Thursday, April 28, 2016

William Myrl; Letters to No One (50)

Dear No One,
Squim was a young man of color with a rape charge. He didn't talk to me at first, and I don't make a habit of going beyond pleasantries with most people. At some point, he discovered that I was what you would call an "active listener", nodding at all the right moments and never expressing disinterest. This is a good way to collect stories. He gave me his in driblets, and we didn't work our way around to his crime until some months later. There had been a party, and he had had sex with a girl there, as had his friend, apparently at the same time. His contention was that they, or his friend, had promised the girl drugs and then renigged. Afterward, the charges has been filed. Knowing the young man, I doubted he had intended to harm the victim, but an encounter doesn't have to be violent to be rape. Like most such cases, it is impossible to say what happened in reality. Over a game of spades someone else confided that Squim must have done something really bad to the girl for her to charge him. This fellow knew her, and he said a bottle of liquor was a sufficient bid for temporary use of her mound of Venus. There's only so much stock to be put in these kinds of statements. The whole affair is not uncommon, an unpaid bill is among the most often utilized explanations for a victim's allegations. Statistically, I imagine it must be true of some cases, but only some. Rape, like robbery, often occurs without any outward sign of savagery, as the intimidated party submits. The victims are no less victims for their quiet. 
I was taken to another county jail for a few days when I was formally indicted on my second robbery. I stayed in a holding cell for three days so I could meet my public defender there. Overall, my experience with public defenders has felt positive. It isn't that they don't want to help you, it is that they can't. Mr. Love (no kidding) really seemed to care. He met with me in a perfunctory fashion, going through all the relevant details and making sure I knew a plea deal was my only realistic option. His assistant came the next day, and I said some things to her that apparently caught his attention. He came back the third day, and we talked more. We talked about robberies, and I expressed my feeling that what I had done wasn't the same as taking from a person. He asked if that was because they were big corporations with insurance and I said not exactly. It was different because the money didn't exist while it was in the bank, that by taking money from the bank and putting it into circulation I was creating value. Note that I am not expressing my current beliefs on the matter, only recounting what was said by a nineteen year old to his lawyer at that time. I know there is no excusing my behavior, much as my cellmate was not excused because he did not feel like he was raping his victim. I had told his assistant about my writing habit, the first story I did was a parody of Dante's Inferno. He asked about it when he came back. I wasn't in a great state by then, I still wasn't acclimated to my incarceration, and moving and being in an empty holding cell for three days hadn't helped anything. They felt sympathy for me, which was nice. 
When I was taken back to my own jail, and back into intake, sadly, I wrote them a fourteen page letter and sent it out the following day. This is how I ended up getting my first psych evaluation.

William Myrl

William Myrl; Letters to No One (49)

Dear No One,
Blinky was what he sounded like. A young man with a tic, someone who would spend most of his life doing his time a year or a few at a time. Life on installment plan, is the usual phrase. He may have been there on arson, or a probation violation, or something in between. People knew him, and there were rumors that he had been raped before, but that's the sort of thing inmates say about people like him, in the same way they say people like me are gay. Its profiling, of a kind. He probably was an abuse victim, whether it started in jail or in childhood I'll never know. My first interaction with him was being taken in by a scam, though an admittedly harmless one. They passed out razors once a week so we could shave, and they took your name down so you had to turn them hack in. I wasn't going to use mine, and he said he needed an extra one to help shave his head. I had met him a few hours before, but I had a real problem with refusing small favors then, still do to an extent. So I gave him mine, and half an hour later he gave me back the pieces. It was all there, but we weren't supposed to break them. He hadn't broken his own, because he didn't want to get in trouble with the CO. When I turned in the pieces, the CO said something about destruction of state property. I wasn't ever served with the charge (institutional infractions can be written for nearly anything, not having your shirt tucked in, for example. They usually aren't.), but I was duly flustered for the evening. Some amusement was had at my expense, being a new guy, and an obviously new one at that. I was nineteen, with a freshly shaven head and an almost beard, and that wasn't the standout issue. There have been countless conversations that began with someone observing that I looked like I didn't belong. I don't get that so much anymore, maybe because I'm older, or more comfortable with my surroundings. I've never had to live in fear in these places, not really. More it is a sort of disquiet, or anxiety, that prevails when the walls close in. There was quite a bit of that at the maximum security prison I went to after jail (technically supermax, the rating system is wacky), it was difficult to relax. Here its much easier, though certain situations can cause the old tightness in my gut to come back. 
Back to Blinky. He didn't mean anything by the trick, he was just a sketchy kid. We got along well enough after razor incident. Jail time is slow time, and as the days passed I became accustomed to the routines and my place among the regulars. Intake is only a few weeks, and before I had met my first public defender I was put in green and white. It was there I had my first long term cellmate. Let's call him Squim.

Hey, I've found a new song I like. Flowers in Paradise -Ouzokuband
Tell me what you think.

William Myrl

William Myrl; Letters to No One (48)

Dear No One,
The jail in Virginia was an entirely different sort of monster. It was older, dirtier, and more crowded than the one I had lived in awaiting extradition. It served five counties, dividing its occupants into color coded security levels. Intake was the only place where you didn't see stripes, their uniform was a uniform canary yellow set of scrubs. When you first arrive in a jail, they give you a laundry bag with your clothes and maybe a bar of soap and a roll of toilet paper. There is always a rulebook that you need to sign for. The rulebook has nothing to do with anything, but they have to have one. Intake was an open dorm on two levels. There were bunks, but the bunks were all full, so I joined the line of other floor people along the far wall. Mattress and pillow, sickly green and ultimately not that uncomfortable. My frame of reference is skewed from years of sleeping on these things, but I've never been too uncomfortable to lay down.
Someone stole my laundry bag while I was on a court run one day. It took a couple of weeks to get a replacement, in the interim someone let me use theirs a few times. You put whatever you want washed into a bag, send it out in the morning, get it back sometime. The bags all go together in huge machines. This is how it works everywhere I've been in Virginia. Other places do an exchange. They bring around washed clothes, and you give them your unwashed clothes in return. What you wear one week was someone else's the week before. Not a fan.
We all shared toilets, one of the many aspects of open dorm living I do not miss. I suppose I should be grateful that the showers had curtains.
This jail had weekenders, people who paid their debt to the state in two day installments. They always stayed in intake, meaning the population fluctuated pretty heavily based on their presence or absence. They brought butt tobacco with then, and other butt drugs. They were paid for their colonic fortitude by those both in and outside of the jail. The corner I ended up bunking in was also the smoking hotspot, sadly. My sleeping area often served as a bench for the butt tobacco folk. I was once given a "roll-up" for being such a sport about it. I sold it for a bag of candy. Not a great price, I've never been a good negotiator and this wasn't something I wanted to hold onto.
I learned how to play spades there, and it was where people first started calling me bank robber. Interestingly, most crimes don't become monickers. I've never known someone to go by Crack head, or Breaking and Entering, but I've met a number of Bank Robbers, and at least one Murder. It didn't matter who I told my real name to, they knew me by my crime for the two years I was there. Being in the newspaper every time I had a court hearing likely exacerbated the issue. 
There were some interesting characters in intake I never saw again. Tank stands out in my memory. He was big and flabby, tattoos all along his jaw to disguise the fact that he couldn't grow a beard. It was a hormonal thing. Tank had been in the military, allegedly, a lot of folks claim they were in the military. One day he stood at the top of the stairs screaming at someone about the remote. Them was fighting words, but he never cane down the steps, and the other guy never went up. That sort of thing was common, is common still. Afterwards there will always be some reminiscing about the days of yore, when men didn't let such words pass, or if they did, they suffered for it. Maybe its true.
One day at the poker table there was a bit of a kerfluffle. One man threatened another, his brothers by belief joined him. The threatened man revealed a shank, or the tip of one anyway, and all dispersed. My celly said that in the old days, such a thing could not have been let pass. I'm glad these are the new days, where things just blow over.

William Myrl

William Myrl; Letters to No One (47)

Dear No One,
I was telling you about my first jail. There was an old guy there I talked to, played chess with, once I got out of intake. He wasn't good at chess, and neither was I. His name is lost to me, but I remember how he would track stocks in the newspaper. His brother executed trades for him, nothing huge. On days he made money, we heard about it. When he didn't, we didn't. It was his way of maintaining control.
Probably the most memorable event of my stay before extradition occurred in a holding cell. I had pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance for my mushrooms, they gave me time served. My lawyer had done a good job of convincing our prosecutor that it was best to get me out of their hair and into Virginia's as cleanly as possible.
There were maybe eight people in the holding cell. It was loud, and cramped, and a lot of stories. When lunch time arrived, one of the guys asked for my bologna sandwiches. We hadn't gotten them yet, and I shook my head. He repeated his request when the paper bags were passed out. I again declined, and he was slow about shuffling off. I took one of my sandwiches and my apple out, and with my hands thus occupied, he grabbed under my arm for the bag with my other sandwich and took it to his side of the holding cell. I stood up, walked behind him. I don't know if I said anything. His little brother was there, lovely family situation that, and he stood up as the first fellow sat down with the bag. He said something about commissary. I don't know, likely implying that I could go back to my jail and eat out of my box, as the saying goes. I went back to my space on the bench, and ate what I had already taken out of the bag. One of the other inmate split a sandwich with me.
Eventually we all went back to where we came from. I think this is the only time I have ever been robbed, and losing a couple of bologna sandwiches in front of strangers I never saw again doesn't count as a trauma. The scene stayed in my head for many days afterward. I imagined attacking the person who had made me feel uncomfortable and powerless. I relived the scene a thousand ways, all of them ending quite differently than the real one did. There is no plausible universe in which I acted wrongly. The answer in life is never fighting over bologna, though I could find opposition to that statement by throwing a rock in the pod. No amount of logic or perspective could shake the shame I felt about what had happened. We are animals, and an animal knows when its been cowed. The material conquest is immaterial, it was made clear that I was not the dominant male in the room. That is what I fantasized about changing through so ridiculous a means as a physical altercation. My first fight, in prison and in life, actually came a few years later, and it was for a better reason.
Three months went by with many more holding cells and strangers with strange ways. I remember the titles of three books I read in that period, and only three. Atlas Shrugged, Youngblood Hawk, and Giles Goat Boy. When I was extradited, I got to wear my own clothes again. It was my favorite shirt, a black T with a big scene from the 1989 transformers movie on it. I had lost weight, so it fit me better than when I was arrested in it.
Do you know about the Protomen? 

William Myrl.

William Myrl; Letters to No One (46)

Dear No One,
I remember how big the first pod I was ever in felt. A fresh jumpsuit, no underwear, and a blanket in my arms, I went to the cell number I had been given. My celly was a man in his twenties, Spanish, with large and lively hair. He had stolen cars, and this was not his first visit to the county jail. We talked a little, not in that first night but in the days afterward. We were in intake, a sort of quarantine with an hour a day out of the cell. The time rotated, so your hour could be in the afternoon, or it could be five in the morning. 
I asked a passing officer what CO meant, we all kept calling them that. My celly hadn't known either.
Correctional Officer, it makes sense. It was a few days before they sent me upstairs to population, and I never saw my first celly again. Jail is like that, people appear and disappear like interviewees on a serial cop drama. I don't know how many people I met in that place. It was three months there before being extradited to Virginia. The jail was a tower built in the middle of the city. Apparently, the feds owned the building and leased it to the county. One never knows. I remember Spider and Jr and Tauro and L. My experiences with the spanish have always been positive, these three (Spider, Tauro, and Jr) were young and outgoing and optimistic. Spider was doing three years for accessory after the fact. A friend of his had killed someone in an altercation and then come to stay the night with him. One assumes he had a good idea of why his friend was laying low. Jr had drug problems, and Tauro? Who even knows. They were my first almost friends in what is now a long history of almost friends.
L was interesting for other reasons. He was a part of a tragically misguided movement that certainly has a name that I certainly don't remember. In brief, the government creates a "straw man" legal entity in the form of your social security number, and it is that "straw man" that falls under the governments legal jurisdiction to prosecute and tax. L knew a lot of legal sounding terminology, and legal sounding arguments. He could quote any number of irrelevant statutes and pretend they were pertinent. I was at the right point in my life to be taken in by this nonsense. It was at the tail end of my anti bank Ayn Rand phase. That lasted the latter half of my teens, sorry to say. 
At that time I was still imagining I would be home in four years. No reason for that number in particular, it was something that seemed long enough to be significant but not too long to be unbearable. The pseudo-paralegal and I had many conversations. My letters from that period are full of that idiocy. The strange part was that I knew how ridiculous it was even while I was writing it down and practicing the dialogue in my cell. There were a set of phrases you were supposed to say during your arraignment that would, through the magic of wordplay, divest you of all charges and give them to your lawyer. (Because a charge is really about money, has a monetary value assigned to it, and your lawyer can be made out as your fiduciary in relation to the charges pending. Its all quite complicated and made up, and I had it memorized at the time.) Its one of the few things I can thank my constitutional passivity for, that I never brought up any of my fresh faux legalese in the actual courtroom. I did mention it to my lawyer once, and got a bunch of paperwork on civil law sent in. Neither sally found its port.
I lost thirty pounds while I was there, all in the first six weeks. I had stopped eating everything but bread and jello. This was good, I had been chubby, and I didn't like it. Thanks incarceration.

William Myrl

Thursday, April 7, 2016

William Myrl; Letters to No One (45)

Dear No One,

Magic: The Gathering is a collectible trading card game, the great strange uncle of all such games. We aren't allowed to buy the cards, but we can purchase information. Families send in lists, or they are bought from the predatory vendors of gaming supplies that cater to inmates. (Noble Knights...Hit Point....) I've begun making my own small collection. Writing out card data on copy paper, using packing tape to give them durability and enough body to shuffle, I have a little treasure box that used to hold saltine crackers. Saltine crackers are fabulous. Its all contraband, because anything modified from its original purpose is contraband. To be clear, if I put a different brand of cracker in the saltine box it would all become contraband in that instant. Fortunately, most correctional officers aren't all that concerned with harmless nonsense. The biannual shakedown would be the greatest chance of loss, but even then, we will probably make it through. And if its all thrown away, the information remains. So we begin again.
Our first eBook should be available on the site by the time you get this. Its just M1, but getting the process down will make publishing M2 and 3 a more streamlined process. Typing on this thing is as fun as ever. Well be putting it up for 3.00, so our cut will be a bit over two dollars a download. I only mention this because that means thirty downloads will be the equivalent of my monthly wages. 
If I ever make more from writing than I do from working I'm quitting my job. That is a squat goalpost, sir. Squat. 
New news. My family can't visit this weekend because there registration expired. You have to put in your paperwork three months ahead of time to be approved as a visitor, and renewals aren't much faster. Why you have to renew anything when you already visit and have your identity confirmed on a regular to semi-regular basis is beyond my puny mortal brain. Another item on the index of uncontrollable phenomenon.
I so want to make these letters interesting, but it isn't an interesting life I live. 
Eternal apologies.

William Myrl