CHAPTER 17HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS
“We love to think about the way things were/But the time has come, and I’m glad it’s over…”
Lyrics by Keane, “Snowed Under”, 2004, from Hopes and Fears
My dope was gone, my dope sickness was gone, and my will was gone. But for the first time in a while, hope replaced dope in my life.
At 3 a.m. on my day of transfer, they came for me. What is it about prisons and 3 a.m.? Do they ever do anything during normal business hours? Then I remembered that much of my life outside of prison kept the same backwards schedule. When I partied, many nights were just starting to pick up at 3 a.m.
While waiting to be taken to the bus for the prison transfer, they locked me in a bullpen with the loudest, most obnoxious person I’d ever met.
“On my momma, keep the 100. On my momma…” he kept chanting like a fool.
God, keep this guy away from me, I begged.
We sat in that holding cell for hours.
One by one, guards took us fully shackled in chains and loaded us on a dingy, old bus that had a heavy tint all over the windows. They bolted the chains to the floor so we wouldn’t be able to do anything crazy, like hurt anyone or escape. I could see out the windows a little. I flashed back to the movie The Fugitive. I guess I was living a life of the movies, just not one I’d pick out of a pile of choices.
While I was taking in the brutal reality of my surroundings, who do you think got seated and shackled in the seat right next to me? Yeah, Loudmouth from the bullpen.
Okay, God. I can handle a bus ride with this nut. But please, don’t let him get off at Sheridan.
The bus lurched forward. I remembered that scene from The Fugitive when the bus wrecked and then got hit by a train. If the bus rolled over, we’d all be found dead hanging upside down.
As we exited the prison and entered the freeway, I looked out the window at the other cars: people headed off to work, kids going to school, and a few likely up to shenanigans. I thought about Shannon and my kids. It would take me two hours to get to Sheridan. What were they doing now? What would they be doing when I got to Sheridan?
I tried to tune him out the yammering guy shackled next to me. Meanwhile people were striking up conversation.
“I got a five piece,” one said.
“I got a year,” another responded.
“Ya’ll pussies,” another boasted. “I got a 12 piece”
They went on and on like this was no big deal, just a way of life. And for many of these guys, it was a way of life. I know that I didn’t look like a belonged here. I wasn’t built like any of them. The heroin had reduced me to a bag of bones covered with loose-fitting skin. Anyone glancing at my face would immediately know that I didn’t look like this was just another day.
There was another guy behind me who didn’t look like he fit in, either. He was sitting alone, and he was double shackled.
“How much time you get, whitey?” one of the other guys asked him.
He turned, stared his questioner in the face, and said calmly, “Forty to life.” The bus got silent for the first time, and all I heard was the whirring of the tires going down the Illinois toll-way—the same toll-way taking women to deliver babies and men to job interviews.
“What d’ you do?” someone asked. It didn’t matter who said it; we were all thinking it.
“I caught my girlfriend cheating on me. I cut off her head…and her boyfriend’s head. Then I mailed them to her mom.” He looked around at the others. A lot of eyes got very wide instantly. Damn, a voice said from behind him. Damn, whitey.
Loudmouth rocked back and forth while saying, “On my momma, keep the 100. On my momma…”.
What the hell am I doing here? I thought. What’s going to happen to me?