The following narrative is not fiction. The writer is an incarcerated sex offender and the situation he talks about is real. In this account he does not give the rather gruesome details of the murder. I have edited his account slightly, and provided it with what I believe is an appropriate title.
Off to the mess hall we must go, that is if we want to eat. I skipped breakfast not because I don’t want it or I’m not hungry but because it’s so hard to get going, to want to get going, to be forced to mingle with others who have not even brush their teeth, or combed their hair – some wearing what they slept in (disgusting). Neither my mind nor spirit can cope with such.
The seating is by what you are: White, Black, Hispanic, Native, Jewish or Muslim – or a mighty Whitey or a sex offender. I, and many others here, fall into the last of the last category. We are 80% of the population here so we have a limited number of seats. Many times we stand waiting for one of our fellow comrades to finish their meal so we may take our turn.
Hopefully, a good seat becomes available and you’re not stuck between Mr. Elbows or the fatman. You might get lucky and the person or persons beside you may have showered before they came to the meal. An end seat at the table is best. That way you only have one person next to you, and the one across from you. Each housing unit is called in rotation. Thus going one place later each week until you reach first again. At times it’s a race to get there – but don’t run; running is not allowed – all so you can attempt to get a seat so you don’t have to choke down your meal. Not that the food is all that scrumptious. Fact is I’m not going tonight: rice, chicken fajitas (that chicken of unknown origin with these paper-thin raps and salsa sauce), corn, and water to drink. I’ll stay back and have a Ramen soup ($.25) and hopefully avoid salmonella.
The mess hall is where I first met Mikey, if you consider sitting next to someone as having met them. Mikey was one of “those,” meaning those you really don’t want to sit next to. He looked disheveled: his white T-shirt was almost light brown, his hair was not combed, and his arms were covered with pus oozing red sores, which he would sometimes scratch and dig in-between mouthfuls of food. He piled food on top of food on his tray even though he did not eat it all. But the thing that stuck with me the most about him was the sores on his arms. That’s how I knew “Mikey.” I did not know his name, nor did I ever speak to him, not even a little hello. Looking back all I can say is I feel so much shame. It’s why I will never forget “Mikey.” I could have been his friend. I always envied “Mikey” because he always sat at the end of the table. What a selfish bastard I must really be. I saw “Mikey” outside walking around, and at the library but never, not once, did I offer a hello.
I heard about the murder after we came off lockdown. Someone described him to me. I couldn’t place him until I mentioned the guy with the sores on his arm, and I was told yes that was him. I went to his memorial service here at the Chapel. They had a picture of him at the front of the room and when I saw it, knowing how he suffered and died, I cried. I cried for him and I cried for me out of shame for how I judged that man who was and is no different than me. I guess he only had a brother left for family, and he did not want Mikey’s body, so the government buried him here in Tucson I believe. That too rocks me to my core. It’s why I’ll never forget Mikey. He may have been a nobody but he was somebody. We all are.