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28. I Was A Jailhouse Cyrano

I apologize for the breath, gang.  I had to get some shit together in my head and clean some filth up for storage.  I've kept my deviancy to a minimum but old habits die hard.  Really hard.  Maybe it's a commitment issue, I'm sure some of you would agree with this but I don't know.  It's hard to fight your nature.  The thing is, you don't hear much complaining when it's in your nature to strive for medical school credits or perfecting that note that you can't quite seem to grasp.  It's in my nature to be cynical and teeter on the edge of what most people would consider ugly.  I've been trying to change it.  I really have.  That's why I've decided to write about my latest prison hustle.

I have, for a price, been writing love / freak letters for some of my fellow convicts.  As of this writing I've been quasi- love birding most of Southeast Michigan.  It started with my bunky who can't read or write.  He got some young guy in here to convince his mother to write him.  As much as I'd like to, we won't go into the general fucked-up-edness of this situation.  Every two seconds, he was asking me how to spell, "where," and asking advice on how to woo this mother with the written word.

I finally told him to hand the pad of paper over and I wrote a short letter pontificating on the carnalities of level one prison life.  Some real tier-one shit.  I tickled her chin and stirred her martini.  Here, dip your whiskers in this, kitten.  I guess it worked as I began to, annoyingly enough to me, help him keep up the charade by answering her lonely letters.  Here's the rub - my bunky's a couple months from the door.  He's going to get out there and this woman's going to be in love with an illiterate hillbilly.  Don't get me wrong; my bunky is a great guy.  This woman has been reading a language that  isn't his.  The only poems he knows are dirty limericks.  I'm not overly conflicted about this, but it always sets up about an hours worth of musing about human nature.

Through conversation, my bunky told a couple of other guys about our deal and now I have a steady job wooing about 10 guys' women.  There's demand for more if I could handle the extra work.  I didn't think that I had a hand for the night breath, but they keep writing.  I get a new kind of dirty now.  Not a sexual dirty.  I've never been into that kind of dirty.  I have the secret pleasure of peeking into windows that aren't mine.  I get to look through all these lonely women's dressers - I know Kathy makes shitty tips and isn't getting by, Stacy's son is shooting dope and she just doesn't know what she'd do if she came home and he was dead.  I know Nancy is so goddamn scared and lonely that killing herself has become an option, sometimes.

The letters don't start that way, of course.  It always starts with shiny costume jewelry words, shitty poems, and pseudo-proclamations of love that sometimes raises bile to the back of my tongue.  I have run out of adjectives to describe penetration.  Ugh, that's the worst.  Their association of sex with love is appalling.

I have a guy who wants me to write nothing but freak letters.  I wrote the opening letter for him to a potential pen pal.  He gives me his information- name, age, likes, dislikes, some random thoughts or ideology and I write them into a semi-coherent letter.  Simple enough until she wrote back.  The very next letter he wants me to write is a freak letter.  Who am I to say?  The most that I can ask for is that this woman acknowledges how creepy that is a discontinues writing.  She didn't.  I now write these laughably horrible Harlequin sex scenarios to a 300-plus pound black woman.  I never look him in the eye when I hand him the letter and he hands me five dollars in commissary.

Is it weird that I listen to The Hold Steady exclusively when I write these letters?  Freaky or otherwise?  I hope I don't accrue some horrible association every time I listen to them in the future.

So, now I feel like weird imaginary prostitute.  I technically don't exist.  I didn't plan on having to continue these letters.  I could just stop.  I don't need the money.  There would be a good number of women out there that believe the convict they are were writing had some Sybil-like personality shift and stopped writing them, that would probably be best.  Those are some terribly broken women.  These are some enormously predatory men.  I just get to be a mediator of filth.  It's good work if you can get it.