(page 2 of 3)
My heart is broken—or my ego, sometimes you can’t really tell—anyway, I just got dumped so I think I am allowed to break a law here and there, right comrade?
In County Jail, everyone has to be medically evaluated and X-rayed. They ask a series of questions. Most of them are easy; are you allergic to any medication? No. Do you feel like hurting yourself or someone else? No. Are you depressed? No (but, truthfully, yes, everyone is; if you’re in jail and not depressed, you are a psychopath). Most of these are a simple no. I, however, slipped.
“Have you ever been in a mental institution?”
“I’m sorry. Was that a ‘yes?’”
“Well, yea, but that was eight or nine years ago.”
“Why were you in there?”
“Well, I was depressed.”
“Did you try to kill yourself?”
We are driving down Sunset Boulevard. I am feeling much, much better. Then we hear sirens and see red and blue lights flashing in the rearview mirror. Robert says, Oh shit. I don’t see what the big deal is. I will simply apologize for driving too fast and blasting my music, but, officer, sir, check out my system—it’s pretty tight you have to admit; my heart is broken—or my ego, sometimes you can’t really tell—anyway, I just got dumped so I think I am allowed to break a law here and there, right comrade?
She is more distant than usual. I try not to pay attention. She sighs heavily. I still try not to pay attention, exercising the futility of avoiding the inevitable. I ask what’s wrong (in retrospect, I regret it). She says, “I think we should break up.”
I say, “Yea, ‘bout time.” I finish writing, email my stories to the editor. I walk to the bathroom, look into the mirror, open my mouth, inspect my teeth, my eyes, my face. I am not ugly. But I lack some basic characteristics of traditional male handsomeness, like a strong jaw line. I have a squishy crooked nose (broken many years ago at a metal show) and fat cheeks; my features are soft. I am too thin. My hair is thinning out. My lips are too big. I have scars on my face from popping too many zits. I like my eyebrows and eyes though. I think I have nice eyes, friendly, caring, with long eyelashes that give me a slight look of femininity which is fine if it’s only in the eyes and nowhere else. I get dressed and head out. I announce my departure. She nods compassionately. About a month ago she had touched my foot as I was lying on the coach watching TV. Her nodding with upturned eyebrows is the second sweetest thing she’s done for me. I walk away.
We are lead into our dorm, E-pod. Everyone in here is mentally unstable or has a medical problem, supposedly. Some of us just lied so that we wouldn’t be in general population. In here, no one cares about race; African-Americans hang out with Latinos and whites; the paisas
(the more recent immigrants) hang out with the tattooed second or third generation Mexican Southside gangsters (Sureños
). My brother, a once-upon-a-time gangster and overly-experienced felon advises me to hang out with the paisas
and not the Sureños
; they’re less likely to start shit.
Some of the paisas
are facing deportation. A Honduran that we call Katracho
says he stole a car and crashed it over a median. He has two identities, one has an extensive police record and the other is clean and a legal resident, more or less. When he burned out one of his identities, he switched to the other. Another paisa
, a Salvadoran, lied about being a Mexican resident alien. He, too, is getting deported.
I fantasize about organizing the prisoners and talking about the profiteering Prison Industrial Complex with its highly-influential corrections officer union, the backwards and repressive parole restrictions (the majority of prisoners are here not for original crimes, but for minor parole violations), the failed and so-called “war on drugs” that criminalizes the poorer communities that just happen to be home to people of color, the private for-profit prison systems, the undemocratic policy of taking people’s ability to vote away for having a felony on their record.
The Last Days of Los Angeles #2 continues...