When a corrections officer came by to pack up my cellmate’s belongings this afternoon, my first reaction was joy at realizing I’d have the cell to myself for one night. This, of course, is a euphemistic way of saying I’d be masturbating all night to cologne ads in “GQ.”
I don’t mean to sound crass, but one unavoidable consequence of confinement is that it tends to strip a person down to their most basic, primal urges. If you were to poll a group of inmates and ask them what is the first thing they do when their cellmate gets shipped to the hole, the overwhelming response–I kid you not–would be masturbation.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, I must first mention that Roger, my former cellmate and Ramen Noodle Nazi, moved to a lower unit after having knee surgery a month ago. I’ve never considered myself to have much luck, but after having the situations with Duke and Roger resolve themselves of their own volition, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe there isn’t a horseshoe hanging around my neck.
Five days after Roger left, I was assigned a new cellmate, a white, Aryan skinhead with the word “VOODOO” tattooed across his belly, one of many tattoos including several swastikas and other symbols that covered his chest, back , arms, and neck.
Despite being a racist, Voodoo was a good cellmate. He was certainly a lot easier to live with than Roger. My only concern, however, was his pot smoking.
It was the first time I’d ever seen anyone smoke pot, and it’s a sight I will not soon forget. On the second night of stay, Voodoo produced a small joint no thicker than a lollipop stick from a piece of folded paper roll. Afterwards, he sprinkled a small mound of baby powder in the palm of his hand and blew the perfumed dust around the room to cover up the smell.
It’s surprising how well Voodoo and I got along. He was, by definition, a redneck to the core, the very opposite of myself. Last night, he shared with me stories about his dysfunctional family. He told me how his drunk brother had once chased him through their parents’ house firing a revolver at him. Naturally, Voodoo grabbed his own shotgun and fired back, aiming for his brother’s wooden leg.
When the corrections officer came by to pack up Voodoo’s locker, I had no idea what had happened to him. As far as I knew, he was still working out on the rec yard. Another guy in my unit later told me he had been sent to the hole for picking on one of the new arrivals, a lanky white guy charged with calling a bomb threat to his former employer.
Voodoo’s accomplice was a guy named Tom Cat. He and Voodoo had become friends since Tom Cat’s arrival a week ago. The two were inseparable and more dangerous together than apart.
Tom Cat had a habit of touching me. A pinch here, a pat there, even a slap on the ass once. He also had a fondness for telling gay jokes: How can you tell if a guy is gay? If his dick tastes like shit.
The thing I disliked most about Tom Cat were his eyes. Black and mischievous, they seemed to say, “I’d fuck you if given the chance.”
Again, luck being on my side, Tom Cat went to the hole along with Voodoo.
After Voodoo’s mattress and belongings were packed, I greedily picked through whatever lay behind: shoestrings, rubber bands, pieces of adhesive tape. Anything usable I took for myself. Prison can turn even the most minimalist person, such as myself, into a pack rat.
Once the excitement of unfettered masturbation had worn off, the anxiety of having to find another cellmate set in. Rooster had the call to ask if he could bunk with me–I declined without so much as a blinking. Shortly thereafter, Bo, the only decent white guy in my unit, knocked at my door and asked to move in, and I accepted.
He’ll be my fourth cellmate in less than four months, and I’ve got a feeling he may be the best yet.