This place really isn’t as bad as they say. It’s been 189 days. So less than four months left in here. Nothing ever happens. Fights here and there, occasional riots. I was in the box last week but that wasn’t even that bad. Still got food and didn’t have to deal with my cell mate that never shuts up.
I’m tired of it, though. All of it, man. Allie never writes back. I never talk to Jake. I do get fed well. Better than I did at home; me and Allie were living off noodles and hot sauce. That’s all I think about. Nothing is ever new or exciting in here. I can’t talk about the future. I have no idea what it holds. Or if I’ll even have one. No employer will want me. No house in line. Allie will be there. And my main man Jake. He’s my boy. I know he misses me, and if he knew how, he’d be counting down the days too. 101 left.
Allie and Jake and Me. A family back together again. This time it will be different. That is all I know. I’m changed now. I don’t care about other women or drugs. Just my babies. The future is always on my mind.
But so is the past. I’m reminded of it every day. I guess that’s the point of being within these four walls.
I had just started my new job at Meijer. I found out that working at night helped me stay outta trouble. My ma always said nothing good happens after midnight. She was right. Man, that was the job: sweeping an empty store, stocking full shelves, hanging out with my dude Eric. I only had the job for a couple weeks when Allie started. I had to train her. I had no idea why a white girl like her got caught in a second-shift shitty job like this. I never asked then, but we seemed to talk about everything else. We really connected; she was no angel but neither was I. Most the time we would try to behave, but it was hard. We spent our breaks sharing stolen Chef Boyardee and our last minutes passing a blunt after a hard night’s work.
I’m gonna strangle him I swear to God. If he doesn’t stop singing “I Believe I Can Fly” in the next ten seconds, my pillow will cover his mouth until he stops moving. Why the hell would they put us together? He shot up a Petsmart because they wouldn’t take care of his poodle. Of course it was because he was gay, not because he didn’t have any money. And waving a gun would get the job done right? Dumbass. At least he’s only got a month left.
Maybe they did it on purpose. To torture me more. I’m the quiet type. You wouldn’t catch me in a million years singing, and if you did, it definitely wouldn’t be an R. Kelly song like faggot boy over here. I never opened up to people.
But Allie, really. I mean, yeah, I’ve had my girls, women. O, women… Only 93 days.
“Vinny, shut your damn mouth before I come shut it for you!”
Allie was assertive, never taking no for an answer. Our inseparable behavior at work landed me deep with the boss. I got fired; she didn’t. That made sense right? I was the 22 year-old that needed income.
Allie still made a point to talk to me. All the time. Whenever I had gas money, I would sneak over to her house. She would let me in through the side garage door and right down the stairs to the basement. She told me about school while I rolled a joint. We would share it, chill, and go straight to bed. Those were the days.
Marcus talked about his kids while we lifted today. He’s got two and one on the way. His twins are three. He was saying stuff like, “That’s what I miss the most man. Them hating me one second and running to me the next. They can’t be mad for long, you know? I used to wrestle them, not like hard, I wouldn’t hurt ‘em, but they’re boys and they need to toughen up. I won’t be there for my third when he is born. Hopefully he won’t find out. I wouldn’t want him to know, you know? I’m not gonna lie though; those first six months, I’ll be sleeping through the night in here. No crying, no bottles.”
I tuned out. I couldn’t listen anymore. It’s over. I’m changed. 88 days.
Allie quit her job at Meijer. She said she hated it without me. I had a job with Clearshine Windows; they didn’t hire minors. So of course she had to get a job next door at TanToday. I would get off at 9:00 and come over with a 6-pack to watch her close. Well, not really watch, but help. Or prolong it. We had our fun. In the tanning beds, in the office, in the bathroom.
Allie’s boss found out and soon we were back in the basement. The bed was better than the tanning place, though. We had good sex. Of course we had to be quiet because her parents and sister upstairs. Though I’m sure they knew something was up. Her mom Sandy wasn’t stupid and I know Katie her sister had seen me come in a few times. Katie’s alright, though. I tried to stay on her good side. Tried.
I overhear everything here, working in the laundry room. Nothing important, though. Who’s out, who’s new, and why they’re here. I’m a grown man. But I still get sick to my stomach when people ask me that question, “What’d you do?” I usually say a variation of the same thing: “I stole some computers.” If they knew the real answer, I would have way less friends than I already do.
Allie graduated, I couldn’t go; I had to work at Pizza Hut. My manager said I was close to getting a raise, so I couldn’t call off. Soon summer came and so did more time with Al. I was living with Eric, so she was there all the time. It was good times, sitting on the deck—just blazin’.
I would go to her house some still. She said it was important to her for me to get along with her family. Yeah, that’s shot to hell. I mean, I tried. Those people, though—I mean Steve her dad is cool—but I don’t know. I like to keep to myself. They were nice, but it was just obvious they didn’t like me. It wasn’t because I was black, I don’t think, but more because they knew me and Allie were up to no good.
I have to keep my friends. The only thing I really hate, absolutely hate, about this place was the orange jumpsuit. When I talk to people they think everything is fine. But if you eat alone, or want to wander by yourself, you get the orange all the sudden. Yeah, I might have said a few, “I’m going to kill myself”’s and “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead and you have no one,” but who hasn’t? When you’re on suicide watch, they monitor everything you do: when you change, when you shower, even how big of bites you’re taking. That first week was hell. But 79 days left.
Allie didn’t come around for a while; she had been missing work because she was so sick. I kinda liked the time alone. I was never alone anymore. I spent about two weeks just enjoying myself—smokin, drinkin, goin out—whatever I wanted to do. It was nice to have her off my back for a while. Pizza Hut was a bust so I was looking for a job again. Well, not really looking, Allie would say.
Finally, today I start the last class. I was ordered to take two classes by the judge: Family Abuse and Aggression Relief. They said if I took two more classes, it would look good and I might get out a little earlier. So I am; what else would I do with my time? I already took How to Break the Cycle: Drugs and Alcohol. Today starts Respect. Maybe I’ll actually get something outta this one. I’ll probably be the only person in here; it’s not good for anyone’s status—I don’t give a fuck. I’m just trying to get out. 75 days.
I didn’t have any minutes on my cell, so Allie stopped by, unexpectedly. Unexpectedly. I tried to tell her to come back, but she wouldn’t have it. She was pushing me in, so I pushed her back out. Then she started crying. It had never happened before. Yeah, I pushed her around a little bit but she had never cried. So I left her out there.
I told Sarah to get dressed, she had to leave. She didn’t care, she got what she came for. Abby saw her leave and walked in when Sarah left the door open. She wasn’t mad about her; it wasn’t the first time. She sat down while I went to grab a beer.
I met with the warden today. I got two months off. He said one class canceled out my bad behavior and the other got me two months. Two whole months. 15 days!
“Yes. I am. 7 weeks. “
“Who have you told?”
“No one. You. My parents are going to kill me.”
“Shit. No. No…”I finished my beer and started to undress.
I didn’t think I hurt her that bad, but she wasn’t moving. I let her rest a while. I opened and finished another beer. Still nothing. So already undressed, I jumped in the shower.
When I got out the cops were waiting. They were so fucked up—pushing me around when I got dressed, didn’t even let me dry off.
“Freaking pig. 18 years old with belt marks on her back and shoe prints on her face from her boyfriend. You have the right to remain silent…”
Then I saw her.
Class is finally over. I learned nothing except that teacher should come around a little more often. 5 days.
I broke her arms and split her head open, I guess. I didn’t think I hurt her that bad. She was just laying there, crying—usually she fought back. I made sure not to touch her stomach, though. Maybe a son would be cool.
Eric picked me up, blunt waiting for me in his hand.
“So you called Allie like I asked? Where are her and Jake gonna meet us? Mmm…oh man. Let’s go to Pizza Hut. Call her, tell her there. Is Jake eating real food yet?”
“Come on, man…”
“I wonder if he’ll recognize my voice or anything. Allie’s gonna be so happy to see me.”
“Pepperoni and mushroom. Yes. I’ll pay you back when I can man.”
“Allie isn’t here, and she isn’t coming. She’s not coming back for you. There is no baby. I’ve told you. And you better straighten up because you’re lucky the court and her parents didn’t know there was one.”
I took a hit.
“So Pizza Hut right? Then let’s get a case on the way home. Have you seen Sarah lately?”
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Photo due to Rachel Dotson.© All rights reserved.