(You can read part one here)
When I returned to my cell, I found that all my prison issue had already gone ‘poof’ by the pilfering populous. But of course! I sat in my cell in the spot where my issue had been, and listened to my cellmate snore violently. I took some toilet paper from the roll attached to the toilet/sink/dishwasher/laundromat, and wadded it to plug my ears… sort of.
“What are you in for, homie?” a brother asked.
“I killed some Arian biker dudes in a bar brawl, but I tell you man… I’m innocent!”
“Que hicistes?” (what did you do) the grinning brother repeated.
“Driving with a revoked license.”
“Shit homie, you be gone tomorrow.” the man sneered and left.
A brother from upstairs came down and inexplicably handed me a pack of ramen noodles and a pack of Doritos chips. “Thank you, brother!” I graced him sincerely.
I laid them on the floor where I typically sat, and wished them the best of luck.
The Mexican news station told of a terrorist attack against a mosque in Canada. I explained to the viewing audience at the table what a mosque was and what the incident was about, what it meant.
An announcement warned of the impending ‘lights out’ and we all meandered to our cells. A CO came in and closed all our doors as the lights faded. My ramen and chips were of course gone now, but it’s not good to eat right before bed, you know?
And then the most unexpected thing happened as I lay on my blanket-less concrete floor listening my lumberjack cellmate: a man from the top floor began to read a passage from the Bible aloud and in English, to the whole of the cell block. “Lord, if you brought me here just to let me listen to this Bible passage… I can think of tons of better places to share your word” I thought.
And then the second most expected thing happened: I fell asleep. I fell asleep despite the hardness of the concrete floor, despite the chilliness of the damp cold, despite the clanking and the groaning of the prison block. Me, the hardcore insomniac that I am… I fell asleep.
In the morning I was awaken by the deafening iron report of the cell block doors being throw open.
“Breakfast!” came a shout, and all we mates filtered from our cells to the common area where the metal picnic table and the TV were. Breakfast was brought to each block in a large rolling cart with slots containing prepared trays. An inmate issued each a plate as we filed by line.
I grabbed my plate and immediately began to skirt a wide margin around and away from the table where inmates were jammed to eat. I skirted along the wall under the stairwell, and along the cells. Hands thrust onto my tray and grabbed at everything. I slapped my left hand over my bowl of cereal to protect it and continued to move quickly toward my cell; I was almost there.
I took my hand away from the top of my bowl momentarily to help steady my tray. A hand plunged into my bowl of flakes, grabbing a hand full. I dropped the tray and grabbed the bowl. Flakes spilled and scattered everywhere. “Now nobody gets any, puto!”
“Cabron!!” I yelled at the claw-handed Ese as he stuffed corn flakes in his hole. I grabbed his jersey at the neck and whacked him hard over the head with the plastic cereal bowl several times. It let out nice ripe peels: “BONK, BONK, BONK!!” He was not injured, but it smarted and his eyes bulged in surprise. All the while he kept chewing. I wound up and threw the bowl hard at his head. I missed.
An Ese in the background neatly scooped the bowl up in his hands where it had rebounded against the wall. He deftly underhanded the bowl to the still chewing Ese.
Now it was the shoe-on-the-other-foot thing going on. He wound up and sent the bowl hurling my way. I turned my back and cringed tightly in a ball. The bowl slapped a glancing blow on my back and careened off.
The bowl pin-balled in the masonry corner, then turned on its side and rolled along the floor in a great arc… all the way back to me. I jerked it up and turned to my target a final time. He was not there, but I reacquired a sight picture where he was scampering up the flight of stairs to the safety of the second floor… like a RAT!!
I flung the bowl with every ounce of my being. I flung the bowl like a master discus thrower at the first ever Olympic games in ancient Greece. I hurtled the bowl with the physical acumen of the greatest frisky thrower of all time. The bowl howled through the air like that guy’s top hat in Gold Finger, the one that sliced through shit. It cut through the stale, humid, stinking air of prison block B… AS IN BOY!!
And I missed again
The bowl, that had carried with it so much hope and expectation, landed not even in the same zip code as its intended target. It smashed into the masonry wall above the flight of stairs, broke into three parent sections and several secondary child fragments, then piddled down the landing.
The block erupted into a great roar worthy of the empirical Roman Colosseum, as if two gladiators had just culminated into a frenzied bathe in blood, triumph, and tragedy.
“Orale vato; asi se hace, gringo!” (Alright, man; that’s how its done!). There was a crescendo of applause that waned in the following seconds. Brothers chatted me up, shook hands, bumped fists.
There were a few pats on the back, chin tips, grins… all gestures of approval, not for warrior-like conduct, but appreciation for comedic break of the prison monotony. That was fine by me; I would take what I could get.
“Lunch!” came the announcement, and we inmates shuffled from cells to take stake in the que. I, guilty of no pretense, remained slumped in my cell.
“Aren’t you going to eat, gringo?” came a shout from the table. “Thou art no craven” reminded a voice in my head, and I rose to the noble call. I walked the arc around the breakfast cart and grabbed the tray that was held out to me.
I extended my arm out over the heads of the dining dudes, and let the tray fall onto the middle of the table with a splash and spill of I have absolutely no Earthly idea what: “Bueno appatito, muchachos!” a bid in my most gringo of drawls. I returned to my cell and sat where my stuff used to sit.
It was then that the third and final most unexpected thing of the entire Tucumcari ordeal happened: an arm reached into my cell, and there at the end of the arm, was my lunch tray contain all the lunch that had not launch on impact with the table.
“My God!” … but it was awful, thought I savored each morsel. In the end I took an orange and a snack cake still wrapped in cellophane, and lay them in the center of the metal table: “Para la casa” (for the house) I announced, and those were promptly claimed ‘by the house’.
Hours later I was finally done with cellblock B as in boy. I had never received any of the medication that was supposed to be issued to me. That, I could feel for myself as my head seemingly flickered rapidly off and on when I turned it too quickly. It is a symptom that I experience whenever I have an excessive lapse in my meds.
The first Daughter had been through likely worse than I, as she slept in the truck, driving from station to central lockup and back trying to find any news of me. All the while she thought of every movie she had ever seen in her life whose central theme was to the effect: Man and woman go driving trough small back-woods town. They stop for gas. Man goes to bathroom, and when he returns, woman is gone, and all the local yokel folk have to say is: “Me, I ain’t seen no woman, no woman at-tall.”—enter ‘Psycho’ music theme—eeee, eeEE, EEEE!
Earlier, the First Daughter had arranged to meet with the arresting officer to recover my iPhone at a nearby Denny’s. When he arrived, he casually handed her my iPhone, which he had freshly run over with his police cruiser: “oops…” he sneered as he handed her my flattened and worthless phone.
The First Daughter drove all the way to Amarillo TX to purchase me another phone, to the tune of $800, and returned. She did it all to ease the shock of the news that the cop had destroyed my phone. I had spent the passed two weeks programming my iPhone such that it could be the central managing power player, with which I planned to run our Houston operations; I would have to resort to plan B, as in boy.
When I saw the damage control that First Daughter had done, and the efforts from our Task Force Deliver Fund, I elected to push on to Houston and stay in the fight. There I remained in the mix, not once thinking of the terror of Tucumcari. Tucumcari, as it turns out, is an Arapaho Indian word meaning “returns with nothing”.
On the drive back from Houston we were once again apparently stricken a second time by the same lightening bolt: a Texas highway patrolman pulled us over for excessive speed through a hamlet; Ice-G was once again behind the wheel:
“License and registration please” the officer returned to his cruiser to process my papers. I slowly began to empty my pockets to the First Daughter as I quietly gave her simple instructions: “There now… it’s all right… it’ll be fine.”
“Drive safe” said the voice, as he handed my paperwork through the window.
I sat stunned, momentarily stunned, staring at a thing one thousand meters distant that wasn’t there.
“God bless Texas!” I should at him through the open window, as First Daughter began to weep softly.
You can’t make this $hite up, they say of an event whose circumstances are so asinine as to challenge the imagination to hold it all. It’s all behind me now, save the crying, if I were so inclined, but I’m not. I’ll save my tear for something legit, like when BK Actual’s News Roundup isn’t on time.
I draw my spiritual and physical strength from a legendary American Icon: Jennifer Lopez, that’s right J-lo! Much like her, I left a tragic life behind me and rose above my demise… but all the while I haven’t lost touch with my true roots, no… I’m still Geo from the block; block B as in Boy.
Photos courtesy of New York Review of Books and Pelican Bay Photo Archive, and George E. Hand IV, Geo Perspectives LLC