Jail-house Bull

Kafka Monday

August 13, 2015
Prison Journal

I didn’t feel too much like going to the jail-house today but I went. I was tired. So what. I got to exercise that morning, led a meeting at noon, ate lunch when I wanted to eat lunch, ate a salad as a matter of fact and it was good, so I didn’t feel like going to the jail-house — get over yourself, I said to no one in particular. I was alone.

The jail-house is by the way within walking distance of my home so give me a break my good self said to my bad self.

I walked over. I was sporting a tasty white seer sucker suit with an elegantine silk blue pocket kerchief for that splash of color I was taught to cultivate, white on white with intersecting textures of interest to the attentive eye and that blue pocket kerchief, an unexpected undeserved gift, a straw fedora that promised to protect my pate from the sun so said the sales person in San Diego where I purchased it. I can also fold the fedora inside a suitcase. Hey. I was a little depressed today full disclosure so I dressed up it works for me.

I had three guys to visit at the jail-house. Three different floors. I made small talk with my friend at the desk who I know from the Children’s Hospital a long time ago which means we are bonded in a deep way, packed my phone, hat, pocket stuff into the locker, retrieved my id card and headed up onto the top floor, the hole, where one of my guys was located. They opened up the gates for me, it’s easier for me to go inside so to speak rather than sit in a cubicle separated by that thick glass. If I don’t go inside, I can visit from the other side but that makes it more difficult to sit with books, etc., and those phones and the little cubicles it’s all an extra measure of disheartening.

So I prefer to go inside but once I get up to the floors, there are only a few rooms available and often there are other occupants of the rooms. There is one little room I described in an earlier entry that is modest and small, I think there is one on every floor, where a psychologist or a lawyer or a rabbi can sit one on one. The door stays open and it’s just more pleasant for conversation and study. I find even as a visitor I crave an open door. Some sort of spacial privilege.

Every room was taken on the first two floors I visited. I couldn’t see the guys on those floors. I started on top and came down. When I got to the last choice, fourth floor, there was an open room. I grabbed it and the CO (corrections’ officer) got the guy out for me.

We sat in front of a big window with lots of reinforcement that faces north and you can see some life happening below. Basically a parking lot of the County governing center. On that day the view was significant. We heard and saw an accident in the parking lot down below and a lot of little people running around trying not to kill each other over a mistake in a turn on the black top. While we were talking. We could hear it behind the windows, way up where we were sitting, and we were both gazing out talking hardly interrupting our conversation maybe mid-sentence with: hey there’s an accident. Back to the conversation.

By the time of the accident the conversation had ascended to a negligible level of bullsh**. Hardly registered at all on the bullsh** scale by that time so the accident was of little interest to us. We were deep into conversation of significance.

A half an hour before, when we began this conversation, I’d say the bullsh** scale was reading up around 97-98%. The man I was visiting was winding out a lengthy story of victimhood and resentment toward everyone who had been a part of his life since he ended up in the jail-house about three months ago. About five minutes in if someone had interrupted the conversation and hooked me up to the bullsh** detector I’m sure it would have registered up around 98%.

I sat quietly, the two other guys were lost to me and I had some time, so the man let out more line like a fisherman and I sat and listened. About ten minutes in I would say the bullsh** scale would still have registered upward of 90%.

About twenty minutes in, the conversation began to slide into another place, it wasn’t a swift movement it was an evolution, in the arc from 90 plus percent bullsh** to a gradient down toward truth-telling and at the time of the accident if we would have paused in conversation and hooked me up I bet it would have registered at 2% maybe even less, maybe undetectable bullsh**. We had arrived at truth-telling. How did that happen?

Later that night I was telling the story of the conversation. Of course it was patience that we practiced in riding the conversation from such a high level of bullsh** to that place of almost complete truth-telling, raw and revelational. Patience, an active waiting for the truth to rise so to speak.

He was telling me how he had come to accept responsibility for being in that place and however long he had to stay there he was going to work it for what it means to his life. What a waste he said to have to endure this experience and not squeeze it for what it means. To do time like this and not learn from it is like doing double time he said. I kept saying yes. Yes.

I wonder. Does every conversation, even the ones that begin and rest at the level of 90-95% bullsh** have the pull to move toward truth-telling if given the time if practicing enough patience does every conversation move naturally toward such evolutionary integrity? Is that all it takes? Patience. To sit and listen and let someone wind out a story until the slack is let out and what’s left is taut and true. And the movement so natural you hardly noticed how you got there you just arrived.

I felt good good as I was leaving. I took the elevator downstairs to retrieve my stuff from the locker and turn in my badge and my friend behind the desk did something she had never done before. I have been there making small talk with her many times in the years I’ve been visiting that jail-house and for the first time, that day, today, she asked me: How did it go?

It went great I said, really wonderful. Thanks. I thanked her a few times and I may have been a little overly enthusiastic with my language but I think she knows. That’s how I read her question, I think she knows that sometimes – in that place, places like that – it can really be spectacular.

james goodman