This excerpt is from Candy and Blood, available on Amazon.com now.
Standing there with my bruises and torn boxer shorts, I felt the unwarranted shame of a victim, as if I had somehow done something to bring this entire situation upon myself. Sometimes bad things just happen.
To begin with, I wasn’t expecting a court writ. If I’d known it was coming, I would’ve been ready. But as is often the case, life caught me unprepared. As I stood in personal property with my meager belongings spewed from my property box, the C/O impatiently prodded me to choose the few items I was allowed to bring with me. One change of undergarments, a few hygiene items, a Bible, the legal documents needed for my hearing. That’s it, and don’t try to sneak anything past him. In prison, the C/O who controls property holds huge sway. He can make a guy’s bit extremely difficult; it’s a very bad idea to piss him off.
In my flustered, frantic haste to grab what I needed/what I was allowed to have, I was dumbfounded as to what to expect since this was my very first court writ. I didn’t know my property would be housed at my home joint, and I would be shipped to an institution closer to the courthouse for my hearing. Once the court was done with me, I’d be shipped back. At a minimum, the whole thing would be a two-week round trip. Without fully understanding the ramifications, I simply grabbed what was at the front of my box and moved along. It wasn’t until I was sitting in a new joint, with a new cellie, that I realized I was wearing state whites and that my only change of clothes was also produced by the state.
All the state-issued clothes given to inmates are made by inmates. This means that a sub-par work force is fashioning items using low-quality materials. I wish I could say something nicer about the skills of my fellow inmates, but I prefer to be honest. My gravest concern was the boxer shorts. The material was thin and would rip quite easily. What’s more, the seam on the back of the state-issued boxer shorts ran directly along the crack of one’s ass. Why is this important? Because the faulty design meant that any stretching, squatting, or simply sitting down would put stress on the seam. Perhaps it was just my ample posterior, but whenever I wore state boxers, it was only a matter of time before they betrayed me by splitting wide open right along that backside seam.
As my lousy luck would have it, the only two pairs of boxers I had with me on the writ had been in my possession for a while. They had suffered more than their fair share of strain. One afternoon before the end of the first week, I heard a distinctive tearing sound as I was climbing into the top bunk. I knew I’d torn myself an unnecessary ventilation hole in my boxers.
It was only a few days later that I suddenly awoke in a panic from a deep sleep, wearing my remaining pair of intact boxers, and suffering from a badly brimming bladder. I thrust myself into a sitting position and scrambled to the end of the bed, trying to get to the toilet before I wet myself. My desperate need to pee, the fact that I hadn’t spent any time on a top bunk in years, the new and unusual cell configuration, and my rapid maneuvering in the dark all culminated in my painful downfall.
Speedballing as I was, I flung my leg over the foot-rail and allowed momentum to carry me forward to land on the next rail down before stepping safely to the floor. That was the plan. What actually happened, though, was that my right foot missed the middle foot rail and the bottom half of my left leg slid under the top rail, while the rest of my torso kept on going. I was left dangling upside-down in mid-air with all of my two hundred plus pounds pulling at the crook of my knee. I felt an excruciating hot tearing and yelped out in pain, but a dozen other injustices also screamed out for attention and made my cry of anguish die in my throat. My head hit the sink. My shoulder, back, bicep, forearm, ribs, hip, and butt all collided against the metal bed with plenty of force. My boxer shorts tore nearly in half. Extricating myself from the rack was a noisy nightmare that sent flares of fresh hurt flashing out to various coordinates on my injured frame. It’s a minor miracle that I didn’t drench myself in urine.
I’ve never been particularly vain, but my parents did instill in me a sense of self-worth, and the notion that I should take pride in my appearance. It may just be that they didn’t want their kid being the slovenly, stinky kid on the playground. Whatever their intentions, the lesson stuck, and I try to be presentable even if it’s just other inmates and C/Os who will see me. Thanks to this mindset, as the morning came for me to board the transfer bus and head back to my home joint, I was feeling highly embarrassed. I was also quite frightened.
My nocturnal mishap had left bruises tattooed all over my body, and I knew I would be strip-searched. The back of my left leg was one huge multi-hued contusion that ran unbroken from mid-calf to mid-thigh and made it impossible for me to walk without a limp. My thighs, calves, shoulders, back, butt cheeks, and arms were all spotted with a scandalous number of scrapes and bruises. There was also a bulging goose egg just left of center on the back of my head. All of this was glaring evidence of some kind of struggle or confrontation, and I wasn’t confident that a nosy C/O would believe my struggle had been with my bed and not another inmate. The fear that I’d be accused of fighting and thrown into Seg indefinitely under investigation was a dim and secondary concern.
At this point, I’d been down long enough that I was more or less used to stripping naked, so that’s not what I was embarrassed about. My embarrassment, and primary concern, was that my appearance would give the C/O who was staring at my nude flesh and fondling my discarded clothes a low opinion of me. Not only of me, but also of my parents, for having raised a child who would so brazenly waltz around wearing boxers in such a sad state of disrepair. I would’ve preferred the anonymous officer to think I had been fighting, or even that I’d been assaulted, since all my injuries were on the back of my body and my boxers were practically shredded. But I didn’t want him to think I was a sloppy mess without enough self-respect or pride to wear appropriately dignified and proper undergarments.
When my time came, I stepped forward to the appointed spot. There were two men on my right and three on my left, each performing the same strip-tease for their respective C/Os. Over a hundred guys were lined up behind us, all waiting their turn. I handed over my shoes and socks, stripped off my banana suit and T-shirt and passed them to the C/O. Finally I removed my boxers and sheepishly pressed them into the officer’s latex-gloved palm. Following his prompts, I opened my mouth and pulled my lips back so he could see under them, ran my hands through my hair, raised my arms to reveal my armpits, and lifted my privates skyward so he could take a peek beneath them. Then came the dreaded spin. With my back finally fully revealed to him, I heard a sharp intake of air and a muffled, “Damn…” as a mumbled exclamation of shock. There was a pause that felt like a tiny eternity, then the piece de resistance: I had to bend at the waist, spread my butt cheeks and cough.
I was facing him again as he rifled through my clothing. My pathetic boxers were frisked first, and the C/O’s hand went right through the incriminating hole. A brief (no pun intended) shadow of perplexity crossed his face, and he met my eyes for a moment before snorting derisively and tossing the battered boxers at me. After covering my nakedness, I actually felt more shame, as my torn shorts allowed a brisk breeze to caress my undercarriage while I waited for the rest of my clothes to be cleared for wearing.
Once I was dressed and striding to the transfer bus, I didn’t have an ounce of confidence remaining. I worried which of my fellow prisoners had seen my shame—and by that I don’t mean my nudity, but my destroyed boxers. Distantly I wondered about the competence of a C/O who would let a guy as bruised and torn as me just walk on by. Mostly, though, I prayed that I might catch a break and get a decent C/O at my home joint who would let me shower after my long bus ride. I daydreamed about sliding my freshly cleaned legs into some pristine boxers, positioning them on my hips where they’d protect my package and project to the world a certain confidence and pride. I had a torturous bus ride ahead of me—upwards of seven hours, chained to a stranger. But a guy could dream.