In 2014 I had a cellmate named Sinister, but he said I could call him Sin for short. He loved to blast rap music from his MP3 player, through his TV speakers (while educating me on the musical artistry of Ty Dolla Sign). Being my usual passive-aggressive self, I bought a clock radio for one purpose and one purpose only: it enabled me to play 107.9 Lite FM, very loudly. At night was soft rock with Delilah. She regularly played Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. Soon, Sinister started playing his rap through heaadphones, the way it’s supposed to be done, so I unplugged my clock radio and packed it away. It might have been easier, and it definitely would have been cheaper, to simply ask him to stop playing his rap. Remember, though, his name is Sinister.
This was also the year of my 40th birthday. I had initially planned a big feast, a big party, but as the day got closer my enthusiasm waned. I wasn’t in a celebratory mood.
On September 21st, a guard told me to pack up — I’d be moving five hours north, to the prison in Orofino, first thing in the morning. I had my final Mexican meal with Luna that night, though I didn’t have much of an appetite.
I had a bad cold as I rode the bus in handcuffs. As you can imagine, blowing my nose was a challenge. It was surreal to be on a bus, on a freeway, for the first time in six years. I worried I’d get car sick, but I didn’t. I got rather emotional as I passed the freeway exit where I used to live. I passed the movie theater I used to attend. I passed the hospital where my ex-wife works. I saw real people doing real things: errands, driving, walking. It was a tease — a taste of freedom which I couldn’t have. Quite literally, it was just out of reach. Kind of like my nose.
I got to Orofino and at first it seemed OK. The scenery was spectacular: trees, rivers, wildlife, mountains, fresh air. I often saw deer running around, cohabitating with turkeys. I saw a deer standing on its hind legs picking apples from a tree just past the rec yard fence. It was quite an upgrade from the desert in Kuna (pronounced like Tuna with a Q) near Boise, where I had spent the previous six years. But the rules in Orofino were so different that I couldn’t stop getting into trouble. I didn’t even know I was doing anything wrong. I got in trouble for popping microwave popcorn when count time was called. I got in trouble for sending my friend a homemade Halloween card (because I didn’t have a hobby craft permit). I got in trouble for not having my bed made by 8 AM. And for taking a mainline tray at lunch, not a diet tray, even though I didn’t know I was on a diet list. I got in trouble for walking down a hallway when it wasn’t “general movement” time, even though this was done regularly at ICC. It was a huge learning curve. On the bright side, the food in the chow hall was substantially better — the country stew at ICC was deplorable.
In October, Marah came to visit me. She had to stop and change flights four separate times each way. It took over 12 hours but she made it and I got to see her for three days! I hadn’t seen her since early 2007. Reunited at last, we played Battleship, ate Twix bars, kissed, took a few pictures together, and kissed some more. My parents also came that weekend, so they got to meet Marah and take her out to dinner. I was really sad the day she flew back to New Jersey.
Categories: Stephen Newman