Photo by Ander Burdain on Unsplash

It is freezing in here. Inexplicably, the heat was turned on and then immediately shut off. After lying in the dark for an untold amount of time, I reluctantly rose from the shelter of my vomit-green blankets to empty my bladder. I quickly retreated to my cask and stared at the ceiling from a crack that allowed me to breathe more easily. I pressed the light button on my watch. It read 1:19 a.m., but it was daylight saving time, so it must actually have been 2:19 a.m. I can vaguely hear the garbled conversation between two men. It appeared that one guy was smoking K2, also known as synthetic marijuana, and he wasn’t sharing. Out of boredom, I tuned in.

“Yo, why you actin’ crazy?” one guy asked.

“I don’t think you want none of this, son,” the other guy said, refusing to give him a smoke. “I got the ‘Rona (coronavirus). I’m tryin’ to save you,” he said, laughing in a sinister tone.

“So what? It ain’t gonna affect me. I already had it. I got the antibodies. I’m immune… all the way passssst that!”

“Aight, dog. Here.”

I was stunned at the degree of insanity and sheer recklessness of the conversation.

I thought back to when I used to get high, when I used to sell drugs, when I ran the streets and when I was morally deficient. Still, the dialogue left me speechless. I wondered, would I have done the same? As an addict, would I have knowingly smoked behind someone who had the coronavirus?

Although I no longer indulge, I have accepted that I will always be an addict. As an addict, would I have convinced myself that I was immune? My addiction would have surely rationalized that the man was lying about having the virus and just did not want to share his K-2.

I stayed up most of that night, weighing the many ways that fate brings a person to a place in life where we are able to make such callous decisions.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Sheldon P. Johnson

Sheldon P. Johnson is a writer incarcerated in New York. He is a graduate of the Cornell Prison Education Program, a member of the Phoenix Players Theatre Group and a contributor to Prison Writers.