A literary, literal tour of Walton County jail

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 05:46 PM.

You notice that most of the jail workers are obese, even the doctor — a man who stares straight ahead reciting form questions, barely noting the answers until he gets to HIV, positive or negative? His boredom is catching. He spells Xanax with a z. When he gets to lice, hair or body? You think he's kidding, then shudder involuntarily when you realize he isn't. 

You're issued two hand towels, one pair of ripped plastic shower shoes, a drinking cup, two thread bare sheets, sized for a toddler's bed, one small, scratchy, synthetic blanket, an extra jumpsuit — it matches the one you're wearing with your Bobo's (canvas slip on shoes) and a hygiene kit similar to airline overnight kits, although the toothbrush is short, smooth, not shank-worthy.

Everything is precious. From empty deodorant tubes to the stickers of shampoo bottles, there is no garbage, it can all be used for something. It's like ultra-light backpacking with gram counting pals. You'll learn how to survive with less, how to stop needing.

 When the meal comes, your stomach turns. You think of POW stories, of cannibals, of quietly starving to death. You figure you could stand to lose a few pounds.

Books, lovely, hopeful, sexy, old, torn, sad, cheap books are passed around, but the tallest ones stay on the shelf, as these are what short inmates use to extend their reach to the TV controls. You think of your house, all the electronics. But this TV is small, old, mounted too high. You think about how cheap flatscreens are now, how one TV is not enough for 64 people.

 Later, you count the showers. Two of the four work. Sinks? Three of the four work. Toilets? Four. All working, none have doors, or lids or rolls of toilet paper.

It's the little things you miss — tissues, hand soap, paper towels, salt and pepper, pen and paper, and of course... your smart phone. Eventually your hand will reach out for it less, the idea that you need that answer will fade.



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