In Prison with Trunkwoman (6) By Edna Merle
Actual confinement wasn’t as bad as is the part about who you’re confined with. That’s the bad part of prison. For example, I’ll just call her Trunkwoman. Trunkwoman was in the first year of her sentence, convicted of a heinous crime serving two life sentences without parole. I was in my 12 year of prison. We lived in an “honor” dorm then, and the theory was that if you lived in the “honor” dorm you were honorable, safe and most assuredly not violent. Well, Trunkwoman would walk around the room and the dorm saying that she was leaving to go home by the summer, which was then only 4 months away. When the 4 month came and went, she became more and more difficult to live with. She refused to wash her blankets or sheets, (and since she slept below me, this made me increasingly uncomfortable). I began to notice flies and gnats flying from her locker into the room and most of the time would settle on her bed. I discovered her eating fried chicken in bed at 2:00 in the morning one night. I knew we’d had (what they called) oven fried chicken 3 nights prior, and I thought, oh my she’s going to kill herself by eating that old bad chicken. So the next day I discussed it with the other room mates who then informed me that Trunkwoman had been paying someone to bring her “free world food” weekly. That’s why the bugs loved her locker and her bed.
Trunkwoman had previously run every roommate she’d had, that slept above her, out of the room. Generally they were gone within a week. I wasn’t leaving, she was. Though I didn’t want to get into an altercation with trunkwoman it was only with the grace of God that I didn’t lose my mind. Trunkwoman would use her bed as a launching pad from which she’d propel herself onto her feet, landing in the middle of the room. When she did this, the bunk bed frame would jerk violently and even shift the entire bed from its designated spot. The worst part was when she’d come in for a landing; she’d throw herself into a lying down position, from her formerly standing one. Bizarre. She said it was easier on her body to do this. And saved her time…Well, I could have said some real mean things to her at that point about saving time, but I never did. It was hard though at times restraining myself. But the more she knew things bothered you, the more she’d do them, while praising God. That made me mad. Living with Trunkwoman was doing hard time.
Finally, she began using tissues to touch the television or door handles in the room, as she was afraid of other people’s germs. We had two other roommates at that time, in the room and we all knew Trunkwoman was not a sane individual. When she used the bathroom (for both purposes) she did it standing and not ever touching the stainless steel rim with any part of her skin. We knew then that things had gone to a new level of sickness. When she was finished she’d use a dirty rag and a jar of old reused chemicals she kept by the toilet. Then the prison increased the population. They removed the TV and table and chairs and installed another bunk bed. Now we had 8 people that shared a bathroom with two stalls. She used the same one each time, thank God. But that meant no one else used hers, so we had 7 people sharing one toilet. When we would complain, they would tell us we could move. We showed the officers and counselors her toilet, they’d acknowledge it, commiserate with us and do nothing.
Things progressed to a violent phase when Trunkwoman proceeded to open our room door by kicking it with such force that the handle began taking chunks of concrete out of the wall with each violent thrust. Several times people were almost hit by the door being kicked open, which made Trunkwoman laugh uproariously. She professed to be a Christian yet had psychotic tendencies. I believed her to be insane or in shock or both.
We called her Trunkwoman, never to her face, because she killed a man for his money so she and a boyfriend could by some drugs. She kept the dead man in the trunk of her car for so long that the smell is what alerted others to the crime. Trunkwoman would pace the room we lived in as if trying to get away from something chasing her. Then she’d stop, look at me and yell, “I can’t get the smell of blood out of my nose”! That was hard living. I often thought she was going to say something else. But it was always about smelling blood.
Because I’d been a special education teacher’s aide in prison for several years, I could tell that whatever illness Trunkwoman had, went in cycles and was getting worse. I wrote a letter to the Director of Mental Health describing the situation and asking if he perhaps thought an evaluation might help her. He came and she was told that I wrote a letter about her. God protected me then too, because she was extremely angry at me for that.
Then one day her locker was hit in a random shakedown. They do this all day long every day in the prison. No one knows who’s locker is going to be searched or when. I’ve been hit 5 times in a week before. When the officer started pulling out a stash of empty chip bags, she had questions. Why are you keeping these? The truth was that Trunkwoman would take a potato chip bag in her pocket to meet the person who was bringing her in food. She’d put the food in her chip bag and carry it back to the room. I never remember an officer stopping anyone to look into their chip bags or cookie bags. So that worked for her.
When the officer pulled out a cup with bleach in it, is when the problems began. The officer said what’s this? Water, Trunkwoman said. Clearly the officer could smell it was bleach and wrote a disciplinary for lying and another for possession of bleach. Bleach was given out on a daily basis to clean with. Never is one allowed to keep any chemicals in their locker. It’s too dangerous with unpredictable people. When Trunkwoman tried to pour out the cup of bleach, she got another charge against her. Then after the officer put everything in the officer’s station, trunkwoman ran in there and tried to grab the cup of bleach one last time.
The officer finally had had enough and called for CERT (Correctional emergency response team) to come and take her to lockdown.
Finally she was transferred to a maximum security prison after her insanities came to be seen by more than just her room mates and her closed security status made it mandatory.
Closed security it the highest security one could have. It basically means that the person is deemed to dangerous to be trusted in anywhere but a maximum security prison. Or they have life without parole, or the death penalty. We were in a minimum security prison. Trunkwoman was definitely in the wrong prison.
After she left the entire dorm breathed an audible sigh of relief.
One Response to In Prison with Trunkwoman (6) By Edna Merle
- Susan Asher says:
Please keep telling us more stories like this about what it was like in prison. I’d love for that part of the story to go on and on, starting with your first day on through your last. Thanks for these wonderful stories. Keep ‘em coming. You could get published with these stories.