jail tales

i’m trying to dump everything from my brain, so hopefully i can stop thinking in circles. its crazy how not-present i’ve been. like yesterday, fox and i were getting ready to go get lunch, and i look down, and i’ve got a half eaten granola bar in my hand with no memory of opening it

anyway, to help anchor my thoughts, let’s see how many bits of jail i can recall

i was petulant as they checked me in. probably nobody is ever happy about being booked into jail, so they were ready for it. i never quite did anything wrong, but i didn’t really make their job easy either

there’s this one point they’ve got me facing a wall that’s covered with signs. right in the center is one with big red letters telling me it’s a felony if i carry contraband past this point. the deputy is droning on about do i know where i am, do i understand this that and the next, and i just look back at him right in the eyes and say, yes bro, i get it. he has light brown eyes. he cuts his act short and we go in

they took my keys and headphones from me back at the house. here they pat me down all over again. then again. each time they’ve left my wallet in my pocket. if they took it out here they’d be under the cameras, ya know? by leaving it in my pocket it will still be there when they take my clothes from me in a few minutes, and they can carry it off somewhere with no cameras to go through it

they take me through one door and we stop before the next. they take my jacket, hoodie, shoes, and socks, and give me some bright orange sandals. then the nurse comes over to check me out. she’s going through a whole covid questionnaire and i get grumpy because it’s the exact same questions i just answered five feet over there. she snaps back it’s five in the morning i should cut her some slack. it sounds like a rehearsed line. i snap back that my day is going worse than hers so she needs to cut me some slack. we grudgingly go back to asking and answering her covid questionnaire

then i’m led past the next door, i’m handed a bundle of clothes and escorted to a bathroom to change in

the house outfit is the day-glo orange rubber sandals, bright orange boxer shorts, a faded orange pullover shirt, and pants that are colored in two-inch horizontal stripes of pale and brilliant green. later on i decide i actually like the pants, but we’re not to the boring part of the day yet

my clothes are taken and i’m led down a hall. we stop before a door, they radio for it to open, then we go into a small unit with four solid doors. they radio for a cell to be opened, decide they want a different cell, and stick me in the one on the far left. the very moment i walk through suddenly my escort who’d been on my elbow is gone and the door latch goes clank behind

the room is almost rectangular, a little narrower at the door end than the bench end. near the door is a sink and toilet combo, and on the built-in bench at the far end are two blankets and a rubber drinking cup. i test the sink, fill the cup, and down some water. then i just lay down to think about it all, pulling one blanket over me and using the other to try to get some modicum of padding between me and the painted-cinderblock bench

i learn through the day this room is called special housing unit number four, or “special four” for short

above the sink is a tiny square of heavily scratched mirror, and above that is a heavily grated air vent. the light is a sturdy fluorescent fixture on the high ceiling, and it hums just enough to be annoying. two metal things protrude from the wall up by the ceiling, and i can’t figure out what they might be. by the door is a speaker panel with a button on it

i decline to test that button, but it tests itself a bit later when they try to talk to me through it, and i can’t make out a single thing they’re saying except maybe the word “window.” a minute later an annoyed deputy shows up at my door and asks me how expensive i thought it might be to replace the broken window. i hadn’t known a window had been broken and answer that way. he says he’ll go tell them my answer and the door clangs closed again

breakfast is served shortly after. it’s served on one half of a cut-apart clamshell-style styrofoam “to go” box, plus a styrofoam bowl. the bowl holds a sizable portion of entirely tasteless oats or porridge or something. the tray has a square of dry biscuit of some kind, and some other stuff. i eat the biscuit, taste the rest, but decide i’m not hungry. i stack the tray on my sink unit

the next event is when another inmate shows up at my door and talks to me through the narrow window. i’m not in the mood for talking much but he’s friendly and wants to, so i play along a little. he tells me they held him four days before they even allowed him a phone call. he also asks me if he can have the rest of my breakfast, and offers a couple different things he can get me in exchange, like a book to read. i answer that he can have my food, i don’t need anything back. then i ask how we do this, and he says after he gets his shower they’ll pop my door and i should just set the tray outside my door for him

he goes away for a minute, and i guess there’s a shower unit right next to my cell, then he wanders past again, talks at me for a moment, then goes back to his cell. a minute or so later the speaker on my wall comes to life again and if i make out the words right the deputies are offering me a chance to take a shower. i agree and my door pops open

i set the tray of my food outside my door, then go look at the shower. the camera is literally right there, like two feet from the shower unit. there’s no towel, no soap. i ask out loud if i get a towel, and my buddy in cell two hollers back that i don’t have to take a shower, they just had to have a reason to open my door. i say whatever, because i want one anyway. remember, i still have blood on me. so i turn my back to the camera, strip my clothes, step into the shower stall, and soak in water that i find to be actually pleasantly warm for about five or six or seven cycles of pushing the dispense button. then i get out, pull on my clothes over wet skin, go back into my cell, close the door for myself, and sit on my bench wrapped in my blanket and shivering. i hear my buddy’s cell open, then he hollers thanks at me, and seems happy. his cell closes again

i realize he’s given my spork back to me. i had put the spork out with the tray, but he found a scrap of heavy paper, folded it around the food end, and slid it back under my door to me. ooops, i guess i better keep that

true enough, when lunch comes, they do not give me a second spork. if my buddy hadn’t helped me there, i would have had to eat with my fingers

this is why i think he was real. i mean, i don’t know, they could have staged the whole thing just to toy with me. but the fact he actually helped me when i mistakenly gave up my spork makes me think he really was another inmate and not part of the staff. that is, he actually was my friend for a moment

lunch was marginally better than breakfast. some kind of spiral noodle with broccoli, all about the consistency of mush, plus two squares of different kinds of breads, one of which is sweet, and a big scoop of beans with butter. i decide i really need to eat something so i make myself eat everything but the beans and butter

but i get ahead of myself by a notch. before lunch still, the speaker suddenly warns me, and then a few minutes later a deputy shows up and leads me out to a room next door to the unit i’ve been in. i’m placed in a row of chairs and a video is played to me where a judge reads off a legal statement. then i’m asked to complete an affidavit about whether or not i own a firearm, and then led back to my cell. there is a clock in the video room though, and it says ten thirty

i’m told court will be at one thirty. this is another toying thing, as i have no way to tell time. my cell has a narrow window, but between heavy grating, deliberate fogging, and a lot of accumulated tree detritus all i could really make out was a dim sense it probably led outside

on the inside, the door has that narrow pane, and through the day there’s a steady cycle of deputies coming through the special housing unit and glancing in at me through it. it the morning it felt hourly, but as the day went on i convince myself it’s more sporadic than that. eventually it stops all together. at first i thought it was some kind of official guard cycle, but now i think they just all wanted a look at me. i mean, knowing now that cheetah was in some other cell, i’m pretty used to people staring at cheetah for a while then looking at me with wonder in their eyes like what kind of a person could actually wind up at his side. in retrospect, i think that’s what was happening

anyway, finally i’m taken from my cell and led back to the video room. this time the giant television has a video call going, and some other inmate is talking to people on it. i try to ask again where the lawyer they owe me is, and i’m waved at the screen and told to hush

i guess the public defender is part of the video call. also, it’s now three in the afternoon, according to the clock on the wall

anyway, the other guy gets a hearing booked for about a month out, then he’s led away and it’s my turn. i’m still settling myself in the chair when that conversation i described earlier happens, charges against me are dropped, and the judge rubber-stamps the case, all without ever even looking at me on the video call. the deputy is already trying to escort me away, but i say “thank you your honor” anyway as i get up

i’m taken back to my cell to wait some more

a short bit later the speaker asks me if i want to walk around. it’s still muddled, but i think i make out that it’ll be an hour before they let me go and if i want i can walk around a yard somewhere. i reply that since all charges were dropped i’d rather they just let me go thank you. the speaker falls silent and i resume waiting

mostly the whole day all i really did was lay there on the bench, wrapped in a blanket, by cycles either meditating or trying to doze

finally they collect me. on the way out of the special housing unit i try to wave at my friend in cell two, but he’s talking to another deputy at the same time and i don’t know if he saw

as we go down the hall my escort tells me cheetah has been released. he stumbles over cheetah’s real name, and i help him say it. he comments that it sounds like a superhero name. i think cheetah would be pleased to hear that

since we’re being buddies, i ask what the weird metal fixtures way up high on the walls are, because the whole hallway is lined with them, every couple feet. i’m told they’re sprinklers. i silently marvel at that. the whole building is cinderblock and there’s basically nothing that could burn. further, there’s enough of these massive sprinklers that they could probably flood the whole place and drown everyone if they wanted. i wonder how fine-grain control they have as to where the sprinklers get turned on? like, could they flood only a single cell?

i’m led to the main room where i’d been processed in. lots of deputies, plus a couple other inmates. i’m sat in a chair and a couple questions are asked of me. then i’m told to come over to the main desk and a whole bunch more questions are asked. identifying data, marks, demographics, etc. this is one of the things where i’m pretty sure i’m being toyed with, because there was even a question about my sexual orientation, and despite how deadpan the deputy asked it i’m really not sure it was on the official list

i’m photographed, then she puts on gloves and assists me in handling a fingerprint-scanner for a while. it was very complete. each finger separate, straight and rolled on. all fingers together. top of palm. bottom of palm. sides of hands. there is no way i could ever touch something without leaving a mark that their database can match me to

then i’m given some paperwork. i object that i can’t sign off that i got all my belongings back until i actually get my belongings back. she doesn’t even twitch an eye just agrees and moves on with the process

at one point she thanks me for being so calm and collected. i ask if throwing a fit would do me any good. she points at the lady who was on the “sixteen hour hold” and says i saw for myself how much good it was doing her

oh yeah, the sixteen hour hold. so there’s this lady in a holding cell of some kind right there off the main processing room. she’s freaking out. she’s been demanding to talk to someone. she needs to use the bathroom. the deputies quip back to her, “so go to the bathroom then!” i think they mean go in her clothes? she’s raising a fuss, and a bunch of deputies are in a gaggle talking about her, and that’s when i hear the term “sixteen hour hold” bandied about. the deputies are like “well okay then,” and shrug her complaints off. then a moment later one of the deputies hollers back at the woman that the commander of the jail had been right there and had heard her complaints and he didn’t care, so she better just quiet down

this is why i looked it up later. i mean, we all know cops are crooked. but i couldn’t find anything about “sixteen hour hold” being a legal thing in colorado. i’m half convinced i saw the cops being maliciously crooked. one way or another it was weird

anyway, for my sake, i’m given most of my belongings back. i ask if i can have my wallet back too, and the deputy says she’s going to hold on to that until the end. she makes me sign the paper at this point that acknowledges i got my things back. she also gives me a printout of all the questions she asked and has me sign my answers to it, but you know, they made it clear my objections won’t do me any good so i just sign what i’m pointed at and we go on with things

i mean, i knew the cops had taken all the cash from my wallet, and i think she knew that i knew, but we all have our roles to play

they let me dress in the same bathroom as earlier, then i receive my wallet in a plastic bag, and i’m led out before i can do more than stuff it in a pocket. they also give me a big packet of information with “victim services” printed on a sticker on one side

right outside the building i put on my hat – they hadn’t let me wear it inside even after they gave it back to me – and check my wallet. i’d looked in it during booking when they had me change clothes and had counted three twenties in it. there were now zero, of course

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