By Mwandishi Mitchell
I'm jittery, and my nerves are on pins and needles. I´ve been locked down in solitary confinement for thirty-four days. It´s Tuesday December 31st, and I´m scheduled to see PRC (Pre-Release Committee). PRC consists of three individuals: The deputy duperintendent of security, deputy of programs, and the major of treatment. I like to define them as the tribunal of hopeless despair. Rarely do they cut any inmates a break. However, because it´s New Year´s Eve, I´m hoping they´re in a party mood and might grant me clemency.
Breakfast comes at a little after seven. Two small, cold pancakes about the size of an average adult palm, and cheerios, the breakfast of champions. I stop pacing back and forth in the cell momentarily to eat the meal that´s fit for a six-year-old child.
“Mitchell, you're on the PRC list. Do you want to see them?” asks Sgt. DeBernardo as he makes his rounds.
Do I want to see them? Does Flavor Flav want to make a comeback with another reality T.V. show? “That would be in the affirmative, D.B.,” I reply after taking a sip of the dirt mixed with water that´s supposed to be coffee. Sgt. D.B. and I go back about five years. He was a regular officer on C-Block where I used to be housed. Always to the point, never a spin master, and when he can make something happen for you, he does, and when he can´t, he tells you he can´t. A stand-up guy, which are few and far in between in here. D.B. has had his stripes for about three years.
“This isn´t you, Mitchell. You haven´t been here in the hole for a couple years? I´ve been hearing good things about your writing and stuff.”
If he only knew. “I believe that´s why I´m here, D.B. Something I wrote three years ago came back to haunt me.”
He answered in a skeptical tone, “C´mon. No way. How is doing something positive like writing get you locked down in administrative custody?”
“Sometimes, D.B., words can cut harder than any two-edged sword. I wrote some sexually explicit things about some staff members. Although, I didn´t use their real names, it wouldn´t be too hard for people that´s been here to know who they were. As I look back on it, it was a stupid thing to do,” I expressed honestly.
“Well, I hope everything works out for you when you go in there. I hate to see you down here, Mitch.”
“Thanks, D.B. I´m keeping my fingers crossed.”
D.B. continues on walking down the tier with his list of names for attendants of PRC. I go back to my table where my cold breakfast sits.
As I sit there, I really contemplate how stupid I was. It was funny to me back then. I directed all my anger and arrogance for people I didn´t like or care for into that chapter I wrote. On its pale, it would be hilarious for anyone in the know to read it. I let C.O.’s read it back then, and they couldn´t stop laughing. That gave me a big head that I, a convicted murderer, could elicit laughter from people who read my work. I was really feeling myself, and I admit, my ego needed to be deflated. Man, fuck it! I´m posting this shit online! The day I did that was the day I sealed my fate.
I´m not quite sure, but I think the online website posted the book on March or April of 2013. They even sent me little cards to pass out to people with my name and book on it. It was a good thing to know that my work was out there on the net, and could be reached and read in a millisecond at the touch of “enter.”
My initial purpose was not malicious. As a novice aspiring writer, I knew that in order for me to become successful, I would need a literary agent. The big publishing companies will not even look at your work if you don´t have an agent; not even in the small genre of urban fiction. So I took a shot in the dark. I figured if I had a small sample of my work out there on the net, there sure as hell would be agents checking people´s work to see if they could find some talent. Well, nine to ten months later, and not a peep from any agents! Damn! It sure sucks not to have any talent.
That´s where it all began. In September, I was lying in my back when my cell door was buzzed open.
“Mr. Mitchell, please come to the bubble,” says a feminine voice.
I recognized the voice. It was one of my sweet crushes. While she´s in the bubble, she likes to read urban novels. It makes her day go by quicker. She has read all of my manuscripts and compliments me as an “above average” novelist: another boost to my ego! Anyway, she´s read hundreds of these novels and I know that´s what she wants. I get up, wash my face and brush my teeth. The last thing I want to do is be in a pretty woman´s face with hot breath and crust in my eyes. I select a book from my library and proceed to the bubble.
Sweet crush smells of Bottega Veneta, I´m sure of it. I´ve pretty much mastered the fragrance of the majority of women´s perfume (thanks to subscriptions to women´s magazines). “Good morning. I brought you a good one. You haven´t read this one yet.” I say with a devilish gain. My eyes follow her lean legs all the way up to her chest. As the top two buttons are undone, she´s wearing a gold choker with a letter emblem. Probably, the single letter is the first initial to her name, which I don´t know.
“Mwandishi, boy, you´re so crazy!”
She used my first name. This lets me know that whatever it is, it´s good because she´s speaking with me casually instead of professionally.
“Whudiyah mean?” I ask, intrigued at what has her smiling.
“I read your book last night on my phone. You know, I read the manuscript, but downloading it made me have a better read,” she says looking into my eyes intently. The wiener schnitzel in my pants is tingling.
“Whudiyah think about it? I mean…the second time around?”
“They´re going to know you´re talking about them. You know, the chapter about certain female C.O.’s. Still, it was very good.”
At this point I say, “Fuck ´em. That´s why I wrote the shit to embarrass them, to humiliate them. It´s not their names anyway.”
“But they´re so close.”
“They´re fictional characters.”
Her mouth is closed and in a semi-frown as she says, “Umm hmm.”
“What could they possibly do?”
“Just watch yourself. They´re going to be out to get you.”
“I appreciate you for warning me. I got the new In Style and W Magazine, if you want to check them out,” I offer lastly.
“Yeah, on my lunch break. Thank you.”
“Anything for a tender-roni,” I respond. She smiles and flags me with her hand. I´m such a flirt.
Well, as we continue, I thought I was the “Teflon Don” and couldn´t be touched. Oh wait…they did convict John Gotti, didn´t they? So much for that quote. Little did I know that I had delivered myself to the abattoir to be hung on a meat hook. Delusions of grandeur, indeed.
In November is when the shit really hit the fan. A guard downloaded the explicit chapter (about five copies) and spread them around the C.O.’s changing rooms! So now the female captain (who was the star of the chapter) is livid! They´re checking the cameras to try and see which guard brought the chapters in. I could assume the guard didn’t care too much for the captain either.
I was awakened at three in the morning on or around the 11th of November from an officer tapping on my cell door.
“Huh? What the…What time is it?” I ask groggily.
“I was told to wake you. Someone´s coming to see you.”
“Who´s coming to see me?” I didn´t get an answer.
I had a pretty good idea of who was coming to see me. I turned on my light and television, readying myself for the confrontation. While I stood with my robe draped around me and tied, I watched basketball highlights on ESPN. Within five minutes she was standing there in her white shirt and cap.
“Come to the door, sir.”
Sir, huh? Bitch tryna get on my good side! “Yes, how may I help you, ma´am?”
“Do you consider yourself a talented prolific writer?” she asks with venom and scrutiny.
“I love to write, ma´am. It´s what I do,” I respond, still a little sluggish.
“Are you awake?”
“Well, I need your undivided attention for what I´m about to say to you! I´m going to be doing some writing myself, in the form of a DC-141 (misconduct). Give me your I.D.”
I give it to her and she storms off. Yeah, Bitch! I did this to you! I humiliated you amongst your peers and sub-servants. And I´ll do it again. Fifteen minutes later she has the C.O. that was with her bring me back my I.D.
“She didn´t write you up, but she´s hella mad! What was that about?” he asks. I give him the address of the website and tell him to read it himself.
No matter how evil and bastardly we as human beings try to be, if a person has just the smallest atom of humanity in them, certain things will trigger the spark. It’s so weird, like…it´s when your conscience tells you, you did a fucked-up thing and your heart feels heavy. I swear to God, what you are about to read is true and what I felt.
It´s a week after the 3 a.m. visit in the morning and I´m walking up the corridor. Unbeknownst to me there´s some kind of cancer drive, or blood donor thing going on with the staff. There´s a table set up and they´re giving away buttons and pens. And, who´s hosting? None other than the female captain. Now this is one o´clock in the afternoon, so I´m not expecting to see her because she works 3rd shift. I spot her at about ten yards before I´m actually in front of her. I puff my chest but like an arrogant rooster, my eyes are beaming on her and I can´t wait for her to see me.
Please understand, this woman is fearless. Her reputation is kick asses and take names to guards and inmates alike. We lock eyes. That´s right! It´s me! She breaks off eye contact (which she never does to anyone) and averts her gaze to her feet. Me, with my cocky ass, is still staring. And that´s when I saw the pain! Pain was in her face and I knew that I had caused it. That´s when the atom of humanity in me kicked in. She couldn´t even look at me. But instead of making me feel good, I felt as low as a snake slithering on the ground. Damn, you really hurt that woman.
That´s the last time I saw her. It was meant for me to feel that way. I can´t call myself a human being if I don´t feel bad and horrible about what I did not her. Her daughter works here, her significant other (we´ll get to him) is the major on PRC. The whole jail knows and she´s embarrassed. What right did I have to do that? And not just her, but the other female C.O.’s I wrote about as well. How would I feel if someone did that to my mother (may she rest in peace)? Man, sometimes I can be such a fucking douche-bag! I act irrationally and do things without thinking – yes, I consider myself intelligent. If you ever read this, Captain, I hope you remember that I´m sorry. I´m an idiot, truly. Don´t ever forget. But forgive me for being an obsessed Cro-Mag.
At quarter to eleven I´m called into the room to see the tribunal of hopeless despair. The room is filled with a lieutenant and counselor in the office as well. They know what this is about and want to see the fireworks, before they watch the fireworks later on in the evening as a new year comes in.
“I assume you know why you´re here, Mr. Mitchell? Asks the deputy superintendent of internal security.
“Naw,” I answer, feigning dumb.
“We have a problem with your creative writing,” he responds. “What do you had to say for yourself?”
Immediately I go into my pre-rehearsed speech about how long ago I wrote the book and that the characters are fictional, blah, blah, blah. I am no longer writing urban fictional work; I´m concentrating. The whole time the major (who is the significant other of the female captain I wrote about), never looks at me. I think he may have been doodling on paper waiting for me to shut my trap.
“Major?” says the deputy superintendent, when I finish my bologna.
“You´re a danger to staff and I´m putting you in a separation floor staff! You fucked up, buddy!” the major shouts. Could I blame him? After all, it is his wife I was talking about.
Instantly in my mind, I know “separation” means transfer. I lash out in an obscenity laced tirade, and have to be “escorted” from the room. I was so mad! My family, I´m so close to home! They´re going to put me up in the mountains seven hours away from Philly!
When I got back into my cell, I started writing a profanity-laced diatribe to the superintendent, deputy superintendent, the major and whoever else my chutzpah was on Def-con 4. The letters were written and ready for Jan 02, 2014, for the mailbag. I turned out my light and went to sleep. I´ll show ´em! I´ll show ´em all! I thought as I closed my eyes.
I was awakened a little after midnight, January 01, 2014 to the sound of doors being kicked and banged. Some things never change. I hope that one year they´ll forget to kick and bang on doors; but it never happens. It was then that I had a moment of sanity (the one that twelve step programs talk about), and it enveloped me. Dude, you´re dead wrong. This is no one´s fault but your own. Here you go with this irrational thinking. Shit again! Hopped out my back, ripped the letters up, ad flushed them down the toilet! You did the right thing, Idiot! Then I smile and go back to sleep.
I told a friend about my plight of this recent debacle. She said, “Your writing has consequences that are sometimes unfortunate.” I´m going to have to disagree with her on that. Negative writing has consequences that are sometimes unfortunate. Yeah, that´s better.
Who knows, when I get upstate, it may be better than Graterford. The only thing I´m going to miss is the eye candy. Upstate there are a lot more C.O.s named Bubba, who chew Skoal. I would imagine C.O. Peggy-Sue chews Skoal too! I don´t go looking for trouble, but sooner or later it always finds me. Hell, I´ve been here nine years, I´m going to like the change of scenery. While on the bus I can look out the windows at the new cars moving down the expressway. I´ll be thinking of Mary Tyler Moore “We´re going to make it after all!”
Note to self: Try harder not to be an idiot, okay?
Just One of the Consequences of Writing (The Wrong Things).
Mwandishi Mitchell GB6474
P.O. Box 1000
Houtzdale, PA 16698-1000