The Saga Continues….
Saga Interview: Behind Closed Bars
By Nevin Jefferson
We’re all God’s children, Amen! We’re all the same through Jesus Christ who shed his blood to set us free. So, thou shalt not be unkind, uncaring, and judgmental towards their fellowman. We’re supposed to mind our own business and rejoice in the Lord! It isn’t easy which is why most people have yet to find their religion. Recently my Priest who’s also my vocation towards ordination told me that part of the Caring Ministry included spiritual outreach in the prisons. He quoted the scripture of Jesus asking why wasn’t he visited while he was in prison? I answered him with that I had a claustrophobia. Of course, he pushed the issue by telling me that I could write to a fellow inmate and send him copies of my articles. Of course, I told him that the poor souls were in prison which was punishment enough. And forced readings of Saga’s could be termed as cruel and unusual punishment. Of course, this didn’t cut it with my Priest who pushed the issue without ceasing. God won again! Yeah, God. I composed a nice generic letter introducing myself, my column, and my mission with the church. I mentioned that I was in training to become a Minister and I wanted to pray Jesus into their cell. I enclosed recent and past Saga’s along with a postage stamp in the event that they were compelled to write me back. As time flew by, I had no takers or a thank you note for the postage stamp or fine reading material. I did include in the letter that what they allegedly did was their business and they were paying their debt to society. I wasn’t going to ask or hint around the topic. It’s none of my business! My business is doing the work that God has for me rolled into the purpose and plan of my life. I got a letter from a guy who responded that not only did he want Jesus in his cell and life, he also wanted me. It’s clearly oblivious that this man has been locked up too long. I wrote him back telling him to knock it off and to get with the f**king program. He wrote back asking for a photo. I wrote back telling him that I had a face that scares film out of a camera. I also have a face that can stop a clock which is why none of the ones in my home work. He sent me his. I sent him a photo of my Editor. I went to my Priest who told me that this wasn’t about me and to get a grip. So! I wrote him and asked him to do a Saga Interview about his life, problems faced by gays in prison, the homophobia, and all of the other aggravating hell that he was locked up with. He agreed! Only that I refer to him as Mr. S. with the S being for Stud. Fine with me! He sent me the forms for visitation which my Priest made me fill out while standing over me. Thank God for the long waiting period! This is me we’re talking about here gang, since I stated on the form that my visit purpose was for spiritual outreach guess what happened? They put it through quickly! Alright, now what? The thought of being locked up in a prison sent me into claustrophobic fits. It was time for me to walk by faith and not by sight. When I arrived at the prison, I had to take off my belt, shoes, remove everything from my pockets then walk through a metal detector that went off from my glasses. After going through the detector and walking into a wall that I didn’t see. I was cleared for entrance to the prison. I was then told that I had to put everything from my pockets and what I was carrying into a locker. I had my prayer books, tape recorder, and notepad along with the loaded questions and shocking statements. I protested by saying that I wouldn’t be able to conduct the business that I was there to conduct. They told me no. I asked to see the Warden. He wasn’t available, so I asked to see the next in command. The guard whom I was talking to was it with this person sticking to their protocol and procedures. If this wasn’t bad enough the prison is a no smoking facility. Which meant that I also had to put my cigarettes in the locker with everything else. I could have backed out of the interview and spiritual outreach right then and there. But, had I done this my Priest would give me last rites then kill me! Not to mention my Editor snatching me bald for not delivering on a Saga. So, I decided to do it all by memory and preach from my heart. When I got to the visiting room after walking a long haul and waiting for sliding gates and buzzing doors I was assigned a table. I was instructed to sit with my back to the vending machines and Mr. S. would sit facing them. Mr. S. entered the room looking quite dapper in a Polo shirt, Tan Dockers, and gym shoes with a clean shaven appearance. I stood up from the table and waved to him then remained standing until he joined me at the table. I introduced myself then gave him a hug which made him nervous.
Mr. S.: Did you get a debit card?
Nevin Jefferson/The Saga Continues: A What?
Mr. S.: A debit card! It’s a card that you buy then put money on for the vending machines.
Mr. S.: Well you’re going to need one so we can get stuff from the machines. NJ/TSC: Don’t they feed you in here?
Mr. S.: Very little! The meals are small in portion and are bland. I missed dinner by seeing you.
NJ/TSC: Well go and eat! I’ll wait for you.
Mr. S. : It doesn’t work like that. I missed out which means that I have to eat here and I was looking forward to it. All you need is $20.00 dollars.
NJ/TSC: I have a rule that I apply when I’m out which is if I spend $20.00 bucks or more you have to put out.
Mr. S.: You can put $15.00 dollars on it.
Just what I need a cute convict who’ll starve to death during our interview. So guess what gang? I went back upfront to the Debit card machine and put the suggested amount on the thing. Of course, I got scolded by the guard for not doing this when I first arrived. Of course, we had at it with my telling the dear person that visiting hours shouldn’t conflict with dinner time. Of course, I was escorted back to the visiting room since I was causing a commotion. Hey, I’m an Activist, its what I do best. At least this time I didn’t have to go far to jail since I was already in one. I treated Mr. S. to his stomach’s contend only to be asked to buy him some candy bars to munch on during our talk. Fine! Of course this left a balance of 5 cents on the debit card with Mr. S. telling me that had I put $20.00 dollars on it I could have got myself a soda pop to drink while visiting with him. It was a good thing that I was on a mission from God otherwise I would have went off on this man big time. I had to humble myself and be exalted. God won again! Yeah God!
Mr. S.: Just so you know, I read you in the SGN and your writing is very impressive. I didn’t make the connection from your letter until later on when I thought about it. I was captivated by your spiritually that showed you in a entire new light. NJ/TSC: Thank you! Let’s get started. How’s life for a gay person in prison?
Mr. S.: Very intimidating and hostile at times especially for the weak.
NJ/TSC: How so?
Mr. S. : There’s a lot of strong arming going on with the inmate hiring a “Protector” so they can be left alone while they do their time. There’s rape! The person isn’t raped just because the inmate misses his wife and is lonely. It’s to strip the person of their manhood and masculinity with the person being called the rapist or rapists “Bitch!” or “Block Ho!”
NJ/TSC: Tell me about your living accommodations?
Mr. S.: Our living areas are called pods. They’re 2 men cells with some having 3 because of overcrowding. They’re more for one person with 3 making things very crowded with very little room to move around. The pods have bunk beds, 2 desks, 13-inch television, with a glass pixy glass window, and lockers. We have keys to the door of our pods. There’s a Day room where there’s a large screen television, game room, laundry room, and cleaning supplies.
NJ/TSC: What’s your daily routine?
Mr. S.: I get up at 6:30 a.m. and workout, go to school, eat my meals, make phone calls, and then go to bed at 11:00 p.m. sharp.
NJ/TSC: Are you in therapy to help you adapt to the outside world we you get out of here?
Mr. S.: Yes, I go to Victims Awareness and 1-on-1 counseling every 2 weeks with a psychologist.
NJ/TSC: Are you talking any courses for self-improvement and a skill when you get out?
Mr. S.: I.T.C. Computer Classes.
Mr. S. : I have a question for you.
NJ/TSC: I got an answer!
Mr. S.: If you saw me on the street how old would you think I am?
Mr. S.: You wouldn’t think that I was 22?
NJ/TSC: Not without stretching it. You do look like you’re in your early twenties. How old are you?
Mr. S. : 33! Let me ask you another question? On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate me?
NJ/TSC: I’ll give you a 10. (Mr. S. blushes from my response then thanks me.) Okay, on a scale from 1-10 how would you rate me?
Mr. S.: A 9.9!
NJ/TSC: I can live with that! Let’s get back to the interview. Does the “system” work?
Mr. S. : For most of the guys no, because schooling and programs to help improve yourself have been cut down. It’s hard for an ex-con to find employment because they’re immediately discriminated against. A lot of guys end up going back to their criminal elements and ending up back inside. They also cut back on medical attention. They’re dropping like flies up in here.
NJ/TSC: Are you allowed to carry cash or is there a bartering system?
Mr. S.: We have an account that we can spend using a debit card. A person on the outside has to send an inmate a money order from the Post Office that’s put in your account. Money isn’t allowed at all in here. So, if you wanted to send me some funds because I’m hurting in here that’s how you do it.
NJ/TSC: Honey, I’m unemployed, broke, and am about to go off about it in the next second or so!
Mr. S.: If I could help you, I would! If I were on the outside, I’d be there for you.
NJ/TSC: God Bless you!
Mr. S.: God Bless you too! If you don’t mind me saying you’re very attractive and appealing to me. Yes, I’m very interested in you.
NJ/TSC: Get a grip Gertrude!
Mr. S.: Now, why do you want to call me Gertrude?
NJ/TSC: Because since I’m here for spiritual outreach I can’t call you a Bitch!
Mr. S.: Now you go and call me a Bitch. And you want to become a Minister!
NJ/TSC: Hey, at least I believe in God and am able to give love. That’s more than those other idiots are doing. Okay, let’s get down and dirty. How’s the action in this joint?
Mr. S.: Body Builders are notorious closet queens with their being the first ones caught in the showers or pod with another gay man who they blame. They have sleazy sex going on, there are lovers, and affairs going on.
NJ/TSC: Which one of those groups are you into?
Mr. S.: I don’t fuck around in here! I’ve been celibate for the past 8 years. I don’t believe in prison affairs because they turn dangerous.
NJ/TSC: What profession were you in before you ended up in here?
Mr. S.: I was in Retail Sales and Banking.
NJ/TSC: How spiritual are you?
Mr. S.: I believe in God and I was raised a Roman Catholic. Occasionally I pray. NJ/TSC: How deep is your spirituality?
Mr. S.: I’m spiritual but I do need to become more spiritual. It could be deeper but I’m going through tough times now? With your help I’ll get there. You are coming back for weekly visits aren’t you?
NJ/TSC: Get Real!
Mr. S.: You’re not going to come back and visit with me?
NJ/TSC: I’ll write! When did you come out?
Mr. S.: Out?
NJ/TSC: Let me break it down for you. When did you get comfortable with your sexuality? Or are you still in the closet?
Mr. S.: I don’t consider myself to be straight, gay, or bisexual. I’ve always been in relationships with men and women who I was attracted to. I don’t see people as Black and White, I see them as unique individuals. I also like to live my life to the fullest like you stated in your letter. I love exercising daily, traveling, and eating out with a special someone.
NJ/TSC: You’re a spiritual being which is great. The world can use more human beings who view things like we do.
Mr. S.: When are you going to ask me some real questions?
NJ/TSC: Now! When you’re in a relationship with a man are you a top or bottom?
Mr. S.: I’m a top who’s packing 10 inches.
NJ/TSC: This ought to get the letters pouring in with Queens camped outside awaiting your release.
Mr. S.: What do you like sexually?
NJ/TSC: Me? Nothing!
Mr. S.: I know that you’ve been celibate for the past 6 years and waiting on Mr. Right. If Mr. Right came up to you right now what would you want him to do to you sexually?
NJ/TSC: You do read me! Finally, a true fan!
Mr. S. : You’re not answering my question.
NJ/TSC: You catch on quick!
Mr. S.: Aren’t you going to ask me what I’m in for?
NJ/TSC: No! That’s between you and God. As far as I’m concerned you did the alleged crime and are doing the time. You’re paying your debt to society.
Mr. S.: I did give you a hint on what I did.
NJ/TSC: You did? I’m suffer from clueless moments. Whatever it is I’ll let it stay embedded in the answer where you hinted at it.
Mr. S.: You’re the first person who doesn’t want to know. Are you sure that you don’t want to know?
NJ/TSC: I’m positive.
Mr. S.: Speaking of positive are you ruling out meeting Mr. Right because you’re HIV+?
NJ/TSC: No! As a manner of fact I’m communicating with a guy who lives in Alaska who works on a fishing boat as a cook in the kitchen. I told him that if anything were to happen between us I’d like to wait six months before we have sex.
Mr. S.: Why so long?
NJ/TSC: Because I’ve made too many mistakes in past relationships and I’m not in the mood to be screwed over no time too soon. I want us to get to know each other by spending time together.
Mr. S.: He can’t do that for you because he’s in Alaska and you’re here.
NJ/TSC: He’s coming here when he gets a leave. That’s enough about me, let’s get back to you. What are your plans for the future?
Mr. S.: To meet that special someone and have a beautiful relationship with that person. Hopefully, that person will be you. ( Mr. S. reaches over and takes my hand into his with a twinkle in his eyes. The killer smile made it all the more a flirtation and direct hit without any questions.)
NJ/TSC: Have you learned from your past mistakes?
Mr. S.: Yes, and I won’t make the same mistake twice. I want you!
NJ/TSC: Take a number and get in line! I already told you that I have a man on ice in Alaska.
Mr. S.: If he loved you, he would be here and not on a boat.
NJ/TSC: (Due to the fact that I gave up going off for Lent, I ignored this statement) How are things between you and your parents? Do they visit or are they upset with you?
Mr. S.: They are getting better as I get closer to release and are anxious to help me get back on my feet.
NJ/TSC: What do you miss not having in here?
Mr. S.: Pork!
NJ/TSC: Pork as in Miss Piggy?
Mr. S.: Yes! The Muslims complained about pork being served since they don’t eat it. They also protested that the pork cooked in pots and pans contaminated other meals prepared in them. So, they took pork off of the menu along with steaks.
NJ/TSC: You mean that they let bullshit like that walk? How many Muslims are there? Mr. S.: 50 out of a 2,000 man prison. It’s fucked!
NJ/TSC: Are you happy?
Mr. S.: I’m not as happy here in prison but I’m getting more excited about getting out.
NJ/TSC: Do you watch sports? What teams are you a fan of?
Mr. S.: I watch the Mariner’s, Seahawks, Huskies, Cougars, and Sonics as those are my favorite teams.
NJ/TSC: What’s the first thing that you want to do when you get out of here?
Mr. S.: Get a drink!
NJ/TSC: Don’t forget to feed your alcohol!
Mr. S.: The other thing that I’m going to do is order a Bacon Double Cheeseburger. NJ/TSC: Abnormally, I usually ran a picture with my Saga Interview since you want to keep your identity hidden I’m going to run a picture of Bootsie and Purrfecto.
Mr. S.: Your cats! How are Bootsie and Purrfecto doing?
NJ/TSC: Weird and extremely strange as usual.
Mr. S.: Can you help me get on SSI and get food stamps when I get out?
NJ/TSC: Sure. No problem.
Mr. S.: My counselor already advised me that things on the outside would be rough going for me. People aren’t accepting of an ex-convict.
NJ/TSC: The world is a mean and bitchy place with people making judgments on someone who’s already being judged by a judge and jury then served the time given. Is there anything you’d like to say on behalf of those who are serving time and are soon to be released or already have been released?
Mr. S.: Just keep it positive and keep your chin up!
It was announced that visiting hours were ending and to bring the visits to a close. I took notes on a sheet of scratch paper that’s provided for keeping card game scores. I shook Mr. S. hand then gave him a hug while whispering; “God’s peace and love to you always!” into his ear. Since one Prison visit for spiritual outreach does cut it in my training, I checked the dates for the next visiting days. As a Christian, my job is to go forward to help comfort, heal, and help those in need. And besides, the man did crack on my becoming a Minister from the colorful things I said to him. I’m going to prove him wrong just like any self-respecting Queen would do.
© Nevin Jefferson, All Rights Reserved
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