Chapter 5a: Tension

I hopped down off my bunk to take a leak in the toilet. Everyone had been back from breakfast for about an hour. After I pissed, I looked at Jirani who must have had a wet dream or something. The middle of his blanket had a wet spot. The nigga was still sleep and it wasn't any of my business, so I didn't worry about it. The 24 hour locks popped in Khalil and Roland's cell. And Roland sprung out of it. Khalil, however, stayed in bed. He wasn't sleep, but I guess he just didn't feel like leaving just yet. I stood up at the cell door because I knew that lockdown must have been getting ready to end soon. For me, lockdown began not long after Roland and Khalil's, and since their lock popped, mine was surely next. After pacing for about a minute or so, it unlocked. I opened the cell.

"Yo, Rani. If you hungry, you should go ask Tongis if he'll let you run to the cafeteria real quick," I said.

Rani pulled the cover off of his head. "Aww... nah, I'm fine." The nigga had dried up drool and shit on his face. "I probably should get dressed though." Jirani whipped the blanket off his bed.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa nigga!" I said. "If you gon' be in this cell with me, you gotta keep underwear on."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Jirani smiled. I left the cell so he could get dressed in peace.

When I stepped out of the cell, I looked over into the Bloods territory. Elijah and Cypress's cell unlocked. Elijah looked across the room at me, and he had a bandage on his nose. He walked over to one of the seats near the corridor and waited for an officer to return with Cypress from the hole. The full room was a lot quieter since all of the Aryans got evicted earlier in the morning. I didn't know if and when they would be back, but I knew all hell would break loose. Not a brotha in here would let it slide. Those Aryan fuckers were dead men for arranging Hakim's death.

I ran up the steps to the guard's station and knocked.

Tongis opened up. "What do you want Terry?"

"News. So the Aryans took out Hakim?"

"Don't you do anything stupid, Terry," Tongis spouted.

"I won't," I gave him my word. Generally, my word meant something, but this time it didn't. I might as well have been holding crossed fingers behind my back.

"Lil' Billy confessed that Zach and a couple of the Aryans told him to kill Hakim."

"So when is Lil' Billy coming back?" I asked.

"He's not," Tongis answered. "Lil' Billy is going to stay in solitary. They're going to try him for the murder of Hakim. If he's found guilty, he could be facing the death penalty. They'll move him to death row."

Good, I thought. "He never told you why the Aryans wanted Hakim dead?"

"The warden didn't give us any details, but it's probably because Hakim took up with him. Those guys have always had problems with sharing."

"Ok," I turned around to leave.

"Wait a second, Terry."

"Yeah?"

"I wanted to thank you," Tongis said.

"For what?"

"What you're doing for Jirani. I'm glad you kind of took him in before one of the other guys got to him. Believe me, the parole board is going to hear about what an exemplary prisoner you are."

"What about what happened yesterday?" I asked, reminding him of the incident.

"Oh yeah... well we don't have to tell them about that," he winked. "Did Elijah come out of his cell yet?"

"Yeah. He's waiting for Cypress to come back from the hole."

"Oh yeah. He should be on his way back up by now. It's amazing, that even while all of you loudmouths on lockdown, it really hasn't been much quieter," Tongis laughed. "Stay out of trouble."

"I will," I said as I walked out.

Cypress walked into his cell. He walked past Elijah, not even acknowledging that he was there. Cypress grabbed his soap and a change in clothing and walked right back out. Elijah hopped up and followed behind him.

"You showering?" Elijah asked.

"Yeah, but alone."

"What?"

"I'm showering alone," Cypress clarified.

"Baby, can we talk? Please."

"No, we can't. I'm tired of having the same conversation with you. And every day, you prove to me that you're not listening."

"I am listening."

"No, you're not. You know what the fuck is going on in the camp, but you keep making the shit worse," Cypress said.

"Baby, I get it. I'm a ho. And I'll play that role from now on with no problems, ok? Now, can you just forgive me so I can bathe you?"

Cypress grinned. His dick jumped at the thought of Elijah bathing him. He nodded his head toward the showers. "Come on."

Elijah followed him into the showers.

"You know I gotta start being harder on you, right?" Cypress started his lecture.

"What do you mean?"

Once in the shower room, Elijah undressed first and went to the shower. Cypress sat on one of the benches by the lockers, remaining in his clothes. Elijah stood under the showerhead and adjusted the water so that it was the perfect mixture of hot and cold before Cypress even stepped in.

Cypress continued, "I mean, I have to be harder and meaner to everyone to prove that I'm still a fucking threat. That means that I have to be harder on you too. I'm letting you know because I think it would be easier if you do what I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it. If not, then I have to put on a huge show like I did yesterday."

"I understand," Elijah said. "The water's ready."

Cypress began to undress. "And after a week or so, I'll tell the Bloods that they can defend you again. Until then, if someone starts shit with you, then I will be the one to deal with them."

"Ok."

"Good."

"Am I allowed to ask a question about that?" Elijah asked.

Cypress joined him under the showerhead. "What's the question?" Cypress closed his eyes and Elijah began washing his face first.

"It's about yesterday. You saw the band-aid on my nose. That nigga didn't cut me deep, but he still cut my fucking face. I want Terry dead."

"No, you don't." Some of the soap got into Cypress's mouth, so he spit it back out.

"I do," Elijah moved down to start lathering Cypress's chest.

"Yeah right. You ask me if you can go play spades with him every day, and after one fight, you want him dead?"

"Yes."

"I'll give him a stern talking to. Will that work for you?" Cypress asked.

"No. Cypress, he cut me. Even if I am only a ho, you're supposed to defend me."

"I'm not going to kill that man," Cypress lifted his arms so Elijah would get his arm pits.

"Please baby. I would do anything for you."

"You already do anything for me."

"But when I do it, I won't even think of complaining," Elijah promised, as he moved further down Cypress's body.

"I will talk to him, but that's it."

Elijah sighed. "Ok, fine."

Cypress's body faced the entrance so he saw the door swing open and the next group of people to come in. Khalil and Jirani walked in, laughing about something. Then, Jirani's eyes fell on his big brother and his big brother's ho. Jirani had never seen Cypress naked before. Their mom never put them in the same bathtub together, seeing as how there was a whole 13 year age difference. Jirani looked at the low hanging dick between his legs. If there was nothing else that proved they were related, it was the size of their family jewels.

Jirani followed Khalil and took one of the showers on the other end after they undressed. Trying not to let it show, Cypress was pissed. He didn't want his little brother around any Bloods or former Bloods or whatever. And he certainly didn't want his little brother around an Ex-Blood that didn't respect him. Where the fuck is that Terry nigga? He thought.

Elijah noticed Cypress's eyes and their fixation on Jirani. And when he looked, all he could see was Jirani's big ass dick.

"Oh my God," Elijah said. His attitude snapped like a twig. He'd gone from mild to superhot or fiery. "Don't tell me you let him fuck you."

Cypress's head whipped back to Elijah. "Get the fuck out of here with that bullshit. I ain't take no fuckin dick, I ain't no bitch!"

"Oh, so I'm a bitch because I take yours?"

"Yes! Why the fuck do I have to keep reminding you? You're my bitch!" Cypress walked over to the towel stand and grabbed a big towel to wrap around his waist. He still had soap and suds all the way down his back.

Cypress left the showers and headed back to the cellblock B holding area. Instead of walking to his own cell, he walked toward mine.

Shit, in my time alone I was sittin' up in the bed trying to bust a quick nutt while lookin' at Hakim's old stash of internet porn when da nigga came in.

"'Fuck you want nigga?" I asked.

He came closer to me.

"Oh hell no," I grabbed a pencil-razor that I kept underneath my pillow.

"Chill the fuck out nigga. I just want to talk to yo dumb ass. Why is Rani in the shower with Khalil and shit?"

"Man, Iono. Them niggas are cool. They spent the whole time we was in lockdown flirtin' like lil school girls and shit."

"Well put an end to the shit. Rani's supposed to be yo ho, so tell him to stop fuckin' talkin' to Khalil."

"I'm not about to do dat nigga. Khalil's cool people, and as far as I see, the brothas are cool," I said.

"I don't give a fuck. I don't want Rani hangin' out with that nigga. He's probably one of the niggas that is tryin' to fuck me over. I don't want Rani with him."

"Shit, man. I'll tell him what you said, but it's ultimately his decision."

"No, it's not. It's yours. I put him with you, not Khalil. You better fix this shit," Cypress ordered.

"Nigga, I ain't yo bitch. yo bitch is still in the showers nigga, so I don't know who you think you talkin' to."

Cypress bit his bottom lip. "Aight... I'm sorry. But talk to him."

"OK," I agreed.

I waited for Cypress to leave my cell, but he didn't move as quickly as I'd have liked.

"Elijah claims to want you dead," he waited for my face to react. "The Bloods don't bend to his will anymore, and I told him I would talk to you. I'm just givin' you a heads up. He might try something."

"Why you tellin' me? Ain't you betrayin' da wife?"

"My brother's protection comes above anything and anybody else, especially Elijah."

The Muslims took the floor following their leader, Malik Abdul Muhammad (His birth name was actually Jonathan Jones). They laid blankets on the floor and got on their knees to pray. Alternating from standing on their knees and the fetal position, they chanted, "Allah Akbar." They moved like a synchronized swim team. There was a unity in their movement, a unity in their speech and apparently, a unity in their minds.

"Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar." The same two Muslim words were recited for 15 minutes straight. Bloods, over on the other side of the block, snickered at them, but they did not let it disturb them. "Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar."

This was the first day of Ramadan. Ramadan was a fasting period for Muslims that lasted for 29 days. In this period, the Muslims were not allowed to eat, drink or participate in sexual relations during the daytime. To accompany their beliefs, when the sun fell around 8:50 P.M., Cryptkeeper Thornton would swing by their cells with a cart of fruit for their choosing, and water bottles for them to keep during the night.

The last meal of the day was about to begin. Khalil had already gone to the cafeteria. I'd been doing pretty good at keeping him and Jirani apart from each other but had no idea how I was going to keep it up.

"Rani, you ready?" I asked him.

"Yeah, let's go."

I escorted Jirani out of the cell. We started walking to the cafeteria when I heard a mumble from underneath the Muslim chants.

I turned, and near my leg was Aarif. He wasn't moving in unison with the rest of the Muslims. He wasn't even chanting anymore.

"Did you say something?" I asked.

"Yes. I said that you should be ashamed of yourself," Aarif stood to his feet. Aarif spoke in a slow and very deep voice. If you closed your eyes, you'd think you were hearing the voice of God.

"Ashamed of what?"

"What you're doing to this boy is wrong."

"It's none of your business," I said.

"It is my business if I know that it's going on. You're taking advantage of this boy."

Jirani stepped in between us. "He's not. I went looking for him. Anything that we do, it's because I want to do it."

Aarif still wasn't convinced. "Homosexuality is wrong, my brotha. You need to come with us. Enter the World of Allah."

"Homosexuality is wrong?" I interrupted. "Was homosexuality wrong when you were fucking inmates before you joined this shit? And drop that fake ass voice. You know good and Goddamn well you don't talk like that." Aarif's voice was naturally a smooth tenor-like with an east coast accent. But after he joined the Muslims, it became a deep baritone and a more African sounding accent.

"Allah has changed me for the better. Allah can do this for you, my brotha," Aarif tried to force a connection with Jirani, but it came off very eerie.

"Thanks, but I think I'll stick with Jesus," Jirani said. We went back to our plans and started back toward the cafeteria.

"Your Jesus doesn't accept your life either, son. Turn your life around," Aarif said.

Jirani laughed at this shit. "Was he serious?" he asked.

"Yeah, unfortunately, he was. The Muslims always approach the guys with Muslim sounding names. They tried to get Hakim a million times. They always swing by to try to get Khalil, and I guess, you're on their radar now."

"Jirani is a Muslim name?"

"Shit, I don't know. Don't let that nigga trip you out. He didn't become a Muslim until a couple of years ago. He used to be a Blood. The Muslims snatched him up the same way he just tried to get you."

"Oh," he said.

"And by the way, I talked to yo bro earlier. He don't like you hanging out with Khalil."

"So? I don't care."

"Khalil is one of the Bloods that aren't too fond of Cypress. In a sense, your brother's just lookin' out for you," I enlightened.

"But I don't care. Why would he think that he can control my life when he won't even let himself be seen with me unless everyone thinks we're fucking? At least I know Khalil is the only person in here that really likes me for me."

"Hey," I said. "I like you for you."

"You like me because my brother asked you to. Khalil isn't being forced."

"I'm not being forced either. If I didn't care, I wouldn't help you. I agreed to help you because I used to be you. And then I got manipulated by the Bloods into some shit when I first got here."

"You mean they-"

"No," I shut him down. He was insinuating that they punked me. "No, they didn't. But my fear of getting punked actually made me do something else for them that I still regret. I didn't want the Bloods trying to get you too."

"Oh."

We just made it to the entrance of the cafeteria when a voice yelled my name from the opposite side of the hall. The way the prison was designed was so that all the halls from the cellblocks met up before you actually got to the cafeteria. I turned to look and saw one of my homies from cellblock C. The guy coming up was named Redd Saldana. He was a mutt of latin culture. His mother was half Brazilian and half Portuguese, and his father was technically half Afro-Cuban and half Puerto Rican. The assortment of Latin races combined with growing up in the hot Miami sun resulted in this shiny, orange-like, caramel skin color that was somewhat similar to Merlin Santana.

"Whattup Redd?"

"Yo, I missed you yesterday, mah man. But I heard about Hakim," Redd gave me the brotha-man handshake (you know, that handshake when you half hug the dude and then pat him on the back).

"Yeah, yeah."

"Who did it? The niggas said Lil' Billy did it, but I can't even picture what he look like."

"Awww, remember that skinny white kid that used to always hang out with the Aryans from our block. He used to be big Zach's bitch," I described.

"Da one dat Zach made lick milk off the cafeteria floor like a cat?"

"Yeah, dat's him. And Billy confessed that the Aryans made him do it."

"Huh, is that why they snatched all the Aryans up out of cellblock C this morning?" Redd asked.

"They got ya'll too? They came in and got the Aryans up out of B around 6 in the morning."

"Yeah, yeah. They grabbed all of them, and I guess they put them in the Supermax building."

The Supermax building was the 5th building of the penitentiary. It was like solitary, but worse. The space was smaller, the toilets didn't flush and you could barely lay down in the cell. Any one of average or higher height, typically just tried to sleep while sitting straight up. Supermax cells were locked for 23 hours of the day, and the last hour would give the guys room to walk around and stretch.

"Damn," I said.

"Who dis?" Redd asked.

"Oh, shit. I almost forgot. Dis mah nigga, Rani. Rani, dis mah dude Redd from cellblock C."

Jirani extended his hand to shake Redd's, his wrist a little limp.

"Ohhhhhh," Redd said in a sing-song type of way. "Yo nigga, huh?"

"Man, don't even start that shit. I hear enough of that in my own cellblock."

Redd laughed.

Jirani looked around the cafeteria, bored at the conversation that I was having with Redd. He spotted Khalil in line.

"Ay Terry, I'mma go up there and hang with Khalil."

The nigga started walkin' and I pulled his arm back. "No," I said.

"Terry, I don't care what Cypress said. I choose who I want to hang out with, and I want to go eat lunch with Khalil."

"Khalil Jackson?" Redd asked.

"Yeah," Jirani answered. "You know him too?"

"Yeah... you can't hang out with him."

"Why the hell not?"

"Because this isn't our block, Rani," I said. "This is gen pop, the prison's full population. You and Khalil might be the best of friends, but remember, Khalil is an ex-blood. There are only 4 ex-bloods in cellblock B, but in the whole prison, there are probably 30 or 40."

"So?" he asked, not really grasping what I was saying.

"So? Who do you think Khalil is sitting with when he eats dinner? He's sitting with other ex-bloods. If you go sit with him, you'll be like meat dangling in front of a family of bears. You'll get yourself and him killed. Don't get stupid. You'll sit with us and a bunch of other neutrals."

Jirani sucked his teeth.

"Stay close to me," I said.

We grabbed trays. Redd went down the cafeteria line first, I followed behind him and then Jirani followed behind me.

"Yo, I actually got a question for you," I asked Redd.

"Yeah, wassup?"

"Are Bloods or the Ex-bloods acting funny to you?"

"Funny? How you mean?" he asked.

"Man, I don't know. I'm just sensing that something is going on, that I might wind up in the middle of. "

"You ain't even a Blood. If something happens and you are in the middle of it, then it's because you put yourself there."

"I ain't ask you all dat, bruh. I just wanted to know if you noticed anything strange or out of the ordinary."

"Well, yeah I have. It's probably nothing though," he said.

"I don't care, tell me."

"Alright. There's a new prisoner in C named Sugarman."

"Sugarman? Seriously?" I laughed at that sweet ass name.

"Yeah. Dude was a Blood on the outside and he a big ass dude. He got sent to the hole last night."

"Why?" I asked.

"He rolled up on the Bloods last night for no reason at all. The nigga straight rocked 'em! There's 4 Bloods over in the hospital building. And ya' man barely got tagged."

"So he fought some Bloods, what's so weird about that?" I questioned.

"The Ex-Bloods are just singing his fuckin' praises and shit. When he gets out the hole, he'll probably be aligned with them."

"This Sugarman guy," Jirani inserted himself. "Is he a big ass darkskinned dude? Kinda fat but still very muscly, scabby skin, has a dragon tattoo on his arm, and hot ass breath with yellow eyes like he has jaundice?"

"I didn't get close enough to see his eyes," Redd answered. "But that sounds like him."

"You know him?" I asked Jirani.

"Yeah. He was sittin' on the opposite side of the bus when we came in. He was staring at me, the whole fucking time; this blank, cold stare."

"Yeah, that's definitely Sugarman," Redd said.

"Hey sweet stuff!" One of the elderly Ex-bloods yelled to Jirani while we were still in line. Jirani turned to look at the guy. "How's about givin' some sweet pussy to an old man for his birthday?"

Sitting right next to the Ex-blood was Khalil, who shunned him. Khalil looked up, but right back down and didn't acknowledge the boy. Though Jirani was already told that the Ex-bloods would never accept him and that while Khalil was around them, he couldn't be around Jirani, he hoped that Khalil was different. He hoped that Redd and I were over exaggerating. The person next to Khalil even got up from the seat and left, but Khalil moved over to take up both spaces, just to ensure that Jirani wouldn't get the wrong idea and try to sit next to him.

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