Poop, There It Is
“What happened, Bozelko? They tagged you to live with all the shitters?” Tessa asked me. For the past forty years, Tessa has cycled through this prison. She’s like the mayor from Spike Lee’s movie, “Do the Right Thing,” with the way she understands the place. She knew more about my time than I do because of her status; the notorious S.H.I.T-ters always ended up assigned as my cellmates.
First came Marsha, a Waterbury prostitute whose AIDS-complications included total bowel incontinence. No one warned me about Marsha’s freewheeling sphincter and I lent her a pair of white pajama pants that she promptly tye-dyed puce.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I can’t keep anything in me. It’s why I need to take that.” She pointed to a bottle she chugged daily, a white plastic container with labels inexpertly peeled off and holding liquid I swore was yellow house paint – opaque, canary cream that differed in appearance only slightly from what slid out of her.
“Don’t sweat it. Know what? You can keep them,” I told her more of sanitation than sympathy. And she did keep them, taking them with her when she discharged from the facility a few weeks later. She never came back. I think she might have died.
Two years later came Lillian with her multiple mental and physical disabilities – a touch of Tourette’s, a sliver of cerebral palsy, two sort-of-surgically-corrected club feet. Lillian defecated in her underwear routinely, almost like they were Pampers except she never disposed of them, never washed them, turning the cottony whiteness guards hand out to us three at a time into stiff, black hulls.
Lillian’s poop didn’t stay put. A creamy sienna arc marred her white cotton blanket looking like an artist’s rendering of brown Kohl eyeliner. An older female guard noticed the mark as she toured our floor and did a cartoon-like double take. She looked at me, shook her head.
She’s going to do something about this, I know it, I thought.
“Cock-a-doodle-doo,” she said and nothing more.
Every other inmate would have requested a move, humiliated the woman or beaten the shit – what remained – out of her. But Lillian’s menagerie of maladies would have made me feel like a piece of shit myself to throw her and her droppings into the lion’s den that every prison becomes. Not too proud to be writing about it now.
“Lillian, I’m going to ask the C/O if I can go over to A&D for some new underwear, OK?” I asked her. I hesitated to go behind her back on this, partly because it would be a betrayal, partly because going behind the back of a notorious S.H.I.Tter placed me in the line of fire. She agreed I could ask.
I returned with twelve new pairs of panties, thinking the collection could endure one week, at which time I would re-up for her.
But in three days, supplies went scarce. The last pair lay crumpled between her ankles as she sat urinating.
“Lillian, I’m going to get you some new pairs, OK?”
“Don’t bother. I didn’t go in these underpants. Those marks are just from scratching.”
A judge let her and those very scratches out two days later but in those 48 hours, I realized that I might need to feel less miffed about my doo-doo pairings and maybe even flattered.
I spent hours every day looking for ways I was different from the other inmates. I wanted people who worked in the prison to think of me as more honest, kinder, more reasonable, reliable than the other women. I’m sure if they thought those things of me I could convince myself that I have those qualities, eventually. I liked thinking that the guards who placed me in these shitter cells had a measure of confidence in me. They would never trust me implicitly as an inmate but they understood me enough to know that I would never act like the typical York woman by abusing Lillian, displaying her accidents in ridicule, bullying her for her problems. They believed that I would act like an adult, at least in regards to her.
Because I convinced myself that I was assigned these cellmates out of a respect for my more mature behavior, I wasn’t surprised to find myself up another prisoner’s shit creek. Tracy pled ‘H. Pylori infection’ as the cause of her crapping but, to my knowledge, H. Pylori bacteria never caused their host to expel sooty waste on her apple-green sheets. Another ailment must have afflicted her, a problem that fouled the ambient air of the hallway. Other women attacked her mercilessly.
“Hey shitty!” Missy yelled and kicked our cell door so hard I bucked out of a sound sleep.
“Sorry,” Missy said to me. “Didn’t mean you.”
Other women tortured Tracy.
“You shitted yourself,” LaShawnda told her.
“When are you going to get the medical treatment you need?” Tessa needled her, taunted her, told her she stunk.
My epiphany from my time with Lillian had not yet faded and I felt like I had to live up to the expectations the staff placed on me. Besides, I myself had been millimeters away from needing my driver’s side seat simonized from a near car accident – not the collision type, the runs type – in 2001 when my ulcerative colitis emerged. If the colitis had not hidden in remission for ten years, the inmate with the trots on her cot could have been me, but for the grace of God and Prevacid.
“Look, anyone can have an accident,” I announced to the inmates on my floor. “You wouldn’t want anyone to tease and harass you if it happened to you.”
“I’d never have an accident,” Tessa spewed back.
“She smells. She’s unsanitary!” Missy spouted.
“You’re not being fair. She’s sick. Eventually this will stop,” I assured them.
“It’s not gonna stop. It’s gonna get worse,” Tessa warned me.
“Well, either way, as her bunkie, I am the only person who is in a real position to bitch about it but I won’t because I’m trying to show a little compassion here.”
“You’re a better woman than I am,” Tessa confided in me and I agreed. Yeah, I am and that’s why I’m tagged with the shitters. I congratulated myself to sleep, satisfied that I had exceeded the expectations placed on me.
When I returned from work the next day, I had barely stepped into the hallway when the resident laundry worker’s announcement met me.
“Your roommate shitted herself again. This time at work, at commissary.”
Missy chimed in: “Yeah, big black stain on the back of her pants.”
“What did I tell you guys about this? Leave her alone,” I commanded.
“Yeah, I’ll leave her alone because I ain’t washing her clothes. They’re still in your cell, stinkin’,” the laundry lady told me. I peeked to see that they were. Tracy had returned to work, leaving little drops of dysentery next to her jeans on the cell’s molded-plastic chair and the toilet seat.
“I have alcohol wipes. I’ll clean it up,” I assured the workers. I figured for the staff’s faith to vest in me fully, I had to take full responsibility in scenes like this, which I did, gingerly dabbing away specks of shit wearing latex gloves, even though I probably needed a hotsuit.
When Tracy traipsed back to our cell at the end of her shift, I asked her:
“Tracy, did you have another accident today?”
“Yes you did! You shitted yourself!” came a scream from across the hall from LaShawnda.
“I didn’t have an accident!” Tracy shot back.
“You don’t have to explain anything to them, Tracy. It’s not their business,” I said to her and then boomed into the doorjamb to the other prisoners: “Please leave her alone.”
“I didn’t have an accident.”
“It’s OK if you did. You’re sick,” I sympathized.
“Listen to me. It wasn’t an accident. I did it so they don’t pat search me with shit in my pants and I can get all this out.” Tracy opened the front of her drawers, ones she had just intentionally crapped in again, the second time that day, to reveal a bag of instant coffee, a bag of non-diary creamer, a Twix and a box of sugar substitute packets.
“I gotta shower again,” she tossed back at me as she headed out the door with her towel. Dumbfounded, I tried to accept that she had purposely detonated a poop-bomb in her pants so she could steal from her prison workplace.
“I feel so much better,” she sighed when she returned from the shower and tore open the gold Twix wrapper. “Want some?”
“No,” I declined as I heard the horror of the laundry worker’s discovery that Tracy had deputized herself as laundry worker and put her dirty drawers in the washing machine, loosing e. coli and all sorts of sulfurs into the tub where all of us wash our clothes. In cold water only.
“Hey, Shitty!” the laundry worker screamed at Tracy. “Don’t put your shitty stuff in the washer. You want us all sick?”
“I didn’t have an accident,” she warbled with her mouth full of the butt-end of the Twix. She was telling the truth. A cacophony of inmate voices rose.
“You’re a dirty bitch!” yelled one.
“Keep your shit to yourself!” shouted another.
“A grown woman craps her pants? Who does that?!?” bitched a third.
I just let them go on. The staff never trusted me. They took me for a shit-stained sucker.
From palmbeachpost.com: Florida Man Indicted for Slaying after Dog Poop Argument
Omar Rodriguez has been charged with first-degree murder after shooting and killing man who let his dog poop on Rodriguez’s son’s lawn.