Each day started the same way with the same sounds. First, the cadence of the neighbors' exercise routine that echoed down the hall. Then breakfast -- the clacking of food cart wheels, the clanging of food slots dropping open and the scraping sounds of food trays sliding through the narrow rectangle opening. You could also look forward to a shower every third day and a clean change of clothes every Sunday. It was routine on top of routine. The only thing you had within your control were your thoughts and God help you if you lost control of those. In an oblique way your sight becomes limited in the SHU (Segregated Housing Unit) but your other senses are enhanced and sound becomes very important.
I could hear the Lieutenant walking down the hall. His steps were fast and deliberate, no stopping to inspect the cells or to exchange a quick word with inmates. It had been close to two weeks and I had given up asking the Lieutenant when the Warden was coming. I could tell the Lieutenant was on a business call. I was the last prisoner in this block and I was betting he was coming to see me. I took a seat on my bed and acted unconcerned as he yelled out “Christie. Roll it up. I'm moving you to the next block. You ready for a cell mate?”
“What about general population?” I barked back. He retorted, “Baby steps, baby steps. If you can live with this guy I'll be convinced you can get along with anybody. Just work with me. I need this cell immediately. Let's go!”
Within minutes I had my mattress rolled up, stuffing what little personal effects I had in the center. I carried the bundle up on my right shoulder as we made our way to the next cell block. Each cell we passed had two faces pressed against the glass - each fighting for a position to get a look at the new guy.
The Lieutenant opened the door. The cell was empty so I staked my claim by throwing my mattress roll on lower bunk. The Lieutenant told me to turn around. He cuffed me and said “Hang on, I’m going to get Whitey Bulgur.” Confusion set in while I waited. I didn't have to wait long. The lieutenant returned in a couple minutes, opened the cell door and in a laughing comment said as he introduced my new cellmate “Well he ain't Whitey Bulgur but he is from Boston.”
Here I was, in a cell the size of a large closet, face to face with a man who was half my age, close to six feet tall, and very fit. He was heavily tattooed and his shaved head gave him an ominous appearance. The lieutenant was not about to take of the cuffs till we had some dialog and he was convinced we wouldn't fight.
My new cellmate opened the conversation. “They call me Boston, are we good?”
“Well, why wouldn't we be good?” I replied.
“I'm just saying, we're good right?” he said again.
We circled each other like roosters, sizing each other up. The lieutenant jumped in the conversation “Turn around Christie” and he took of my handcuffs.
Boston, could see I had no intention of picking a fight with him but couldn't resist breaking the Lieutenants balls. “He looks mean, what if he jumps me?” We all laughed and then the Lieutenant relieved Boston of his cuffs. He said “I knew you two would get along just fine.” And, you know, he was right - we did. Boston was half my age but had been brought up old school, with much respect, and you just couldn't help like him.
As the door slammed shut, Boston threw his things on the upper bunk then went straight for the toilet. Boston explained he had been in general population until today’s drug deal went bad, ending in a fight. As the guards came to escort him to the hole he’d had just enough time to pack his safe. For those of you who don’t know what that means he had taken his contraband and stuffed it up his ass. As he retrieved his valuables: a capped needle, his brown tar heroin, and the accessories that went along with it. He respectfully stated “I hope you don't mind.”
The party had begun. This guy was straight outta Boston.