in and rounded us all up. We were shackled at the wrists and ankles and led up to each of our new homes. I got third floor green pod. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. The guard led me in and told me to find a spot to put my mat. Forty some odd pairs of eyes stared at me, none friendly. I scanned the pod to see how the mats were placed and look for an open slot. There was a full house that night. Every cell was full, and every open space between doorways looked to be taken. I just stood there glaring at the room, trying to look strong, but feeling very small.
A large white man with a shaved head hollered at me to come place his mat beside him. Even laying down he was a big fella, and he seemed to be in excellent physical shape. On first glance he appeared to be meaner than than the devil himself, but upon closer inspection his eyes betrayed a genuine kindness that somewhat reassured me he wasn’t too dangerous. He showed me how to tie my sheet around the mat so it would stay in place, and how to roll up my extra clothes and supplies to put under the mat for safekeeping, and to provide a makeshift pillow-like lump.
A voice came from behind the door next to me. The face in the shadows asked what my name was. Well it turns out the mystery man was in fact a dealer named Chuck from Woodland, a semi run down neighborhood inhabited by a notoriously rough criminal crowd. Mostly white trash skater kids who grew up poor and gnarley. I wasn’t close friends with Chuck, but it was still good to see a familiar face, especially among the predominantly dark meat that certainly wasn’t looking like they were going to be easy to get along with. We caught up on old times and played some cards under the door for a while, then went to sleep.
The next morning I was introduced to my first state provided breakfast. Let me assure you, the government does not provide anything near good food, nor do they provide it in large quantities. I believe it was cold grits, one hard boiled egg, a thimble sized helping of some kind of sausage, (the term sausage is being used very liberally in this situation) and some toast.
I’m looking forward to having my current legal troubles over and done with. This has all been going on for so long now that I just want to bring it to an end and deal with whatever they give me. I’m ready to serve time if I have to, but I sure as hell don’t want to. I know I can survive on the inside, but I’d rather not. Until you have been locked away for a few months of your life, you probably don’t appreciate all the freedom you have. Today I get to sleep in a dark room under real blankets. Today I get to choose what I eat, and when I eat it. Today I don’t have to keep one eye on my mat at all time so my personal belongings don’t get stolen. But this afternoon I may not be so lucky.
So I start my day with hope, because that’s really the only thing you always get. There used to be this hawk that roosted somewhere around the jail house. I named him Mo the Hawk, and to me he became my personal symbol of freedom. I would sit at my window and watch him fly around for hours. He was my hope, that one day I could be free like him. No matter what happens to you in life, no one can ever take away your hopes and dreams. The hope that I can be free. The hope that I can educate myself and make a successful life for myself. The hope that somewhere out there is a girl I will fall in love with one day. These are the things that give me the strength to push on through the hard times in my life. In case I don’t talk to any of you for a while, keep hope alive my friends. They might shackle my body, but they can’t chain down my soul.