TITLE: Parallel Lives
I learned three things in prison I carried with me to the Outside. I did my best to forget the rest.
First and foremost, I learned to mind my own business. Asking that cliché question, "Hey, buddy, what are you in for?" could earn you a beatdown. "Do your own time, not someone else's," is what the wiser cons said, and it made sense: when you're watched all day, every day, and anyone could see you read or write a letter, shower or sleep, jerk-off or take a s***, and the only truly unsupervised time is when your lawyer visits, privacy is everything.
Second, I learned to be neat. I had to be, I lived in an 8 by 10 box that was bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen rolled into one, and I shared the space with another human being. The last thing either of us needed was to get our stuff mixed up; there was enough pressure in being locked up together for half the day without fighting over toothpaste or socks or a mess. And while the unwritten rule was you didn't even look into another cell, let alone enter uninvited, it did happen, and things did get stolen. It was best to keep things put away and out of sight, rather than risk them sprouting legs and running off.
Finally, there was exercise. Exercise kept me fit and healthy. It made me strong and enabled me to hold my own in a fight, which I did on many occasions.