Eye to Eye
Someone had short shrifted the Sheriff’s Deputy upon his baptism in the brass waters that rang in his ears as he inserted pinky and shook in an attempt to quell the echoes and reminders of his lack of vertical prowess. He was a Filipino guy, from at least where I was sitting. I estimated he stood, maybe, 5 feet 1 ½ inches. The gun at his side seemed almost too big for him, as it sat deliberate in its holster—security and power in a pocket absent of any obstructions whatsoever– including lint. And I was Filipino, the difference being that he had a gun, badge, a bull’s neck and 5 to 7 inches less height than I. Maybe he was born in the Philippines, maybe not. Didn’t make no difference, really, he wasn’t going to let my brown ass out of the holding tank or cell regardless of my ethnicity, no matter what race I checked off in the box when I filled out a job application, an application for an apartment, food stamps or customer service surveys. My race, or if I ate rice—didn’t make a damn bit of difference. I looked at him through the bars. I wondered where he was born, if he spoke Filipino. I wondered why he’d want to work in a jail. He looked more like a short (no pun intended) order cook than a deputy. I pictured him in a white hat and apron soaked in blood from offal holding his affections, loyalties and conscience. Had he gone that route we would perhaps eat better in here—certainly he’d be able, with his thick brown hands—to conjure up some magic dishes rather than the heaping portions of lukewarm potatoes and culinary surprises that resembled mounds of horseshit freshly plopped on our trays and glowing in the blandness of florescent lights. I was intrigued. I knew there would be no solidarity of any kind between us, not even an extra cornbread square at chow. Another guy in the holding cell took notice of him too; a thin white guy with limp brown hair that stuck up like a chicken at the crown of his head.
“That little motherfucker messed up my shit. He had my paperwork and now he’s fuckin’ around.”
The white guy paced back and forth. Someone asked him if he was going to eat his peanut butter sandwich. He tore the sandwich in two, passed it, licked the thick peanut butter from his fingers.
“Goddamn stupid ass!” the white guy called out, hitting the door with his palm. The others had been talking about everything from women, successful robberies, divorces, the quality of jail cuisine and the technicalities of certain court cases.
“Don’t worry” an older black man told a young brother who’d been given 3 years.
“Youngsta… you already served 700 days. It’s in the bank. You ain’t gonna do no three years… trust me.”
The white guy got louder, yelling to the deputies. The cell got quiet. Suddenly the door opened.
“Get over here” a voice called out.
The white guy with the stringy hair approached the door where he was met by the short Filipino deputy and a taller Latino one who resembled a substitute PE teacher i had in high school. The short brown deputy, in one swift move—one that would be the envy of Hollywood choreographers—cuffed the white guy and forced his head down. The force caused the white guy’s knees to give. He was led to an adjacent holding cell, walking in a semi erect position reminiscent of Cro-Magnon man or some other evolutionary distant cousin. He could fit perfectly in one of those evolution charts showing man and his ancestors, falling somewhere between ape and caveman—a perfect model for such an image should he decide to give up robbing construction sites and pursue a caveman modeling career in the natural sciences—a more legitimate enterprise. A tall African American guy in the tank, impressed with the Filipino deputy’s ability to manipulate and negotiate the white guy’s physical position to a lower one remarked: I guess they seein’ eye to eye now
A chorus of laughter rang throughout the cell. Five minutes later the white guy was lead back to the holding cell. He walked to the rear of the cell and sat, with pants on, on the steel toilet mounted on the wall.
“Motherfuckers” he said, shaking his head, laughing. He grabbed the rest of his peanut butter sandwich and finished it.
(c) 2016 Tony Robles