Lil bit was truly little. with her dark hair in tight braids along the side of her head she walked past my bunk as i read Eragon for the fourth time trying to catch a memory that might pull me out of the despair of imprisonment. the slick green plastic and scratchy wool blanket beneath me could offer only token comfort against the unyielding iron of my bunk. it, like the prison system, could beat my weight for my entire life and show only wear in the paint, it would not break for me. So i retreated from the blaring sounds of constant BET background into the book, into something I’d already read, a story meant for teenagers about dragons and soul-deep bonds. i performed this retreat often into numerous comfortable fantasies. escape, it should be noted, is always on the prisoner’s mind.
but for lil bit, the moment was not yet about escape. it was her first day on the line, her first time with the degenerate queens of L2.
she would glance around as she clutched her own scratchy wool blanket to her teenage girl’s chest her thin, battered plasti-coated mattress on the concrete floor at her orange slippered feet. she looked lost, like eragon surrounded by urgals in a strange land.
except she knew these interlopers. and they knew her.
several of L2’s ersatz “girls” rose and rushed to lil bit. they hugged her, took her blanket and grabbed her hand, prepared to lead her from the wild into the fold.
do not be confused. lil bit was no more a girl than any of the women embracing her. these were -to a one – all transsexuals. men who should have been women. men who in a more permissive culture might not have sold their under-construction bodies to hungry, clandestine straight men who were desperate to get well and truly fucked by a low cost, accessible, and degraded female analogue. a woman with a dick and all the driven sex it implied. a woman for whom fifty dollars meant shame well spent. these were the women of L2. and they welcomed lil bit as one of their own. because she was. for now.
“Lil Bit” Miss Vanessa chirped as she wrapped her thick, trunk-like arms around Lil Bit. Vanessa’s stringy polyester hair swayed a little bit. Miss Alexis, Miss Jazmine and Miss Elton (even the “gay boys” on L2 wore the “Miss” salutation.) all moved in for hugs after Vanessa eased back. Miss Michael and Miss Sugar Red followed. I remained in bed, watching. Of all the women on L2, Lil Bit was the most alike to an actual female and the least constructed. Without prior knowledge, with her slim body and shoulders, her delicate features, small hands and full lips Lil Bit was easy to mistake for a born woman. THis made her even more popular among the men in prison, among the johns on the “ho stroll” outside, and less so among the girls of L2. Lil Bit, all five feet two inches of her, looked over the twenty-foot-long metal table at me and turned her petite nose up at me. I heard nothing as I wore my contraband headphones that drowned out almost all sounds. It was a costly but very much worth it mercy I acquired after seven months of 16 hours days filled with loud noise, loud television, and only the rarest, sinister quiets. But I saw the look she gave me.
I knew that look.
Lil Bit did not like me.
I wasn’t too much on liking myself at the moment, so I understood her loathing. What I did not understand was how she arrived at the loathing so fast. L2 was comprised of ten bunk beds, enough for twenty homosexuals. The only open bunk then was next to mine, on top and to my right. I had a bottom bunk as I had been a resident of the line longer then that all but a small fraction of people in the prison, and only one queen on L2 could claim to have continuously resided there longer, but Miss Gladys is another story. After some brief discussions, Lil Bit – aided by Vanessa who drug the mattress for her – moved into the bunk adjacent and above me. She made her bed in a cursory manner, paying little attention to me. I watched her with the same wariness I watched everyone new – was she crazy? A thief? A liar? A crackhead? These questions needed to be answered and could never be asked directly.
When Lil Bit had finished putting her bed together – a very quick process on L2 for a new inmate, as we were only given a raw cotton sleeping mat covered in lime green plastic, a single woolen blanket five feet by five, a sheet sewn into the shape of a six foot long sack, two orange jumpsuits, a pair of orange shorts and a pair of orange plastic slippers – she then pulled herself up into the bunk. As she did so she committed what I knew then (if not when I first came to L2) as a huge no-no – she kept her plastic slippers ON. THen she dropped them to the ground from the top bunk, scattered particles of dust and fluff tracked across the floor from the bottom of the slippers onto the bed beneath – onto Miss Vanessa’s bed. I turned off my radio to listen.
“Oh no Miss Baby!” Vanessa growled. “Don’t do tha’! Next time take yo’ shoes OFF firs’ then climb up into the bed!”
Far nicer than the absolute cursing I got for my first transgressions with Vanessa.
Lil Bit somehow knew I was watching and she glared down at me from on high, her dislike amplified further now. I quickly looked away but continued to watch Lil Bit from the corner of my eye, still wanting to figure her out and hoping she would anger Vanessa enough to get Vanessa to get angrier at her. Watching Vanessa become Vincent was always worth the show. But that did not happen. Instead Lil Bit leaned down and asked Vanessa if she could borrow Vanessa’s “Mercedes.”
I’d been on the line for over a year and had never heard that expression used in that manner. I thought I was well versed and here, in mere minutes, I’d been shown up by Lil Bit. I harrumphed quietly, to myself, and looked at the TV, hopeful -if only distantly – that it had been changed off BET.
Still watching The Game. What a TERRIBLE show. Everyone involved with it should be shot and then fed to the people who actually watch it.
My eyes drifted back to Vanessa and Lil Bit and saw that Vanessa was handing up her cheaply made, yet expensive at $32, radio from the prison commissary. Vanessa, for all her horrible aspects was generally a generous woman. But she did NOT lend her radio out. She could not afford to a buy a new one and they were far too valuable in the context of imprisonment than any desire to be generous. Yet she handed Lil Bit the radio without hesitation. The radio that Lil Bit called a “Mercedes.”
I learned many things in this manner – overhearing the queens talk and parsing their language to understand what they meant and in what context. As someone who had always wanted to be a writer but was mired in being a junkie – observation without reflection was a hallmark of mine then.
What I figured out after that was Lil Bit was NOT new to L2. The queens knew her too well, she was too well received to have just been another girl from the PLank Road or Scenic Highway transsexual whore walks these girls frequented.
Perhaps she’s not a prostitute at all?
Not likely. THey’re all prostitutes.
Yeah I thought it.
I would later learn that Lil Bit was in fact not a prostitute, but simply fond of other people’s things – she was a true thief. And this was NOT her first time on L2, but her fourth. She had tried to snatch an old woman’s purse and been caught. I’d been wrong many times, but back then I still refused to regularly face such truth.
Before long Lil Bit had put the cheap earbuds in, lain back on the thin mat and put her knees up, settled in. It had taken me several days before I felt so comfortable. She was at ease in minutes. I was actually jealous – without really thinking about how ridiculous that was. THen Lil Bit started to sing.
“Sometimes love comes around and it knocks you down…” she tweeted.
ANd it was beautiful.
Lil Bit could SING! As sweet and angelic as if she were a choirgirl in her prime. Many of the girls on L2 could sing to a minor degree, but this was an order of magnitude higher. It was bordering on sublime. The song was currently popular on the top 40 radio stations, “Knocks You Down” by Keri Hilson. I was fond of it without being in love with it. I had heard it many hundreds of times, as top 40 rock along with NPR took up most of my days and nights. But I had never heard it like this: with no music – just the crystalline tones of a beautiful voice in an ugly place.
She can sing! And for some reason she HATES me!
This is what I thought. My heart hardened and her singing stopped being beautiful. L2 was an ugly place and finding beauty there rarely had any lasting effect. Just then the guard, moved from the control booth into the dorm and shouted. “Pill Call!”
L2 – as a protected custody homosexual line was unlike any other line/dorm in the prison. We were nominally to be kept separated from the other inmates – “the boys” as we L2 “girls” knew them – and escorted whenever we may come into contact with the boys As such we were escorted to the chow hall under guard supervision, escorted to medical, rare trips to the recreation yard, GED class and visitation. The only time we were regularly NOT escorted was pill call. Pill call in EBRPP was a sordid affair – part obligatory process, part social function, part business opportunity. A contracted LPN would wheel a cart full of medications to one wing and allow several different units (i.e. A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3 – etc) at once to form a line and received their medications. By prison policy L2 should NOT have been allowed to participate in this manner, but as so often was the case, guards were lazy and would skirt such rules. Therefore many of the queens would use Pill Call as the perfect opportunity to see the boys, to interact and pass notes with the boys, to engage in furtive, quick sex acts with the boys. I was no exception. In fact, not only was I no exception – I was an avid participant. I would frequently use Pill Call as an excuse to hang out before the bars of other units, K1 & K1, E3, etc – in the sharp hopes that one of the rare gorgeous bodied men would sling his cock at me and hope for attention. It had happened often enough with the unattractive men. Within several weeks I had given my first blow job to a dick shoved between metal bars while others simply walked by, laughed or lusted or sighed.
By the time Lil Bit arrived I was a professional at such acts, and well known for my bravado. THe girls would comment on it.
“WHo dick you suck tonight, Miss Frank?”
“Did you gobble Miss Frank?”
“Who you et, Miss Frank?”
Initially I would hold my conquests close to my chest, but eventually I learned that it was better to be infamous and brash about it, than be infamous and sheepish.
“I sucked EVERY dick I saw!” I’d shout. “I ate up YO husband and HER husband and HER husband!”
The girls would laugh, thinking I was joking, but also knowing I might be serious. No one wanted the truth known. Not them, not me.
THe night Lil Bit arrived and Pill Call was called shortly after the girls did their usual cat-calling of me. I replied with my customary faux faggotry. I had no knowledge how long my sentence would be. Years at least, possibly decades. I knew this behavior was not really indicative of my personality – I did not swish and lisp except as a joke – but with an open-ended prison sentence before me it seemed prudent to adopt the ways of the Romans for as long as I would remain in Rome. And as with the ROmans, it became part of me. So when the girls cat-calling I put a hand on my hip and said, “Imma suck ALL the dicks tonight!”
Rounds of laughter and then I caught Lil Bit’s eyes. She glared.
I swallowed – not from fear of her, she was half my size at best – but from apprehension at her connection to Vanessa who could beat me senseless with ease. LIl Bit swept past me and said nothing. She lined up before K1 & K2 and waited for her pills, not paying any attention to the numerous calls of the boys who were very pleased at the sight of her slim femininity. Feeling their lust, I moved towards the bars. Standing just behind them was a beautiful murdered named who went by the named Ziggy. His actual name was maybe Bertrand, but no one called him that. Bertrand was not traditional a pretty man, though he was quite young, maybe twenty three or twenty four. His body was all rippling, lean muscles, narrow waist and wide shoulders. And his hands were rough and calloused and slim. Hanging between the bars just below where his hands pressed was a huge, thick, gorgeous cock. He swung it at me. I had sucked Ziggy off many times. But never in front of other people.
I licked my lips and searched the immediate area for any guards.
THere were none.
I dropped to my knees and began to suck. Lil Bit had already gone back to L2 and had not noticed. All the girls liked Ziggy and I was sure many more besides myself had sucked his dick, but I did not care. I was not the jealous type and unlike the girls of L2 I neither thought of myself as a female, nor enjoyed the boys thinking of me as one, I did not want one of them as a jail “husband.” But for the girls of L2 it was akin to being Lindsay Lohan in a nightclub or Paris Hilton in a Wal-Mart. Famous for all the wrong reasons in all the wrong places. When Ziggy came in my mouth I swallowed and got up just in time to see the line shift and the nurse come into sight. I moved fast and got into line before she caught a view of me and began to suspect.
I smiled at her, asked for my pills and blew a semen scented “thank you” in her direction. She grimaced and waved me away.
Nurse Billings certainly would have reported me to the guards on duty if she knew. She was hateful like that.
Within two days Lil Bit had met Ziggy and they had “fallen in love.” Ziggy had even made the impossible move – the nuclear option. He told the guards he was gay, though he was most definitely NOT. Yet doing so meant he could and by policy was required to be moved from K1 to L2. So two days after the last time I sucked him off, there was Ziggy coming into L2 with his bags of stuff from four years in Parish Prison awaiting a murder trial and a wide, expectant smile on his face. LIl Bit leapt from her bunk and ran at him, embraced him and kissed him wildly. The girls laughed and the guard in the control booth banged on the windows until Ziggy and Lil Bit ceased kissing, but they kept holding hands. She looked so much like a young girl in romantic love with a young man that I was actually touched before I sneered.
Prison love? How fucking stupid!
But it looked real.
Unbidden I heard Lil Bit’s voice drift into my mind, singing her favorite song “Knocks YOu Down” which she sang every time it came on the radio or on BET. Ziggy settled into the top bunk adjacent to Lil Bit’s – against the wall, two bunks down from mine. They proceeded to talk softly, Ziggy neither looked at me nor spoke to me. I imagined some of the girls laughing, and I actually saw Vanessa grinning at me.
Later than night as I slept fitfully I felt something shake my bed. When my eyes snapped open there was Ziggy, his hard dick pressing huge and devilishly against the fabric of his orange shorts.
“Miss Frank…come suck this dick…” he whispered. THe gentle snores of sleeping queens almost drowned his request. I immediately looked up towards Lil Bit’s bunk. Her head was covered by her woolen blanket, standard for her, and she could not see at all. Another look – this time around the darkened dorm – seemed to indicate no one else was awake. So I slipped into the shower stall with Ziggy, only a length of plastic separating us from the sight of everyone else. THe toilets were in full view of the other inmates, but the shower was screened off by this fabric giving us our only available privacy as inmates on L2. I sucked Ziggy with wild abandoned, swallowing his beefy nine inches and not choking once – making noise would possibly alert others and I had learned not to do that. It was always better to be quiet when having prison sex.
Ziggy came with whispered grunts. His semen spurted down the back of my throated and I swallowed with gentle hums of lust driven pleasure. I loved it. THen Ziggy stroked my cheek, his first ever moment of tenderness towards me, and darted out of the shower. I rocked on my heels, confused – not with emotion – just with shock.
What was THAT about?
I left the shower and crawled back into my bed not bothering to wash the taste of him from my mouth and was soon asleep.
The next day I awoke to screaming. I looked up and saw Lil Bit with her back to the wall, Ziggy, only an inch or so taller, looming in front of her, his fists balled at his side. THey were intently staring at each other, as if draw strength before they would begin the yelling again. I sighed and started to look away when the whole dorm went quiet. I noticed half the queens watching Ziggy and Lil Bit and the other half pretending not to watch whilst doing exactly that. I turned back towards them and saw Lil Bit clutching her cheek with both hands. Right then she looked directly at me.
Her deep brown eyes blazed.
Ziggy had hit her. And I was smiling without thinking about it.
“Fuck you Miss Frank with yo’ AIDS ass, you a nasty white bitch and stay OUTTA mah bidness!” Lil Bit squealed.
I sighed, having just awoken and in no mood to fight. But Lil Bit had the bit in her mouth.
“Don’t nobody like you noways and you gonna die in prison, so how bout that?”
She struck a very raw nerve. I had not yet been sentenced and daily battled the fear of possibly living out exactly what she just said.
Die in prison? DIE IN PRISON?
Rage bubbled up.
“Well at least I’ll die with Ziggy dick in my mouth! How about THAT?” I fired back.
THe already quiet dorm went absolutely still.
I had crossed a line.
Lil Bit snarled and tried to move past Ziggy to leap at me. I got quickly up from the bunk and put on my shoes – a rare luxury when everyone else had only slippers – in preparation for the fight. But Lil Bit could not get past Ziggy. He had grabbed her by the wrists (a move I was familiar with from another incident) and held her pinned against the wall. She lunged at me and him and made no head way. Finally after she took a deep, seemingly calm breath, Ziggy let her go. Her arms drifted down to her sides and though her fists remained balled, she only quivered where she stood. But her face underwent a radical change, an understanding swept through it.
I could almost hear her thoughts.
Wait? MISS FRANK sucked ZIGGY dick?
She turned from looking at me to make eye contact with Ziggy and spit dead in his face.
His reaction was lightning fast and sure. His right fist balled, swung back and clocked Lil Bit just under her left eye. She crumpled wordlessly to the floor. And the dorm went wild. Half the queens jeered with laughter, the other half, including Miss Vanessa and Sugar D and Miss Alexis ran to put themselves between Ziggy and Lil Bit.
“NO. Ziggy!” Vanessa said through her partial and heavy slur. “DOn’t no nigga hit no ho on L2. NO!”
Ziggy, shaking with suppressed anger shot a glance towards the guard in the control booth, to see if he’d been spotted hitting Lil Bit. Satisfied he had not he allowed himself to be pushed aside by the much larger Vanessa while Sugar D and Alexis tended to the slowly awakening Lil Bit. I managed to withhold laughter.
Instead I put myself back in my bunk and sang, off-key and loudly:
“Sometimes love comes around…
and it knocks you down…”