Wow, sometimes the B.O.P. makes it a challenge to keep my cool. Keeping in mind that the guards I interact with daily are just doing their jobs, following orders, helps sooth my frustrations a little. Although it often seems that the most aggravating tactics are meticulously timed for when they'll be the most psychologically devastating. Like pissing in my cornflakes first thing in the morning. Or raiding my cell immediately after I ducked having to tussle with a madman suffering from a bad case of Hulkism.
Walking back to my cell after recreation I observed several trash carts filled with Stuff We're Not Allowed To Have. What's funny is that, mixed in with piles of contraband, I could also see remnants of my once-strong psychological stability. Oh, look - right next to that bag of cereal is my ability to reason properly. And those shoes are stacked right on top of what patience I had left. Hey - that mattress is right underneath my ability to suppress rage. Imagine that!
A-Upper range was in shambles. Scraps of cloth and clothes lay everywhere, some soaking in grimy puddles of I-don't-know-what. And of course my cell was demolished. My old letters lay strewn across the floor like tiles. The mattress on my bunk had been ripped open, the stuffing partially expelled. A small pile of books lay neatly stacked in the back of the shower. They were the only books in the cell. Not good.
Glancing at the titles I noticed: Jeffrey Lent's Lost Nation; 2009 World Almanac; Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus; and Tracy Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring. Those sons of bitches - where's The Creature from Jekyll Island?! The Story of Edgar Sawtelle?! Where are the textbooks for my fucking classes???!!! These cops are playing a dangerous game.
Yes, I know "policy" states that each inmate is only allowed to possess 5 books while in the hole. Yes, I admit that the stack of books piled in one corner of the cell was tall enough to ride the good rides at Disneyland. But these B.O.P. creeps aren't going to get away with picking a few for me to keep and trash the rest. Screw the extra blanket and bottle of bleach which was taken. Don't mess with my literature, though. Serious business. The fact that my books lay in one of those carts mixed in with extra clothes and the remnants of my self-control was too much. Somebody's going to dig through those carts and retrieve every one of those confiscated texts, if the warden herself has to do it. If it's war they want, it's war they'll get.
Hold on, let me stop myself right there. If anybody was going to war, it certainly wasn't going to be me. The last time I tried to "fight the system" was April of last year and that incident ended up with me being kidnapped at gunpoint and put in the hole for what's been a year already. From now on I'll let some other brave soul battle authority. Brave souls are plentiful around here. As the saying goes, the natives were growing restless. Both literally and figuratively. One cell was complaining about a broken radio, another said some of his commissary had been destroyed. Everybody seemed to have a gripe about something. At first there was just some general grumbling and yelling which soon escalated into banging on cell doors. At some point several windows were busted and small fires were started. Then someone set off the fire sprinkler in their cell. Not to put out a fire, just for the flooding effects of the spewing water.
Through the chaos the guards did almost nothing. There wasn't a whole lot they could do except weather the shit-storm and wait until everyone had exhausted themselves. No Ninja Turtles or tear gas, this sort of pandemonium is expected after a big shake-down.
Tuesday morning the prison administration bravely did a walk-through in the hole, walking past every cell at least pretending to listen to the complaints. And you better believe every one of them heard my complaint. Was my name clearly written on the covers? Yes. Do I have shipping receipts proving ownership? Yes. Had I submitted a written request asking for the books to be returned? Several. I earned myself several vague and dubious reassurances that my books were probably moved to the prison library in general population and every effort would be made to have them located and returned.
If I wasn't being told the truth, it was at least what I wanted to hear. But despite this, I felt even more frustrated than I did before. As these sour-faced men with fat stomachs and cheap, ugly suits bobbed their heads at the right times during my bitching session, the infantile quality of my life became brutally apparent just at that moment. As much as I consider myself a man, as much as all of us behind bars consider ourselves men, look at us now. Trapped behind a door wholly dependent on the goodwill of the prison to feed and clothe us. We yell our complaints and requests from the wrong side of the steel, cheep-cheeping like chicks in a nest; completely helpless. In retrospect, this is a realization I should have had somewhere around Day One. But my brain's ability to hide my reality from itself won out for a while.
As it is, my new perspective has had a slightly demoralizing effect on me. I try to search for meaning or moral something along the lines of needing to be broken down to a baby-like state in order to build myself up as a better man, but such logic seems like nothing more than a superficial pacification, not a legitimate analysis.
Compounded with the frustration of the confiscated books and the ebbing anxiety of the Timmy troubles, finally acknowledging my helplessness as a ward of the B.O.P. pushes things over the top to make this a truly crappy week. Yeah, yeah, yeah - I know what you're thinking - if I don't want to be in such an infantile state then I need to quit crying so much. Touché. My response?
Waaaaaaaaaaah, I wanna go home.
This was Whit's last blog entry. Ten days later he was gone from us.