Sunday afternoon, Cutter was still quite sore as he limped his way to one of the TV rooms. In this room, the Hispanics sat on one side, the blacks on the other and most of the Anglos leaned against the wall. A few pretty boys were squeezed between men on the sofa. All of them were watching a basketball game. Some so intently Cutter knew they had something riding on the game. Blind Moses words echoed in his head, “some one will ask you to ride with him.” One man touched a pretty boy possessively on the sofa. A look passed between them. In that moment, Cutter understood what riding with someone meant. It meant belonging to someone, like a possession. Sudden anger flared inside of him. He would not belong to anyone. Ever.
Beside him a familiar voice said, “Anger is no good in here, its part of the larger problem.”
Cutter turned to the voice. It was the same man who had warned him where not to sit in the cafeteria. The man nodded and left the room. From the direction the man went Cutter heard music. Was it a hymn. He got up and followed the sound. Music drifted through the hall and seemed to wrap around him. The words pulled at him, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling…” When he reached an open door, he looked inside. On chairs, in rows sat a bunch of prisoners. The man who had spoken to him was sitting in the first row beside Blind Moses. A preacher was praying. Stunned, Cutter saw it was Brother Lightfoot, the same visiting evangelist that had preached back home all those months ago. Cutter slipped into the back row. He didn’t stay through the entire service because of God. He stayed because it was at least something familiar. The prayers, the hymns even the words about God’s love did not penetrate his self loathing, but they did make him feel closer to his mother and he missed his mother something terrible. Why hadn’t she written him yet?
As soon as the service was over he slipped out and went to his cubicle.
Wednesday morning, Cutter was in the cafeteria, staring off into space. At least that is what he thought he was doing until a big guy with huge black brows grabbed hold of him and shook him hard. The big man grunted, “What in the fuck are you looking at?”
“Nothin’, nothin’ at all, I was just thinkin’—that’s all.” Unknowingly he had violated this man’s visible space, the visual area that surrounded a prisoner. Like violating physical space, it was not done here.
The big man open handedly smacked Cut hard across the face. The blow reopened Cutter’s wounds from Thursday. Fresh blood spurted into his mouth and out his nose. The man growled at him, “You keep your fuckin’ eyes to yourself do you hear me?”
The big man stalked away. His massive arms swung at his side as he walked. In that instant Cutter realized he had not received the full power of those arms. For whatever reason the man had held back. Arms like he had could easily kill a man. Cutter mopped his face with his paper napkin and kept his eyes on his food. Someone slipped into the chair across from him. There was no way he was going to look up unless he was spoken to first.
“Anglo, I want to talk to you.” Cutter raised his eyes. A stocky Hispanic man with three teeth capped in gold smiled at him and said, “I am haySOOS.”
Confused, Cutter asked, "What?"
The man laughed. "Oh you little Anglo boy, not familiar with Spanish?"
Cutter said, "No, Sir."
"In Anglo my name is Jesus."
This shocked Cutter. Hispanics were sparse in his part of Texas.
The man grinned. "Little Anglo am I the first brown Jesus you ever meet?"
Frightened, but determined not to show it, Cutter said, "Yes."
The man grinned then said,. “I can protect you.”
This was the moment Blind Moses had warned him about. “Uh, thanks but no thanks, I can take care of myself.”
Jesus eyes traveled from Cutter’s bloody nose to the gash on his chin. “And you are doing such a fine job of that, my friend. It will only get worse. You will see. You think here is like the freeworld. This is not the free world. Men die here. No one cares here. The freeworld doesn’t know, so how can it care? I don’t want sex, no, this Mexican does not need sex, this Mexican needs money. Money. Money. Get someone to send you some from the freeworld. You pay me and your white ass stays in one piece. I promise. I am strong.” He flexed his huge biceps. “I work out, punch the bag, every day for two hours. You will be safe with me.”
“What you think your puny arms can protect you? You are still thinking like a freeman. You are not free. Nothing here is free. This you shall learn soon. Very soon. Others will come, and they will not be so sweet as Jesus.” He stood. “Hombre, see that man on the last table near the wall?”
Quickly Cutter glanced without lingering. He saw a tall man of mixed blood.
Jesus smiled, “I hear he fancies your ass.”
Ugly swirled in Cutter’s gut. His appetite left him.
Amused by his expression Jesus said, “What Cantrell fancies, he gets. I can promise you that. My offer is open, but it closes if Cantrell makes a move on you. ”
That evening a letter arrived from Woody and a package from Rumer. It had been a hard day in which Cutter had kept his eyes to himself. A glance could invite violence or a proposition of some kind.
As he read Woody’s letter, guilt slashed through him. Mama was in a mental hospital because…because-he did not let himself finish the sentence. There was nothing to distance him from the pain this new knowledge shot through him. Nothing. He wanted to not feel this horrible guilt. Just escape for a little while. To feel the bliss of something, a woman’s body, a joint, a pill…a drink. Anything. A gray fog settled over him. How the fuck was he supposed to get through this? How? Relief could be had in prison, it was expensive. Was he willing to pay? Dare he? Funny, how it never occurred to him that maybe what his mother needed most was for him to get clean and stay that way. All he thought of was getting outside his own head.
He folded the letter, then pushed back the flaps of the already opened box. Inside was his old Sunday School Bible. He remembered the long ago morning when he had received it in third grade. His mother’s smiling face came to mind. She had been so happy that day. She was not happy now. He stared at the blue Bible, opened its cover. He childish drawing of David and Goliath hit him like a physical blow. Memories of being a little boy tucked beside his mother in church filled his mind. God, what had he done to Mama! He slammed the cover closed and thre the Bible against the partition. hard. A piece of paper drifted to the floor.
It had been an unbearable night, punctuated by nightmares. The first one had been about Mama in a straight jacket covered in Pop’s blood. The second one had Rumer dressed all in white. She was strapped to a table unable to move and she kept begging him, “Please, please let me out.” At breakfast he made his way straight for Jesus. He asked, “How much will some weed cost me?”
Jesus smiled. The artificial light glinted on his gold teeth. “Depends on the amount. How much do you want? How much do you have?”
Cutter knew better than to tell. He said, “Name a range.”
Jesus smiled wider. “Smart Anglo, or smart ass, we shall see. Alright, Jesus requires--”
Cutter had just enough. “When can I get it?”
“After supper. I leave first, you wait five minutes then come. Meet me in block three. It is a good place. The guard on duty, he always takes a shit then and the hall is empty. See you there.”
Knowing the drug was coming relieved some of the tension in Cutter’s mind and body. He would write Woody for some more cash after he got his weed. Where to smoke it? He would take it outside. There was a corner in the yard where the men smoked. Not all of them smoked cigarettes. For whatever reason, the guards did not bother them. Perhaps money had passed through their hands. Perhaps they just thought a stoned prisoner was a subdued one. What Cutter wanted most now was to be subdued.
The day passed, somehow. The days always passed. As soon as he finished his meal of mashed potatoes, gray meatloaf and a roll as hard as a rock, he saw Jesus leave. After he threw his tray away, he headed to block three.
Jesus leaned against the wall smiling. He motioned with his hand. Apprehensive, Cutter’s eyes darted from one end of the hall to the other. When he reached Jesus side the Janitor’s closet opened, Cantrell stepped out. Cutter’s eyes darted to Jesus, “Sorry man, this Mexican turns a dollar when he finds a dollar to turn. Cantrell paid good for you.”
Paid for him? Jesus walked passed him. Cutter turned to say something to him. Unknowingly he had been followed. Two big men, one Asian and one white had their feet planted and their eyes focused on Cutter. He had not heard their approach. His heartbeat leapt. His eyes swung back to Cantrell. His dark eyes were filled with…Cutter’s throat closed. He was looking at him the way a man looked at a woman he wanted to fuck. Oh God, what had he gotten himself into?
The two men pushed Cutter forward. Cutter opened his mouth to scream only no sound came. Nothing. He found he was not breathing. Cantrell reached for Cutter’s crotch. Before Cutter could jerk away from him the two men behind him locked onto his arms and legs.
Leering at Cutter, Cantrell said, “We can do this mutually, or I can take. Which will it be?”
In this man’s eyes was a depth of evil Cutter had never seen before. Never knew existed. He whispered, “No, I am not doin’ that.”
Cantrell’s eyes were so hard. He growled, “So, I will take. Taking is better.”
A big filthy sock was shoved into Cutter’s mouth and a piece of packaging tape expertly pulled around his head. It gagged him. Cantrell said, “You vomit, you choke.”
With slow fingers Cantrell pulled off Cutter’s pants and underwear. He stared appreciatively at Cutter’s exposed genitals. It had been so long since Cutter had been touched by anyone. This could not be happening. He started thrashing, but the men that held him were too strong. Not this, not this. Oh God not this.
Gently Cutter was placed onto the cold floor and pinned down. One man held his legs, the other his arms. He felt Cantrell’s hands on him. With all the strength he had Cutter twisted his body. For a single second, they lost their grip, but it was only a second. Cantrell grunted, “Be fucking still.” Then…then…
In his mind Cutter screamed out to God, “Save me, don’t let this happen!”
God…didn’t…save him...Never had his person been violated. Never had he had someone inside of him. Before he had been the one going inside, not the one being entered. Powerless to stop what was happening, unaided by God, he closed his eyes. Hell reached a new level. How many levels did hell have here?
When Cantrell was finished, he said, “Thank you sir.” He patted his ass. Cutter heard him stand. It was over. Over? In a low voice Cantrell said, “Don’t tell, and you live.” This was not just a threat. Footsteps walked away from him.
With his, now, free hands Cutter jerked the tape off his mouth. It caught on every hair above his lip and ripped it out. He spit out the sock and threw up. His supper left a dark puddle on the floor. Beside him were his underwear and pants. Still prone he pulled on his underwear and was struggling with his pants when a guard saw him. The man rushed to his side and exclaimed, “Aw shit!”
For a brief second Cutter’s eyes met the guard’s. There was a trace of sympathy in those eyes, but not a single shred of shock. The guard bellowed, “Hughes, help me get this one to the doc.”
A fat guard appeared around the corner. He shook his head when he saw Cutter. “You newbies. Idiots, just idiots.” The two men hoisted him up and carried him to the infirmary. The guards put him on the metal examining table. Dr. Pitt rose from his desk. He nodded to the guards and they left,
Dr. Pitt, said, “I didn’t expect you back here so soon.” His eyes met Cutter’s. He asked a single question, “Were you raped?” The question tore through Cutter. Unable to speak, he nodded.
Dr. Pitt shook his head. “Did you want this to happen to you?”
It was a stupid ass question. He shook his head.
The doctor held Cutter’s eyes, “A part of you must have, or else it would not have happened in the first place. What is your addiction?”
The word addiction echoed in Cutter’s head. He didn’t respond.
Dr. Pitt cleared his throat before he said, “I know you aren’t going to want to do this, Mr. Trinity, but I have to examine you. Check for cuts and abrasions in your rectum. If there is any sign of trauma I can report it as rape.”
The examination was painful, and humiliating. When the doctor finished he said, “There isn’t any tearing inside. Cantrell is always very neat. If only he would wear a condom. I have taken a semen sample but with out a sign of trauma, this won’t be classified as a rape, but consensual. I am so sorry.”
“What? You-you--” Cutter tried to speak. How could this be? No charges, nothing. He was a dead man.
Reading his expression Dr. Pitt said, “It is good that you grasp the gravity of your situation. From this moment forward you belong to Cantrell. The only man he won’t mess with is Isaiah. I will send for him. According to your chart, you are not supposed to be here that long. I know three years seems like forever. It isn’t. This place will destroy you or make you. It all depends upon you.”
Cutter knew how dependable he was.
Dr. Pitt continued, “I will write down what I think happened, but since it can’t be proven, no one will try. Cantrell is very fastidious. I have seen his work many times. Now, get dressed so I can take your blood.”
“Take my blood, why?”
“Your blood has to be tested for hepatitis, HIV and AIDS.”
A shadow crossed over the infirmary bed. A big shadow. Cutter was afraid to turn to it. A voice he recognized said, “How long are you plannin’ on being stupid young man?” The question ripped through Cutter. How long indeed? Hadn’t he been stupid enough? Against his will tears began to pool in his eyes and run down his cheeks. The man continued, “My name is Isaiah. I’m here to help you, if you want my help.” Cutter turned to the man. He was the same man who had kept him from sitting at the wrong table his first day in prison, the same one who had gone to Brother Lightfoot’s service. He was a big and powerful looking man.
Cutter pulled himself up in bed. “I want your help.”
“Well, my help comes with requirements. First attend AA meetings, second attend chapel, third clean up your language, fourth no hard porn. You do these things and me and mine will watch over you. You stray, you get outside my boundaries, you are on your own. I can’ protect a man who refuses to master himself. Hear?”
Isaiah stuck out his hand. This was the first time anyone had offered him a hand since he entered prison. Fearful of what he had just signed on for, but more afraid of what not signing on would bring him, Cutter put his hand in Isaiah’s. The handshake was firm, but not brutal.
Back in his dorm, Cutter lay in a twisted ball. Never had he felt such pain. Never had he experienced the full dark thrust of pain on every level, mind, body and spirit. He was whipped. If he didn’t fear death more than life, he would off himself. Grandma Maxine’s stories of the afterlife had left an ugly, but now self-preserving scar on his mind. If he killed himself he would go to hell, and if hell on earth was this bad, what was hell after earth like? He had no expectation of heaven. In his current state he only expected to be drowned in this awful internal black sea. A sea filled with dark images of a life misspent. One by one his failures ticked across the surface of his brain. One by one they stabbed him with fresh pain. Denial, numbness, that was the Trinity way. It did not work here.
A cool breeze brushed his cheek. He heard a rustle of paper and turned. In the semidarkness he saw a slip of paper. Rumer’s note. He had never read it. Carefully he rolled over and slid onto the floor. When he reached for the paper his fingers brushed the Bible he had hurled against the wall. He moved his fingers beyond it and grasped the paper. There was just enough light for him to read Rumer’s writing. “Please be careful. You are in my prayers. Love, Rumer.” The words, “Love Rumer” echoed inside of him. Again she had tried to warn him and he had not heeded. He picked up the Bible and crawled back into bed. With trembling fingers, he put the slip of paper into the Bible and hugged it tightly to his chest.