Haven’t been in jail since my late teens—a knife fight, and I have the scar to prove it. Jail hasn’t changed all that much. Mug shots and fingerprints. Stripped, hosed down and doused with lice powder. Issued an orange jumpsuit with a waist three sizes too large and pant legs two inches too short. To complete the ensemble, a pair of slip-on sneakers with the heels cut out, presumably making it harder to run.
Treated like a criminal—a more degrading experience, I can’t imagine. The most depressing part is not knowing. Haven’t heard the official charges yet and no one is saying. Guess I won’t find out until the arraignment.
Took me forever to get my phone call. Not sure of the time, but it was already dark outside. Couldn’t tell for sure until I saw a sliver of night sky through the bars of a high window. Leaning against the grey concrete, I dialed Lacey’s number. The only one I knew from memory. Had to leave a message. Hope she checks her voicemail soon. All I can do now is wait.
Supposedly for safety reasons, I’m locked up in solitary. By myself in a four-man cell with one thin mattress, one flat pillow, one ratty blanket and one threadbare towel. No razor, no toothbrush, no utensils, no writing instruments and nothing to read, as though they have me on suicide watch. Really, just another form of degradation.
I sit hunched on the bottom bunk, elbows on my knees, eyes wandering over my bleak surroundings. A small concrete box, caged at one end with thick steel bars that look out on a small section of narrow hallway. Two racks of two bunks, one against each wall, leaving a couple feet of cramped space in between. An overpowering stench of industrial-strength disinfectant attempts to mask the pervasive odor of stale sweat, urine, and feces. A grated drain in the center of the concrete floor, a not-so-subtle reminder of how their minimum standard of hygiene is achieved. At the end of the bunks, a stainless steel dumper without a seat is built into one wall, and a fortified stainless steel washbasin hangs off the other. A single caged fluorescent in the low concrete ceiling doles out light day and night by virtue of an invisible timer buried deep in the compound’s entrails. Stark but efficient, minimalist in the extreme, perfectly designed to securely contain the outcasts and animals as determined by a tough but fair justice system. How does that credo go—innocent until proven guilty? Bullshit!
I’m antsy, anguish creeping up on me like a cat burglar on a moonless night. This despite my best efforts to calm myself and wait it out. My stomach growls as my doubtful mind fills with what ifs. What if Lacey’s phone is off, or out of batteries, or her voicemail isn’t working? This is getting me nowhere, driving me crazy. How long will I have to sit here?
I lie back on the shitty mattress, covering my face with the shitty towel as vipers of black depression slither through my thoughts, the past hitting me in the head like a sledgehammer. Nineteen seventy was the last time for a few things: the last time I dropped acid, the last time I shot smack, the last time I was locked up in jail. I dove headlong into the ‘60s to find peace and love—find my way on the road of life. I crawled out of the ‘60s more lost than found. Thought I’d left them behind, yet here they are, back to taunt me, as though I never left. Guess I haven’t come that far after all—ironic.
Reminiscing isn’t getting me anywhere but down. It’s no good, I can’t go on like this.
“He’s on his way.” Sonja’s words resonate in my mind—a soothing tone, knocking sharp edges off the daggers of darkness.
“Who’s on his way?” And I realize as soon as I ask, she’s gone.
Copyright © 2014 by Michael Allan Scott, all rights reserved.
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