by Brian A. Wilkins
This day corresponds with Friday, August 1, 2008.
It had to be well after midnight, but the D.O.’s had yet to call via the intercom and allow me to shower for court. I pressed the button on the intercom to call them and find out what was going on. “I have court in the morning. Can I take a shower,” I asked. “You don’t have court today,” he replied. “I have the paperwork right in front of me,” I said. “I have a preliminary hearing in Mesa.”
The guard told me to hold on a second while he looked into it. All of a sudden, my mood went from positive to queasy. My heart was beating like I had just run a 400 meter dash and sweat instantly began running down the side of my face. “Mr. Wilkins, you do not have court in the morning,” the guard said, seemingly trying to be polite and sympathetic. “Well what’s going on…when do I have court again?” I asked, kind of yelling and kind of crying. “I don’t know, sir. You’ll have to talk to your lawyer in the morning.”
I laid back down on the bunk and dropped into a weird, catatonic state. I seriously could not move even if I wanted to. I maybe blinked my eyes once or twice an hour; I was shaking, sweating, and my nose was running. What was going to become of me? Am I just going to sit in this jail indefinitely? I had paperwork saying I had court, but apparently it was wrong. My mind was completely blank for the rest of the night as I again, laid there motionless.
When they called for morning “chow,” I walked straight over to the phones, but not without several people saying things like, “what are you still doing here?” and “shouldn’t you be in court?” This time when I called the public defender’s office, a man answered who seemingly hated his job and had no desire to talk to me. “You don’t have any court dates set as of right now,” he said. I tried explaining to him I was supposed to have a preliminary hearing today, but the jail told me I did not have court. “The court date was cancelled,” he said. “I can put you through to your lawyer’s voicemail, but there’s nothing else I can do for you.” While I was in the middle of telling him that I’d left the lawyer several messages with no response, he hung up.
I went back to the cell and just laid there staring at the top bunk frame. Chino came in and asked, “can I get a bag of chips or something?” “Man, get the fuck out of here!” I yelled, causing the overall volume in the pod to drop a few decibels. He left but came back a few minutes later. “Dude, you can find out when you’re next court date is by filling out a tank order and asking the jail,” he said. I assume he just figured my court date was cancelled since I was still there and hadn’t talked to anyone about it. He handed me a blank tank order and left.
I did not leave that cell the rest of the day and barely moved period. When one of the D.O.’s came by on their round, I handed him the tank order. I guess all I could do from there is wait for a response. Shortly thereafter, this pisa guy, who’s name I never caught, stopped by to talk to Juan, but ended up propositioning me. “You write mucho,” he said. “I make pencils for you.” Since ink pens were not allowed in the jail (apparently because people use them to give each other tattoos) the only writing utensils you had were those 1/2 of yellow pencils with no erasers…like the ones you use to fill out your Powerball numbers.
The guy would soak those pencils in water to the point they were soft enough for him to split them open and remove the lead. There were no pencil sharpeners, so the only way to continue using those pencils was by scratching off the wood around the lead, hoping you expose enough lead to write with. He would then take a magazine page or some other piece of paper, and roll it up really tight; the finished product would be thinner than a cigarette. He would insert the lead in the roll, but leave about an inch-and-a-half of it exposed. He would then seal the roll with toothpaste, sharpen the lead with emery boards to the point they were as sharp as needles. He went back to his cell and came back with 5 of these pencils. I gave him a bag of chips for them and he would be my pencil guy from there on out.
Though people continued coming up to talk, I was not in the mood. With my new pencils and new notebooks, I wrote all day. I thought about how today would have marked my first full week working at the University of Phoenix; the fact my rent was due and had to get a hold of Richard again so he could pay my landlord; and the fact I was starting to realize that I was no longer a human being in there. I was just another black number. I was not going to walk out of that place until they felt like letting me out, no matter the facts and circumstances of the case. You see it on television and read about it all the time, but its a different story when it happens to you. All I wanted at this point was to hug my mom, or “Anne,” the woman I was seeing at the time, or my grandmother…just to feel like a loved human again. Every hour of every day would get longer and tougher from here on out, as you’ll see.