11 Nov 04
Near midnight, a female guard approached my cell, and said,“Roll yer property up. Yer leavin’ tomorrow.”
“Can he take his food with him?” Penguin asked.
“No, he cannot take his food!”
Penguin licked his lips.
I was happy and nervous. I was glad to be getting out of lockdown, to be on my way to a prison where I would be allowed new privileges. I prayed for a good cellmate.
I removed all food from my property boxes. All I had was a quarter jar of Circus Brand Creamy Peanut Butter, two boxes of Keefe Kitchens Snackers Snack Crackers, and five packets of Cactus Annie’s Cheddar Cheese Squeeze Snack. The property being moved included books, toiletries, stationery, correspondence and my written work. I ate the peanut butter and gave the rest to Penguin.
“Ay, England, you leavin’ any food behind?” Mad Dog asked.
The rest of the Chicanos followed suit.
“Fuck Penguin! He’s got plenty of store. Fish that shit up here to us indigent inmates," Mad Dog said in a tone a young lad might use to increase his chances of getting sweets from his parents.
“There’s a box of crackers you can have. Penguin said he’ll fish them up tomorrow. Please be quiet,” I said. “People down here are trying to sleep.”
“Alright, England. Good lookin’ out, dawg!"
“If we don’t catch you tomorrow, good luck, England,” Scooby said.
"Take care, England!”
“I hope to see yer soon, England!”
“Stay away from the cheetos, England!”
“Watch yer back out there, England!”
“Hey, England, fuck you, 'cause I’m still fuckin’ here and you’re leavin’,” Diego said.
At about 6am – before chow was served – a guard approached my cell. I was strip searched, handcuffed through the trap, and escorted through SMU2 to a holding cell to await the arrival of the transportation guards. To kill time, I meditated and did yoga. Four hours later I felt an urge.
“I need to pee,” I yelled through a crack at the side of the trap.
“Okay. Just a minute.”
I was handcuffed and escorted to the inmate restroom. After being uncuffed, I relieved myself with the guard stood behind me.
“You’ve been in there all morning. You want a lunch sack?” he asked, as I was returned to the holding cell.
“Yeah! That would be great. I haven’t eaten all day.” As it wasn’t a vegetarian lunch sack, I just ate the crackers and two pieces of brown bread.
Two hours later, I had given up hope of the transportation officers ever arriving. But at 1pm they came. One of them was a skinny, young African American who wore spectacles and spoke in an effeminate voice. His partner was a redneck with a deep voice. After another strip search, I was escorted from the building.
Farewell SMU, Penguin, Frankie, Barbarian, the young Chicanos, the shitslingers, the darters, the death row and the security-threat-group inmates. Another phase of this journey is over, I thought.
“Pick a seat, the bus is all yours,” the redneck said, as I entered the vehicle. I noticed a Glock holstered at his side.
When my eyes had adjusted to the sunshine, I was able to enjoy the desert and mountain scenery surrounding Florence. On either side of the highway, mountains protruded into an azure sky. Saguaros were everywhere; their horizontal branches made them look like a mrdieval army with swords drawn. Lizards and birds of prey put in occasional appearances.
As the locals drove by, all wearing sunglasses, I examined their rustic faces. I wondered what their everyday lives were like and if they were descendants of European families that had migrated eastwards and captured land from the Native Americans.
Approaching Phoenix, shiny new cars zipped past us. Drivers on cell phones became common. Housing developments and malls replaced the rural scenery. When I saw the areas where I used to live and hang out, I felt sad. I longed to turn back the clock and to be free again. The sight of the skyscraper I had worked in as a stockbroker, caused my mind to fill with memories:
long hours in the office, colleagues (mostly fiesty New York Italians), sales meetings, ruthless bosses, exciting times trading the stock market. How did I get from stockbroker to prisoner? I asked myself. A group of young women, smiling and carefree, came into view, and derailed my train of thought. But not for long. Perhaps I was meant to become a prisoner to achieve my full potential, I wondered.
Eventually we arrived at the exit for Buckeye. We headed south towards Yuma and I read a sign that said we were in the Buckeye Hills. Then another sign warned: DO NOT STOP FOR HITCHHICKERS, ARIZONA STATE PRISON. My anxiety went up. I reminded myself to be pleasant, but also to keep myself to myself as much as possible.
The bus pulled up to the prison’s main gate. I braced myself, as if I were getting onto a roller-coaster ride, for the types of things that happen when a fish arrives at a new prison.
...to be continued
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