I’m writing this on Sunday, the fifth day of March 2017: I am writing this in the Hole, the SHU, as the guards call it.
SHU or “the shoe” is an abreviation for, Special Housing Unit, which of course means that you only get to be housed here, if, you’re special…NOT. Of course I’m only joking about that, but the very term “Special Housing Unit” is indicative of our overly polite, don’t offend anyone, Political Correctness, society.
Now don’t get me wrong. I do believe that one of the ways we can improve our planet is to, of course, change the way we express ourselves, which is a backassward way of sayin’ if we can get folks to speak nicer, then maybe they’ll come to realize that it’s important to keep your mouth in check…to think before actually speaking, and hopefully to think before acting, because a well spoken society, is a well thought society…yeah, I hear it and even agree with it…but sometimes you gotta stop with all the nice stuff and just tell folks the way it really is…just say it, “Hey buttwad. You act like an idiot, you’re goin’ to the “Hole”. Now that’s somethin’ most folks like me can understand. I say this because the SHU is not a nice place for special people…it’s a bad place for people who, justified or not, go because they don’t follow the rules. The SHU is a place wholly ( no pun intended) designed for discomfort; it’s purpose is the same as that kick below the belt that is supposed to get your attention, to let you know that you gotta make a decision about the way you’re doin’ your time – the hard way, which gets you restricted to the nothingness of “The Hole”, or you can do your time a little easier by following the rules. Unfortunately sometimes a good man just has to break the rules, and for them, their is very little lee way…because in the black and white world of rules on paper, reality and justification are not represented. Sometimes a man is put in the position by those very rules where he just willingly breaks them, knowing that he will have to pay a price for doing so. It’s hard to explain…but sometimes a man’s just gotta be a man and take his licks.
The cell I’m in is approximately twelve feet long and seven feet wide, but most of that space is taken up by a shower, toilet, sink and bunk beds; I’ve seen better, but I’ve seen a heck of a lot worse, too. For instance: I was once in a cell in Nueces County Jail, located in downtown Corpus Christi Texas, that was half this size – yeah, half. It was so small there wasn’t room to even do a pushup on the floor, I had to do ’em on the bunk! On top of all that, the place was dark and filthy dirty…really folks, and I’m sure that them cells are still there – truth is, they should be condemned. Yeah, this ain’t as bad as I’ve been exposed to in the past.
Now. one thing I’ll say positive about this place is the food…it’s good and plentiful. Yep, the kitchen folks load them trays up, and the food is always hot…you know what that’s a sign of? It’s a sign of good management; someone that knows that it’s hard back here. And I’ll tell ya they’re right, back here you ain’t got squat, nothin’ and I mean nothin’ with a big “G”. So, about all a man has to look forward to is chow time, and I’ve been in some spots where they think that it’s their job to make you as miserable as humanly possible – one of them ways is to feed you nothin’ they ain’t by law got to give you, and then they add to that nothin’ by givin’ it to ya cold! Yeah, some places think that when a man is sentenced to prison that the Judge added somewhere that they were supposed to treat you like an animal, on top of all the time they give out. Of course nothin’ like that is said, but some places, in spite of that, think it’s their duty to be absolutely unbearable…but, like I said, lucky for me, it ain’t like that here at Three Rivers where, for the most part, we’re treated pretty damned good, and…wait…is that the Chow Wagon!!!…nope, see what I mean. Food to a man back here, is the highlight of his otherwise uneventful day.
The SHU is set up in ranges, wings, the exact configuration I’ not sure of. The run I’m on has sixteen cell, two men to a cell. So I imagine there are thirty two men on a run…not absolutely accurate but it’s an example of how it looks back here.
One of the worst things about being’ in the Hole is gettin’ your hours flipped. In other words, since there ain’t nothin’ to do you sleep as much as possible and pretty soon your sleepin’ at odd hours. Eventually you have some guys sleepin’ in the daytime and finding that they can’t sleep at night…point is, someone is always awake, always. Bein’ that some folks ain’t got no upbringin’, they want to be a hollering down the run talkin’ to their homeboys, or banging on the metal doors, or talking really load, or…standing at their door and singing out loud as if Jay Z was gonna hear ’em and give ’em a big contract, or somthin’. You see some folks can’t handle being confined to a small space like this for any length of time, claustrophobic – and over time they wear down – so they make noise to help deal with this place. Some folks though, are just idiots and make noise to boost their own false ego, and some guys make noise because they ain’t been taught to make silence…they don’t understand how to have disciplined thought – point is, if we could get past our religious bigotry and teach our children the practices of Yoga and Meditation when they are in grade school or in our homes in their youth, we could save a heck of a lot of these guys early on, because those staple principles of Eastern Philosophy are the foundation for the Right Thinking Process. And I contend that most of us, me included, got into trouble because we did not think about our actions before we put them into action and if a person wants to change their position in life, they have to first change the way they think.
Sorry about taking off on that tangent…I wanted to add to the reason that prisoners make noise: Some of these guys, most I suspect, act out by making excessive noise because they will do anything to keep from thinking, because when they allow themselves to think, they then have to face the reality of a life gone very wrong, of bad choices, of a separation from loved ones, of…all the mistakes, and, the worst of all…of what could have been.
I know that there are times when I rough on these guys, and I do understand that people and their circumstances, in life, are different, I really do…believe me, I feel for these guys, and I understand them even if they don’t understand themselves. The point that I’m leadin’ up to is this: the range that I’m on is usually pretty quiet…comparatively speaking.
Two nights ago however, after the lights went out, this Mexican guy, stands right up next to his door and starts singing loud. Bein’ that he’s in the cell right next to mine I got the full brunt of his bellowing…and of course, it thoroughly pissed me off. When I’m right on the verge of acting like an damn idiot, I stopped…something about his voice reached out and touched me.
I sat up on my bunk and began to listen, not so much to his voice, which not great but good, no that wasn’t what stayed me…what got to me was the fact that his voice was sooo sad. If you could imagine what a man’s voice would sound like if he could sing and cry at the same time, you’d be close to understanding what I’m trying to describe…but he wasn’t crying, not that I know of, he was just putting so much heart felt emotion into his singing that it was actually haunting, eerie, it was…in truth, it was beyond explanation, or at least beyond my vocabulary to convey. The pain in his voice almost brought me to tears.
Now I speak a spattering of Spanish, in fact, I speak a spattering of several different languages…what I mean is, I can get a beer, a cigarette and a woman (or get beaten up as it sometimes turns out…and assuming that she has low standards, of course) in about five different languages…anyway, the pain in his voice caused me to start listening to the words of the song he was singing, and I was devastated.
Of course it doesn’t take a damn once in a generation genius to figure out this guy was singin’ about a woman, one who was very far away, one that he was trying to get back to…now i ain’t fessin’ up to nothin’, nothin’ at all, but I was moved deep down in them spots a man don’t often go…CRYING!!! who said anything about CRYING?!! Hell no, I didn’t even tear up! I just got a little emotional is all. In fact as soon as he finished singin’ I started thinkin’ about fightin’, drinkin’, gamblin’ and such, so don’t go ta thinkin’ I started cryin’ over here…we clear on that! Cryin’…gee whiz, it’s like we’re a bunch a sissy’s in here.
Anyway, when he finished his song the whole run was deathly quiet…I mean you coulda heard a…well, a tear drop…not that they did, but you coulda. And bein’ that he was singing a-capella, and bein’ that it was sung with such obvious pain, even the guys who can’t speak Spanish could understand what was behind it. Let’s just say that I won’t ever forget it.
If a man like me has a prayer worth hearin’ it’d be that his Karma will allow for him to make it back home to his sweetheart…and I hope that she’s someplace right now singin’ a sad song about longing for the day that her mate returns to her.
Well, it’s Saturday the 11th and all is good. My first cellie went back to the yard, so I have another, one I know well, but did not really like when we were on the yard together…one I did not think that I would be compatible with, but I was wrong about that. For one thing they made him the orderly back here ( janitor ), meaning that he’s gone all day, everyday, and that’s a blessing. Yeah…I knew him on the yard but he had some practices I can’t abide by…he’s back here for sellin’ dope. Anyway, for that reason we weren’t close, but after extensively talking to him I do believe that he’s tryin’ to straiten himself out, in fact when he talks about his kids I can see that he really loves ’em, and that goes a long way with me. So all good.
Evenin’ chow is on it’s way and I hear the guard holering “It’s ladies night”. Anyway he’s tellin’ us what’s for supper – get it? Ok, let me give you a hint…”Ladies Night”…wieners! Hot Dogs! Get it! oh well, it always gets a chuckle in here.
It’s the 20th, and I’m combing my hair with a plastic spork and using the reflection off a Potato Chip bag to shave with. Feeling my age too. Every time a staff member comes around to check on me I jump in my bed and pick up a book and act like I’m reading…then when they knock on the door to get my attention and ask me if I’m ok, I stick up thumb like I can do this for the next twenty years if need be…but as soon as they leave I roll over and groan, ’cause my back hurts, my neck hurts…hell my whole body hurts…yeah, I used to be able to do this standing on my head…time is definitely an equalizer.
It’s the 25th and I’m out, they had some kinda violence go down on the yard, so they sprung me to make room for the knuckleheads…God bless knucklehead.
Peace be with you, Mark
Three Rivers, 3-28-17