After I became aware of the accusations against me I had a sleepless night. To say that I was scared would be an understatement … I was real scared, but there was nothing I could do but wait. Well, that’s not exactly true, I could go to the guards and tell them I was afraid for my life and they’d put me into Protective Custody – or, I could stand my ground and go down like a man. For the record, I never even considered “Checking In”, asking for PC. I suppose this proves that pride is greater than fear.
Hour after hour I waited while others I had no dealings with decided my fate. I had already seen that I had been isolated by the other white-boys, I was an island, no one was even getting near me, no one was even saying good morning and the gang-members were circling me with hard stares waiting for the word, to attack. I can’t even begin to tell you what this feels like, the waiting, the not knowing when they were going to get you – terrible, terrible feeling – absolutely terrible.
At this time the cell I had was one of the handicap cells, meaning it was a single-man cell; I had the cell to myself, I was alone in it and that I loved. This handicap cell was in the corner of the cell-block under the stairs, next to the phones – I had the cell nobody wanted, the worst cell in the building … I was low-man on the proverbial Totem Pole.
Even though the cell-block was an open space, no walls, there were some washing machines that set up under the stairs in front of my cell. Every hour of every one of those days as I awaited my fate to be decided I stood in front of my cell door, looking over those washing machines, down the thirty meters between me and the front door of the cell-block watching who came and went. Hours upon hours I stood and watched knowing that whomever came for me, would have to come through that front door. Thirty meters between that door and where I stood, that’s all the warning I’d have.
During this time their was a youngster in my cell-block, and outcast of a kid, half Native American, half white, named Vaughn Watrus, (possibly misspelled). Vaughn was poorly treated, not really accepted by the Indians, so he lived and hung out with the white guys. He was seen as a little eccentric and treated as such, but we liked him and completely accepted him. I of course liked him more than most and spent time with him; in reality there wasn’t anything wrong with him, he was just a loner, like me.
The second day of this three day ordeal I was standing and watching the door when Vaughn appeared and posted up beside me. When I turned to look at him he just ignored me and stood there looking at the front door. Even though no words passed between us, I knew that he was willing to go down with me. All day long we stood, and that night when the guard hollered “Lock Down!” for the night, Vaughn reached under his jacket and pulled out two pad locks on the end of belts, to let me know that he was armed and dangerous. I smiled, patted him on the shoulder and stepped into my cell for another sleepless night.
That night I thought about Vaughn and I knew that he’d put himself in real danger – everyone in my cell-block had seen him side with me, and that word had without a doubt reached Ziggy. Truth is, a better man probably would have been more concerned with his friends safety and insisted he leave … but I didn’t, and I’ve always felt bad about that.
On the third day Vaughn was at work during the day, and at about two o’clock that afternoon, one of the gang-members walked up to me and said, “Ziggy’s outside. He wants to see you.” Well, this is it I thought to myself. They ain’t gonna come in here, they’re gonna do it on the yard, smart! They knew, like I did, that to come or go from or into my cell-block required them, and ME, to go through a metal detector, that meant that I at least, would be unarmed! They of course could have Shanks and Bonecrushers from off the yard – all cars had weapons hidden on the yard.
The advantage to being “HIT” on the yard is that it’s out in the open and it wouldn’t take long for the guards to come rushing in to try and save whomever was being attacked – I knew they’d have, or, more importantly, I’d have about sixty seconds before the first guards arrived. Out I went. Out to face whatever may come. Why you ask wouldn’t I stand my ground and make them come to me? I truthfully don’t know. That certainly would have been the smart thing to do … I guess … I guess, I was just tired of the waiting – that and I suppose, a man in prison, learns to accept the reality of things even if he doesn’t understand the why of ’em. Like Karma, the bull shit politics of prison seem to come at you from out of no where … like they were ordained by some hidden council, or, some spirit beyond your understanding taps out the message of your punishment on the table of life, and then demons beyond comprehension, come for that proverbial pound of flesh.
I don’t even understand it myself, and as crazy as it will seem to you on the outside I can truthfully tell you that somewhere along the way, something inside of me, snapped and broke. Somewhere, without my recognition, during those three days of hellish waiting, I lost my fear and became calculatingly angry. My instinctual fear had morphed into instinctual survival. And though I had never contemplated killing before, I can tell you that they and the circumstances surrounding this event, coupled with fear and the impending possibility of being butchered had made me every bit as dangerous as them. Remember, I’ve told you before – I was trained by Ret. Col. Mark Miles, look him up, and I’m damn good with my hands, I’ll leave it at that … I was totally committed to defending myself, whatever the result might be.
I’ve told you more than once over the years that, as a person, I’ve changed, but I’ve never actually explained how or why, so I’ll say it here, this prolonged exposure to certain destruction, to unrelenting fear, was most assuredly a part of the change I have so aptly recorded in my writings. This single event would forever alter the way I would carry myself. Never again would I talk out of turn, never again will I allow myself to experience road-rage, never again will I lose my temper. Yes, something had been altered in me and a calmness came over me as I made my way out to face what I thought would be insurmountable odds, and it has never left me. I am not the man you remember. I am quiet, reserved, calm, sad, respectful and completely aware of life; with shock and confusion the ugliness of prison has awakened me the way a cold glass of water awakens the napper … shocked, confused, bent and damaged, yeah, that’s the right word for this new me, I’m damaged goods, something in me has been broken, the goodness I once saw in humanity has flown far from my clouded vision. For this reason I know in my heart that I could never again be with my wife; nor with any one – I’ve spent too much time alone, I’d need space, lots of space, more than anyone short of a mental patient could put up with – I’d be a poor companion. I’m a loner who dreams only of painting and writing – I’ve lost the light of innocence my eyes once held and like I told you a while back, if I was to be released from prison I’d be more comfortable in an ally than in the Mayors Office. I’m definitely not the man you remember … never forget this, because this is all you need to know about my state of mind: The man I now am, talks to trees.
Next time I’ll complete this part of the story. Thanks for hanging in there.
Three Rivers, 8-25-18