jailhouse-door-2The whole of the next week went by as quickly as could be. Sunday was the only long day because there were no work details. But inmates who wanted to, could go to church services.

In the afternoon they announced an AA meeting. One of the inmates nearby to Bill told him it was a good thing to do because they served coffee and donuts and it killed a whole hour. So at the age of twenty Bill attended his first AA meeting.

True to what the inmate told him, the meeting lasted an hour. It was what they called an open meeting. That meant you didn’t have to be an alcoholic to attend. They gave a whole lot of suppositions for who might be there, like friends of alcoholics, think you might be an  alcoholic, curious about the program and more. Then one of the men—it was all men—joked and said it was okay if you just came to get out of your cell for an hour or for the coffee and donuts. They all laughed at that. That was the reason most of them were there.

Bill helped himself to two donuts and two coffees. He didn’t listen to the message too carefully, but later in his life he would recall attending this meeting and admit he might have fared better in his life if he had paid attention and understood how the symptoms fit him and the message applied to him. Bad timing, he would tell himself over and over and he would attribute it to that at this point in life substances had not yet taken their toll on him. (Actually, they had, and big time too, but not in his thinking.)

He ate the second Snowball Sunday night. After the lights had been turned on, he pulled the package he had wrapped as well as he could from underneath the folded towel and assorted other items he had set on top of the towel. There had been one argument in the cell about stealing that almost turned into a fight, but it was the tough who had done the stealing and the inmate who bitched punked out from the direct confrontation because the tough always had some of his crew around him, even when he took a shit.

As he ate, Bill wondered what he would have done if someone had stolen his food. He could only see two choices: ignore it or make an issue of it. Either way, it was a losing scenario. He ate his snowball slowly, relishing it, enjoying it, thankful for it and for having made it this far.

He called Sue several times during the week. He didn’t really have anything to say to her, anything he wanted to say. He called more for her, to reassure her he was okay, to tell her that when his time was served he’d be home to her. He could see that now. He understood now that the five months from the arrest to the deal to the trial, five months he had spent wholly depressed with the depression magnified by drugs and alcohol, were wasted months, months filled with useless worry and exaggerated fears.

Sometime, mid week, the blisters that once were, that had dried and been continually re-used by the forced work, same work over and over, had stopped hurting, didn’t bother him anymore and we’re turning to callus. Just like he was told, he thought. Just like they said.

He ate Snowballs every night. He drank a soda every night. He had a shower midweek and again on Friday. Some inmates rolled ’em up, some new ones came in. He saw the guards do the welcoming show two more times. He saw the tough do the tough-act. SSDD.

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