This is the second part of the first Chapter of my book:
The Way – A Fable About Right and Wrong.
Chapter 1 (continued)
A man walked up to Paul, a big smile on his face, his hand outstretched. A diminutive older, almost regal looking gentleman with a cane, stood slightly behind the man.
“My name is Orlando, welcome to our humble abode. This is Levi, we call him O.C., which stands for ‘Old Codger’”, as he gestured toward the old man.
“Don’t believe a word he says,” said Levi. “The last person to call me O.C. ended up in the infirmary missing a few of his teeth. I still have them if you want to see.”
Orlando extended his hand further, until he grasped mine, and shook it firmly. The old man just smiled, as he handed me several items he was carrying in the hand that wasn’t holding the cane.
“Here are a few items you will need. They are supposed to give you this stuff when they check you in, but they never do. Seems the Federal Government doesn’t have enough money for the essentials, or perhaps it’s that the essentials disappear before we can get them.” With that, he handed me a bar of soap, toothbrush, and tube of toothpaste, deodorant, a razor, and a towel.
“I know you have a towel in your bedroll there, but you really need two. They are so thin, you could read a newspaper through them. That’s something you might want to invest in from the commissary. You won’t get anything else around here until at least Monday, probably Tuesday when the Camp Laundry opens back up for business. And it will take you at least until next week to be able to buy anything at the commissary. So, take these, and if you need anything else, just let me know.”
Orlando took a look at the shoes I was wearing, and the pants, as I had finally gotten the strength to stand.
“You are going to need something else to wear until the laundry opens up and you are able to get clothes and shoes. You can’t walk around all weekend in those shoes and pants. As usual, those assholes in Intake, love to mess with new blood, and give you stuff that they know won’t fit. I’ll find you some shoes and some pants that will feel a lot more comfortable. And I will get you a pair of shower shoes until you can buy some. You cannot take a shower in this place in your bare feet. I don’t even want to explain that to you just now”, he said with a wry grin. “In the meantime, let me help you make up your bunk, so that you are ready for the stand-up count. Have you met your “bunkee” yet? Here he comes now.”
With that, a short, balding, chunky, but powerfully built sixty-ish looking fellow with a sour expression on his face, strode up.
“Make sure you understand, that bottom bunk is mine, and so is that metal chair. The top bunk is yours, and you can use this green plastic chair.”
“You haven’t even introduced yourself yet Amado, and already you are pissing off your new bunkee and giving him orders. Be careful he doesn’t kick your ass and embarrass you in front of the whole unit”, said Orlando.
“Besides”, said Levi, “this man is going to have a lot of trouble getting up on that top bunk. Just look at him.”
Levi was right. I was at least 60 pounds overweight, and my body felt it. I had no idea how I would climb up into that bunk, and more importantly, climb down again, especially in the middle of the night when I had to take a leak.
“That’s not my problem” said Amado. “I’ve been in this dump for 7 of the last 17 years of my bid, and I have at least 5 more to go. I am not giving up my bottom bunk. I don’t give a rat’s ass who needs it, how fat or how sick they are“.
“If I were you my friend” said Levi, “what’s your name again? I would put in a request at the clinic for a bottom bunk. You stand a better chance of them giving it to you before the counselors or guards will”.
“Paul, my name is Paul Gonzalez-Perez, and I appreciate all of your help”.
Orlando continued to make up my bunk with an ease and dexterity that spoke to years of practice. I would have to learn how to do this. Without even looking up, he said “you won’t get phone privileges until you establish an account and put some money in it. That will take a week or two. Give me a phone number for someone you want to reach in your family, and I will have my wife call them to let them know you are OK.”
Before I could answer, and as Orlando finished making up my bunk, a raspy, obnoxious and incredibly loud female voice boomed from the front of the dorm, “COUNT!”. The entire unit, which just until now had been as loud as a rock concert, fell completely silent, and my first 4 PM count began.
I was in jail. Along, with 400 other men. Yet I was alone. And I wished I was physically dead, because I felt emotionally, mentally, intellectually, and most importantly, spiritually dead. And it was the absolute worst day of my 56 year old, worthless life. But little did I know, that at the same time, it was also the best day of my life.