A Whole New World Part 9 Read Count : 15

Category : Blogs

Sub Category : Motivation
"Yo Songbird! Feels like a funeral in here. Why don't you chirp up some tunes?" 

"Happy to oblige. Anything specific you got in mind?" 

"Naah. Your call. Just make it a good one." 

Carl was laying in bed entertaining his thoughts when he heard the loud exchange outside his cell. He smiled to himself and waited. Moments later, he heard Robert aka "Songbird" belt out an out of tune version of Willie Nelson's 'Always On My Mind'. He grinned when he heard a loud whistle from one of the cells on his left and someone else from across his cell yelled, "You're tone deaf! Songbird my ass!", followed by loud bouts of laughter all around. Songbird didn't seem to care as he continued singing. In fact, he sang even louder to drown out the laughter. Carl couldn't help himself, he laughed out loud too. For a moment, all his thoughts disappeared as he listened to Songbird sing. 

It had been two weeks since he checked himself into Protective Custody. Two weeks of settling in on his own in his own space, and two weeks of breathing easy without having to constantly look over his shoulder for potential danger. Being housed in a whole separate building away from the general population had helped in putting his mind at ease. Aside from the loneliness that sometimes crept up on him, he was enjoying his solitude. 

Initially when he first checked in, he felt a bit awkward and claustrophobic at being cooped up in a small closed up space with nothing but thick concrete walls and a solid steel door. There was just one small barred window on the wall which didn't offer much of a view or even sunlight to come in. There were no bars on the door for him to look at the hallway outside his cell, just a tiny glass window for the officers to look through to check up on him. The cell was just as spartan; a single bed, toilet and a footlocker, but he had a cell all to himself, no cellmate for company. In Protective Custody, that was the deal, inmates were pretty much isolated and would have to depend on their own company. 

Count time was still the same drill. Only instead of having to stand in front of the bed to physically see the officers stand in front of the door, he now only had to sit on his bed and call out his name and inmate number when the officers tap on his door. There was no more going to the chow hall or standing in line for meals. Food were brought to his cell, passed through a small rectangle opening at his door; about a foot or so wide and four inches high, just enough to slide in a food tray. The small opening, known as a "bean flap", was tightly secured and deadbolt locked by a long, solid hinge and the flap was solid and heavy. It gave out a loud thunk when pushed open and an equally loud thunk when pulled close. 

There was no TV room in Protective Custody and the cell doors were locked 24/7. Unlike in general population where inmates are free to mingle and socialize amongst themselves, there was no such thing in Protective Custody. To communicate with each other, they used coded or sign language when the bean flaps were open, or they would stand by their respective door and yell out to each other through the crack of the door like what happened that morning when someone yelled out for Songbird to sing. And yes, it can get very loud in there. 

Shower time was limited to once a week only. Also, once a week for two hours, they were given the opportunity to go to the recreation yard of the Protective Custody building to unwind. Carl hardly went to the recreation yard. He preferred to stay in his cell. 

He was feeling extra melancholy that day. The incident in the shower more than three months ago was still haunting him. He knew he was safe for the time being in solitary confinement but he also knew the situation wasn't going to last forever. He would eventually have to go back to general population at some point and the thought sent shivers down his spine. He couldn't shake the feeling that the hungry predators were waiting for him to get back out there. He had learned the truth about his traumatic incident just a couple of days ago when he overheard a conversation between Pete McCaroni and John Snow. Apparently they both had experienced more or less a similar fate like his. He listened in silence when John and Pete compared notes but when Sparky's name was mentioned in the conversation, he moved to stand by his cell door so he could hear better. 

Sparky, who used to be his cellmate, turned out to be a slimy snake. The whole time when he was being friendly with Carl, he was actually feeling him out and sizing him up to see what kind of potential threat he would be. He was the one who had sold Carl out to the predators, feeding them with information on him and letting them know he was an easy prey. He was making money on the side by selling out guys to the predators. Carl felt sick at the thought and he was disgusted at himself for being so naive and trusting. 

The mind, as they say, is the devil's playground and that day, the devil was having a ball messing up his head. As he was berating himself for trusting Sparky, he suddenly thought about the last time he bumped into Stevie; his former partner in crime, and the one who had roped him into the mess he was in now. After the cop shooting incident in Orlando more than a year ago, he had lost touch with Stevie. Even when he was arrested and thrown into Indian River County Jail, he still had no clue what had happened to Stevie or Vicky. Then unexpectedly, when he was still in general population and being hassled by predators, he saw Stevie. Twice. Both times in passing. He was surprised to learn that Stevie was also in the same prison as he. As closed a society as prison is, it is ordinary to sometimes go for months without seeing someone then all of a sudden bump into them unexpectedly. 

The first time he saw Stevie, he was on his way to the Law Library so he couldn't stop to chat. The second time, they bumped into each other at the recreation yard. Seeing Stevie again brought out the curiousity in him. Under normal circumstances, he would have asked Stevie a ton of questions, but they were not under normal circumstances. He was curious as hell to know where Stevie had been since the Orlando's incident and all that had happened to him since but out of respect, he did not dip into Stevie's business. It would be different if Stevie had brought it up himself. Then it would be fine for him to show how concerned or indifferent he had been by his absence. 

What Carl remembered was how Stevie had pretended to be concerned about him. He asked how Carl was doing when he knew the predators were on his tail. Everyone knew and no one would want to get in the middle of it, not even the officers. For the most part, the officers wouldn't want to mess with the predators or the victims unless it was absolutely necessary. They would normally just look the other way and turn a blind eye. They wouldn't want to get involved. That was the nature of the jungle in there. The stabbings, beatings, fights and all that jazz that happen in the joint have only a few root causes - drugs, respect, money, and toy boys. So even though Stevie asked, Carl knew he was aware of the fucked up situation he was in. Stevie was just making small talk and nothing more. And when he said, "If you need anything, just holler", Carl knew he was only pretending to be concerned because his body language had given it away. He had avoided making eye contact with Carl, his eyes were darting around in every direction like he was worried to be seen talking to Carl. Worried that someone might think he was on Carl's side. He was a target so he understood Stevie's cautiousness and he didn't hold it against him. Even in a place that housed the most notorious, Carl was still wearing rose tinted glasses, still tried to understand someone else's position, and still tried to see the good in them. 

He thought of Stevie and his blonde hair and blue eyed good looks. Surely he must have caught the eye of many predators as well. After all, he was quite a prize catch with his good looks, good physique and winning smile. He figured Stevie must be having his own battles to fight. Stevie had never shared his story with him so he had no idea how Stevie was holding up in that fucked up place. However, he did hear through the grapevine of an incident where Stevie had attacked an officer and ended up being put in confinement for sometime. Now, why would he attack an officer when he knew of the consequences he would have to face for his actions? Surely he wasn't that dumb to foolishly pull a stunt like that and have the incident on his permanent record. 

There was such a thing as the 'label' system in prison. For Carl, he was tagged not only as a "fuck boy" but he was also tagged as a "pussy ass check in" too. He figured Stevie had hit the officer merely out of desperation. He was probably being hunted by predators and needed a "get out of jail free card". By hitting an officer he knew his ass would be hauled off to solitary confinement where he would be isolated from everyone especially the predators. It was the escape he needed. He knew Stevie wouldn't want to be labeled a "pussy ass check in", so he did the unexpected that would get him into the safety of confinement without anyone knowing how afraid he really was and without having any of those labels hanging over his head. It totally made sense. 

Prison life, from what Carl had learned in his few short months there, was like living in the wild; survival of not only the fittest but the smartest as well. Everybody in prison had their own agenda, their own play, and their own game plan. To survive, one needs to always be two steps ahead at all times. The "Check In Move" was a common play that had been played for decades and the game play was simple - violate any one of the institution outlines. That way, they would be going to confinement on purpose. A strategic game plan to seek protection in protective custody without giving away their actual fear. By violating the rules, they will not be seen as weak or afraid to live in the general population even though in actual fact they are. It was a common tactic. Some of the guys with gambling addiction for example, would use the check in move to get away from having to face loan sharks hounding them to pay off their debts. But at the same time, to violate the rules in hopes of succeeding in pulling off the check in move was very risky. Sometimes the tactic worked, and sometimes it didn't. Carl figured Stevie must have been really desperate to gamble on the tactic and lucky for him, it worked. 

A shiver ran down Carl's spine just thinking about the reality he was in. He began to hyperventilate. His heart was beating fast and he was gasping for air. Anxiety kicked in. He had to find a way to calm himself or he was afraid he would pass out. He took out his notepad from the footlocker, sat on his bed and he began to write.... 

"Here I sit on my bed a moment of clarity left me breathless. 
I have wandered for so long, 
imagining I have arrived.... 
oh, what a mistake. 
The moment overtook my fantasy 
I wandered again helplessly. 
I watched my dream dissolve, 
washed in the pool of reality.... 
oh, how I cried. 
Where is the nectar of wanting 
when fortune blows her gentle breath 
across the wool of my eyes? 
I had faded.... 
passed away. 
I am judged by my own soul 
my broken pieces shattered, 
scattered. 
I let them be, 
the broken pieces of the old me. 
But this moment remains.... 
oh, I will grow."

There is no such thing as guarantee or safety in prison. Sure, Carl may be 'safe' in solitary confinement for the moment, but how long is that going to last?

Comments

  • Sep 05, 2020

  • Sep 05, 2020

  • wow prison is hell on earth, I'm ashamed to be called a member of the human race now I have read these last couple of chapters possibly the entire book, its true story and its brutally honest Zee, but I cant read any more Zee I'm sorry its too much for my head, what happened to Vicky? that's the only thing that kept me reading, and did her dad get locked up for good, predators like Vickys dad need to be imprisoned for life too.

    Sep 06, 2020

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