American Outlaw

American Outlaw by Jesse James

Book: American Outlaw by Jesse James Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jesse James
like a bull, reddened and possibly about to burst. Amid his confusion, I smashed the side of my elbow into his temple. He looked at me, dazed. A river of crimson blood dripped down the front of my tan uniform, soaking and ruining it.
    The guards separated us. I got put in an isolation cell for a month, for striking a guard. No surprise. By now, I knew the drill.
    ——
     
    There is nothing to do in the isolation tank: absolutely nothing. Still, I thought it would be more of a party than it was. No roomies to bother you, and sleeping in every day—cool, huh? But I did all my sleeping on the first two or three days. After that, my body just wouldn’t sleep anymore. It was too rested. I just had the walls to stare at, and my hard iron bunk to lie on.
    My immediate surroundings offered little in the way of distraction. My cell was tiny and cramped, its only outstanding feature a stainless-steel toilet with no lid.
    So I would do Nothing. All day long. These days they would call it meditation, but for me, it was just survival. I had been hurt so badly for my entire life, and repeatedly so. But in isolation, I found a center of me that had never been touched. I don’t know how to describe it: all I was doing was sitting and being silent. But somehow, I found a way to go inside myself.
    And to my surprise, I found a calmness there, the peace thatcomes with inspecting yourself and knowing that although you might not be perfect, you’ve sort of done the best you could. Defying all reasonable expectations, I actually still kind of liked and respected myself.
    Every other day, I would receive a break from my Zen-like routine of doing Nothing, and thinking of absolutely Nothing, when I’d get handcuffed and escorted sixty feet down the hall to take a shower. The guard who took me to my beauty appointment would never speak to me. He wouldn’t even look at me.
    “Doing good today?” I’d ask.
    He’d respond with Nothing.
    “Me? I’m terrific. Thanks for asking.”
    The shower for those on isolation was tiny. The tile was scummy and the water never got warm. Five minutes in there was your max. Then the guard would bang hard on the door and you had to dry yourself off fast.
    “That was
fantastic,
” I’d say, on the way back to my cell, my hands in cuffs, my face tingling from the cold water. “I feel utterly refreshed, thanks.” Zero response.
    The key to not going completely batshit crazy, I quickly learned, was to keep moving. If I stopped moving, time stopped moving with me. So I stretched. I did push-ups and sit-ups. I stood on my head in my little square cell. I tried to jump straight up and land flat on both feet with my knees bent. It was a kind of Yoga for Delinquents, and I practiced it like a freakish devotee.
    But after a week alone, I started to lose my focus. There were no books in isolation for me to Malcolm X myself into a genius. This was the eighties, and all the California Youth Authority could spare was a couple of
Highlights
magazines.
    Eventually, without my permission, my calm evaporated, and my mind began to show me pictures of my past. It spun rapidly, a laser-light show of all the things I’d rather be doing than sitting in a dank padded room wearing prison jammies. I dreamed ofpunk shows, crowd-surfing, and killing the world. I dreamed of Rhonda. I dreamed of my mother. I dreamed of touchdown after touchdown in front of screaming fans. I dreamed of lightning-quick motorcycles and stolen IROC-Zs with wobbling steering wheels and my friend grinning next to me. I dreamed of long stupid letters from an apologetic Bobby and swap meets with Johnny and Quick Rick laughing in their leather coats and day after day I was locked inside this fucker and please won’t you let me out I mean
what exactly did I do
?
    “Jesse,” came a knock. “Hey. I’m coming in.”
    It was Coach Pfieffer. He had something behind his back.
    “How you doing in here, kid?”
    I shook my head, feeling a little dazed. “I

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