Chapter 15: Unafraid

Dominguez in the summer was hell. It was hot and sticky. Imagine being in a large metal building with no air conditioner, and only a pair of fans to help fight the stale Texas summer heat.

The metal tables would get hot enough to scald the skin. We had to put blankets and towels down to use the tables. At night, it was normal to see someone sleeping on a bare metal bunk because the mattress was too hot. The sweat would run off of you in sheets. We would strip down to boxers and carry our towels around with us.

It got hotter. Inmates were beginning to drop from heat exhaustion. A few times a day, the guards would have some inmates wheel a big cooler full of ice water. The guard would yell, “COLD WATER!” And they were swarmed. Most of us got a cup. Some got two. We would conserve the cold water, sipping bits of it at a time until it became tepid.

The only activity we could do, was to laze around the dayroom, waiting for rec. Laying on a hot slab. Staring at the sun through my eyelids. Baking.

I knew that I should have felt paranoid, but I wasn’t. not after last night.

His dark skin was covered in tattoos. They treated him with respect. They gave him things. He went to meetings.
At night, he had the bunk across from me. We would sit up for hours playing chess on his bunk, talking about our families, what we did, books we liked.

I told him about Her, he had a “Her” too.

I drew a Viking on a scrap of paper. He wanted to buy the drawing to use as a tattoo. I gave it to him for free.
He was touched.

He ordered a guy dropped. Nine EME did it, It was horrific.

We played chess afterwards.

It was three A.M. We were the only two people awake in the dorm. We were both drenched in sweat, sitting on his bare bunk. We leaned up against the cool partition wall and talked.

“Why don’t you fear me?” he asked.

“Why should I?”

“Are you disrespecting me?”

“No.”

“What then?”

“I don’t fear you, but I respect you, Carnalle.”

He laughed, then grew serious. “If I wanted to, I could snap my fingers and you would be dead,” he said, “now do you fear me?”

“No.”

“Why don’t you fear me?”

“You are only one man.”

He looked me dead in the eye. “So are you, but you don’t know what I am capable of.”

I looked deader into his. “And you don’t know what I am capable of.”

He chewed on this for a minute, then laughed loudly in the sleeping dorm. Nobody told him to be quiet.

Laying on the slab, I felt free. I drifted away. I went back in time.

I was in county jail for a short time before I was allowed to be a trustee. I was detailed to work with the county precinct, patching potholes. It was fun work. The county workers loved me, we had a lot of laughs. They were always sad to drop me off at the jail, especially with my pending charges.

The commissioner called me into his office. Tossed me his keys. He was a good man and a hard worker. I earned his respect by patching thousands of potholes for him. He had a special request for me. I was to take the county truck out to the county line and patch as many potholes I can find from the county line back. He told me that I was going alone and that I could come back whenever I wanted to, but if I was gone the whole day, they wouldn’t start looking for me till 6:00 pm.

It was 8:30 in the morning. There were clothes in the truck, as well as an extra can of gas. I got in and sped to the edge of the county.
 
Laying on a hot stretch of highway.

The sunlight filtering through my closed eyelids. The sounds of the radio, some country song, quietly tinkling in the background. I had already patched the potholes. It was good, sweating labor. I worked quickly in the morning, sweeping, spreading asphalt, tamping it down, moving on to the next one. The truck was empty of asphalt in less than three hours. I was smoking a cigarette out of a pack I found in the glove box. I exhaled slowly into the sky.

Freedom. I knew what the commissioner was implying. I did good for him, he was trying to do good for me.
I deliberated. It was almost TOO easy. I wasn’t afraid anymore. I got back in the truck and floored it. I broke the county rules and smoked in the truck.

What the hell, it would be my last one for a long time.

The commissioner was shocked when I came back early for more asphalt.

Laying on a hot slab with the sun filtering through my eyes.

Defenseless. Alone.

Unafraid.

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