The snot-nosed autistic negro looked bewildered. He was trying to make his one free call on the inmate phone, but he could make neither heads nor tails of the (simple) directions.
I had compassion.
“Come over here, guy. I’ll dial for you on my phone.”
With a stiff gait, the dark brown oddball slowly makes his way to my station.
“Who are you trying to call?” I ask.
“What’s your grandma’s name?”
The snot on the snot-nosed autistic negro is dried. It looks like he has chalk marks under his nostrils.
I pick up the handset.
“What’s your grandma’s phone number?”
He’s eighteen years old. He was brought in for a domestic assault on his mother.
“Uh, what’s the rest of the number?”
“The rest of the number?”
“Nine. Nine. . .nine. Nineninenineninenine.”
“Uh, I don’t think that will work.”
“That won’t work?”
“No. No, that’s not a good number.”
“That’s not a good number?”
He stands there staring blankly at me for several seconds. These are the moments I wonder how I ended up here. Fifty-two years old, working in a jail, which is nothing more than a 24-hour-a-day adult day care facility.
“Why don’t you have a seat there and try to think of a better number. We can try again a little later.”
He stands there, staring, for a few more seconds. I’m about to tell him again to take a seat when he abruptly turns and lurches away. He sits hunched, head down in the front row, rocking back and forth.
I watch him for a little bit, thinking what’s this poor bastard ever going to do with himself? Just as he starts to bore me, and I’m thinking about checking the news headlines on the internet, he bolts out of his chair.
“I WANNA GO HOME!” he shrieks.
He half-runs and half-stumbles to the I2 door. He tugs furiously on the handle. I guess he’s trying to escape, but I2 only leads to the sally port, where they bring in the new arrests. Even if he could somehow manage to open I2, he’d only find himself locked in the garage, like a dog with muddy paws.
Some of the inmates laugh at the spectacle.
“That silly ass nigger ain’t got no pride,” one says with great scorn.
“Pride ain’t got nuttin to do wit it,” another says wearily. “He a retard. He as dumb as you, nigga.”
This gets the whole room laughing. One of the corrections officers barks for everyone to quiet down.
Two corrections officers drag the autistic kid into Holding 2.
“Grandma! GRANDMA!” he shouts as the door slams shut.
I watch him on the monitor. He circles crazily, like a squirrel in traffic, then sits Indian-style on the concrete floor, rocking back and forth.
Fifty-two years old, I think, yet at this point in time and space, I’m no better off than this colored misfit. . .
WHITE TRASH FEVER
I confess I find a certain allure to some of the white trash women brought into the jail. Some of the older ones. . .in their late 30s or 40s. . .the thin ones. . .not the fat ones. . .the thin ones, with their ragged voices and battered looks.
If you’re hungry enough, you’ll eat a bruised banana. Under the rot, there is still a trace of sweetness, of what was once a ripe fruit. And so with the bruised white trash women.
Long ago, before environment and bad decisions devastated them, some of them must have been the heart’s desire. In the flower of youth, roses. Now, weeds. Preyed on by goats.
Their lives wasted. Their beauty ruined. God’s gifts profaned in taverns, motel rooms and trailer parks.
There would be a comfort in laying with these wrecks. No more pretending my life wasn’t wasted, also. Wouldn’t it be more pleasant to await the Judgment half-drunk, two losers made one flesh in a sagging bed?