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Middle Of The Night
Being in your cell alone in prison in the middle of the night.
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (1)
Lockdown (Non-Fiction) Sitting in prison cell during lock down with the temperature well past 100 degrees, and time moving at a snail's pace. [1,138 words] [Crime]
Middle Of The Night
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
"All miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone." ~ Blaise Pascal
I believe I could endure this nightmare so much more easily if I were allowed to live the opposite hours of the other prisoners.
This morning I awoke at 0150, washed my face in the cold water and dressed for breakfast. The meal is served at a different time everyday, but 0200 is primetime and anything goes after that, so you'd better be ready. I still find it difficult to wake up at such an ugly hour, my body pleading for more sleep, but it's far more trying for me to do physical labor on an empty stomach. Besides, 0200 in the penitentiary' is very pleasant for an inmate of my temperament; it's rare simulation of peace.
The hour of 0200 found me sitting on the bunk, Indian style, drinking up the dark. It's the closest this deformed building ever comes to quiet. Oh, there's still distant noise, random steel clanking, graveyard workers cussing and pretending to clean; then there's the country boy guards in front of the rotunda who tell hunting lies and hurl lewd insults at each other for quality redneck entertainment..-but these are flies buzzing compared to the waking hours.
God, how I revel in the privacy, few things taste sweeter; what if I could spend more than a few fleeting moments in the dark morning tranquility...what a glorious medicine for my sanity! How refreshing it is to explore my thoughts and indulge myself in a little fantasy. Solitude is precious and the loss of it seems like torture.
At 2AM I'm always tempted to make silly faces or strip naked, doing something-anything to take advantage of the artificial calm. I just feel the yearning to relax my inhibitions, if only for a second. I don't strip naked or make funny faces of course, but surely there's a more fitting way to celebrate privacy!
The cells are old and minimal light makes its way through the black bars, if it weren't for the occasional horn blowing from my unconscious cellie, I could convince myself Fm alone at last. I think a growing hermit resides within my heart, becoming stronger for every year I spend in this vortex of noise. Someday my love of solitude will surpass my will to eat.
At 0248 this morning, all calm disappeared as the black steel gate crashed open for breakfast. Being fully dressed to come out of your cell for chow is an enforced rule. There are always some guys who sleep through the loudspeaker announcement and then try to roll out of bed, racing to dress before the boss crashes their gate shut. I walk down the concrete run with a line of barely awake men as the guard bellows behind us, slamming the bars closed. Out of my peripheral vision I see inmates scurrying to dress and escape before the boss man locks them in. Some don't make it and profanity flies through the stale air.
The Prison Chow hall is aircraft hangar huge, it has 40 foot ceilings and I bet you could seat 400 people in that drafty monolith, but the logistics are all wrong, maybe 400 can sit in there, but no way can they feed that many simultaneously with just 2 serving lines. So, only half the chow hall is utilized at any given time. They keep it open a few hours each meal, until an estimated 4500 meals are served. (Some prisoners are skilled in the art of sneaking through the line twice.)
The rows of stainless steel tables each seat 4 and if the kitchen workers feel up to it, each table will hold a pitcher of warm water and 4 plastic cups. We're allowed an average of 7 minutes to eat, beginning the moment we sit down. When your time is up, a smiling Nazi will courteously slam a cup on the table.
A lot of guys complain about the time limit, but a lifetime of eating as fast as possible has conditioned me and I don't mind at all. I'm always first to wolf down my meal, with plently of time left to detail my tray for any missed calories.
This morning there were 2 rubber fried eggs on my blue plastic tray. It's one of my least favorite meals because I usually walk away from the table still hungry. Along with the tasteless eggs come an attractive, but rock hard biscuit and some watery oatmeal. (Most prison food is watery because adding water makes it easier for lazy kitchen workers to serve.) We also receive a half pint of 1% milk; it's easily my favorite part of every breakfast. Before prison, guilt forced me to be a Vegan, but you can't be picky in here. Survival instincts will always overcome any misplaced ideals.
Like always when I'm real hungry, I have to fight my urge to pick the tray up and lick it clean. If I were alone I'd have no qualm about it. Maiden, my beautiful Chow, wasn't above it and she had more integrity than most people; but even in this pit, the lowest of societies, such behavior is frowned upon. So, I restrain myself and leave the table, wasting at least 30 calories as I shove my tray in the slot. Exiting the hangar, I begin the 5 minute walk through this monolith, back to my cage on the cellblock.
Sitting on my fire proof mattress in the dark, I listen to all the noise and watch the activity as the wing boss harasses returning diners back into their cells. Half an hour goes by and the artificial calm returns. I always want to stay awake and enjoy, but sleep seems to be just as important as food, even sub humans seem governed by this natural law.
As I fade to sleep, I try thinking positive thoughts, perhaps all forced interaction with my fellow residents will prevent me from sinking into some anti-social madness...so what if I can't even relieve the most basic of human needs unobserved, at least I don't have the unsightly habit of picking my nose when I think others aren't looking anymore.
At 0500 the gates will screech open and the beastly prison music begins, movement everywhere, hundreds of voices screaming for airtime and all illusions of peace are ripped apart.
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© 2010 John Lauda
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