24 January, 2016

Doing the Fireman Thing

And it was such a nice dream I was having.

Tok! goes the thump of a bony knuckle on metal. I awake, metabolic engine revving high, and upright myself with pure adrenal power. No idea what’s happening. At a glance, the cell looks the same as always — nothing on fire, no Mace fog leaking in, no one writhing in agony on the floor. Have I just startled myself awake somehow?

“Name and number count,” says my cellmate on the bunk below me. Not a second later, I hear a key in our door lock. A sergeant’s white sleeve is visible through the narrow window. These counts are standing-only, so I flail for my T-shirt and ID card as I clamber to the floor.

“Shit.” I’m perversely pleased that the first word out of my mouth this morning is a profanity. Always an auspicious beginning. “I didn’t even hear them announce it.”

My alarm clock starts beeping. Too little, too late. I smack the never-used snooze button. Sarge is having trouble with the lock.

“I heard ‘em come in,” my cellmate says. There’s a twinge of annoyance at this. It means he heard the guards enter the wing, easily two minutes prior, but he waited until they were opening our door? An extra squirt of epinephrine, then, for good measure. I scowl and throw on my shirt. The door opens. Because I’m not fast enough, one of the four guards at our door flips our light on from outside.

“Name and number count, gentlemen. That means lights on.”

A conduct violation for rule 18.1 — failing to abide by institutional count procedures; I’ve seen guys go to the Hole for less.

Holding my ID up to shoulder height, even though no guard has yet leaned in and verified it’s mine, I clear my throat. “Case. Three two eight four one six.”

“No love,” I think the short guard says, without looking up from her clipboard. Further mental audio processing concludes that it was, in fact, No duh. In either case, kind of unprofessional. But I’m hardly in a position to judge, not being fully clothed and all.

“Gossett,” says my cellmate. “One one three nine three four seven.”

“Thanks, guys,” the taller guard says, slamming our door for emphasis. The quartet of state employees slouches to the next door, leaving our light on, the interior switch now toggled to the wrong position.

“Hey, flip our light back off!” shouts my cellmate, and, astonishingly, one of the guards returns to strobe it for several seconds, delightedly squealing, “It’s a disco!” Once this ceases to amuse her she leaves it off.

These people! My cellmate, perennial sluggard, slides back under his blanket, thus delaying the conversation I want to have about not startling me awake in the future. Fine. Later, then, when I’m less irritated.

I pour a cupful of water for coffee, more ritual than thirst. Gradually my heartbeat resumes a normal tempo. What crosses my mind, though, is whether I can ever truly recover from this.

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Lacking computer access of any kind, Byron cannot respond to your comments but is relayed them and appreciates your kind remarks.