It was just past six o'clock feedup when LPN Egote Ybango came to the tier pushing her medication cart. The tall gates marking the end of the tier rolled back with a clash. The officer on post 2 Charlie bellowed in his deep foghorn bass: "Med line! Med line! To your doors for pills!" The echo had barely died away before the inmates started their own announcements:
"Pussy on the tier!"
"Hey, ya got anything on there for me?"
"Gimme the Xanax!"
Ybango was not new at this. She rolled along predictably as the tide, checking each inmate's ID against the medication administration record which she kept in a three ring binder on top of the cart. When everything checked out she picked up the small plastic cup of pills and handed it to the inmate through the feedup slot in the door. Eventually she worked her way down the tier to my cell, not a fast task even for someone who didn't weigh 250 pounds. Without even seeing her I could mark her progress by the soft mooing noises made by every inmate as she passed. She was experienced enough to remain numb and expressionless. When she got to my cell her face rolled into a smile for the first time.
"Eh, my writer. You need anything? Benadryl for sleep?"
"I don't have a doctor's order for anything, but thanks anyway. How's Yvette?"
Yvette was Ybango's seventeen year old daughter. She wanted to be a journalist so when Ybango heard I was transferring in to CCCF she came right to my door the week after I got here to ask about the best journalism schools. I tried to explain that I was a writer not a reporter but somehow the language barrier got in the way and I wasn't sure she quite caught the difference. I struggled for a while before deciding it would be faster for me to just learn Ethiopian than to wait for her to understand English. Nevertheless from that point on she seemed to favor me. I felt bad for her when the inmates mooed.
"Eh...she single." She said the word as though it were a curse. "But she in school. What you do?" She shrugged and all the futility of life was reflected in that movement. "At least she not with bad boys." She nodded down the tier to the hoppers' cell. "They kill, those boys."
Trust the medical staff to pick up on the obvious.
"Hopefully not anymore," I said.