Today I had to go to the clinic to get a medical check-up. My ducat was for 7:30 a.m. I arrived at the medical wing at about 10 minutes passed 7 (trying to anticipate an overcrowded waiting room).
The guard at the entrance checked me in and told me to sit in the waiting area, which consisted of a large cage smaller than a two car garage. Inside the cage were 8 long benches. Each bench sat three men comfortably, so about eighteen, but at times, I’ve seen over 30 inmates crowded in there. To my surprise, there was only one guy waiting there before me. He was there to check his blood pressure, but the nurse was trying to take some blood tests and he was complaining.
“You ain’t gonna take some blood out of me like a vampire!” The inmate wasn’t mad… he just found it funny that they’d obviously made a mistake. But he talked louder than normal, and the concrete walls and empty room made his voice sound thunderous. The guard came to him to explain that it was not him who made the mistake; he had only read what the ducat said, “Lab”, so he had assumed that it was for blood.
As they talked, it sounded as if they were arguing. They were both talking very loud even though they were only five feet away from each other. I sat down at the farthest corner, hoping to have some time to write.
By 7:23, the medical personnel (mostly women) were coming in to start their work shift. If they start at 7:00, they were late. If they start at 8:00, they were way early. My guess is that they were late. They work for the State, so there’s little oversight.
In the time I was there, I counted over 20 women coming in and going out of the clinic. Most of the women were in their 40’s and 50’s and the great majority were on the ‘plus’ size. But that didn’t stop an inmate — who’d worked as a trustee in the clinic for years — from flirting with all of them.[A trustee is trusted enough to work around civilians.]
This trustee made sure to focus his cleaning only around the entrance, in order to get a good view of all the women passing by. He made sure to compliment every one of them: How are you doing Mrs. Jones? Those look like comfortable shoes, Mrs. Bravo—Did you get a haircut, Mrs. Cummings? His charm possibly made some of them feel more attractive than they felt out there in the free world. Surely most of those women weren’t used to getting attention or compliments, especially from a younger man. I noticed a few of them actually smiled and greeted him back. They must’ve felt good receiving some male attention.
In one of the offices I saw a female guard in her mid 50’s looking through some boxes. She appeared to be tired. Those who didn’t know better would see her and think she looked tired because she was working overtime. But when I saw her, 1 immediately remembered some conversations from a female teacher, which I overheard when I worked in the education wing as a teacher’s aide. The teacher would tell her colleague that her friend, the female guard, would cry and feel lonely because she had no man in her life, and that even though she had been having a sexual relationship for over ten years with a Sergeant, that she knew he didn’t love her because he had a wife and he only paid her a visit late at night, whenever he wanted to have sex, but that at work he didn’t even talk to her.
I figured that the female guard was certainly tired, but not from working double-shifts. She was tired of being alone in life, of knowing very well that her lover would never leave his wife to be with her. She was tired of the realization that at 56 years old, the only thing that was good in her life was her good paying job, but after she went home, loneliness and sadness took over her life and she didn’t know what to do.
According to what the teacher said, she and the guard would go bar hopping, hoping for a quick one-night romance, which they would manage to get every once in a while, mostly with “undesirables” never a “keeper”, as she would say. But that’s all they could get, so they would take it whenever the opportunity knocked their door. And there was certainly more needs than knocks…
At about 8:10, there were already 24 inmates in the waiting cage. So it was louder. Some guys were analyzing the previous night’s basketball game. One inmate was giving his professional opinion: “LeBron’s done! As the series gets going, he’ll start making more and more excuses… I couldn’t sleep, my elbow hurt’, etc. He’s done! Cleveland’s done!” Everyone in the waiting room was an expert.
The only occasional moment of silence was every time a woman came into the clinic and walked in front of the cage. The twenty-four men would stop talking and turn their heads towards the entrance in order to admire her beauty, as if enjoying a parade. Everyone would stay quiet until the woman was out of sight. Then most of the men would go back to talking about sports, but others felt compelled to make the obvious comments about the woman’s attributes, speaking as if they were a combination of George Clooney and Denzel Washington.
“Man, she has a nice butt, but she’s too short.”
“Look at that! She would be a’ight if she only lost a few pounds.”
“She’s not that pretty, but she’s got a nice body.”
“Look at her. She’s got a pretty face. I would go out with that one.”
“I like that one, but she’s too dark.”
“Ooh! She was probably fine when she was young.”
When the trustee saw all the competition around and that everyone could see him flirting with the women, he went to work at other areas where his suave conversations could be more effective; the medical records office, the nurses’ area, the break room, etc. He wanted to increase his odds of a one-on-one conversation. The best benefit of working at the medical wing is having close contact with various women. A smooth talker playing the odds could win big. However, if he’s not careful, he could get into a lot of trouble.
At 8:45 I was finally called. A lady in her mid 50’s walked me to her office where her male nurse was working on some paperwork.
She introduced herself as my new Dr. and then she told me to sit down while she checked my file in her computer.
“I see you had a hernia operation… right side?”
After asking the standard questions she checked my lungs, ears, nose, mouth, eyes, etc. Then, she said: “Okay, since you’re here I’m gonna check your prostate. Drop down your pants and trousers for me.”
For a moment I didn’t register what was about to happen. It wasn’t until I saw her putting on some gloves and collecting some small packages and creams from a couple of boxes in a shelf that it clicked. I remembered how prostates are checked.
Suddenly I felt like I had taken a bite of an expensive dish I couldn’t afford and that now I had to pay for. Confused, I looked at her and asked her where she wanted me to drop my pants.
She sat down and rolled her chair closer to me. “Right here. Face me.” The male nurse was standing right behind her.
I dropped my pants and boxers. She lifted my shirt and told me to hold it up. Then, she looked at my groin area. “Is this where you had your surgery?” She asked spreading my pubic hair to one side then to the other.
“Yes.” I answered looking up at the ceiling stains.
“Wow, look” she told the nurse, “you can barely see the scar. They did a good job.” Talking about the hernia operation I had 18 years ago.
One would think that it would be exciting for a man behind bars to have a woman touching the man’s privates, but it is not so. It’s extremely uncomfortable and very debilitating.
The doctor grabbed my penis and inspected it, moving it up and down, twisting it around. I’m not sure what she was looking for, or what she was expecting it to do. As she did that, I looked around the office and didn’t see a clock on the wall. Then she grabbed my right testicle, told me to turn my head toward the left wall and to cough hard, twice. I coughed hard as fast as I could. Then she grabbed my other testicle. I didn’t wait for her instructions, I coughed hard four times before she let go. She was grabbing me kind of rough, it was painful.
“Okay, you’re fine there. Turn around and bend over.” She said.
She rolled her chair around behind me and put her right hand up. Her nurse had some type of cream ready and put it on her latex glove, index finger. She checked my prostate for a few seconds. Then she put her hand up once more. The nurse put more solution, that time on her middle finger. She checked my prostate once more.
After that, the nurse held out two cards of some sort. The doctor placed her index finger on one and her middle finger on the other card, to put some of my bodily fluids there. All was done in a very rapid and systematically succession. They were fast and effective indeed. I’m glad they worked so quickly.
Finally she told me to pull my pants up. As I did that, she took off her latex gloves and deposited them in the trash can, washed her hands, and told me that my prostate was okay (however, my feelings were hurting). Then she checked the cards and said she didn’t see any blood so I was okay on that too.
It was 9.05 by the time I got out of there. When 1 got back to my wing, I felt tired, sweaty, and thirsty. I took a shower and got in my cell. I decided I need to lake care of myself and watch what I eat. Those check-ups are draining. I felt exhausted.
VICTOR BECERRA, Contributing Writer