The siren blares. –“EVERYBODY LOCK DOWN. BACK TO YOUR CELLS, SHUT YOUR DOORS”–
I try to get up to use the bathroom [which is outside of our cells] before we’re actually locked in our rooms for the next 1-5 hours, depending on the reason for the siren blaring.
My whole body aches as I try to stand, and I have so little energy my knees buckle at first when I do and I land back on my bunk. A hacking cough, and I’m out of breath just like last night. My throat and chest still scream like I just ran a 5K. I manage to force myself up, and limp to the cell door and go use the bathroom. I look up in the polished-steel mirror as I wash my hands, and my eyes and face are puffy like I just got in a fight.
The nurses come around. Nurse A, a mean older lady, announces, “Anyone who has Coronavirus symptoms let us know, and we’re taking you to the Hole [solitary confinement] … for safety reasons of course.” (And I’m thinking, what a good way to get people to volunteer.
When no one says anything, they come around and interview every inmate personally, randomly making us put one of those finger-thermometers on our fingers. They already have 9 men in my unit with temperatures and symptoms — how many more will there be? And if anywhere near that number has it in our other 8 units…. putting them all in the Hole isn’t going to work.
So by the time they get to my bunkie and me, they’ve already decided that they’re not taking guys to the Hole anymore and everyone will just stay in the unit… on top of quarantining the whole prison.
Cough, cough. Stumble, run to the bathroom where other men are doing the same. Wash up. Back to bed.
I’ve been asleep probably 30 of the past 36 hours. I force myself to drink some water and turn on my TV. The world is in a panic. Markets crashed, concerts cancelled, large groups frowned upon, mass outages of toilet paper and bottled water. I. can’t. keep. my. eyes. open. anymore. I set the book on my chest; it rises and falls as I struggle to breathe. The next thing I know, I’ve rolled over onto it.
I wake up to an announcement from the unit supervisor (or A.R.U.S., “Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor”… institutions of any kind love acronyms). –“Guys, I don’t know how long we’re going to be on this full quarantine, but it’ll at least be another week and could be as long as a couple months. I hope not and don’t have any control over it, but I’ll let you know when I know something.”–
We get out first hour outside since the beginning of the quarantine. I bundle up as well as I can, because I’m not going to miss getting some fresh air after all this even though it’s Michigan in March and that means it’s cold. I walk around the track, grateful that I’m awake enough to be able to, but shortly have to sit down as I’m struggling breathing. I just take in the fresh air, listening to Flint, MI’s rock station, The Banana FM 101.5 .
Back inside I get some hot water for a chicken ramen noodle. Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul. Then I go get back under the covers.
I awake to the sound of my cell door’s doorknob being wiped down with disinfectant. Some of the more obsessive inmates have taken it upon themselves to volunteer to clean everything every day and use the provided disinfectant to sanitize everything. Not that I’m complaining. I can’t wait to get better to clean my cell, though I figure it makes sense to wait until I’m not hacking up viral bits every couple minutes back onto the walls.
My bunkie Michael Jackson (his real name… he’s white; uhm, was born white), who came down with his symptoms just a few hours before me, is hanging out in the dayroom, which he usually does. He’s a good bunkie: he’s really respectful and prefers to always be out of the room as much as possible… though I feel like some people might take action if they get sick from him coughing all over the place in the TV room. Oh well. I make some tea and work on a painting of a woman blooming from the center of a rose and [Cough, cough, cough. Cough, cough, cough].
Surprisingly no one has gotten in a fight in our unit, yet. Close-quarters with no ability to separate usually causes problems. I think no one wants to get sick and be in the Hole.
My first day around people much, where I’m not confined or confining myself. Turns out the thinking is that pretty much everyone has ALREADY had whatever this is, so there’s not much chance that I’ll pass it to them. Still, there’s some elderly inmates here and I don’t want to contribute to them getting it. Get another hour outside. Fresh air never really even registers that much until you go some time without it. You hear coughing everywhere, and wheezing, and other bodily noises.
Scrabble tournament. Does everyone know I’ve been sick? I ask. Apparently everyone’s been sick, so I play. Personal supplies of food are running low. The prison economy is on hold, apparently just like the real one. No selling cards/drugs/homemade-fudge/porn/sewing-services/etc…, and no gambling, when the units can’t interact and everything is shut down. No getting more to eat right now until our commissary is delivered. Seeing that we had to order two weeks ahead of time, this one isn’t going to help most people that much. Oh well, just going to have to survive “state-raised”.
First fight. Big brawl. Over a card game. Probably at least a third of fights are. Everyone’s already stir-crazy and restless. Knowing we’ll go out in a little bit helps. You live these parts of life from event-to-event. Wake up to breakfast. Breakfast to lunch. Lunch to dinner. Dinner to yard. Yard to evening. Divide and conquer.
–DAY 8, 9, 10, 11, etc…–
Someone new got sick in another unit. Mine might get off most restrictions soon. Still under some restrictions as long as there’s panic and a state of emergency out in the world. I worry about my dad, who’s in the danger age-range. His stubborn-a$$ just ordered some supplies directly from the epicenter of COVID-19, Wuhan China…
Despite what some people say and despite how I felt the other day, I don’t think this is the apocalypse. In the end, things will go back to normal… including prison. It’ll just be a pain until it does.
TO BE CONTINUED…..