I try to sleep all day during the loud hours, so I can find peaceful silence alone overnight while others sleep. Here’s how my reverse schedule works.
4 a.m. and the lights slam on obliterating the darkness in my box. I curse the inventor of the mega watt bulb. Breakfast is placed on the food flap ledge for me to debate eating it or not. What’s left is picked up 30 minutes later.
About 5 a.m., the light shuts off, letting the dark envelop my box and it’s time for me to sleep. I place my sweatshirt’s sleeve around my eyes and soon I fall asleep.
BLAM! I groan and grudgingly wake up. This shift loves to let the food flap fall and slam against the door. The noise announces they want you to come to the door. No telling the time because there is no clock to be seen from the door of my box. The purpose of my rude awakening is morning medication. I look at my four pills: A vitamin – to stall the fall out rate of teeth and hair, Claritin – to help combat the effects of constant dust, Tylenol – for the aches and pains of a body that has spent three years on a mat thin enough for a summer camp, and Antacid – to combat the effects of the food. Is this worth being woke up, I wonder? Only if I wish to eat, sleep, or breathe, I answer myself. Back to sleep.
BANG! They’re back. Groaning, but up for the morning, wrist band scanned, I lay back down. But I know better than to try and sleep. BANG! “Lunch,” they ask.
“No. Thank you,” I say aloud and mutter, “same as every day.” No need to say that out loud, they are required to ask. Policy, ya know! Now, I go back to sleep. This time I’m woken from my slumber by a static-filled humanoid voice. It sounds like a mayday signal from a mid-century airplane reemerging from the Bermuda Triangle.
“What was that I asked?!” I ask.
“… do… day… today?” I assume I’m being asked if I want a single hour out of my cell into the 30-by-10-foot dayroom just beyond my door.
“No dayroom. Thank you,” I say in the hope it will send the annoying sound away. It works so I go back to sleep.
BANG! “Were you sure about not wanting to come out? You could stretch your legs.”
“No. Thank you,” I manage, politely both cursing and grateful to see a staff who cares, but all I want to do is sleep. So, I go back to it.
BANG! “Oh, for the love of all Pete!” I want to scream.
“Dinner!” Comes a way too cheerful voice. “It’s on the ledge.” Again, leaving me time to debate if I’d like to eat it.
30 minutes later the food is removed and the flap slams shut. At least now, I know it’s about 4 p.m. I try to get one more nap in.
BANG! “MEDS!” My one lonely Tylenol mocks me, knowing it will barely help, but it’s better than nothing. It’s between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., but no idea which. I look at the T.V. mounted out my door on the corner wall facing the mini day room. I can’t hear the sound, but that might be due to the pencil eraser ear plugs that I use to block the echoing sounds of the other inmates and the jet engine sounds of the industrial ventilation system delivering air and dust at hurricane speeds. The T.V.’s closed caption tells me the wife hates the new home renovations that the HGTV host is suggesting. I go find a book to reread.
The commissary man visits a neighbor who proudly says, “AWW chocolate!” The mail comes next. I get a bill for a magazine that stopped a year ago and an email from my sister saying, “hang in there!” I find such a phrase ironic and highly suggestive. I decide to let it go.
Back to the book. Yes! Night count. It’s time to put all the noisy people in their boxes to sleep. Now I can get some peace. It’s about 10 p.m. First thing to do is wait for the first bed check. Now I have one hour for a bird bath in the sink, to use the toilet, change clothes, etc. Between bed checks is the only relatively private time without it sounding like the people in the dayroom are cheering on your activities.
11 p.m. bed check over.
Now time to work out without worrying someone will see me looking silly with my cell version of an exercise routine.
12 p.m. bed check over.
Time for a bath in the sink. Using the sticky strap from a bed, I cover the drain and fill the basin. I save the cotton to make some tampons for the later in the month. Waste not, want not.
Pause – cover up for a bed check. These baths are not quick. Approx. 1 a.m. Wash my hair which is now waist length. Extra fun in a tiny sink. Yes. O.K. I could wake up and use the shower in the dayroom, but I’ve become a good hermit. Besides have you seen a communal shower?! I finish and clean up the floor by the next bed check.
2 a.m. bed check.
Time to eat since, when I can afford it, I skip all facility meals. I have some granola from a friend who sent me a health pack. I browse what’s left of the day’s newspaper. After a day subjected to the mercies of the other inmates, it looks like a child attacked it. I make a cup of lovely lukewarm instant coffee and a 90 cent pack of Top Ramen Soup. Yes, I did know they are 10 for a $1.00 this week at Albertsons. The ad was in my ripped-up newspaper.
BANG! Blinded by a flashlight beam to my eye. The next bed check snuck up on me. Ok, it’s 3 a.m. I wash up my dishes and settle in with my book. I read to let my mind escape these walls and pretend none of this is real. Blinded by the overhead industrial lights. 4 a.m. Time to do it all over again, like every other day before this one. I say a prayer. “Lord, please, I beg you. Don’t bring too many more.”
Dorothy Maraglino is serving LIFE without parole in California for 1st degree murder.
Dorothy Maraglino #WF3620
PO BOX 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610