Soullessness and Prequel by Saint Solomon

by Saint Solomon

Part I: Soullessness

Soul is defined as the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect. To understand the souls of certain Black folks one must first understand the souls of certain white folks.

For nearly half of century, the lives of Black folks have solely depended on the souls of white folks. In 1619, soulless white men completely eradicated the spirits of a score of Africans by Americanizing them as legal property. And, of course, whether indentured servants or lifelong servitude, one of the first laws was: “All persons EXCEPT Negroes are to be with Arms and Ammunition.”

By the 1700’s, the moral souls of certain white folks kidnapped nearly 70,000 Africans annually; brought them to America, and then enslaved them. They were forced to work from dusk to dawn, picking cotton and producing tobacco. If they refused to labor; or even slacked on the job; they were punished. Penalties consisted of being flogged to death; whipped, hanged, or cut apart while spinning on a wooden wheel.

In the 1800’s, the souls of certain white folks allowed the inexplicable slave trade to quadruple. The acquisition of the Louisiana territories, known as the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 by the Jefferson Administration, doubled the size of the American territory and its availability to the expansion of slavery. The number of slaves soared from 10,000 to an estimated 45,000.  Fortunately, the souls of many northern white folks began rejecting and admonishing the institution of slavery. To prove that their souls were opposite of their countrymen, they began sheltering run-a-way slaves. Before long, the American Civil War erupted.

Since southerners were the sore losers; these lost souls immediately began to construct prisons, a place where slavery was still legal. By 1900, the number of U.S. penitentiaries in the south spiked—inmate populations surpassed 30,000. African-Americans became the majority, replacing immigrants. Chain gangs became common—filling the labor shortage caused by the end of slavery. Prisoners worked 15-hour days without pay. Similar to slavery, in three decades, the prison population quadrupled. “All persons EXCEPT felons are to be with Arms and Ammunition.”

Now in the 2000’s, although African-Americans only comprised up 12% of the United States population, they make up 34% of the prison population. The following story is about two soulless brothers named Knowledge and Kareem who are a part of the 34%.

 

Part II: Solitary Confinement II 

Year: 1994.             Place: United States Maximum Security Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pa.

Notable Prisoners: Jay-Z’s drug-dealing mentor: Brooklyn’s Calvin Klein; Queens’ notorious Drug Lord: Tony “Scarface” Montana aka Tommy Mickins; and Washington D.C.’s Drug Lord: Rayful Edmonds; to name just a few.

The aforementioned names are mentioned to give the reader an insight into the sort of fiery dragons who unwittingly sought permanent housing in this dangerous and dusky dungeon. A vast majority of the prisoners are/were serving life sentences. Not Rockefeller himself, but under a law which bears his name, inmates are required to complete 85% of their time. Could someone please calculate and relay to me how much is 85% of life without the possibility of parole/pussy?  That number is highly indicative to the inmates’ incentives toward rehabilitation.

There are fights every day. Stabbings every day. Drug dealings every day. Homosexuality every day. Robberies every day. Extortions every day. Murders every month. It’s not a penitentiary; it’s an insane asylum. It’s synonymous to inner city projects and the ghettoes and the trailer parks which produces a large percentile of us. And just as the projects were nothing more than a trampoline designed to bounce me over a prison wall; Lewisburg’s hostile and volatile environment was nothing more than a trapdoor that I inevitably stepped upon and descended to the basement of this dungeon that they affectionately call: solitary confinement.

This is the place, despite being castrated from society; irrespective of being socially impotent; you see-men with flaccid thoughts continue to birth one stillborn brainchild after another stillborn brainchild. So, of course, I’m living in fear. And I don’t think that it’s fair that hopeless and hapless lifers are going to determine how I will fare in this hell hole.

For example, there were two men who were locked in the cells adjacent to mine. One was to my left and one was to my right. I didn’t know what they looked like. I only knew their voices. The one to my left is named Kareem. The fellow caged-in to my right is called: Knowledge. This was their daily routine:

“Knowledge?” Kareem called.

“Yeah?” Knowledge answered.

“Today is your day,” Kareem informed him.

“I know, nigga. You ain’t gotta tell me.”

I then heard the patter of feet and I also heard keys jangling.

“Breakfast!” a female voice echoed through the empty walkway. This place was reminiscent of a zoo because she stopped at every cage to feed each animal a plate of slop. And, as a delicacy, she offered a small carton of milk that one might see in a kindergarten’s classroom.

The sounds of feet were getting closer. I was beyond hungry. I was famished. My mouth started salivating like that of a starved pet anticipating his master’s arrival.

She stopped at Knowledge’s cell. “Would you like breakfast?”

“Yes,” Knowledge replied. He then walked toward the bars which confined him.

She handed him a tray of food. “Would you like a carton of milk?”

“Yes.”

She turned her body around, bent-double, and retrieved the milk from her little red wagon. She then performed an about-face and handed Knowledge his beverage.

Knowledge rudely tossed his food in her face. “Bitch, go heat up my food before I murder your ass,” he threatened.

“AAUUGHH!” the turnkey screamed, while simultaneously attempting to cleanse the lukewarm food from her reddened face and from her stained uniform.

Knowledge then slung the milk from its container, splashing the white liquid in her face and in her hair, drenching her.

She screamed again.

I then heard the taps of her shoes rapidly clicking and clacking as she darted up the corridor, hollering for help.

Personally, I was horrified and I was terrified! Rationally, I’m thinking that the man called Knowledge is going to get all of us killed. Selfishly, I’m thinking that I’m still hungry; but, the lady with the food dashed into the darkness, post haste.

Everyone on the tier is noticeably silent. That is, except for Kareem.

“Hey, Knowledge,” Kareem called out. “Are you ready for them? You know they’re coming.”

“Am I ready?” Knowledge responded. “You already know.”

I thought about their conversation. Ready for them? I pondered. Am I? I wondered. You already know? he responded. Those dudes are crazy, I thought. My appetite had quickly forsaken me. I turned around and flopped headlong and heavily upon my ultra-thin mattress.

Perhaps a full fifteen minutes later, I heard what sounded like a platoon of soldiers marching loudly up the hallway, in step.

“Here they come!” Kareem yelled.

“I know! I hear them!” Knowledge replied, calmly.

I lay still, listening. I was paralyzed with uncertainty. My anxiety appeared to be higher than Knowledge’s angst.

The soldiers halted their march.

I couldn’t see their faces. I only heard their voices.

“Put your hands through the food slot!” a faceless voice ordered, metallic handcuffs noisily present.

I lay motionless, eaves-dropping intently.

“I ain’t putting my hands through shit! You know the routine! Come put them on me!” Knowledge replied.

“I’m tired of going through this shit with you!” the masculine faceless voice said.

“I’m tired of eating cold food!” Knowledge responded.

“Open the gate,” the faceless voice said to an underling.

“Yeah, open the gate,” Knowledge repeated to the same underling.

The underling opened the gate and–for the longest and most frightening five minutes of my life–the only things that I heard were: loud sounds of scuffling and tussling and banging and booming and slipping and falling and scratching and biting and punching and slapping and yelling and screaming and ooohhhing and aaaahhhhing. Then suddenly everything went deathly quiet!

About ten minutes later, I saw four correctional officers hauling a stretcher, several more turn- keys were trailing them, including the female who was initially feeding us. They were carrying a chained, shackled, and a motionless Knowledge down the quiet corridor, right before my eyes. His legs were shackled; his wrists were cuffed; and a longer chain was connected to both the shackles and the handcuffs. There was a leather mask partially wrapped around his face and an iron brace locked around his neck. His eyes were closed.

Did they kill him? I wondered. How would his death affect me? Would I be called as a witness to testify to what I heard? Would I just mind my business and say that I slept through it all? I mean, truthfully, I didn’t know Knowledge, I reasoned. And, he doesn’t know me. I thought, justifying my xenophobia.

Nearly an hour later, my breakfast was finally severed. However, it remained untouched. I had no appetite. I needed an escape. I forced myself back into a deep slumber.

Sometime later, a turnkey turned to my cell and banged his keys on the iron bars, waking me.

Groggily, I looked at him.

“It’s lunch time and you haven’t even touched your breakfast.”

“No appetite,” I murmured.

“At some point you’ll eat,” he predicted.

“If he don’t want to eat, I’ll take his plate,” a raspy voice sounded from a few cells away.

“I’ll just leave it here,” the turnkey said. “Just in case you get hungry later.”

I nodded my approval; but, said nothing.

He appeared genuine; but, maybe guilt had a tight grip on his conscience.  I reclosed my eyes and listened to the sweet sound of his footsteps fading out of my earshot.

I lifted myself from the uncomfortable cot and grabbed my food. Nothing appeared appetizing except for the fruit. I greedily gobbled the healthy delicacy and then retreated to my self-imposed sleep disorder. It’s called: hypersomnia.

Hours later the all-too-familiar sounds of steel cages opening and closing compelled me to open my closed eyes. I thought I saw Knowledge. I blinked a few times to ascertain that my hunger games weren’t feeding my mind some bull’s shit.

But, no, it was Knowledge. He was unscarred, healthy and seemingly in good spirits. I mean, he was heavily shackled like a slave from the movie Roots; but, other than that he seemed fine. Don’t misunderstand me, he did have about six or seven burly correctional officers who were escorting him to his cage.

I was sincerely happy that the food incident wasn’t his final meal. Nevertheless, when dinner time came around, I hopped up like I had the Holy Ghost. I quickly grabbed my tray and gobbled my dish as if it were my Last Supper.

The rest of the evening faded away without incident. And because I had slept so much during the morning and then slept late into the afternoon, sleep wasn’t coming as easy as I hoped. I tried counting sheep; but, once I reached the 50, 000 mark, I realized that I was the sheep-headed mark for even believing in that dumb-ass shit.

Because there were no watches and because there were no windows, I had no idea as to the actual time that I clocked out. However, it was Knowledge’s voice that awoken me.

“Yo, Kareem!” Knowledge shouted.

“Yeah?” Kareem answered.

“Today is your day,” Knowledge informed him.

“I know, nigga. You ain’t gotta tell me.”

I then heard the sounds of feet walking and I also heard keys jangling.

“Breakfast!” a male voice echoed through the empty walkway.

Am I dreaming? I asked myself. This can’t be real. These dudes can’t be serious.

The sounds of feet were getting closer and louder.

He stopped at Kareem’s cell. “Would you like breakfast?”

“Yes,” Kareem replied, walking toward the bars which confined him.

He handed Kareem his tray. “Would you like a carton of milk?”

“Yes.”

He turned around, bent-double to retrieve the milk from his little red wagon. He then did an about-face to hand Kareem his beverage.

Kareem tossed his tray of food in the man’s face. “Nigga, go heat up my food before I murder your ass.”

“AAUUGHH!” the turnkey screamed, while simultaneously attempting to cleanse the lukewarm food from his reddened face and his stained uniform.

Kareem then tossed the milk from its container, splashing the contents in his face and in his hair, drenching him.

He cursed again. I then heard the taps of his shoes rapidly clicking and clacking as he galloped up the corridor, hollering for help.

This time I were neither horrified nor was I terrified!

“Hey, Kareem,” Knowledge called out. “Are you ready for them? You know they’re coming.”

“Am I ready?” Kareem responded. “You already know.”

Perhaps a full fifteen minutes later, I heard what sounded like a platoon of soldiers marching loudly up the hallway, in step.

“Here they come!” Knowledge yelled.

“I know! I hear them!” Kareem replied, calmly.

I shook my head. These two dudes were so bored that they broke their monotony by giving the blues to the already blue-coated officers.

The soldiers parked themselves in the front of Kareem’s cage.

I couldn’t see their faces. I could only hear their voices.

“Put your hands through the food slot!” a faceless voice ordered. The clicking sounds of handcuffs clanged loudly.

I’m shaking my head; but, by now, I’m enjoying the entertainment.

“I ain’t putting my hands through shit! You know the routine! Come put them on me!” Kareem replied.

“I’m tired of going through this shit with you!” the masculine faceless voice said.

“I’m tired of eating cold food!” Kareem responded.

“Open the gate,” the faceless voice said to an underling.

“Yeah, open the gate,” Kareem repeated to the same underling.

The underling opened the gate and history repeated itself.

Soon thereafter, perhaps a week or so later, I was released from solitary confinement. However, through my entire duration, Knowledge and Kareem sent my emotions and sensibilities in so many different directions. I didn’t know whether I was coming or whether I was going. And it is due to that reality that their images and antics will forever be a part of me.

Surprisingly, a month or so later, I bumped into Kareem on the compound. I had thought that they would never release him from solitary confinement. I asked, “How in the hell did you get out the hole?”

“Well, I had to wait and see the Disciplinary Hearing Officer. He’s not just Lewisburg’s DHO. He has a lot of institutions whereas he has to hold hearings. So his time is limited at each institution. And, they have to read, record, and adjudicate each and every disciplinary ticket, separately.

“And, you know, I must’ve had about a thousand tickets. Therefore, I guess he said, this nigga gotta be crazy if he think I’m reading thousands of pages of some shit I care so little about. That’s like reading the fuckin’ entire Bible. So, I guess, he decided to do us both a favor. He trashed all the tickets and sent me back to the compound. Shit! He’s the DHO. He knows that U.S. prisons don’t get any worse than Lewisburg. This is the Big House!”

“But, why did you fight in the first place?” I wanted to know.

“Because I wanted to go to the hospital.”

That confused me. “Why would you want to go to the hospital?”

“To get outta jail. Why do you think? We exaggerated and complained about our injuries; so, they would take us to the hospital. They don’t want no law suit. They don’t want nobody dying on their watch, at least not by their hands.

“And, depending on who’s driving the van to the hospital, s/he may treat us to some fast food or maybe a steak. We get to flirt with women and nurses in the hospital. Might even luck up and get a number or a pen pal. And, plus, I’m outta the hole for five or six hours a day, three or four times a week. They think I’m retarded and crazy anyhow, why prove them wrong? But, I gotta go.”

He be-bopped away from me.

I smiled and shook my head.

“Hey, Kareem,” I called out. I needed to scratch another itch.

He stopped and turned around. “What’s up?”

“How were y’all able to tussle with seven or eight officers simultaneously? And in such a tight space? I mean eventually they subdued you; but, it took a lot of time.”

“Oh,” he said, laughingly. “When Knowledge asked me, ‘Am I ready?’ That was my cue to blanket the entire floor with lotion and baby oil. So, when they run in the cell, they’ll be a whole bunch of slipping and sliding.

“When he said, ‘Here they come’, that’s my cue to soak my towel in water and wrapped it around my head to prevent them from blinding me with mace. The water relieves and soothes the eyes. But, I gotta go. I’m late for a poker game,” he explained, and then he sauntered away.

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