Over six years ago, sitting in my cell at United States Penitentiary Canaan, drinking a fresh cup of hot instant Columbian coffee, flipping through a Hamilton book catalog, I noticed in the gay/lesbian section a book titled “The History of Homosexuality” and thought ‘this would have been a good reference book for Voice for the Silent Fathers’ which I was brainstorming at the time. My friend Paradise walked in and saw the section the catalog was open to and asked: “What’s up? You doing some research for the book about your son?”
“I’m thinking about it, not really sure if I’m going to need it but look, they got a book called “The History of Homosexuality.” I said as I passed him the catalog with my finger pointing at the specific title and small picture of the books cover.
“Well it has history, their talking about it in the bible.” he said.
“Yeah and there’s probably some interesting facts that people know nothing about that I can write about.”
“So order it Eddie.”
“Hell no!! Could you imagine at mail call with the whole Unit crowded around waiting for their names to be heard, knowing most of them are just being nosey since they haven’t received mail in years, seeing me receiving a book on Homosexuality in here of all places!!! Nah not going to happen” I said.
“That’s research for you sons book. If someone says something out their mouth, I’ll stab’em in the neck.” he said in all serious, lifting up his shirt revealing two long steal ice pick style prison shanks.
“Paradise, that’s exactly what I don’t want.”
“Man fuck that. I’m going to order the book for you in my name.”
“You don’t have to do that dice.”
“Eddie, I’m doing it. As a matter of fact, your birthday is this month, so it’s my gift. Say no more.”
One thing I knew…Paradise keeps his word, having been locked up about 15 years of a double life sentence. He’s also burnt out and knows it. He would not hesitate stabbing anyone in the neck and left the cell, walking directly to the computer with the catalog, typed in the information, printed out the money release form and it was ordered.
We knew it would take about two weeks until it was time to look out for the mail but just as we hit the two week mark, the prison went on an institutional lock down when this guy Joey, who was one of John Gotti Jr’s co-defendants was found stabbed to death.
During that lock down, mail is delivered individually to our cells so I figured at least we won’t have to go through any awkward situations when the book gets delivered. laughing to myself imagining what the correction officer that inspects the mail must have been thinking when he read the title and who it was going to. And what about the Unit officer who’s delivering it right to Paradises cell. I know I’m about to be joking Paradise about that, especially since out unit c.o. at the time was a big gay officer that had no shame about being gay either.
Well the joke ended up being on me because once Paradise received this extra big book with the title printed in huge block letters and a clearly flamboyant homosexual man on the cover…the first thing he told the big gay officer is “Take this to cell #118, it’s a birthday gift for Wright.”
I told you he’s burnt out!!
The nest thing I know is the unit officer is tapping my cell window signaling me over, as he opened the food slot.
“What’s up?” I asked
Looking at me with his goggling eye stare he said “I have a birthday present for you” as I grabbed the book he slid through the slot.
When I realized what it was, I just looked up at him, blushing a little at a loss for words and then he leaned closer to the door whispering ” You trying to tell me something?” batting his eye’s with a flirtatious smirk.
“Nah!! I’m just doing some research for a book I’m writing.”
“Sure. Right.” locking the slot winking his left eye, “Research” he said turning walking away.
Now I was the one being joked by my cell mate at that time, but I read the book front to back learning a lot of interesting things that I wrote down. As soon as we came off lock down, Paradise came to my cell asking about my birthday gift, laughing as he said “You like how I sent the book down with the C.O.?”
“Yeah Paradise, you could have waited until after we came off lock.”
“Nah, I figured you needed something to read.” he said with a funny smirk on his face, then asked “what did the c.o. say?”
“Nothing, let’s just say we shared a moment and leave it at that.” I said with a small chuckle.
It’s funny because every time I would see this officer, who used to pay no me no mind at all, nods his head and say’s “Wright.”
I just respond with my “How you doing?” and keep on moving.
This was just one of the many funny things that occurred during the process of my writing “Voice for the Silent Fathers” and wanted to share it with my readers.
Available now at http://www.voiceforthesilentfathers.com