Stuffing the Cavity
At every cultural crossroad, whenever I refuse to go down behavioral One Way streets against the traffic, I face road rage – being called a snob – regardless of how polite I am and how far I swerve to avoid collision. My first attack happened during my first week in the dorms when I learned how women stole food from the kitchen during my first week in the dorms.
“Yo, Princeton, you want fried chicken?”
“Where’d you get fried chicken?” I asked.
“Here,” she said and pulled a KFC-style breast from her underwear. She pulled something off of it – lint? a hair? – and held it out to me.
“No, thank you for offering. I’m…I’m okay.”
“Yeah.” I nodded with a horizontal smile.
“I’m sure you are,” I conceded.
“Smells like fish, tastes like chicken…” she offered as an advertisement and laughed. “You Common Fare?”
“Common Fare, like vegetarian,” she explained.
“No. I just…”
“No, it’s not that…”
“Then what?” she challenged me.
“I just…don’t eat from other people’s underwear.”
“You gonna starve if you think you above eatin’ from somebody panties. That’s how it gets here to the dorms, yo. Miss High Mighty.”
Ever since then, every one of my No, thank you’s invited a Who da fuck you think you are? that has separated me from everyone else.
It wasn’t just the fact that people were eating out of their undergarments; they were stealing. I’m not so judgmental and moralistic that I can’t understand why hungry women pilfer food out of the kitchen. What I can never understand is why the inmates insist on conforming to the labels placed on us: deceptive, dishonest, craven. Unless you like those descriptions and think they’re accurate, you shouldn’t act that way. It’s why I never use my Hanes as a takeout container, in addition to not wanting to floss with my own pubes. I won’t conform to the negative norms I’ve been associated with.
Consequently, other women see any refusal on my part to join into inmate bullshit as a rejection of them and a statement that I am superior. They don’t understand that different doesn’t mean better, that staying out of something doesn’t necessarily put it down. They can understand acceptance only when it’s enmeshment. There can be no spaces between them and other people. When those spaces do exist, inmates shove resentment and name-calling inside until you give up and fuse with them. I think the fact that I don’t call this phenomenon by its usual name – peer pressure – probably means that they’re partially right about my standoffishness; I don’t see them as peers.
The separation between me and the other inmates practically became an official divorce when I was forced to be Line Captain in the kitchen, semi-in charge of other kitchen workers. I don’t have authority like staff but I’m allowed to direct other workers. Slightly.
“Um… change those, please?” I called to another kitchen worker who, wearing her serving gloves, walked into the bathroom and came out with the gloves still on. It was gross regardless, but I knew that she hadn’t used the toilet to do anything other than rest her boots on the seat while she figured out how to sneak out holiday fixin’s.
“Wow, you’re like, really straight,” she said as she peeled them off. She meant it as an insult, like I wasn’t down with the proletariat.
But Mr. Torsano, one of the supervisors, overheard us and barricaded the warmer angrily.
“I’ll be damned if this is gonna become panty meat!” He glared at the glove girl.
“It’s a holiday tradition,” Torsano told me about the stealing as all of the workers were being lined up by a female officer before we could leave.
“So we’re getting strip searched?” I asked. I didn’t worry about getting caught – not doing anything wrong greatly reduces the risk of that – but I hated having a C/O shine a flashlight up my birth canal. He laughed.
“Of course you’re getting searched. It’s Thanksgiving,” he said in total seriousness, like that was an obvious explanation, the Bend-Squat-and-Cough as common on the fourth Thursday in November as saying “Grace.”
“Alright, ladies, why dontcha just pull out what you got now and save me the trouble of having to look at your dirty asses?” shouted a female C/O with severe rosacea.
Yeah, pull out so I don’t have to pull it off.
Two women actually pulled sandwich baggies out from underneath their waistbands.
“Can I not, like, get a ticket ‘cuz I was honest?”
“Honest? You were fuckin’ stealing!” Rosacea shouted as she walked to the bathroom door and held it open with one foot with her legs stretched wide. “Next!”
First One went into the bathroom. Rustle of shed clothing.
“Whup…whup…whup. What do we have here?” Rosacea asked as she reached into the bathroom. Balancing it between her thumb and her forefinger, she brought into our view a bag of sliced turkey and stuffing, the stuffing molded into a strange, curved “Y” where the bag had been pressed between First One’s ass cheeks.
First One walked out.
Next One went into the bathroom. Swish of shed clothing.
“Whup…whup…whup. What do we have here?” Rosacea asked as she reached into the bathroom. Cupping it in her palms, she brought into our view a bag of cranberry sauce and stuffing, the sauce and stuffing molded into a maxi pad-shaped rectangle with a raised vein along the top of it where the bag had been pressed against Next One’s vagina.
Next One walked out.
Third One – who had worn her gloves into and out of the same room earlier – shuffled into the bathroom. Whoosh of shed clothing.
“Whup…whup…whup. Wait…Bend, squat and cough. Cough again. What the…?” Rosacea walked into the bathroom. Gingerly pinching it, she brought into our view a cigar-shaped tube because the stuffing had been stuffed, with fingers protected by the gloves. When she came out, Third One wasn’t even embarrassed that a C/O just pulled prison giblets out of her.
Fourth One – me – strode into the bathroom. Before shed clothes could sound, I said:
“I don’t have anything.”
“Not taking your word for it. Off,” Rosacea barked.
I took dropped my pants first since the nether regions were the prime parking space for holiday roast beast.
I took off my shirt. Mucous-looking poultry gravy streaked across my right boob. I stood in my bra, dropped drawers and boots.
“Boots and pants off all the way. Bra, too. You know the routine.”
I bent. I squatted. I coughed. Totally nude, I rotated around to show Rosacea I had nothing. She nodded to let me know I could re-dress.
“What’s the matter, Bozelko? Food not good enough in here for ya?”
I can’t win.
THREE IDEAS ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
FROM NOVEMBER 15-22, 2015
From the Washington Post: Reforming Police Culture Is a Daunting Challenge
Columnist Radley Balko describes why it’s so hard to reduce police brutality problems. Extensive analysis of resistance by some public sector unions.
From The Crime Report: Is Congress Ready to Back a New Crime Commission?
Once given a passage prognosis of 0%, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act seems back on track.
From the Prison Policy Initiative: States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context
Almost one-third of all female prisoners are in the United States. And we’re only 5% of the world’s population.