Saturday, February 9, 2013

Genius of Love (The Tom Toms)

Today's adventure was visiting my friend in jail. Yes, I visited a buddy in jail. Yes, I have shady friends sometimes. Well, he wasn't shady. He had a history of drug abuse and didn't want to get hooked on vicadin and accidentally sold to an undercover cop. Then he was put in a drug program where he absconded on a twenty four hour pass and relapsed and missed court. After being on the run for seven days he ended up in MDC-Manhattan Detention Complex.

Getting to MDC in the show was a trip but it was no biggie. I am a Northern East Coast Woman. I am used to snow. I debated whether or not to go but his mother had been talking me all week and they couldn't go because of the snow. Plus I missed my buddy who was so proud of me for writing my book and my puppet stuff. And this was my big chance to see him before he went to Rikers which by the way is a pain in the ass to get to. My mom didn't want me to go and said just wish him well. But I figured what else was I supposed to do? So I decided to go.

Walking into MDC I felt immediately like I was in jail. Maybe it was the metal detectors. Maybe it was the guards. Maybe it was being told I needed a locker for my cellphone and that I had to turn it off. When I went to get my pass they asked who I was going to see, and they didn't want the name but rather my friend's case number. It is weird saying you want to see someone and then calling off their case number. In some ways it is inhumane, doesn't even give them a proper identity. It's like they don't matter. They aren't a person. So many times organizations try to pitch and say that their customers aren't just a number. But here you are a number. After all, it is jail.

They asked me what my relationship was and I said friend. The guard shrugged and did a double take. They are used to women trying to get away with the bare minimum of clothing probably referring to themselves as girlfriend to see the male inmates. My buddy is gay. None of that would be happening here. I didn't want to tell the guard that, but my buddy's parents had been in all week and now they know them by name. Fortunately his mother is understanding about drugs and addiction, not many people's are.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign of what to do in the event of an inmate suicide. Wowsa, welcome to jail. People got depressed and killed themselves here. While the guards for the most part were kind to me because I showed manners I could tell they could be SOB's sometimes. Then again, they were well paid SOB's. They had to be SOB's. You don't go to jail because you were singing in the choir or skipping through daisies. It is a kind reminder that you broke the law. End of story.

After being processed I was in a waiting room watching the news. My stomach began to do flip flops. I had this feeling of doom. For some reason, although I had no reason to be scared, I feared they would get me for something. As a kid I always feared the principal's office and now it was like being in the principal's office but as an adult. Wait, this was worse than a principal's office. I didn't want to move for fear of being chastised. Another woman sat in the waiting area with me and flashed me a knowing, sympathetic smile. We were both there for the same thing. We both knew. The air in a jail is different. This is a place where you are told what to do, where to go, and freedom is another word for nothing left to lose in the words of Janice Joplin. Wait, freedom, what is that? That is what I have. My buddy, not so much. He got credit for time served but they were really thinking of throwing the book at him.

The lighting in a jail is different too. Most places try to have as much light as possible, happy if you will. Jails are kind of dark and scary. Sort of like the Shashank Redemption. My buddy's mother mentioned when you see an inmate you have to put a quarter in a locker and then put your stuff in there, but you get your quarter back or leave it for someone else out of good will. She leaves it for someone else. It's because it's the only ray of light there is in a jail. Sometimes, that person used all the money that they had to see their loved one locked up. I could only imagine the stress the family of the accused feels sometimes, and the stigma of guilt depending on the crime under charge.

Of course there are vending machines. Why have real food when you can have junk? Of course they serve the prisoners slop of some sort that is probably not fit to feed anyone or anything human. But this is the state, they barely view prisoners as human. To them they are a waste of space. Granted, many are. But some like my friend are drug offenders who are running from their demons and use a controlled substance to deal with their pain. Unfortunately Mother Justice does not understand depression and self-medication. If she did my former lover boy Holden Caulfield would not have had as many brushes with the law as he did. They say she is blind. Bitch is more like Helen Keller. On the walls of course were posters with slogans like It's Nice to Be Important But It's Important To Be Nice. Followed by Reach For The Sky and You Might Get the Stars, etc. I felt like I was in grade school again. But then again this was a place where perhaps they had to go back to basics. There were children's books which was nice I suppose.

My name was then called and off I went to see my buddy. I was escorted into a room with mostly playschool type tables and chairs and was directed where to go. The vibe of the place makes you comply. The guards have their eyes open and you don't even want to turn your head in the wrong direction. While it seems facist in some ways there are reasons for this. Security reasons. The lady guard asked me if I needed to go to the restroom before I went. I could tell she knew I was scared out of my wits. I did and my stomach in a response released stress related bile. The bathroom was disgusting, probably never cleaned. But this is jail. No one cares about you when you are in jail, remember? When I exited the rest room I felt better. I think they knew at this point I wasnt smuggling drugs or weapons in. I just wanted to hug my buddy, that's all.

My buddy came out wearing a lime green jump suit and was happy to see me and thanked me several times and mentioned he would not forget this visit in the cold. He seemed in good spirits and mentioned they changed his anti-depressant. Then like a good gay man he asked if he had circles under his eyes. I asked if I had woken him up and he said no, the timing was perfect. The reason I had come so early was because I knew around ten or eleven everyone and their damn mother would be there and I wanted to beat the foot traffic. While I was low drama it wouldn't be the same for everyone visiting. I bet around noon the fights with the female guards start because someone brought lipstick. My buddy had his hot coca and was happily up. He mentioned that his mother was losing her blessed mind which was true. I had been talking to her all week. She was a nice lady but losing her mind, after all, her kid was looking at some time and up to a week ago they were recommending a year. Plus with all the television shows about jail like Lock Up Raw it's easy to get scared. Not to mention my friend is gay and in jail, which either isn't a problem or puts a bullseye on your forehead.

I had written my boy a letter about a week ago and he mentioned he had written me but had no envelopes or stamps. Those things happen in jail. I told him lime green was a good color for him and we laughed about it. I teased him and said with a color choice like that he was obviously gay.

My buddy mentioned he was happier in jail than he was in his drug program. He said he liked the structure of jail and played cards and stuff with the other inmates. I teased him because he likes black guys and told him he was probably having the time of his life. We both laughed at that, because in part it may have been true. Yes, it is racist to assume the slew of black guys in jail are all gay but some of them are operating on the downlow. Then my buddy mentioned one Spanish guy with gold teeth had been hitting on him all week, tapping him on the shoulder and then when my buddy turns his head running in the other direction. I teased him about this dude liking him. We also laughed about how this was not the game to play in jail because flirt with the wrong person and you might meet with your end via shank. However, I also cautioned my buddy that there were three places never to find love: Drug/Alcohol Twelve Step Meetings, Rehab, and Prison. A guy from the TC he had deviated from was dating this other chick there and well, we had a laugh about this romance destined for disaster and doom.

Just then, we both looked around the room and the majority of guys in there were with female visitors. Some of these dudes were holding their hands and some of these women were getting that middle school droopy affectionate. I made a joke with my buddy that I should just start kissing him to make things awkward. We both agreed we shouldn't but laughed. Behind us there was a cute guy with a girlfriend who wore these tight assed jeans which she was probably given shit about upon walking in. My buddy observed that he was hot. Sure, he was hot but a little too gangsta for my type. Anyway, my buddy being his ever homo self began checking him out with me. We giggled like little school girls. I was surprised I didnt see former boyfriends personally. I mean, once I was watching a Lock Up Raw about Rikers and saw a lesbian chick I knew who used to beg for change in Chelsea. Hell, these things happen to me and only me it seems.

As I laughed and giggled with my buddy whether it was about the hottie and his gal pal or people we knew in general I began to forget I was visiting someone in jail. Even as he glanced at the clock knowing the hour would come to an end at some point it didn't feel like I was in the slammer. My buddy was making me laugh and we were having a good time just like we used to on Monday nights before his arrest. Nevermind I was dressed down no makeup and in jogging pants that hadn't been washed in some time. Nevermind he was talking about how he needed desperately to dye his hair back to brown from his salt 'n' pepper color. I was having a good time on a Saturday morning with my friend, and didnt even care that it was in jail. Even as he mentioned that the perspective cell/tier mates ranged from petty thieves to people charged with rape, rape/murder, or just plain murder we were having a ball. He told me he could sleep all day if he wanted or play cards with other inmates, whatever.

Just then the hot gangsta guy who was disgustingly kissing on his Boo playfully slapped her and the female guard said, "Dont you do that!" The room turned like WTF? Everyone got silent. This was strange. They say when things get silent in jail it is a bad thing. Something happened. I asked my buddy what happened who saw the whole thing out of the corner of his eye and he said the guy had playfully slapped the girl. I was like wowsa. And then my buddy added, "He is so cute that he can punch me anytime he wants." And then we both burst out laughing. I mentioned I was glad I didn't see any old boyfriends of mine and we both laughed again.

While gangsta boy was probably no homo with his gal pal he looked like he was a pro at this. I have a feeling he might be meeting my buddy for a love connection later. I mean it is jail. It could happen, especially if the gangsta boy is going away for sometime and won't see a woman and every man has his needs. Then my buddy asked how the snow had hit us and if it had stuck. Then it occurred to me that he didn't know because jails are not notorious for windows. I looked around and saw a window in the back, but there were probably no windows elsewhere. I told him it wasn't so bad in the city but it was probably bad where his parents were in Queens.

They gave us fifteen extra minutes on our visit which was nice of them, probably because my buddy is a good prisoner and I was well behaved, plus there weren't a lot of people there. My buddy then mentioned he had to pee like a race horse. Some of it is a combo of his meds and probably the hot chocolate he had drank before my arrival finally catching up to him. But I knew in the back of my mind the awkward departure was the fact that eventually he knew I would have to say goodbye and he would eventually have to go back to where he was housed, a jail cell. I know there was a part of him that envied the fact I got to leave and skip in the snow, even if it was a blizzard where my feet could get wet. He couldn't. While he is a gay gay he is still a guy, and departing from a jail visit isn't easy. I told him to go pee. I knew he would have to and I knew the awkward outros weren't him. This was part of his way of dealing with where he was, and while he was in good spirits no one wants to be seen or remembered as an inmate at Manhattan Detention Complex. While they had received good ratings on Yelp I can tell this is not the fine dining Manhattan is known for.

My friend then told me once again like he had at the beginning of the visit that he would never forget this. I know he won't. I often joked he was my gay husband. He'll be out in June and then we can hang out all the time like we used to on Monday nights. Maybe I can even go to Fire Island with him when the weather permits. I have always wanted to go and believe it or not as a fag hag I have never been.

 Either way, I had to wait to be released after he left. After all, you are in jail. As I was reminded I was told I could depart. I walked back through the dim lighting, got my things, and then my cellphone. Upon leaving, one step away from freedom, I was reminded again when the guard asked me not to touch that key when the door wouldn't open. I asked her if I could turn my cellphone on in the building and she said no. I had to wait until I got outside. I thanked her, wished her a good day, and left. As I was on my way out more people were on their way in to see a friend, family member, or loved one whatever. Some knew their sentence, others did not. Either way, while my buddy says his mom is freaking out I can understand why. It must be stressful as hell to have a kid in jail. I was just a friend getting to walk back into freedom. Imagine being a parent knowing your child can't.

There was a pang of guilt that hit me as soon as I walked back into the sunshine that I had never felt before. The guilt that I could leave while my buddy was damned to stay. Also the hatred of drugs and addiction and what they did to people. My buddy has a good heart but unfortunately has a drug problem. As a result he is in jail and his family is losing their ever blessed mind. While my buddy seems to be taking it in stride his mother isn't. Part of it might be his way of dealing, but maybe it hasn't hit yet. While his mother seems used to her son's battle with drugs, it probably still breaks her heart. Actually, I know it does. She told me so during the three times we spoke.

As the sun shone in my direction the guilt melted and was replaced by gratitude. I was not only grateful for my freedom, but grateful for all the good things I was doing with my freedom. It was also a gentle reminder to exercise good judgement at all times because as my mother used to say, "You don't have to work that hard to fuck up your life."I also realized my buddy wouldn't want me to feel guilt because he was so proud of me for the way my life was going. Once I didnt want to talk about my book and he stopped me and said, "You need to. You need to let people know they can do these things with their lives, April."

Before he got locked up my buddy had started my book and thought it was so special I was using my talents to make people's day, and was the first to describe my book as a "feel good book." I found myself saying a prayer for my friend and his gentle spirit, asking God to guide him in the process get his perspective shit together and to be able to say no to drugs for good. I also found myself hating drugs and what they did to people and their lives. How they stole time, ripped families apart, and just destroyed lives and everything else in their path as they held souls captive essentially like demons from hell. Walking to the subway I smelled that someone had lit a joint and it made me sick, so sick I wanted to smash something. This was the shit that was costing my friend his freedom and the word felony on his record forever. Sure, it was Tina that was his drug but I was not in the mood for Mary Jane or her lighthearted, Scooby Doo watching antics or any other controlled substance or their street name at that moment in time.

As promised I called my buddy's mom who was grateful I visited and was having her driveway shoveled. Because my buddy can't have things with writing on them in jail, his mother is reading my book currently. She had picked it up amongst his other things from his drug program and security wouldn't let her take it into the jail. While it merely had a message to my buddy for his birthday they couldn't allow it because of all the gang stuff that occurs in jails. I hope she enjoys it. She seems very nice and perhaps this will be the laugh she needs in this desperate hour of stress and darkness. I know he doesn't mean to cause her pain and even said so during the visit that it breaks his heart he does this, but addiction is an evil disease. With that, I gave God an extra thank you for my freedom and therefore promised to make better choices than I ever had and to be more responsible with it. Not that lately I have been making bad choices, but we could always be a little smarter. We all take our freedom for granted until we lose it.

To detox I went to lunch with my girlfriends. One had jury duty this week and had been turned away, too many jurors and not enough cases. The one case was the cannibal cop. While my lady friend had been glad she was turned away, she was like wowsa. I wonder if the Cannibal Cop is at MDC. I wonder if my buddy will think he is hot. Or better yet, according to court documents he is straight. What if I have a shot with that hottie? I think I better go back so I could bump into him. Oh no, maybe I better stay away for some time because I have a weakness for bad boys and outlaws. I will be sending him my panties and the next thing I know roasting on a spit as he eats my brain. Or maybe he will find love and marry my buddy and be the husband his mother wants him to have. I know, my buddy and I are friends for a reason. Okay, neither one of us make the best choices but still, we have a weakness for a hot guy even if he likes a little flesh with a side of fava beans a la Lector.

Either way, I can't wait for my boy's release in June. And perhaps this time things will go right and he will get it right. Cause the hot boys will be running about and maybe we can both get one, preferably with lots of money. Cause in the words of the Tom Toms, "What's you gonna do when you get out of jail? I'm gonna have some fun."

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Paperback available through 877-Buy-Book,
Ebook available through Kindle and Nook
Watch for the audio book
Portion of the proceeds go to RAINN

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