Taking showers in prison was something I always dreaded. It was probably one of the most stressful parts of each day. Having to shower at Metro State Prison in Atlanta meant showering with two other women. The shower curtains had been removed, allegedly so you couldn’t hang yourself with one of the curtains. Yet the rod remained firmly in place, which provided the perfect place to hang, say, your nylon net bag, sheet or other article of clothing. But I always believed the removal of the shower curtains was to promote homosexual activity in a state facility where homosexual activity is most seriously prohibited. Confused? Well, don’t worry, it didn’t make sense to the prisoners either. But then I came up with some very good, weird Al Yankavic type of songs about it which made me feel better about the agony of enduring shower time. If you can be sicker in a sick world, well, that was helpful as well as entertaining too!
Usually it’s a good idea to plan your shower time with two others you know and trust, which are few and far between in prison. But there are some who, like me, didn’t want to be abused while cleaning my body parts. So we’d plan out the shower time most strategically. When our time came to shower we’d all three go in and do our business without a hitch. But on most occasions this was not entirely possible. Someone would take longer to come out of the shower so only two of us could go in. The third had to suffer her shower with whoever would come next. That’s when problems occurred.
On more than one occasion I was the third. One night two girls I thought I knew very well and who were friends to me came into the shower. To my surprise they were obsessed with staring at my breasts. Then they came closer. I was very upset but laughed it off and pretended to be unaffected by them and told them to get away from me. They didn’t. “You have such perfect tits,” one of them said. “We just want to touch them,” said the other. I got mad and left the shower quickly.
My room-mate wrote a letter to the Warden about my shower episode and the Warden called for me. She said, “I’m tired of all this foolishness. Do you want to be like these people?” I was shocked at her question. She must have thought I wanted to be with them. I said “No, I don’t want to be like them. They have life sentences and should have already gone home a long time ago”. The warden asked me if I knew these girls’ story and what they really did. I said yes, they told me. So the warden asked me what I was told.
Well, one of the girls was a tall slim red-head and a very good graphic design artist who was a very charismatic sort of person. Now that I think about her from this distance, she was very powerful in the prison world. She was a real convict, which is a complement in the prison world. If she was your friend no one bothered you. She was very pretty and was known for never taking any crap from anyone. But prison takes its toll no matter how attractive you are. After several years the time just changes your face. Anyway, she took the rap for her mother. Her mother had a mean boyfriend who was beating the mother. One day the daughter came home and found the boyfriend had been stabbed to death by the mother. The good daughter didn’t want her mother to go to prison for this awful crime because she had suffered enough in her life. So the daughter took the body, cut it up and packaged it like butcher meat and stored it in their garage freezer. Months went by and everything was fine. Until one day an insurance adjuster checking on a claim discovered body parts at the bottom of the freezer under the frozen vegetables and venison. The suspicious adjuster took a package and had it thawed and tested. Then came the search and arrest warrants. Thus, life in prison for the daughter that said she did it. But it was really her mother who killed the guy.
Now as I write this I must have been crazy to think that the daughter was at all innocent when she, in fact, cut up the body! Dead or not, how could one cut up a body and put it in a freezer where you keep food that you will one day eat? But, at the time, I didn’t flinch. She was OK by me until that shower day. Then she took on a new meaning when the warden asked me if I wanted to be like them. Wow, what a revelation! I guess the warden had thought she was one of my regular shower partners and I failed to clarify that.
Never would I be like them. Never could I do that, I said to the warden. She said, stop hanging around them, they are not your friends.
The other girl in the shower had another whammy of a story. She’s also a very good artist and poet, was petite and very soft-spoken. In fact, she used to stutter from nerves or maybe fear, I not sure which. She had dark hair and eyes. She was built almost like a young boy. She always stayed alone in her room and read or wrote in her journal. She spent all the years I knew her writing to appeal her case. I was attracted by her intelligence. And she was always kind to me and helpful.
She said she was the high princess of the KKK in Georgia. She had been present at a murder. At least that’s what she told me. Some thought she ordered it. I don’t know. She had stated to me that she had believed segregation was noble and in fact Holy, ordained by God. But, that she was mentally ill to have believed that. So she blames her participation in the KKK as one under the influence of a serious mental illness. She had also said that if she left or gave up her place she would have been killed as well.
She was very smart, quiet and extremely shy in prison. Of course, her crime was on the down low because there were more African Americans in prison at that time than Caucasians.
I wouldn’t be like her either.
These women have already served over 20 years for whatever they did. And they are still there.
But getting back to the showers – One day I was in the shower alone. It was right after 9/11 and I had quit smoking for about two months. I was feeling so relaxed and peaceful. I had washed my hair and dried it off. I was drying off my body leaning over to dry my legs when I felt something plop down on my head above my right ear. It was a just a drop of water from the ceiling. Yet it was so much more than that. The ceiling had horrible stuff growing on it, fungus and bacteria that even applications of bleach and paint never got rid of. But when I felt that drop land on my head I felt the heaviest weirdest feeling of doom I’d ever felt. It jolted my spirit inside me as that little water droplet touched my scalp and sent a wave of fear throughout my being. I didn’t understand it at all. It’s only water, I thought. A couple of days later an itchy spot developed on my scalp at the place of the water drop. I went to the doctor and got fungal cream for it. It only grew larger. Nothing would stop the growth of whatever this was. It covered my entire scalp and then traveled into my ears.
Finally after filing many grievances about this strange condition I was taken to a dermatologist who diagnosed me with psoriasis. He prescribed some expensive shampoos and ointments that kept it under control. It was strange, the doctor had said because I had told him that no one in my family ever had psoriasis and I was 41 years old and had just now gotten it.
Well stress and bad diet can kill you, so I’m sure it can also turn on the gene that causes psoriasis.
From then on I lived with chronic scalp psoriasis that required washing my hair every day. Conditioners could not be used because they made the psoriasis worse. The prescription conditioner recommended for me was too expensive and the state wouldn’t pay for it nor allow my family to mail it in. So I began a regimen of topical steroid treatments and anti fungal shampoos along with the old standard tar shampoo. When I took a shower I smelled like a dog that had just gotten a flea dip. I had to take a full arm’s load of different hair products to the shower. When people saw me coming down the hall with all those stinky hair products in my arms, they got out-of-the-way. No one wanted to shower with me anymore. I thought, “Praise the Lord!”
If you need more information about psoriasis and its treatment contact: http://www.national psoriasis.org.