I awoke in the middle of the night to commotion out on the tier, a jangle of keys and voices. One officer shined a flashlight through the cell door’s window, and I heard him holler, “Hey! This one’s still moving!” I struggled to sit up, the cell was night-vision green. The bastards are gassing us, I thought, swinging my legs over the side of my bunk. My head was in a fog, and I was high from whatever the hell it was they were pumping into the room. I lurched forward feeling for the ladder beneath my bare feet but missed it. My body pitched forward. I was falling, and then – I woke up.
I’ve been having the most vivid dreams since I came here, almost nightly. But they’re not all bad; some are pleasurable – the kinds of dreams you’d expect to have after nearly eight months of no sex. One especially memorable dream involved the boy in cell 127, a nineteen-year-old Mexican with doe-eyes and a dark smudge below his chin, a vain attempt at growing facial hair. And then there was the dream I had about Stanley, a fellow tutor with whom I’m closest to.
A friend of mine who recently graduated from med school has always insisted that dreams have no meaning; they’re just a “random firing of neurons in the brain.” But how can that be? It’s obvious that my mind is trying to satisfy what my body can’t have – pleasure and intimacy.
I went to church tonight with a student in one of my classes. Dannis hasn’t been in prison long, only been down a year, so he’s still fairly normal and hasn’t adopted that prisoner mentality yet. I can talk to him about things, normal things, like computers and cars and family, whereas people who have been incarcerated for more than three years tend to forget about the outside; their worlds revolve around gambling, hustling, and who owes what to whom.
But a few days ago, Dannis and I were in the library reading the newspsper when we got on the subject of our Assistant Chaplain who was fired a few months ago when it was discovered that he had been giving drugs and money to inmates in exchange for sex (he’s married with two children). Dannis was vocal in his disgust. “The guy was a faggot,” he said. “A real faggot.”
It felt as if the tide had knocked my sand castle down. I wasn’t agry at dannis; I know he’s not a hateful person and wouldn’t have said anything had he known I’m gay. I can’t blame him for his ignorance. What wounded me was that I had once again been fooled into thinking I was close to establishing a friendship. Everyone warned me before I came here that I shouldn’t expect to make friends, that it’s dangerous to even try. “Trust no one.” But I was naive and didn’t listen and got burned many times. It became a running joke with my family: Every time I’d get a new cellmate, I’d say the same thing: “I got a good feeling about this one.” First there was Ramen Roger, then Voodoo, and now Bo – each one more disappointing and scarier than the last, each one a reminder of how alone I am.
Maybe tonight I’ll dream of friendship.