(Written in April 2019)
It’s a hot August day on Rikers Island. Of course, I can only tell that it’s daytime from the rays of light shining between the bars of this cell’s tiny window. No one’s been around to enforce bedtime in days, nor let anyone out for a meal, shower, or recreation in the yard. That fucker down the hall is moaning again. Does he think anyone hears him? Nobody’s coming to help you, buddy! Can’t you smell the death stinking up this shithole, begging for the sweet escape of an open window, a door, anything? The stench of the diarrhea and vomit that soaks the clothes of my criminal neighbors had gone from an infuriating olfactory presence to my new normal.
My name’s Eric Porter, and I guess I’m a survivor. Oops, that sounded like a hokey line from an NA meeting. Well, it’s true. Every night last week, the whole block would huddle around the big wall-mounted CRT TV over in the rec room to get the latest updates on the superflu. It popped up in Montana and spread hundreds of miles in a flash. 100% lethality and seemingly airborne transmission. Of course there was a riot in here when the news came that it was in New York, but what could we do when they brought out the tear gas and tasers? Into your cell you go and into your cell you die.
Except me. And that other guy. That was 5 days ago so I’m starting to get hungry in spite of the stench. All I’ve had to eat is some of the skin above my fingernails, but I’ve been doing that since I had to kick meth on account of my imprisonment. I’m not too far above moany guy, I just express myself differently. Right after the cell block got real quiet, my favorite pasttime was to poke my nose through my cell door and shake the thick white bars hoping that someone would come rescue us. Now I’ve given up and await impending doom. I lay in my hard, white cot and stare at the hard, gritty ceiling to conserve energy, only getting up to relieve myself in the stainless steel toilet or drink water from the tap above it.