311 | Lunatic

January 5, 2014
Sunday, 9:00 p.m.
Letter #311: Lunatic


Dear Family,

I was without a cellie for all of 10 hours. Having someone to talk to is overrated—trust me, if you ever have a choice whether or not to have a cellie, go without. Unlike toothpaste, you don’t need it, and it usually doesn’t benefit your life all that much. Wait: I’ve had a few great cellies …

So, I’m at the Law Library typing up my last letter when they shipped in a new cellie. Everyone—even staff—were talking about him as I was walking back to my pod. “Hey, did you see your new cellie? I think he’s a Skinhead, Nazi Lowrider, Aryan Brotherhood, or some other type of gang member.” These prison gangs for whites are notorious for their brutal hatred of other races. Yippee for me, I thought. This one’s gonna be fun.

Staff approached me and asked if I’d met my new cellie yet. I was still carrying my Day Planner, binder, and copy paper and had just entered the pod. No, I hadn’t, I smiled in reply. I prayed there wouldn’t be the problems I’d experienced with other prison gang members as cellies—each lasted just two weeks before threatening me with violence. Tons of fun.

If you were to come to the prison on a given day and tried to pick out the craziest-looking guy here, you’d pick my cellie, Lunatic. I saw him in our dayroom, and I instantly recognized him from the two weeks I’d spent on the other compound. He’d been in my pod then, and we’d talked.

You don’t easily forget someone like Lunatic … well, I call him Joe. He got a mention in a previous letter as guy with words instead of eyebrows. (Wickedly Twizted). And that’s not all. He has a bunch of piercings in odd places, a 12-inch by 12-inch Nazi swastika on his stomach, swastikas on his elbows, huge ram horns on his head with a skull on the back, and a forked tongue he split with a piece of dental floss (I asked). Cute, eh?

This isn’t the guy standing in back of you in line at the grocery store making you wish the line would go faster as you hold tightly to your wallet or purse. No. He lives in your bathroom with you. I prefer the top bunk, so I guess you could say I really do have a boogieman living under my bed. And I love the guy.

Joe was quite obviously sent by God to live with me just before he paroles in nine months. At 29 years old, he’s only been out of prison for a total of a year since he was 13 years old. Prison is all he knows of this world, so he doesn’t look forward to getting out.

Joe practices Odinism, the worship of ancient gods and goddesses, steeped in ancient mythology. I’ve lived with a cellie who had something called “The Witches Creed” on the wall before, so I’ve learned to look past major religious differences and help the hurting man inside.

Joe has done just about every horrible thing you can imagine, and he didn’t stop once he came to prison. He’s stabbed and beat up more people than he can remember, sometimes simply to “earn” certain tattoos for having done work for the gang. He’s dealt in thousands of dollars of drugs, even at this prison, and he is now carefully watched by the gang task force officers.

But everyone makes mistakes, right? The external bad choices—should we really tattoo a demon on our neck—don’t bother me as long as the heart wants to change.

And Joe is changing! He’s not only glad to be my cellie, he has stood up for me to others in my pod. He tells them that they should listen to me, that I’m the “normal” one, and what they’ve thought is cool or acceptable for years will never fit in society. He told me today that he knows that God put us together, and he wants to be like me. He’s agreed to read the Bible together every day, and he’ll be going to church with me this week. I’m cautiously optimistic.

In actuality, we’re all a bit like Lunatic on our failed, mistake-filled outer shell, just maybe not as obvious. Praise God for a Savior who sees the Joe person inside and loves us into a relationship with Him.