A Prisoners Dilemma

My time in an American Jail-Cell

Last Day

Reluctant to wake from a deep sleep I stumble out to disgusting juevos rancheros. I drink the milk, eat the tiny piece of coffee cake, giving away the res. My stomach is a clenched fist.

I only have a few things to pack up so I lay back on my rack to wait for 6am. That’s when they roll out the home-bodies. Even though the sheriff’s website says that this is my release date I have not had official word from the deputies.There is a kernel of doubt that prevents me from starting my preparation. Protection against disappointment and embarrassment.

6:01 comes without my name on the speaker and all my fears become real. I dig around for my girlfriend’s email that said my early release date. Feb 23rd. Today. Patience.

6:15 Patience evaporating. Dread coagulating. I close my eyes in defiance and acceptance. If I am staying at least I can get some sleep.

At 8:00am the usual list of names for sick-call are rattled off on the box. My mis-pronounced name is the last of them. Shit! That is a very bad sign. I go up to the box and give them my name.

“Do you want to go to sick call?”

“Are you sure I am on the sick call list?” I ask with quivering desperation. “I think I’m supposed to be released this morning.

“Do you want to see the nurse or not?”

“No thank you,” maybe politeness will get me out of here.

“Come down to the gate and sign a refusal,” he replies like a recording. No mention of my release.

Standing in line at the gate I hear my name called again over the box/

“This is Heureux.”

“Roll up your stuff. You’re going home.” The ‘left-hand’ announces in contradiction to the ‘right hand’ nearby asking for my signature.

I ignore the refusal form and rush back to the quad as casually as I can. Most everyone is asleep so I trade a few quiet non-hugs and handshakes as the vultures circle my small pile of shampoo bottles, comfy soaps, and extra toilet paper rolls.

The walk out is much like the walk in, only in reverse. “Throw your linens in the bin.” Put your mattress here.” I am escorted to a never before-seen part of the jail and placed in an all-too-familiar holding cell. My fear, however, is just as strong as when I arrived.

I am placed in a cell piss and B.O. scented with  cell with 3 other yellow-banders. The deputy tosses in a clear plastic bag of clothes after me. My clothes. They smell musty and old and like the me I used to be.

We wait as taxi-cabs come to pick up the 20 or so others that are leaving today. I pass my arm under the thick glass window to have my band cut off. In return I receive a plastic baggy containing my wallet and cell phone. More old friends. The gate clangs unceremoniously open and I walk out, feet snuggled in real shoes, into the bright, ambivalent sunshine.

4 of us cram into a backseat , barely made for 3. The driver has to get out and shut the door from the outside. Back in the front he smiles back at us. “Vamanos” he says brightly and turns up the radio, Bee Gees singing “you should be dancing, Yeah,” as the jail fades away behind us.

This concludes the Prisoner’s Dilemma Blog.


One response to “Last Day

  1. Alex J. March 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    I suppose it’s a bit late now, but congratulations.

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