“I did everything I could to get away from that man. I cooked his chicken in Windex, everything.”
Wanda was telling me her past of abuse when I had been here about a year. These stories were starting to depress me, so to prevent myself from feeling them, I anointed myself an embedded reporter, convinced myself that I had to be objective in my understanding of my surroundings in order to inquire and investigate matters properly so I could explain to people what happens inside prisons when I got home.
“Wait, why did you cook his chicken in Windex? What does that do?” I asked.
She squinted at me.
“Cuz it’s poison. Ain’t nobody live through a Windex chicken,” Wanda explained.
“Oh, you were trying to kill him. To…to get away from him?” I tried to clarify.
“So, just let me ask you, what does the Windex do that, say, another household cleaner wouldn’t do? Is that, you know, like a thing? A ‘Windex chicken’? Do other people do that? I mean, I’ve never heard of that combination.”
“What the fuck is you talkin’ about?” She looked at me and searched my face for comprehension.
“I guess, I mean, why did you choose Windex and chicken to do this? Like, how did that combination come together for you?” I asked.
“Shit was in my kitchen.”
“Oh, so it was a combination of convenience, would you say?”
“I dunno,” she trailed off. The conversation veered away from her pain so she wasn’t interested in telling me anymore. I wanted to ask if the chicken turned blue, whether he ate it and, if so, did he taste the ammonia but she walked away and I heard her talk to another inmate about me in an un-subtle whisper:
“Everybody say that bitch so innocent. Trust and believe, she lookin’ to kill a motherfucker…”
Of course I wasn’t asking because I’m going to off someone with whatever’s under my sink at home. I was just fascinated. Maybe because it’s such an unnatural food color and the smell advances on you so quickly and she hadn’t said whether she used a breast or a thigh, I didn’t connect Windex with eating. Now I know that no one survives a Windex chicken. If they eat it.
Not only do other people view us through a prism of suspicion, it’s how we view ourselves. That’s because we see the potential for evil destruction in anything.
Where you see a cleaning solution, Wanda saw a solution to her problems, if you get what I’m saying. You see a kitchen, but I see an armory. Where you see a TV stand, I see a hangman’s noose. You look at the edge of a wooden table which I behold as something that can crack a skull. You see streak-free windows but I look through them to see a murder. The means are around. We wait for opportunity. Many of us already have motive.
I don’t want to hurt anyone. Never did. But all of this knowledge came to me in learning how to be safe. When you tell someone: this can hurt you, the corollary lesson is that it can hurt someone else, too. It’s amazing that teaching people how to protect themselves can make them lethal especially since, when you don’t teach them how to protect themselves, they can still become lethal, maybe moreso after they’ve been victimized.
Lexie was helping me and some of the other cooks. She’s here for stabbing her abusive husband in the neck and promises that, if she ever comes back to prison, “it’ll be for something serious” that time.
With Lexie, it was four of us opening cans. They’re number 10 cans, which means they can hold as much 100 ounces in them. They’re big, like 8 inches high and 6 across. To open them we puncture the seal at the top repeatedly with an industrial, pressure-powered can opener – Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. – until this round razor just drops into the can’s contents.
Then we slide those razor-y tops out and collect them in a garbage bag and chuck them. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Toss. We leave hundreds of weapons in the garbage for anyone to grab and use like Indian chakrams. Slit throats. Sever limbs. They’re sharp and big enough to do damage, especially if you bent them in half so the smooth edge is against your hand. I’ve considered their potential. I have means.
“Have the police ever let someone go for murder?” Lexie asked me.
Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Toss.
“I don’t know what you mean,” I replied. I’d like to say that I can have an intellectual conversation with anyone on any topic but Lexie’s questions worried me because she was so conversationally cavalier about violence. I think I know her potential.
“Like, have the police ever known that somebody did a murder and they didn’t even arrest them?”
“I’ve never heard of that being a public story,” I admitted.
“So it can happen, it’s just not in the news?”
“I would assume if police gave someone a pass for murder and that became known, then the person wouldn’t get the pass anymore,” I explained.
Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Toss.
“Have the cops ever messed up murder investigations?”
“Of course. I mean, look at Jeffrey Dahmer” I answered her.
“That serial killer who ate his victims. One of his victims, a southeast Asian kid, naked, streaking down the street to get free of him, bleeding from his anus from being raped and didn’t make sense because Dahmer had drilled – get this – drilled a hole in his head and was pouring chemicals in…” I explained to the beat of Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Slap. THUNK. Twist. Toss.
“What kind of chemicals?”
“I don’t know. That’s not the point. The kid couldn’t make a coherent sentence because he had a brain injury and already didn’t know much English, so the poor thing couldn’t even ask for help and the cops let Dahmer bring him back to his apartment to kill him. Said it was a ‘lover’s quarrel’ and let a naked, bleeding kid be brought back to his own death. Can you believe that?” I posed to her.
“He was from another country so they let him go?”
“No, because he had a physical and chemical assault to his brain by the guy who was about to kill him, he couldn’t say, you know, ‘help me’ to someone who could’ve helped him. The cops didn’t catch on, so, yeah, they screw up murder investigations.”
That story always rises in my mind in here, how that kid was muted by his own victimization and difference in the community. I empathize with that kid and his inability to say something that would land in the mind of the authorities who were charged with protecting him, his lack of power to manipulate his surroundings to reach his own aims. I know his mind was in a frantic search for potential. There has to be a way out, there has to be…. He didn’t have the means when someone else had motive and opportunity.
“So how did he pour the chemicals in?” Lexie was intrigued.
“This bitch, stabs a dude in the head to get here, wants to know ‘What chemicals?’ and ‘How’d he pour the shit?’… Fuck outta here!” Faith shouted as she slung a bag of can tops, essentially homemade Chinese stars that anyone could take out of the trash and slash someone with – lots of potential – over her shoulder and walked away disgustedly.
“Do you know what chemicals he probably used?” Lexie pressed on. I shrugged.
“I don’t really know. Windex, maybe?”
THREE IDEAS IN JUSTICE REFORM FROM OCTOBER 24 – 30, 2016
Jury nullification is alive and well. On Thursday, the seven anti-government activists who occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were acquitted of crimes they clearly committed. Everyone’s mad because they’re Caucasian and they think race was the reason for the acquittal. It’s not. The jury believed that the prosecution didn’t meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt for the crime of conspiracy – the glue of the entire case – which requires that you know exactly what the defendant was thinking. Who can really know this? The jury was right and cleared the defendants, which makes the fact that defense counsel flipped out so badly that he had to be tasered by court marshals even more bizarre.
The State of Washington’s Department of Corrections banned a book, a novel, written by one of the Evergreen State’s own inmates, Arthur Longworth. While publishing a book from behind bars is rare, banning books written by inmates is common. It happened to me, if only for a while. These cases are silly because prison censors think they’re preventing the ideas in these books from spreading throughout the general population when they ban them. The truth is that the ideas started inside so they’ve already spread; we wrote the stinking things. They should just let in the inmate-written books. The censors are too late in these cases.
During the criminal investigation into former congressman and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s online interaction with an underage girl, the FBI tripped over emails allegedly related to Hillary Clinton’s use of email that they were unable to find during their year-long investigation into…emails related to Hillary Clinton’s use of email. My takeaway from this October surprise? The FBI is bad at the “I” in its name.