Empty bottles stood at attention in tidy lines like toy soldiers at the ready. Eight, ten, a dozen—the number continued to grow by increments of two each time his mother returned to the table. My bladder developed a sympathetic ache in having to witness all that Mountain Dew being consumed. Soon it was every fifteen to twenty minutes that the Dew drinker had to be shuttled back and forth from his table in the visiting room to the bathroom. The two officers in charge of the visiting room exchanged exasperated sighs and glances as the inmate waved for their attention once more so one of them could unlock the bathroom for him. While he walked towards the toilet, his mother stood and headed back to the vending machines to replenish supplies.
My experienced eye easily recognized the inmate’s twitchy, disheveled appearance as that of an individual on some serious psychiatric medication. Those inmates with severe mental health issues are housed in their own specific section of the prison, so when I later saw him being escorted back to that area, the conclusion I’d drawn was proven true.
Caffeine and sugar, especially in large amounts, can have adverse effects on those using prescription psych meds. Often they work in direct opposition with those meds, and for this reason both items have been extremely restricted or outright banned amongst the segment of the prison population under special psychiatric treatment. This goes to explain why Mr. Mountain Dew gorges himself on the caffeine and sugar-infused elixir during each visit where dietary restrictions aren’t enforced. However, it’s his mother who keeps feeding the vending machine and fueling his addiction.
The mother had been told of the side effects. On numerous occasions, she’d been admonished by different officers. She knew better. Since she persisted on providing her son with the banned items on visit after visit, one of her son’s doctors finally intercepted her before she could go into the visiting room on this particular day. She was told in unadorned language that she was hurting her son. It was further explained that the copious quantities of stimulants were directly contributing to his manic thoughts and behavior. Then the doctor informed her that her son was having bladder control issues, he had wet himself more than once, and all that Mountain Dew as only exacerbating the issue. The stains on her son’s clothes made me believe that the doctor’s statements were void of hyperbole and embellishment.
Watching this interminably thirsty inmate guzzle yet another 20 ounce bottle of Dew, I felt a certain degree of ire and disgust towards his mother. All I could think about was her willful disregard of medical expertise and the resulting damages to her already compromised child. However, after a closer look, I saw in their smiles and gestures an abiding affection and love. There was no malice in her actions.
I can’t fully fathom the myriad conflicting emotions that a loving parent must experience when visiting their child in prison. I can imagine that sadness, anger, shame, and regret are probably merely a few sensations that rear their ugly heads. I do know that having to deny a loved one something, even a simple Mountain Dew, is a terrible feeling. The general deprivation that prison foists upon its inhabitants makes such refusals even more unbearable for both parties and leaves each feeling especially helpless.
I would never doubt that this mother loves her son, but, taking his mental health into consideration, it may be that her love would be better used in protecting her son from himself. I’d even venture to say that this type of love without borders or limits is imbalanced, unhealthy, and misguided.
This past Christmas season was filled with gifts of kindness and generosity from various businesses in the surrounding community. I’d never seen anything quite like it before in nearly fourteen years of incarceration. Perhaps those years had given rise to the cynic in me, but I was instantly suspicious of all this free stuff. However, since the usual prison cuisine is terrible—a criminal offense in and of itself—I wasn’t about to turn down the new, exciting, and scrumptious substitutes.
The bread was the best item that graced my chow hall tray. All those empty carbs were too tasty to turn down as every meal became a special surprise treat. Rye, pumpernickel, cracked wheat, cinnamon raisin, and half a dozen others showed up soft, moist, and fresh. After a steady, depressing diet of tasteless “enriched white bread,” these new varieties were exotic and delicious.
Oscar Mayer and Jimmy Dean brands were also served, and after so much low-grade “meat” fortified with high percentages of soy filler, I had somehow forgotten how heavenly a bologna sandwich could be, or the simply salty pleasure of a pork breakfast sausage patty.
The gargantuan bags of dill pickle-flavored popcorn were a bit more of an acquired taste. When some fancy name-brand yogurt cups and yogurt energy/protein drinks were handed out, guys couldn’t get enough of them. I have no earthly idea what a probiotic is, but I can attest from firsthand experience that Activia certainly gets digestion moving right along like a well-oiled machine. With all these freebies, there was a perpetually festive mood in the cell house.
Different donated items began showing up for sale on the black market. These products had been smuggled out of the warehouse by intrepid businessmen looking to turn a profit, or taken from the officers’ kitchen in the chow hall where the prison staff had been enjoying the gifts that had been donated for the inmate population.
Gummy worms, peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, egg nog, banana walnut bread, honey ham lunchmeat slices, 100% beef hot dogs. Rather than serving these treats to the inmates, they were consumed by officers or else left to sit in the warehouse and get freezer burn. There were also approximately 20,000 bottles of the aforementioned yogurt drink that simply stopped being served and were left to sit in cold storage.
As January dragged on, the special bread became a less frequent addition to meals, and everything else had dwindled to perhaps once or twice a week if we were lucky. Even more products, however, continued to show up for sale by the many hustlers who populate prison. This means the donations didn’t stop, they just stopped being handed out to the inmates.
With the onset of February, the warehouse workers began backing up their fifteen foot box truck to all the different dumpsters peppered around the prison compound and unloading their cargo directly into the trash. At first I was willing to, I wanted to, believe this to be nothing more than another stupid rumor. It wasn’t until I watched this wasteful act with my own eyes—multiple cases of merchandise discarded—that it was confirmed to me that those in authority would literally rather throw food in the garbage than let inmates have something special. Such a petty and small action for those who control all the power over us, but with zero oversight, they can essentially do whatever they want.
I wish I knew just who and where the donations were coming from so I could alert them to the wanton waste of the prison administration, but I’m not the one with the knowledge or power. I’m merely one ID number among thousands, caught in the unfeeling system, wishing for a tasty beef hot dog or a single slice of honey ham.
I wish I could say this type of thing is anomalous, but instead it borders on commonplace.
“Okay, I gotta get outta here, but the fresh sheets for Bryson in five are in his room on the desk. You just gotta make his bed.” Allen was addressing the nurse assigned to the infirmary.
Infirmary Inmates stay in the infirmary temporarily as they recover from surgery or a severe illness. The infirmary is also where terminal inmates spend their final days. Allen was merely a porter whose sole duties were to sweep, mop, clean, and launder bedsheets for the more feeble patients. Though it wasn’t his responsibility, Allen had a big heart, so he often went above and beyond by entering the realm of patient care. He stripped and made beds, changed bedpans, helped men into and out of the shower, assisted those with adult diapers who needed to dispose of a soiled pair in exchange for a fresh one. Allen sat with the dying to show them some basic human kindness in their remaining days.
Emergency Count An emergency count had been called for the prison, so Allen had to leave his job assignment and go back to his cell house immediately. Before leaving, however, he wanted to ensure that his adopted duties would be completed in his absence. At first, the nurse didn’t appear to have heard him. Allen opened his mouth to repeat himself, but the trained healthcare professional finally looked up from his magazine of Hollywood gossip and grimaced a sour smile in Allen’s direction accompanied by a curt nod of acknowledgment. With that, Allen was gone.
As is most often the case, the emergency count turned out to be merely a drill enacted by the warden to test the efficiency of his staff in case they were ever faced with an actual emergency. Due to staff shortages and his scheduled off days, Allen didn’t make it back to the infirmary for four days.
Four Days Later The first thing that Allen noticed upon returned to work was that the usual antiseptic smell of the infirmary had a much more feculent and urinal aroma to it. He went about his duties cleaning and sanitizing, all the while seething about his lackadaisical coworkers and the inept nurses. When Allen arrived at room five, he found the fresh bedsheets exactly where he’d left them before the emergency count. Inmate Bryson was slouching on his plastic-encased mattress in a puddle of his own mess because his adult diaper was well past the point of needing changed. Perhaps as much as four days beyond that point. Bryson’s body and mind had been compromised by age, dementia, and the golf ball-sized brain tumor which would soon take his life.
True Compassion Allen escorted Bryson to the shower where he helped remove all that was soiled and sat Bryson on the stool in the shower. After disposing of the refuse, Allen was back in a flash with shower accoutrements and clean clothes. Under Allen’s supervision and persistent directions, Bryson managed to cleanse himself thoroughly and Allen assisted with the drying and dressing. Once Bryson was seated in a wheelchair and secured in the corner of his room, Allen sopped up the puddle of urine from Bryson’s mattress and disinfected it with bleach before wiping it dry and affixing the clean linens to it. Bryson’s sporadic, muted, and incoherent mumblings were all the thanks Allen received.
Pointless The same nurse was at the front desk to the ward, reading a different publication of celebrity obsession. Allen did his best to temper his anger and frustration as he spoke.
“Hey man, you didn’t put Bryson’s sheets on his bed like I said.” The nurse nodded slightly without turning his attention from the magazine. “And he’s just been sitting there in his own piss and shit.” Allen’s voice was rising in volume, partly for emphasis and partly because he was having trouble controlling it. The nurse finally pulled his eyes from his all-important study material, sighing heavily, and looked at Allen with a vapid gaze.
“Yeah? And?” Even though the nurse’s response was technically in the form of a question, it was evident that he had no interest whatsoever in hearing more on the subject. His unmitigated lack of concern was unnerving to Allen.
Restraint Allen wanted to smack the nurse right in his entitle, uncaring face. Allen wanted to scream at the nurse and cuss him out with extreme vitriol. Allen wanted to beat the nurse until he was as helpless as some of the patients that he ignored. Doing any of those things would’ve landed Allen in Seg for sure, possibly worse. Instead, he swallowed it all and went back to help people. The nurse returned to his magazine.
My starving eyes saucered as they attempted to watch it all at once. They’d been deprived of simple beauty and had grown lazy on a steady diet of televised facsimiles. Freedom breezed past me at 55 miles per hour in the form of green fields, trees, farm-houses, and tiny communities littered sparsely across the land.
Traveling on the prison transfer bus is an especially hellish ordeal. The discomfort and disorientation that the ride places on a convict is exacerbated by the fact that most of the buses, except a few older models still in service, have a barrier of sheet metal where the windows should be. This allows only a thin trickle of light and air to come through a three-inch wide perforated portion of the metal that runs along the top of the side walls of the bus. Due to the restraints that weigh down an inmate in transit, it is difficult and painful to stand and look through this slim window on the world—not to mention illegal—and a C/O managing a transfer bus is quick to write a ticket. This barrier serves to keep the degenerate criminals within from glimpsing all that they’re missing, and the public from having to put actual human faces on the idea of incarceration.
There is, however, a coveted seat that affords the weary convict a view during his travels.
In nearly all my transfers and writs, I was always seated somewhere close to the middle of the bus. It’s not like the C/O had asked for my opinion or let me choose a seat to my liking. Only once in twenty trips was I ever blessed to be placed in the one seat—at the front of the bus in the row of seats opposite the driver—that had bars across the window instead of the metal barrier. The bars did little to mar my view. The world I was so far removed from felt somehow foreign. I felt like a stranger moving through a strange land. In opposition to this vaguely unsettling notion rising within me, there was a welcome familiarity to my road trip.
In my youth, I’d traveled endless highways on family outings to visit distant relatives and to lay down roots in new towns. The idea of exodus and ease of movement is part of the bedrock and backbone of America. There is something especially inviting about an open road stretching out before us; it speaks to infinite possibilities and the freedom to come and go as we please. That freedom was taken from me by my own bad decisions. However, for a brief moment on the transfer bus, the highway spread out before me, and I got to watch from my window seat as the beautiful summer sun blazed down on the world. The view consumed me, the carriage that carried me was of no consequence, and I was just another sojourner in this life. For a few fleeting hours as I perched on my window seat, I transcended my tragically drab surroundings and found a sense of freedom, if not freedom itself.
It was strange and surreal to have a selfless act of kindness return to try to stab me in the face.
As Horace swiped the razorblade toward my face, time seemed to slow momentarily, and I froze. It was obscenely surreal, this scene I’d suddenly found myself in the middle of, but even as the slim weapon swung ever closer to slicing me wide open, I couldn’t help thinking of the irony that I had actually provided Horace with the object he was attacking me with.
It was a big misunderstanding and miscommunication, really. Once tempers flare, though, none of that matters—especially when a blade becomes involved. Horace, besides being saddled with such an unusual and unfortunate name, looked like a caramelized Truman Capote. His voice even bore a similar, strangely effeminate lilt as the late Mr. Capote. These facts tended to make him appear less than formidable. That is, until he started swinging a razorblade at me.
Before the excitement, I hadn’t been paying attention. My mind was a million miles away mulling over something or other as I was racing to the shower to beat the rush of post-yard would-be bathers. There was no sound of water running and no towel or other paraphernalia to indicate that anyone was in the shower. I counted this as a stroke of luck, so I pulled back the curtain on the nearest shower stall.
Horace was standing there, fully clothed, with a towel around his neck and a mesh bag of necessary shower accoutrements dangling on a string from his limp wrist. “Damn,” I exclaimed reflexively as my heart leapt into my neck and my pulse chased after. “That’s my bad. Sorry, man.”
I had only a passing but cordial acquaintance with Horace, mostly because he had been my neighbor briefly before he moved to another cell. With his demeanor, appearance, and voice, Horace was suspect by default. On top of that, I knew he had spent time in a part of the joint reserved only for those with serious mental health issues and that he was on the medline twice a day to get his skittles.
Armed with this knowledge, I didn’t believe his loitering in a shower stall to be in any way overtly egregious or malicious. Standing behind a shower curtain while fully clothed, as if lying in wait, is certainly considered odd, especially since homosexuals often use the showers for illicit carnal liaisons. However, since there hadn’t been any exposing of intimate bits involved in our brief interaction, I dismissed the whole thing as no big deal and moved on to the next shower stall.
It was my fault, and I took full responsibility for it. Unfortunately, Horace didn’t feel the same way. The situation quickly escalated.
“What the hell is wrong with people?” he muttered, as if talking to himself, but plenty loud enough for me to hear. “I’m sick of all this fag stuff. People trying to catch a peek and pretend like they’re not. Nuthin’ but a bunch of fags here.” I was immediately offended and angry, and like a reflex I checked him.
“Whoa, whoa, hold on; it was my fault, I said I was sorry. It’s my bad. But you can keep all of that homosexual stuff. I ain’t got nothing to do with it, and I don’t want to hear any more of your fag…”
His scream of rage was so loud and unexpected that it startled my flesh into goose bumps. My heart began banging angrily against the confines of my chest. Horace had left the shower and begun to walk away before I’d spoken up to defend myself, but after his outburst, he immediately dropped the bag then dropped to his knees like a penitent of some sort. Instead of reverent prayers, though, he let loose a torrential litany of anti-gay curses while rummaging through the meager belongings he’d brought to the shower. When he rose to his feet again, he was brandishing the razorblade.
I caught a glimpse of his weapon as he brought it to bear on me. He had secured one end into a piece of cardboard to act as a handle so he wouldn’t slice himself. It was a tiny thing and looked almost comically absurd pinched between his surprisingly meaty index finger, middle finger, and thumb. Small as it was, I knew how easily it could move through skin and the tissue beneath. But when Horace advanced on me, I just stared back, stuck to the floor.
Horace’s outburst had brought a few guys rushing to the area, one of whom was Horace’s cellie. He recognized the situation at a glance and stepped between me and the blade. In an authoritative but soothing tone, he talked Horace down from his intended act of violence, repeating Horace’s name several times to try and snap him back to a semblance of sanity. He had his hands up in a calming gesture that reminded me of a lion tamer, and I had the distinct sense that he had more than a little experience dealing with Horace’s unpredictable and disproportionate temper.
One of the other nosy lookie-loos grabbed my arm and gave me a tug. My feet followed along. It had all happened so fast that I was left flabbergasted. My dumbfounded state had been so complete that I suspect my face would’ve been ravaged into ribbons of flesh and rivulets of blood if Horace’s cellie hadn’t shown up.
I couldn’t shake the strange sensation that I had nearly been the architect of my own disfigurement.
When Horace had been my neighbor, he’d heard that my hustle was sewing and had inquired about how I cut my fabric. He fancied himself a bit of a sewer as well. Being a good neighbor, as an act of kindness, I provided him with a razorblade, since I had one I wasn’t using. If I’d known I’d be staring it down as it was waved menacingly by a man with a history of violence and mental illness, I might not have been so kind.
I steered clear of Horace after that, but only had to duck him for nine days because he was hauled to Seg for getting into a fight in the chow hall. In that instance, Horace proved to be far more formidable than his appearance belied—it took two whiteshirts and two sarges to pull him off his victim and subdue him. What was the fight about? What exactly set him off the second time? Someone compared the spilled milk on Horace’s shirt to ejaculate, insinuating that he had recently performed fellatio. The smart-mouthed idiot who said it needed stitches—and that was from damage inflicted only with fists. I shudder to think what Horace could have accomplished with his razorblade.
Watching Anthony make his bed was almost hypnotic. I had a rough time looking away, mesmerized by my own bewilderment. Staring at the complex process, I couldn’t help but silently ask myself: What is wrong with this guy?
To say that Anthony is particular or fastidious is an affront to the English language. Neither description accurately describes the level of his neuroses when it comes to needing everything to be in its right place. His box and living area are obsessively organized, but nowhere are his anal-retentive proclivities more apparent than when he’s assembling his sleeping mat. It could almost be considered a thing of beauty, I think, if there wasn’t something so desperately sad about it.
He begins with a bare mat, with the thick plastic cover he has elected to keep on it, though many convicts illegally alter their mat by removing the cover and discreetly discarding it. The covers are uncomfortable, and in the heat of summer they manage to become both sticky and slick. Inspecting the mat carefully for imperfections, Anthony finally decides to flip the mat and then gives it a series of karate chops before kneading it rigorously, like he’s giving it a complicated and thorough massage.
Once he’s satisfied the mat is properly rubbed down, Anthony takes a blanket and crisply folds it so it is precisely centered on the top of the mat—a half inch clearance on all four sides. Then he does it again with another blanket. And again. All these blankets make a thicker sleeping surface, and provide a place to hide the extra blankets, which are considered contraband. Next, having manhandled the metal bed away from the wall, he drapes a sheet over his top bunk and lets it settle over the sides, like a dainty tablecloth.
What follows always reminds me of a bizarre solo session of duck-duck-goose. Anthony starts moving around the bed—tugging, smoothing, tapping, and pulling at the sheet. Round and round he goes. Then, he darts back in the opposite direction, all while trying to ensure that the sheet hangs just right, with the same amount of material hanging on each side and at each end. This process takes close to ten minutes, during which he’s constantly crouching down then standing on tiptoes, to make tiny nudges and corrections. When he finally gets it laid out to his own personal specifications, Anthony tucks the long sides of the sheet under the mat, but always ends up pulling them back out several times to start over and smooth out wrinkles before trying the process again. Eventually he gets all four sides tucked in and the sheet corners at the foot and head of the bed tied together, so the mat is fully ensconced and the sheet secured to it. Anthony caresses his handiwork like it’s a longed-for lover, smoothing any barely perceptible imperfections he might detect.
Anthony then takes three large bath towels and lays them one at a time over the immaculate sheet, carefully matching their edges so they’re perfectly aligned. This not only adds extra padding to the thin mat, but also keeps the sheets safe from any careless spills of food or drink. (A towel is easier to clean and to replace, but DOC policy allows for new bedding only once per year. In reality, it usually takes longer than that.)
Fluffing his pillow before slipping it into the pillowcase involves more karate-chopping. It’s quite the cardio workout. Once it’s in place on the bed, Anthony then piles two blankets and three towels, all precisely folded and properly perched atop the pillow, until the entire structure stands nearly three feet tall. All the while, there’s a constant smoothing and caressing going on, like Anthony can’t stop his hands from touching what he’s done. All told, Anthony’s bed-making process takes the better part of an hour—forty-five minutes on average.
Anthony never spent time in the military, so that can’t account for his particular and specific bed-making technique. If I ever needed a laugh, the next show was just around the corner because Anthony would strip his bed every single day and wash his sheets. I think he did it just to kill time and give his day some structure. Whatever the reason, seeing him relaxing on top of his freshly made bed with a satisfied grin made me feel a bit mischievous.
One day, walking into his cell, I struck up a conversation and casually rested my hand against the edge of his mat. After a brief pause, I managed to get a finger under one of the towels he was sitting on and nonchalantly curl the edge of one towel under itself. Still talking, I watched as Anthony became more and more uncomfortable until he couldn’t hold eye contact any longer. His gaze darted down to the offending bulge, his fingers quivered and his hands clenched spasmodically as he fought the urge to fix it.
Call me cruel, but I found his obvious turmoil hilarious. A dozen times his eyes roved back and forth, from me to the wrinkle, as he nodded distractedly at our conversation before surreptitiously sliding his hand from his lap and fingering the towel back into place, all while trying to make the motion seem natural. Inside, I giggled with delight.
Shortly after my harmless bit of torture, I ended our talk and pushed off the side of his mat as I left the cell, leaving my handprint disturbing the previously pristine sheet. When I got to the door, I turned and saw Anthony meticulously petting the offending portion of sheet to erase the evidence of my presence. I had to smile at the absurdity of him needing to have his things look just right.
I thank the good Lord above from the depths of my heart that I’ve never had to deal with a hemorrhoid. Of all the various maladies and embarrassing afflictions that have been visited upon me, the dreaded hemorrhoid is one I seem to have dodged entirely.
Billie Iris, on the other hand, did not enjoy my good fortune.
It’s not the kind of medical issue that a macho guy wants to admit to or have to deal with, but once a bloody pustule starts proceeding from the anus, a person’s priorities shift and their proclivities for modesty evaporate. Billie Iris got himself on the sick call list as soon as possible and assumed that a severe situation such as his would be handled delicately and professionally. Instead, after the doctor stared into Billie’s anal area for a suspiciously lengthy period of time, he instructed his secretly terrified patient to finish stripping and gave him a bedsheet to wrap around himself like some kind of prison toga before leaving the dingy exam room.
When the doctor returned, he wore gloves, held a scalpel, and had a nurse in tow who had a stack of gauze in her gloved hands. He didn’t secure his patient’s verbal permission or have him sign anything. The only explanation given of the procedure was, “We have to take care of this now,” before he instructed Billie to lay his chest on the exam table, put his butt in the air, and relax. Excellent bedside manner. There was no sterilization of the room or the region about to be operated on. After the cutting was done and the area had been excised, they taped some gauze to his ass and sent him on his way. They provided no pain meds, ointment, replacement gauze, or any instructions on how to wash and care for the area. The doctor simply told him to get dressed and go back to his cellhouse.
Billie Iris awoke the next morning with his boxers and bedsheets covered in blood. This was enough to convince the C/O that he had an emergency situation on his hands, and he hurried the understandably freaked-out Billie back to Healthcare. When Billie returned to the house, he was loaded down with plastic bed covers, gauze, plastic undergarments (essentially diapers), and the generic answer to all prison maladies: Ibuprofen. Each passing day saw Billie, who was usually a fairly easygoing guy, become more worried and frantic. He couldn’t get any relief. He was constantly making trips back and forth to Healthcare for resupply and to complain about the pain and unsanitary nature of his predicament, but he could never get a straight answer from Healthcare staff as to what his affliction was, how serious it was, and how best to care for it and/or treat it. After a week of this, in desperation, Billie Iris sought my aid and opinion.
As I’ve said before, I am not a medical professional. I don’t know what it is about me, but people seem to seek out and value my feedback on a plethora of issues and topics. It’s not that I act like a know-it-all—at least I don’t think I do. I hope I don’t. Regardless, I have that effect on people. In the case of Billie Iris, my approachability apparently made him feel secure enough to ask me to have a gander at his sphincter. Lucky me! Since I’m sympathetic to those who suffer at the hands of the largely callous and indifferent prison healthcare system, I agreed to lend my friend my eyes. This was not something I particularly wanted to do or ever thought I would be doing, but that’s the price you pay when you’re such an amiable guy.
“We’ll do this quick, okay? On the count of three.” Billie Iris was facing away from me, his shirt pulled up to the middle of his back. His thumbs were tucked into his pants, ready to drop them, but he craned his head around at the sound of my voice. We made eye contact, and it was awkward. He was scared. I was scared and freaked out, too. He nodded his head at me. “Okay, let’s do this quick,” he agreed. With a deep breath to steady myself, we began.
“One.” I didn’t know why I was doing this. “Two.” He leaned further forward so his butt was higher in the air. I really didn’t want to do this. “Three.”
After a moment of hesitation, his pants dropped to just below his cheeks, and I got to witness his affliction in all its brutal glory. I gagged and retched in my mouth before rather indelicately exclaiming: “Dude, that is not good at all. That is nasty. They gotta do something for you.” It didn’t exactly put him at ease, but I was merely giving my knee-jerk reaction to the horror show before me.
I honestly can’t say what I had expected to see, but I doubt my darkest nightmares could have prepared me for the view before me. Protruding from the wrinkled flesh adjacent to his puckered anus was what looked like a bloody tongue, or a sloppy flap of pastrami. It flopped and wobbled almost three inches out from the surface of his skin.
Due to its position, it was entirely impossible not to soil the protuberance during defecation and the wiping process afterward. It appeared to be a perpetually bloody open sore. This suspicion was confirmed, as it left red smears against his pale white ass. Somehow mesmerized, I stared at the monstrosity as if looking into the face of some alien evil. I might have continued staring if Billie Iris hadn’t pulled up his pants and broken the spell the malevolent little bugger seemed to have on me.
“Yeah, man, they gotta do something for that. Stay on top of them, man,” I said. It’s the best I could come up with. Then I got outta there.
For months, Billie Iris was in a battle with Healthcare, constantly seeking further medical attention that they never provided. The doctor merely told him to push the unnatural bulge back inside his body and leave it alone. He was strung out on pain meds and laxatives to make his evacuations less traumatic and lessen his straining from constipation, which I suspect may have been a factor in creating his nasty anal node in the first place. Through it all he continued having to sleep on plastic, wear diaper devices to catch his blood flow, and slather the ugly thing in hemorrhoid cream.
The experience changed his easygoing personality. He constantly talked about his medical woes and the latest news on that front. As much as I felt sorry for the guy, it got to the point that I dreaded him coming around because I was sick of hearing about it. Once he contacted a law firm that does pro bono medical malpractice cases. He requested copies of his medical records, which he was entitled to under the Freedom of Information Act. In reviewing these documents, he was flabbergasted to find that there was no record of the illegal surgery performed on him, on site and without his permission. This apparent conspiracy and cover-up only provided fodder for his ranting complaints.
Billie Iris went home six months after I had peered into the face of evil erupting from his sphincter, and I was glad to see him go. I was glad not only because someone going home always reminds me that I too am leaving one day, but also because I wouldn’t have to listen to him prattling on endlessly about his problems. When he left he was still bleeding from his ass and planning a big lawsuit. I wished him all the best, told him to be good.
I wish this type of medical malfeasance were an aberrant occurrence, but when a man is reduced to a number, a faceless commodity, it becomes easy to justify treating him with a shocking level of indifference.