The Hole

Day Seven

For having grown up in a small conservative town in the Texas panhandle, I attended a surprisingly progressive elementary school. Every classroom held a computer, the third-grade curriculum included sex education, and the library offered everything from Dr. Seuss to Edgar Allen Poe. It was in that hushed, carpeted space that Mrs. Peterson, our gray-haired librarian, read to us each week and where she taught us to respect and care for books, to never mark or crease a page, or lay an open book face down (it weakened the spine). My mother taught me to value literature from an even earlier age, and some of my most cherished memories are of her leading me by the hand into the local public library, of picture book carousels, and the sweet vanilla warmth of rotting pulp. It unnerved me later in junior high the first time a teacher instructed me to annotate a book, to purposely desecrate its pages. Scribbling in the margins of Fahrenheit 451 I felt I'd betrayed my mother and the kindly Mrs. Peterson.

Though necessary, it horrifies me no less now to tear the blank leaves from Joh Krakauer's Thin Air. For it is on these pages, the only paper made available to me, that I write this account of my time in the hole.

My cell measures eight by ten feet and contains a bunk bed, small desk, and steel toilet and sink. A barred window covered in frosted plastic permits only diffused light to enter the space. On the wall opposite the window is a door, painted brown, in which a narrow pane of glass affords the prisoner a partial view of a hallway lined with identical brown doors with identical glass panes selecting identical faces. The effect of these sole vistas—one of gray featureless light, the other a kaleidoscopic mirror of his own confinement—impress on the inmate the sense that he exists in a world no greater than his cell.

My first day in the hole, having had nothing to occupy me mentally of physically, I made a game of exploring the minutia of my new residence. I laid on my stomach and peered beneath the bunk and desk, stood on the toilet and reeked in the ceiling's air vent. I fished around inside the mattress, ran my hands behind the window's bars, studied the graffiti on the walls. I felt as I did as a child rummaging trough my parents' closet before Christmas. I was even marginally successful in manufacturing some of that same sense of adventure. My treasure hunt revealed a magnet, a tiny shampoo bottle filled with Lysol, a plastic cap which held a bit of dried ink. From the mattress I pulled a folded sheet of notebook paper covered with animal drawings and a pill bottle containing a dark gelatinous substance. I popped the cap and sniffed: grape jelly.

I sat on the bottom bunk, and I recalled reading somewhere that if a person accomplishes only one think in his day, it should be to make his bed. Supposedly the act of making one's bed and the small order it brings to his surroundings can produce an equal inner calm I got to my feet and unwrapped my bed roll, which contained two thin orange sheets and an orange blanket. I dressed the rigid foam a best as I could, smoothing out the wrinkles and tucking the corners just so. I sat back down on the freshly made bed and stared at the graffiti on the wall, wondering if I felt more calm. Over the desk a former occupant had inked and Aguila, its feathered collar marked with a numeral thirteen. After awhile I noticed that the light coming from the window had turned from silver to a dull flat gray, the color of bath water gone cold. The bean slot in the cell door opened and two food trays were pushed trough from the other side.

I didn't eat much: a bite of meat, a spoonful of green beans. I drained the red punch down the sink, and on the back of the notepaper I scribbled a brief message and slipped it into the empty drink pouch. I buried the note beneath some trash at the bottom of one of the food trays, and later, when the bean slot opened again, I returned the trays to the officer, along with my kite.

I laid on my lower bunk and found the mattress to be more comfortable than those in the dorm. So there was that. I stared up at the underside of the bunk, where the graffiti there was a dense as that on the railway car—"Smutty is a snitch." With my pencil (strange they'd give me a pencil but no paper), I drew on the steel a calendar and put a slash through one of the boxes.That first night I fell asleep imagining my kite making its way back to the chow hall, where an inmate emptying the food trays might discover it and pass it along to its intended recipient In the note I asked the recipient to cutback my father, to let him know what had happened to me, that I'd been put in the hold, that the staff had found my website and writings.

Day Eight

As is my routine, I began the morning by mopping the cell floor with Lysol and a wash cloth. I'm surprised, and a little repulsed, by how much and how quickly dirt and dust can accumulate in such a small, enclosed space. Several times I rinsed the rag in the steel sink, flicking clumps of orange dust and stingy black hairs and dead skin down the toilet I wondered what the cell might look like if I were to let it go to seed. Life's dander accumulating like snow on every horizontal plane and drifting up in the corners.

Curiously, my skin and eyes always burn after cleaning the cell, as though I've been chopping hot peppers without gloves; I wonder if someone was recently maced in this room.

After washing my hands and face I slipped off my orange clogs and stood at the center of the cell, feet together, arms at my sides, as is also my routine. The concrete floor felt smooth and cool beneath my bare feet. I breathed in and stretched my arms up to the ceiling, exhaled, brought my hands to my chest palms pressed together. A few years ago an old bank robber taught me yoga. Like many newcomers I was drawn to the practice first for its practical, physical benefits. Then one day while struggling to stand on my head I noticed, seemingly for the first time, my breathing, which had become shallow and ragged with exertion. In my single-minded aim for perfection I'd forgotten the most fundamental tenet of yoga—maintaining a conscious, steady breath. By reconnecting with my breath my mind grew quiet. My insecurities and stresses and my fear of toppling over were silenced, and in that silence I could listen to my body. Suddenly I was able to stand on my head, poised and tall. Yoga then became more than just good exercise, it became a way of escaping prison.

My cellmate O'Brien pays no mind to my bare feet hanging in the air beside his face. He sleeps for most of the day, rising only when the bean slot clangs open at feeding times. After dinner he strings his blanket up across the cell and takes a shit. Then he pulls his curtain down, wraps it around himself, and goes back to bed.

A gun fanatic with a distaste for authority, O'Brien joined my four days ago after refusing to report to his assigned work detail. "Why the fuck," he said to the Assistant Warden, "would I want to work for my captors for pennies an hour?"

Before O'Brien mouthed off to the AW and came to share the cell with me, I spent my first three days in the hole alone. Not since a brief stay at the transfer enter in Oklahoma four years ago had I enjoyed the pleasure of solitude. On my first night in the hole, after lights out, I shed my orange inmate garb and laid naked on the bottom bunk, licking the skin of my inner arm and touching myself leisurely. During the day, to occupy my mind, I would carry on long conversations with the Aguila above the desk, imagining the bird to be my old college boyfriend.

Do you remember , Jamie, the time we drove west to camp in the sand dunes?

In driving west across Texas we had unwittingly passed the prison in which I'd be incarcerated eight years later.

Do you remember the sleds we rented, how we'd gone sledding down the dunes, some as tall as forty feet? At night we made love on my father's childhood sleeping bag, the one of corduroy with the geese-patterned lining. And in the morning we woke to find the sand around our tent stippled with coyote tracks.

The Aguila said nothing.

As much as I enjoyed the relative peace and privacy of my first days in the hole, I worried I might grow crazy talking to drawings of birds on the walls. So I was glad that O'Brien sassed the AW and came to live with me, even if he does sleep all day.

Day Nine

This evening we were allowed a shower, one of three allotted per week. With our hands cuffed behind our backs, O'Brien and I were escorted to individual stalls where, once locked inside, Officer Henley removed our handcuffs though beans sots in the doors. I marveled at how out of shape Henley was. He'd grown breathless in walking us down a single flight of stairs. By the time he returned with razors, soap, and fresh changes of clothing his thinning pate was pink and sticky with sweat. He passed us our clothes and toiletries through the barred doors and left us to shower for a good twenty minutes The water was deliciously scolding. I turned by back to the faucet, closed my eyes, and let the spray drum against my skull.

It's astonishing the smell that builds and ferments on the human body after two days of doing nothing so strenuous as simply sitting around. How is it I've come to live for thirty-three years without ever experiencing this scent? Modern chemistry and antiperspirant keep us naive to our true nature. The smell, musky and sour and distinctly sexual, awakens in me some ancient animal receptor. Vile as it is intriguing, I can't help sniffing my fingers after pissing.

We're allowed to buy deodorant and other items from the commissary. Once a week an order form is slipped beneath the cell door, and purchases are pushed through the bean slot the following day. Stock is limited. Inmates detained for disciplinary reasons, like O'Brien, are allowed only necessities, such as stamps, paper, and a few basic toiletries and medicines. Inmates placed in the hole pending investigation, like myself, or other non-disciplinary reasons are grated the privilege of buying a candy bar, instant coffee, a radio, and batteries.

Today however we received no order forms. We've been told the commissary will be closed this week while staff are reallocated to assist in the outbreak. From what O'Brien and I can piece together from conversations we've overheard, the entire prison is being treated for scabies. Every floor of every dorm is to be exterminated every article of clothing washed and sanitized, and every infected inmate deloused. "You guys ought to be glad you're in the hole!" Henley shouted down the range. "It's a cluster fuck out there on the yard!

Personally I'm not so sure I wouldn't prefer fumigation to being locked in the hole, cut off from the world and from my family. I still haven't been granted a phone call, and with the commissary closed it will be at least another week before I can buy stamps to send a letter. Though even if I could write my family I'd have no new information to share with them regarding the investigation, no news of when I'll be let out of the hole, no inkling of what sort of trouble I'm in or what the consequences might be. My only interaction was with the investigating officer shortly after I was detained. Sitting across from Salazar's desk, hands cuffed behind my back, he'd asked me if I'd ever accessed a contraband cell phone.

I said I hadn't.

Salazar raised a finger, indicating a strike against me. "I'll give you one more chance to tell me the truth," he said. "Have you ever used a cell phone here n Big Spring?

As an inmate I've become accustomed to this tone of skepticism and presumed guilt. My fear is that I might never escape this prejudice, that for the rest of my life I will forever be plagued by the one upheld finger.

I stared levelly at Salazar. "I have never used a cell phone here."

"So how," he said shuffling through a sheath of computer printouts, "are you posting this stuff online?"

I explained that my father manages my website, and that all posts are sent to him through the approved inmate e-mail system, which staff of course monitor.

"You understand it's against policy for inmates to maintain social networking websites."

"I don't maintain it," I said. "My father does."

Salazar curled his lip, unimpressed by my distinction. He tried a different track. He said that even if a probe into my email history confirmed that my father had been acting as a middleman, that I hadn't been running the website myself through an illicit cell phone, the contents of my posts were nonetheless alarming and could be construed by staff as a threat to institution security. "The execs could decide to have you shipped."

Before I was escorted to my cell, Salazar asked my why I wrote about prison. I explained it was cathartic, that it gave me an outlet and some small measure of control in an otherwise powerless circumstance. I saw my writing too as a public service; I was helping lift the veil of a major yet mostly invisible aspect of society. Growing somewhat impassioned, I asked Salazar, "Don't you think, sir, that people ought to know what goes on in prison?"

Salazar curled his lip again. "People don't need to know what goes on in here."

Later, alone in my cell, I felt embarrassed by my fervor. Maybe I'd been arrogant and just a little self-absorbed for thinking that my experience mattered. What right did I, a convicted sex offender, have to complain of unfairness and injustice and hypocrisy? Wasn't I myself a hypocrite? Certainly I'd been naive for thinking that the truth of my experience (or the truth as I saw it) was "good" and would somehow "win" against…against what?

That afternoon I realized why they call it the hole. Sitting perfectly alone in my cell I watched the diffused light in the window turn from silver to gray to soot, and I had the sense that I really had fallen into a deep hole, one in which I could look up and just barely see the sun rise and set, assurance that the world had moved on, that I'd been inconsequential to it's cycles, That no "truth" I'd written had ever mattered.

Day Ten

The staff decided six days' time in the hole was long enough for O'Brien to cool his feet and they released him. Once he'd left and I was again alone, I slipped off my clogs and practiced yoga for an hour. While upside down in scorpion pose, legs reared up and poised to strike, I heard jangling past the door. My breathing hitched. I lost focus, and I came down hard, stubbing my tow on the concrete floor. I curled up in child's pose and contemplated the pain.

Duty officers patrol the hall every half hour, while department heads and case managers and counselors are obliged to visit the hole weekly to answer questions and address concerns, though often they zip down the halls as quickly as possible to avoid any interactions with inmates. Or they don't come by at all.

Only a few staff bother to check in on each cell. The new chaplain is one such person. Every week he stops by in a clean shirt and tie. He taps lightly on each door, pops his smooth, clean-shaven face in each glass pane and asks if we need anything. He reminds me of a roving Bible salesman. Indeed he carries with him every week a tote filled with bibles and religious pamphlets which he slips beneath our doors, should we ask. He also carries with him a small notebook in which he records prayer requests. Today I heard him speaking to a neighbor who asked that the chaplain pray for his ill mother. Typically the detainees like to harass the officers who walk through the hole, cursing them, barking at them like dogs, intimidating them by banging on their cells doors. But I've noticed that nobody harasses the young chaplain. The hall remained respectful quiet when he passed through this afternoon, as though each man were in his cell kneeling and praying for my neighbor's ill mother.

"And what did you say your mother's name is?" The chaplain cocked his ear to the man's door and scribbled in his notebook. "I'm sorry to hear that," he said. "We'll be sure to say a prayer for her at tonight's service."

Lying on the concrete floor, in a tight ball, toe throbbing, I was surprised to find myself missing O'Brien. Even if all he did was sleep, he was a warm body, a pulse. With Ovarian gone my sole companion is a fruit fly meandering lazily around the cell, lured in through vent or crack beneath the door by a rotting banana O'Brien left behind, saved from a breakfast tray two days earlier long with some packets of grape and mixed-fruit jellies. After yoga and a stretch if reading, I grew bored and happened to read the ingredients printed on the packets. Oddly the ingredients of both flavors of jelly are exactly the same, containing both apple juice (from concentrate) and artificial grape flavor. Maybe it was boredom or loneliness or the fact that I still hadn't been allowed to contact my family, but I found it utterly depressing that two flavors of jelly should be manufactured using the same ingredients, that such a thing as artificial grape should even exist. I seemed to me that people ought to want to create things that are real and true.

Come evening when my dinner trays arrived I reminded Officer Henley through the bean slot that I still hadn't received a phone call. Would he be bringing the phone around tonight? "We'll see," he said, and closed and locked the bean slot.

Dinner was chicken and rice with some leftover chili from lunch and a generous hunk of cornbread. We eat surprisingly well in the hole; the trays are packed by inmate kitchen workers who tend to look out for their detained comrades, doling out an extra spoonful of beans in the hot tray, packing an extra slice of sheet cake in the cold tray. The trays resemble Bento boxes and are covered with hard plastic lids on which detainees like to scratch swastikas and crude messages. One of tonight's lids claimed, "Gomez's ink fades and he's a fat bitch." The other lid read in ink, "Simon Green has a man pussy."

Simon Green is being held three cells down and across the hall. I knew him only peripherally back when we were on the compound. Aloof and bookish, he'd worked in the library as an orderly where in restocking a book to its rightful shelf he would often talk sweetly to it and pat its spine. I can't remember now the circumstances that led to Simon green being placed in the hole, though whatever the alleged infraction or insolence was almost certainly the result of his quitting his meds. Soon afterward he could be seen crying on the bathroom floor of the library. He claimed people were plotting to hurt him. Then on day he was placed on suicide watch after he stabbed himself with a pencil. While on watch he'd fashioned himself a crown of toilet paper and laid naked on the mattress arms spread, claiming he was Jesus Christ.

I hadn't realized Simon was still in the hole, so I was surprised to see hm a few days ago being escorted past my ceil to the showers. I hardly recognized him. He hadn't been wearing his glasses and looked like a nearsighted mole groping his way toward the water by scent. He'd also grown a full beard in the time he'd been confined.

Before returning the food trays, I wiped clean the message about Simon's man pussy. Then I sat down at the table and wondered if Henley would allow me to use the phone tonight. I ate the banana and killed the fruit fly. I missed O'Brien.

Day Eleven

A man was tossed into my cell this afternoon looking hot and flustered. He introduced himself as Lopez and told me he'd been in a fight. Three gang members jumped him on the yard.

"Why did they jump you."

"I'm ex-BOP."

Lopez paced the cell, burning off excess adrenaline, and explained this was the third time he's been assaulted for having been a former corrections officer. He sat down at the desk and stretched his back and neck. The side of his face and his ear were red. He said he was pushed to the ground and kicked at least once in the back, maybe twice. He was quick to add that he'd picked himself up and got in a few good swings himself before his assailants "turned chicken shit" and backed down.

Lopez has a boyish face and small, tidy limbs and a gray cockatoo plume protruding above a widow's peak. After retiring from the army he settled down in California where he went to work for the Bureau of Prisons. Once he was arrested he was shipped to Texas under the assumption he'd be safer here than in California where inmates once in his charge were likely to recognize him and seek vengeance. But even here he was recognized; as massive as the prisoner population is, it seems everybody knows everybody. Here in Texas I've run into several men and even a few officers I remembered from Mississippi.

Coincidentally, Lopez told me he used to work with Henley back in California, and when Henley came around later to dole out dinner trays, he and Lopez exchanged banter through the bean slot.

"Back in the hold again, I see," said Henley. "What the fuck did you do this time?"

"You know I didn't do shit." Lopez said. "Hey, how about you do some work around here and bring that phone by so my cellie here can make a phone call."

Henley peered at me through the glass. "I do calls on Saturdays," he said closing the bean slot.

Day Thirteen

This morning Henley banged on the cell door and told me I had a visitor.

My father's face on the video monitor appeared overexposed, and I could barely make out his forehead and white hair from the white ceiling tiles of the visitation room. It was strange seeing that room that I'd grown so familiar with in my father's monthly visits from this new angle. In the video feed I could see behind him the usual weekend furry: children running between the aisles of chairs, visitors banging on the recalcitrant vending machines, families posing for pictures before the heavy backdrop flanked by the Texas and American flags.

The room in which I was locked in the hole was vastly different, a cold, gray, dim space. On one wall was a barred window through which one could see out across the building's lobby and up to the glass-enclosed control room.

On the video monitor my father ate powdered donuts with the pressed between his ear and shoulder. He said he got my kite; he took the website down.

Despite signs affixed to the teleconference kiosk reminding us that calls are recorded and monitored, my father, through mouthfuls of donut, nonetheless launched into a venomous diatribe against my keepers, declaring them petty and incompetent and spiteful. It cheered me to see the old man get riled up and to see the color rise in his face, though I knew I'd stressed him terribly. I also knew (correctly) that my mother would have given him hell for having aided me in my online writing.

"Of course, your mother blames me," Dad confirmed, switching the phone to his other ear. "She hasn't talked to me in days. She actually believed the police would come kicking down our door."

Partway through the visit I decided I needed to use the bathroom and banged on the window to get Henley's attention. He hollered at me to give him a minute. He never came. I waited a half hour. Through the window I could see him u in the control room reclining in a chair, gabbing with another CO. The lobby was empty. I checked the room for cameras. In one corner was an air vent near the floor covered by a steel grate. I was desperate and did the only thing I knew to do short of pissing myself. I kneeled before the grate, lowered my pants, and relieved myself in the vent.

"Did you find a bathroom?" My father asked when I returned to the phone.

"Yes, I did. All better now." And I did feel better. I felt not only relieved but strangely vindicated, as if by pissing out in the open I'd committed an act of civil disobedience.

Day Nineteen

What is called recreation is actually an outdoor cage build of twelve-foot concrete walls covered by a canopy of chain link. The cage is divided by more chain link into quadrants. We're allowed one hour or recreation five days a week. This morning I was escorted to cage four, where I joined two other inmates. One was a black giant with dreads called Beaumont. The other was a familiar, bookish man with a full beard.

Simon Green stood facing the corner of cage four with his nose a foot from the concrete walls, as though he were standing in timeout. I approached him from the side to get a better look at him. His arms were crossed and his brows were knitted as if he were struggling to understand something.

"Hi, Simon," I said.

He fidgeted but said nothing.

"Simon, are you alright?"

"Mmm. I'm okay."

A warm breeze caressed my face. I stared up over the concrete walls at a perfect square of waxy blue morning sky, shot through with chain link. Somewhere nearby but unseen I heard pigeons shuffling and cooing.

"What the fuck, man!"

I turned around just as another inmate was being admitted into the cage. He had blue eyes and thick flared nostrils. He'd lost a bit of weight since the last time I saw him on the yard.

"How the fuck are you?" Ramsey said. "You're the last person I expected to see in the hole. What did you do?"

Every inmate and officer knew what Ramsey had done to wind up in the hole. He was caught just after midnight fucking a punk in the TV room.

"The cops found my website," I said. I explained to Ramsey how my father had helped me publish accounts of prison life online. "Salazar's accusing me of posting the material myself, from a cell phone."

"Shit, these phones be getting everybody in trouble." Beaumont, who'd been sitting with his back to the wall bouncing a blue racquet ball, spoke up. "Everybody be walking around the dorm with them phones, talking and FaceTiming and messaging bitches on Facebook."

"There was a guy in here," said Ramsey, "Who hit up the HR lady on Facebook. She recognized him on the yard from his profile picture, and they busted him."

"I hear that HR lady got some bad-ass photos on her Facebook," Beaumont said. "She be posing in all these tight-ass clothes and shit." Beaumont tossed the ball to Ramsey.

The other three cages were filled with Hispanic men. They stood quietly with their backs to the walls, staring at nothing in particular, because there is nothing in particular to stare at except for chain link and concrete. One man not standing against the wall paced in a tight circle, head down, arms swinging like a mall walker.

"So, Ramsey," I said. "How long have you been in?"

"Shit, it's been close to one hundred days. I'm waiting to get shipped, but the cops are dragging their feet. You know how it goes. Plus, the scabies outbreak's got everything fucked up. They're saying the quarantine is going to last another month—no busses in, no busses out." Ramsey bounced the ball off the cage wall and caught it. "Old Simon over there's been in almost as long as me."

Simon stirred at the mention of his name. "Three months," he mumbled to the corner.

"Good old Simon Green," Ramsey said. "He's a trooper. They tried to break him, but he wouldn't budge."

"That was the funniest shit!" Beaumont cried.

"Inmate Green!" Ramsey intoned. "Do not resist!"

At this Beaumont threw back his head and roared, pink gums shining in the morning light.

"What are you guys talking about?"

Ramsey explained: "Simon Green got pepper sprayed! They came in, like, seven of them, with body shields and a camera. ‘Inmate Green, do not resist!' You see, he refused to cuff up for cell rotation. They tried to break him, but he wouldn't budge. So they sprayed him."

"Hosed his ass!" Beaumont chimed.

"Then they threw open his cell door and tackled him. Can you imagine? Seven cops tackling little old Simon Green. The guy who doesn't weigh but a buck-ten soaking wet. It was the funniest shit ever."

Even Simon Green seemed amused, for finally he'd turned away from the wall with a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. Ramsey tossed him the ball, and he caught it.

Beaumont said, "That pepper shit for up in the air vents and we was all coughing and shit, everyone in the range."

This explained why my skin and eyes burned after cleaning the cell. So it was Simon Green who'd be sprayed with mace. Simon Green, who talked kindly to books and who'd stabbed himself with a pencil after he quit taking his meds. I recalled how on suicide watch he had sat cross-legged on the mattress, oblivious to the smock riding up his legs. His penis had appeared pink and raw and vulnerable, the hair fair, the same color as his now full-grown beard. Sitting there exposed, he asked me unexpectedly if I had ever hurt a child. I told him I didn't think I had. "Are you sure?" He implored. "Are you positive you never hurt a child? Are you sure?"

Bouncing the racquet all against the cage wall, Simon Green giggled. "That shit did burn,"

Day Twenty Three

Simon Green was almost sprayed again for refusing to cuff up. Every twenty-one days from the day they arrive, inmates are made to change cells, and today Simon was being stubborn.

"You remember what happened last time, Simon," Henley said, invoking Simon's first name. "You think long and hard about the choice you're making."

Simon eventually gave in and slipped his hands through the bean slot, allowing himself to be handcuffed. He and his cellmate were moved next door to Lopez and me, but they didn't last there for long. When the book cart came around, as it does once a week, Simon knocked the cart over sending books flying down the hall. Presumably it was an accident; I knew how much Simon loved books, how he talked to them in the library and would never do anything to hurt them or to jeopardize his reading privileges. But Henley decided he'd had enough of Green's troublesome behavior and had him and his cellie moved yet again to a cell downstairs in the disciplinary range.

It amused me that the hole should have a disciplinary range. I imagined captivity as a series of Russian nesting dolls—prisons inside of prisons—and I wondered what the very smallest, most concentrated form of confinement might look like, though I knew the answer: a multi-point restraint chair with a spit guard pulled over the prisoner's head.

I was amused too that Henley should have moved Simon to the disciplinary range, because cell rotations there are required every three days instead of twenty-one, and this, given Simon's uncooperativeness, was more likely to burden Henley that punish Simon.

Lopez pointed out that Simon's upsetting the book cart was good news for the rest of us, for in righting the cart and restocking its shelves, some books which had been unreachable on the bottom shelf were moved to the middle and top shelves. Sure enough when the cart reached ur door, I saw that Fahrenheit 451 had moved within reach. With my arm through the bean slot up to my shoulder and my face pressed against the door, the book, which up until now I'd only been able to eye, was finally in my grasp.

With every reading since junior high the dystopian novel becomes more clairvoyant and frightening. The "family in the wall" who stand in as Mildred's digital kin brings to mind new interlocking flat-panel technology that can cover entire walls in high-definition video. The tiny "seashell" radios which pacify the novel's masses remind me of Apple's ubiquitous wireless ear buds, which one reviewer hailed as so comfortable and practical that they'd become a physical part of him, often forgetting they are plugged into his head.

The story only peripherally concerns censorship and burning books. As Faber explains to the disillusioned Montag, book burning is merely a symptom of society's real troubles, which he states are the government's and the media's assault on knowledge and truth, and a complacent public distracted by technology and consumerism.

This afternoon Medical came to collect Lopez for x-rays nearly a week after he was assaulted. Fortunately he'd suffered no serious injuries, though his back and shoulders are still stiff. I suggested he try yoga. I stood hm beside the commode with his feet together and instructed him to breathe deeply in and out through his nose. We warmed up with several rounds of sun salutations before moving into archer, triangle, and warrior poses. It's interesting to watch people practice yoga for the first time. Many move as though they are new to their bodies, like a fresh fawn rising to its feet. You might instruct a person to raise his arms shoulders' height, and instead he will raise one arm to the height of his ears and the other to the height of his breast. Clearly what is lacking here isn't flexibility but awareness.

Laying back in corpse on the cell floor, Lopez's foot inadvertently brushed my head. Our breathing slowed. People assume corpse is an easy asana, but really it is the most challenging. The monkey mind seeks to entertain itself, to distract, fixate, and dwell. It is much more difficult to still the mind than the body.

Day Twenty Five

Last night Henley wheeled the phone before our cell door and allowed me to call home. Sitting on a stack of books beside the door, phone cord snaking through the bean slot, I assured my mother I was alright by filling the fifteen minutes with the usual talk of what I'd eaten and what I'd been reading. At the one-minute warning I told my parents I'd call again when I could. I still haven't heard anything regarding when I'll be getting out of the hole. In the meantime I promised to write; the commissary had reopened and I've stocked up on paper, stamps, and envelopes.

It's been nearly a month since I arrived in the hole, and I am struck again, as I have been many times in the past eight years, by how adaptable our species is, how one finds ways not just to exist but to live in an eight-by-ten cell. As I write these words, I hear around me the sounds of men living; I hear my neighbor exercising, the repetitive muffled clang of his feet stepping up and down from his toilet; I hear a man making music, drumming on his desk, door and bunk; I hear conversations, men hollering to one another through air vents and door cracks; I hear business transactions packets of coffee and ills, and stamps skidding across the floor outside my door; I hear silent, too, men sitting at small metal tables reading, drawing, writing families, writing in journals. Despite all efforts to restrict and confine, we create, we socialize, we express ourselves, we exercise our minds and bodies, we conduct commerce. We carve out lives from what little we are given.

To the same extent, I am struck by the adaptability of our captors. Certainly captivity is not the natural state of man. Yet see how well they have normalized and formalized the business of imprisonment, pushing trays through tiny slots, counting heads three times a day, moving men from this pigeonhole to that pigeonhole, and clocking out at the end of the day. So routine has this industry become, they'd just as well be manufacturing widgets as imprisonment.

I asked Lopez why he chose to become a corrections officer.

"It was something easy," he said, and again I felt that sense of despair I'd felt when reading jelly packets, a sense of waste and of falling short.

Lopez went on to defend himself, unnecessarily, telling me that he'd been one of the good officers, a lax officer, one who didn't give the inmates too much trouble, who never trashed lockers during shakedowns, who mostly turned a blind eye to thievery and contraband.

"All I cared about was collecting a paycheck," he said.

We never addressed the obvious question, which was the matter of his criminal charge. I never asked him what he did to end up on this side of the bars, nor did he offer and explanation. Anyway, it was irrelevant. We are all guilty of something.