“Stop here,” one of the guards orders. The iron grip on both my arms loosens.
“Stand still.” The guards step back.
The cell door slides shut between us with a definitive clang. The lock snicks. Practiced hands reach through slots in the door to remove the handcuffs and leg irons.
“You stay on administrative segregation until you have a hearing, in two or three days,” the guard says through the door. “You’ll probably pull 30 days in disciplinary seg; more if they decide you were the instigator. The nurse’ll be around in the morning to check your injuries again.”
The guards’ shift ended over an hour ago. They are on overtime because of the fight. They still have paperwork to complete before they can leave. Frustrated. Bored. Anxious to get home. But still professional. And not unkind.
They don’t have to, but I hope they will answer a question.
I turn toward the door and ask in a strangled voice, “My stuff?”
“The CO back on your old tier’ll make sure it gets packed up and sent to the property room. They’ll hold it until you’re off of lockdown.”
Not much stuff to worry about. A meager supply of clothing. A few pictures from home. Letters, one as yet unanswered. That would have to wait. Three library books, maximum allowed. Obligatory Bible. Notes from research done in the law library for a possible appeal. Or, more realistically, a request for sentence modification. My radio. My precious radio. Bought from the prison commissary with the proceeds of three months of washing pots in the kitchen.
That job’s gone. So is my cell assignment. End of the tier so it’s quieter and further away from the glaring security lights. Nearer where the heat pipe comes in, so it’s warmer. Good cell. Gone.
The guard switches off the overhead light. Hardly matters. I can’t see much–both eyes are nearly swollen shut.
The covers over the slots in the door slam shut. Bolts slide into place. No light at all. That matters.
The guards’ boots resonate on the concrete floor as they leave. Keys jangle on their leather belts. Only the humming sound of the ventilation system fills the void.
Isolation cells have soundproofed walls and ceiling.
Scents of the cell block drift in. Disinfectant. Unwashed bodies. Urine. Aging concrete. More disinfectant.
Fights in prison have their consequences. Injuries, of course. Amazing how much damage can be inflicted by swinging a bar of soap in a sock at someone’s face and head. But nothing that won’t heal. At least this time.
The other consequences are much worse. Loss of good time. Possibility of being reassigned to a stricter security level. No visits; limited mail. Hour after tedious hour locked down with no window, no TV, no books, no radio.
No decent access to the law library. Work on the appeal and modification will have to wait. Both have filing deadlines rapidly approaching.
Sometimes fights are unavoidable. Living in prison–no choice about that–sometimes there’s no choice but to fight. Especially in the first year or so.
Maybe it really doesn’t matter. Maybe being locked down 23 hours a day will give me time to think. Maybe freedom is way overrated.
One major advantage. Privacy. A rare commodity in prison. No need to keep such a tight rein on my feelings. No one will ever see or hear.
I reach up and touch the bandages on my head. My shoulders ache. When the lights go on tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll discover bruises in places I didn’t know could bruise. If I can see that well. And I feel like I’m going to throw up.
There’s got to be a bunk. Somewhere up against the wall. Gonna be cold. No blanket or pillow tonight.
Maybe they’ll let me have them tomorrow.
Sightlessly I reach out. My hand touches the rough concrete wall. On to the sleek all-purpose plumbing fixture. Handy to know where that is if I do throw up. More concrete wall. Finally, the jutting stainless steel platform that is the bunk.
I ease my stiffening self onto the chilly surface. I lay stomach down and cradle my face in my arm. My shirt sleeve is damp. It smells of blood and medical antiseptic.
Abandoning steely self-control for the first time since my arrest so many months ago, I weep.
K.M.Rockwood writes out of Fairfield, PA.