During one of my earliest stints in jail, I think maybe ’98 or ’99, I had a cell mate named George who for some reason had the worst luck with women. Guys like me, I usually ended up in jail for greed and stupidity. To hear George tell his story, he ended up in jail for love.
His record was nearly all domestic violence related, common assaults, threatening death, mischief and breaches of undertaking. I mean he was constantly getting sent to jail by his crazy, spiteful girlfriends. To this day I think he’s the only offender I ever knew who actually had a judge’s order strictly forbidding him from being in a relationship until he completed the various partner assault workshops and psychiatric assessments required as part of his sentence. If a police officer spotted him on a date, he could be arrested for breach.
Naturally, he was not a popular man among the female constabulary, and a few women police officers who were tired of taking victim statements from girls with black eyes and fat lips, (every one of those mashed noses and bruised necks was self-inflicted, according to George) these women officers actually did make it a point to check up on him regularly.
George however was a very simple man, and his vocabulary was almost entirely limited to three to four letter words. Words like “bitch” or “goof” or “rat”
He had very inventive ways of using those words in sentences though, for example:
“Bro, I was defending myself. I never touched the cunt. She’s lying. She’s a goof bitch rat. She gave herself those bruises in the evidence photos.”
“Oh yeah bro….. women,” he’d say. “They’re all fuckin’ loopy cunts, but this bitch is fuckin’ crazy, a real fuckin’ goof.” George pronounced it fawkin gewf, maybe because he thought placing the emphasis on the end of the words gave it an extra poignancy….or perhaps he sounded like that because his teeth were all rotten and cracked.
His name was George, and unfortunately for him, his last name sounded very much like one of the slang words used to describe male masturbation. He reminded me of a cartoon character. He even had a speech impediment like many of the most popular stars of The Bugs Bunny and Tweetie show. An after-school show from a dark alternate reality where Looney Toons was animated torture-porn.
Duh, can I keep her? I’ll beat her and choke her and namer her Goofcunt”.
“That bitch cop," he said while pacing the range. "The cunt goof who arrested me, I seen her drivin’ by my house every day. It’s fuckin’ harassment, man.”
George, like every other inmate, was of course completely innocent of all charges. Every single one of those ex-girlfriends were lying, banging their heads against walls and purposely slamming their arms and legs against furniture to get the angry welts, cuts and bruises they could show to the police.
To hear George tell it, that was simply the type of women who were attracted to him. If he could be blamed for anything, it was for not seeing it sooner and removing himself from an unhealthy relationship. He simply cared too much, he supposed.
“My Word bro,” he’d tell me as he pounded his fist to his chest above his heart. “Top left.”
In jail, a man’s word was very important, you see. If a convict tapped his chest with his fist and said Top Left, it had to be the God’s honest truth. There was no question. If anyone expressed doubt about something an inmate put his word on, especially if he stamped it with a Top Left, it was an instant scrap. It was fists and hair and teeth.
So I nodded when he told me his ex-girlfriend caused those ugly red and purple marks on her neck by strangling herself with a rope, I said nothing when he gave me his Top Left.
I told myself that I believed him out of principle. I told myself, ridiculously, that I just didn’t want to live in a world where Top Left meant nothing to a career criminal.
I am not ashamed of any of the crimes I’ve been convicted of. I have never been ashamed that I am an ex-con. What does shame me though, is little things like that, that I never called Georgie Jerkoff on any of his bullshit stories when we were cell mates.
I have tried to console myself with the fact that despite George telling everyone about his troubled relationships, not one in eighteen other men on range five that winter called him on it either. I tell myself I was much younger and jail was still an unknown for me.
His name was Georgie Jerkoff, he was a twisted cartoon character with a speech impediment that caused him to cover me with spittle whenever he told me about his fucked up version of reality. He was a coward, a sick serial tormentor of women...but looking back I can’t help feeling that I was a coward too. Jail is a place where you know you can't trust anyone. When you have a bunch of guys on a small range and they see each other day after day, month after month, little things can escalate into big deals very quickly.We were after all, criminals. As prisoners though, we shared an unspoken understanding that we weren't always honest with each other when it came to card games or how many desserts were on the tray at dinner time. I would often catch my friend Neil cheating while counting his points during a friendly game of cribbage. When I would confront him and ask him why he'd cheat on a friendly card game with nothing at stake, he'd smile and say "Because this is jail and I'm a criminal, Bobby."Giving your word as a solid con and invoking Top Left was supposed to mean you meant what you said with your heart. To me it was was as important as fasting on Prisoners Justice Day, yet in end I let George's bullshit slide because I was afraid.
Abbadee Abbadee, that’s all, folks!
My word, man. Top Left.