Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Prison Pen Pals

Several years ago, I was in a bizarre place with my life. Let’s just say my bad boy phase was hit with a bottle of Miracle Grow. I had the former fiancé who was insane and I still have a different mailing address because of. Then after him I had a string of guys on the fast track to no where. Why make one bad decision when you can make a thousand? Of course, after dating a string of defendants I decided to date a defense lawyer. Oh my gosh, he fulfilled the stereotype that all lawyers do is LIE, LIE, LIE!!! This one was supposed to be my rainbow on the Lucky Charms box. No such luck. He was bigger dirt bag than the rest of them.

After we broke up, I was kind of hurt in a way I had never been. This was the one who had the job, had the apartment, was the thing that made my parents relieved that I wasn’t on the same collision course some of my female relatives are with men. Truth, I had cheated during the relationship several times. Still, I felt as if I had let my family down and failed by not sticking it out with this dude, marrying him, and having his kids. Did I love him? I loved the idea of what we had, not how he subtly treated me like a second class citizen and I was so used to that I just let it go.

Of course, looking back, the thing that almost made this near disaster possible was that I didn’t have much of a dating history before my fiancé. In high school guys didn’t talk to me unless they needed answers for English or history homework. Even Bobby Parker, the chain smoking Caddy driving parent’s nightmare that liked me had a girlfriend in another district, and an official relationship never transpired. In college I wasn’t much of a dater until I met the trust funder with the nice apartment and wanted the benefits of being my boyfriend without the responsibility, but even the shelf life on that wasn’t long. So when I got engaged I had very little relationship experience, which is in part why that conflagration happened.

So after some thinking, I talked to a friend I had then named Bettina. A chain smoker who worked as a hairdresser in Queens, Bettina had a similar history when it came to men. We had met when she did my hair and makeup for a short film once upon a time and stayed in touch. Her fiancé could have been mine, except she got a kid out of the deal which kind of sucked. The dude was a deadbeat and refused to work, so she was rocking the single mother thing. Anyway, Bettina was writing a guy in prison. He seemed like the suave  gentlemen women always dream of. Bettina’s beau was in on a drug related charge, and actually seemed rather nice through the letters he wrote.

After ending things with the fiancé, before being swayed by the criminal lawyer who lied worse than his clients, I had dated a few guys out of jail. They are the only ones okay with a girl who’s ex is stalking her, and don’t run like they saw Godzilla. Most decent dudes do, and with good reason. The guys I dated that were out of jail were fun, and didn’t want anything serious. I am actually still friends with a few of them. What made things worse was around this time I found out the lawyer/liar was lying about the reason he broke up with me as well, causing several people who I am no longer friends with anyway to keep their distance. Me having a beefy, manly, muscle driven man would make him so damn jealous and make him pay for lying about me.

Plus I felt more at home with bad boys anyway. Growing up all the so called normal kids were mean to me, and the bad boys never were. They kind of left me alone. The so called screw ups talked to me in study hall, and one kid from a foster home caught another idiot making fun of me. The group home kid decked the idiot. I thought it was so romantic. Needless to say they kicked the kid out of school, damn them.

Either way, bad boys and I always connected. Even in high school when I was on the honors track, we always knew each other in the hall. I wasn’t a big dater then as I mentioned, so I wasn’t a party girl. Sometimes, it was as if they liked me more because of that. My parents were super strict, keeping us under lock and key. The only time my siblings and I could get out was to go to school, our numerous after school activities, and other volunteer work. While time with friends was occasionally allowed, it was on a very limited basis. My mother’s belief was leisure time was the devil and got kids into trouble. Even though I was popular at certain points for all the things I did and had friends in the so called “in crowd,” I always felt like a perpetual outsider.

Looking back, they were perpetual outsiders too. Instead of having no freedom, they had too much. Maybe that’s why Mark McAdams, the class president who I adored, thought it was like being told he had cancer when he found out I had a mega crush on him. On  the other hand, I was walking home from school helpless in the rain. Bobby Parker rolled up in his Caddy, cigarette out of mouth. I jumped in off we went. To them I was chronically helpless and they were my rescuers. And that spawned Bobby Parker fighting with the rest of the degenerates over our friendship. It wasn’t because we were friends, it’ because he got the idea first.

That is when I got the website name from Bettina and decided to go for it. Sure, I was going to pursue men on the outside, but who’s to say I didn’t have a friend on the inside. While things heated up with Bettina’s man, she had still been dating other dudes that weren’t incarcerated before things became official. Either way, it would be nice to have a dude that wouldn’t judge me. All the lawyer and his friends did was judge me. They judged my career, my friends, the mistakes I made. It was as if they had this comfortable superiority. The cons weren’t going to judge me. When you have robbed a bank, burned down a house, trafficked drugs, and killed a few people, you kind of lose that right along with many others the law strips away.

As I went through the profiles, I looked at the photos of each offender. Some looked as if they used their time in prison to get buff. I liked to weight train. Maybe this could be an ice breaker. Others wanted to look more soulful and thoughtful, probably so the ladies would send them money and naked pictures. I had a feeling my pen pal might be asking me for those, but maybe not. Under each photo, the men had whether or not they wanted money or legal help. While all answered no, it was probably a yes.

There was one bank robber who stole my heart, no pun intended. He had piercing dark eyes and a goatee. The man was doing ten years and was more smoking than the pistol he fired. I figured I might write to him.

Under him was an arsonist doing 300 years for burning down a series of buildings. The guy had a tattoo on his face and looked completely psychotic, but in that smoke and fire kind of way. He freely admitted he wanted money and legal help. The dude was honest. While the bank robber was cute, this man was forthcoming which is sexy. Maybe this was my prison pen pal. I was sold. Quickly, I drafted my first letter. Hey, I figured the second he got annoying I could just stop writing.

I had my battle plans until hanging out with my late friend Chacho Vasquez. A former drug dealer, Chacho had since stopped living the life but still acted as if he did. More often than not he would say, “Those bitches, they underestimate me. But I have a lock in my sock and I am ready to rock.” Then he would get out his nail file and go to town, always looking his best. That’s when I would laugh. Sure, Chacho had street swagger and didn’t snitch, but he was as gay as a storm of Skittles and Starbusts.

I told Chacho of my plans during one of his nail filing sessions. As I spoke, Chacho snapped, “Are you fucking stupid?!” Chacho was so aghast he dropped his nail file. This was serious. Then he screamed, panicked, because his nail file had touched the ground. FYI, despite all of his exploits Chacho was a germophobe.

“I would just be writing him a letter.” I told him. “It’s not like I am marrying him.”

Chacho then said, “No, you won’t be marrying him. Instead he will just want money and naked pictures. They all want money and naked pictures just so you know. All you will be doing is spending all his money on him. He should be spending money on you. Don’t be stupid.”

Chacho informed me he knew this from his own experience in the joint. He had seen multiple inmates write to multiple women, and many even concocted little hustles with each side piece he had writing. As he enlightened me, Chacho finished by saying, “And just so you know, before you think his feelings are real for you, after he seals the letter he is meeting me in the shower for some rubber ducky time. Yeah, and he says he’s not gay.” An evil grin spread across Chacho’s face as he finished with the kisser on this new bulletin from the shady. Then my Cuban Ratso Rizzo broke into a cackle seeing I was shocked silent and I sat there slack jawed. He always did this when he knew what he said was too much for words.

 “Why do you think they keep coming back to jail? They keep getting caught because they like the treats.” Chacho explained after he was done laughing maniacally.

Then Chacho told me as a teenager, after being kicked out of his Washington Heights home for being gay, he wrote a murderer who was locked up in Sing Sing. Apparently he got the dudes address from one of his drag sisters who was dating the dude before he was arrested. Anyway, at first things were rosy until this dude insisted Chacho sent him money. “I said bitch, I run my own hustle. I work hard. No hand outs here.” Now I was laughing. Chacho had a point there. Granted, it was a dull one on the end of the pencil, but he had a point.

Sure, Chacho had a head filled with awful decisions himself. Some landed him in jail. Others in the hospital. Then there were those that made him homeless quite frequently. However, in some twisted, odd, and ultimately surreal way Chacho was the voice of reason in this scenario. Chacho of course reminded me that a man’s only purpose in my life should be to spend all of his money on me, take me to fancy eateries, and of course high end vacations. It should not be the other way around. While I am not sure whether or not that is completely true, one thing was for certain, he had stopped a craptacular decision in it’s tracks. Yeah, the lawyer diminished my already fragile ego and kicked my self-esteem which was already dented. However, getting a prison pen pal was not the answer to my problems. 

Chacho also assured me that the lawyer would get his, and downgrade to some "worthless fat idiot." At the time this made me laugh, because Chacho never liked him. Turned out my dearly departed friend was right on this as well. Thank God I didn't degrade myself just to get back at a worthless mouth breather that had a decent job. 

 Bettina looked down upon Chacho and called him a disaster criticizing the frequent food stamp using Louis Vuitton wearing indigent whenever she could. But in the ultimate turn of fate, Chacho would call the disaster play for play that became her life.  Bettina would end up marrying her prison pen pal, and they posed for photos in front of backdrops containing butterflies, bridges, and streams, symbols of the freedom they robbed their way out of, no pun intended. Five months into the marriage, she discovered he was writing other women. To make matters worse, he had her cash a series of money orders in a fraudulent scam that left her high and dry. Oh, and she found all of this out when she got a call from his boy toy on the inside who had developed feelings and was sick and tired of being the second best kept secret. Needless to say, Bettina and her drug trafficker divorced citing irreconcilable differences.

After that, Bettina began seeing an 17 year old who dropped out of high school and sold weed. Seeing she was on the fast road to no where, I began to distance myself from her. While the convict pen pal had been a disaster that should have gotten her an award, this was just plain sad. Not to mention now I was starting to make decisions like someone with a more sane head on her shoulders. Last I heard, Bettina was dating a Latin King. Sigh, and I thought I liked them bad.

I was telling my gay hairdresser friend Carter about my almost prison pen pal experience and the Ballad of Bettina. A little background on Carter, originally from Central Florida, he was mainly raised by extended family because his mother that he no longer speaks to is insane. As we spoke, Carter revealed his mother was a serial prison pen paler. Not only did she routinely write men in prison, but even invite one to live with them when Carter was a kid. The whole thing was a complete disaster, and the dude left after nine months for a better meal ticket.

As if that wasn’t enough, Carter’s mother felt the men in the Florida penitentiary were the problem, not the fact she was writing convicts to begin with. So she began writing inmates in the Midwest. To be with her former burglar that she had become enchanted with, Carter’s mother pulled him out of school and moved house to Kansas City. This too was a disaster. Carter didn’t adjust well, and since all of her money was going to buy her beau whatever because he wouldn’t work Carter went without winter clothes. The whole thing literally exploded when the dude’s former cellie came to visit and the arsonist on parole burned their house down. Mother stayed behind, and Carter returned to Florida to finish high school. Now I know why they don’t speak. He’s better off without his mother.

Looking back, it can all be explained quite simply. Love makes people do crazy things, and heartbreak makes you more crazy and desperate. Bettina, Carter’s mom, and I were just three heartbroken women. Bettina had been engaged to a psychotic loser who refused to work, and had terrible luck when it came to men. Carter’s dad had been a drug addict who left the family and ultimately committed suicide. I had a crazy fiancé and just bad luck with men in general. Eventually, you are so used to table scraps that crumbs don’t seem so bad. At least a crumb is just a crumb, and knows it’s a damn crumb.

While I have firmly put my foot down that the future Mr. April Brucker will not wear prison orange and be housed in a state pen, I know one thing is for certain. There is a country song in here somewhere. I have already recorded one. Maybe it is time for “Hell No, Joe” to have a B-Side. What can I say? Bad decisions equal good stories.

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