May 6, 2012
Sunday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #223: Danny’s Best Friend
My cellie and I live in the same two-man bathroom. (I think every set of bunk beds should come with a toilet. Growing up without this handy arrangement, I ended up treating my top bunk like a toilet. Every night until I was 13.)
However, we are worlds apart. Don’t get me wrong—we are cordial with each other—but Sniper isn’t the most outgoing person. He grew up in foster care and group homes, so he likes to be alone.
The good part is that he stays quiet all day, headphones on, listening to music. If he does anything else, it always has something to do with his old cellie, a really nice young man named Danny.
Sniper has no family and incredibly few friends. So, making friends with someone like Danny was a big step for him—and in many ways, life-changing. They became inseparable (except for the fact that this is prison, and separation is always on the menu).
I understand close friendships, as I’m grateful to have many close friends, but this friendship borders on the obsessed. Since I’ve been saturated with this for the past couple of weeks, I’ve just got to let you in on some of the craziness. Somehow, by talking about it to you, I hope to feel a therapeutic relief from it. Bear with me, please.
First off, whenever you initiate a cell-living situation, it is common courtesy to make your new cellie aware of any peculiar habits, preferences, or disturbing abnormalities that may exist in your life. This may include if you snore, are sensitive to bright lights, or prefer—due to our stainless steel toilets having no additional seat to lower—that all business be done in the seated position (this last one is my only cellie request). In other not-as-important areas, such as sharing food or whether or not the sink should be kept polished to a mirror-finish, you just work those things out.
Well, the only item of peculiarity Sniper felt he should mention to me is that he taps his plastic cup on the window to signal his friend—Danny, of course—when he would be walking to the chow hall on the walkway 50 yards from our window. I assured him it was no problem, because when you first hear of the thing, it really isn’t a problem. Yet.
Apparently, it is absolutely imperative that Danny be signal-tapped (and that he verify the signal-tap with a wave) regardless of whether or not I happen to be praying, reading, or napping at the time. (On a positive note, I have found a cure for hiccups.)
This activity requires vigilant surveillance of the outer walkway, lest Danny happens to walk by—perish that thought—unnoticed. It’s rather adorable, like a dog-greeting-you-when-you-come-home-from-work kind of adorable.
Secondly, regarding food: if Sniper asks to use my hot pot to cook something, I know to not even bother looking forward to it, because—of course!—it’s not meant for me, but for Danny and him. (We will address next how in the world you get food to your buddy in another building.)
Sniper puts inordinate amounts of time, effort, and expensive products into his cooking: beef sausages, beans, rice, spicy pickles, etc. He boils the meat in pickle juice (in the hot pot I use for heating water for oatmeal) and adds jelly and syrup and spices and on and on … adds pork rinds (is your mouth watering yet—mine’s dry) and mayonnaise. (Sheesh. A trifecta of awful ingredients. You might as well throw in sour cream and avocado while you’re at it. If my brother Mark tried this as a chef in the Coast Guard, he’d be dishonorably discharged.)
Sniper then wraps it all in some expensive tortillas, wraps those in plastic and smuggles them to church services or the chow hall, where he meets up with Danny. Which is crazy activity number three.
Whether weekly library visits; every English, Spanish, Buddhist, or Unitarian church service; or every meal (the first person there stalls, waiting for the other to arrive), it’s all about meeting up with Danny. BFFs have nothing compared to these guys. They apparently get “misunderstood,” with other guys here assuming that they are gay … GASP … No! If their relationship were a food item, it would be I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter. There’s room only for two in this friendship, it seems, so I’m just doing my best to be thoughtful anyway.
Because Sniper doesn’t want to help himself to my food as I’ve insisted he please feel free to do, I gave him a five-dollar jar of peanut butter I’d purchased. He made himself a sandwich and … then asked if he could give the jar to Danny.
Of course. I thought you’d never ask.