Corn Nuts and Naked Men
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
I spent eight arrests down at 850 on the 6th floor, one in San Mateo county, and three out at San Bruno.
The 6th floor looks like something on television: locks, bars, and cells. Breakfast is served in the cell. Pills are distributed in the cell. Staff visits are conducted in the cell. Dinner is served in the cell. You’re stuck in your cell for something like 20 hours a day, maybe more. Shits are taken in the cell.
Lawyer visits are in a private but fully visible room. Family visits are in semi-private but fully visible compartments, complete with thick, scratched-up plexiglass, tiny swivel stools, a narrow ledge that tries to act like a table, and good old-fashioned analog telephone receivers that have been used by inmates for millennia and not cleaned very often, certainly not in between inmates. Lunch is in the day room, which includes commissary and mail. Showering happens in a little six-head enclosure just off the day room. Gym access is once a week.
And it’s a big deal.
The women would get real excited when it was time to go to the gym. That’s because, for five total minutes one time per week, we were paraded past the men’s side on our way to and from the gymnasium.
Women would spend at least an hour prettying themselves up as much as they could with items purchased from commissary. We are not talking Sephora. Sometimes all you could get was lipstick and eyeliner. Well, I think that was it. I don’t know because I was never one of those women even back when I liked dudes, so I never spent hard earned commissary money on something as ridiculous as makeup. I had better things to purchase.
Like corn nuts.
I actually hated corn nuts when I first started eating them. But I learned how to eat them in jail. Because when you don’t have a friend or a relative or some trick visiting who can put money on your books, you want to get some kind of tasty item that will last you a long time. I learned that pretty quickly the first few times I came into a few dollars.
There I was, purchasing candy bars or maybe even the highly prized Cup Noodles. There I’d be at the end of the same day, commissary gone until the following week or until the next trip to jail. Kinda like the first dozen times I got my assistance check and food stamps.
I’m orally fixated. My motto used to be, “If I can’t put it in my mouth, I don’t want it.” Ha ha hee hee ho ho har har guffaw chuckle nudge nudge wink wink ribbety fucking rib. Well, it still is my motto, actually.
I’m not much more refined than that, really. You know this.
I carry around a palm-sized tin in my pocket, most of whose items still go in the mouth. You know, the usual shit like gum and breath mints. But then we also got lactose supplements, papaya enzymes, and digestives because I’m old now. But then we also got sleep tablets, aspirin, blood pressure medication, and one or two other things I can’t think of at the moment. WE ALSO GOT a bottle opener that doubles as a screwdriver, two flossing swords, two quarters, a set of earplugs, a recovery chip, and a single piece of pink confetti from Beyoncé’s Formation tour.
Because good memories and good luck and Beyoncé. Don’t you question her!
All in a tin the size of the palm of your hand. The palm of my hand. I carry that thing everywhere. I likes to keep my mouth full and busy yes so many good jokes. I’m rolling my eyes hard at you right now.
Back then, the oral fixation was worse especially in jail. No drugs to do, no alcohol to drink, no good food to eat even if I were eating. And nothing to do in SF County Jail #1 except watch t.v. and listen to bitches scream at each other across the bars.
Even though we got the same food at the same time on the same day every single week, we looked forward to it. And to commissary. It was like that one moment during the day when you feel fucking invincible and like everything is going to be alright. You know, like right after that first cup of coffee or tea kicks in and before the crash. That moment right after you drop off the kids.
That sliver of time.
Smart me finally decided to pick the most disgusting food on the commissary list so that it would slow down my seemingly never ending quest for...more. Maybe it would also retrain my pleasure centers, practice patience, and tune in to the moment but that’s not really how I was thinking about it then.
So I started buying corn nuts.
And wouldn’t you know—it worked!
I found them repulsive but compelling. Sometimes when my teeth weren’t hurting, I’d pop one right in the back and crunch the bejeezus out of it immediately. Sometimes I’d suck all the salty goodness off and then slowly gum the remaining tasteless puff.
I lost two teeth in jail. Or was it three?
No, not to fucking corn nuts!
This occurred during one or two of my last three trips to jail. Know how I know? Because the dentist's office was in CJ#5, which was next to CJ#7 in San Bruno, back when they housed women. San Francisco County Jail #7. In San Bruno. Figure that one out.
I’d come in with a toothache and leave with a gaping hole because they do not fill teeth in jail. They only pull them. Do not go to jail with a toothache. Matter of fact, do not go to jail period, m’kay?
I have a total of nine missing teeth if you count the wisdom teeth. If not, a mere five. Two from childhood, three from addiction.
I have this whooooole thing about teeth, especially other peoples’. Especially when they have a beautiful mouth full of chompers. My ex not only has beautiful teeth but she has them all. It’s SO surreal. That poor woman couldn’t yawn without me staring jealously at those gleamers. I’ve practically put my eyeballs into her mouth on a number of occasions and that number is too numerous to count.
Even though I’m really self conscious about my teeth, I’ve come to love my own imperfect set. On the surface they’re pretty beat up but my gums are in great condition and I’ve reacquired two molars through the wonders of bridges and dental care at my former job. I’m super grateful for that! I brush them two to four times a day and they don’t hurt anymore. The dentist tells me to do something and I just do it.
That was another thing the corn nuts did. Because my teeth were often sensitive, I had to be pretty mindful when I ate them so as not to do additional damage. Mindfulness helped make the corn nut moments last longer while helping time to pass more quickly.
Then I started buying corn nuts whenever I'd get out, which served the multi purposes of keeping the mouth busy, providing ‘nourishment’, and reminding me about being in jail. I hoped that last one would help me stop doing whatever it was I was doing. You know, help me straighten up! Fly right! Get a job! All that good shit! Well, we know how that went. To complete the circuit, when I was back in jail I’d get the corn nuts again, which now reminded me of being out of jail! Hah.
With women freshly showered—or as close to fresh as one could get with 50+ inmates sharing six stalls—they’d wear their jail orange as provocatively as they could and prepare to sashay past the men. Provocative meaning maybe they would not wear the orange sweatshirt so the men could see their bras through their t-shirts if they had big breasts. Or maybe they sagged their orange pants a little bit so the brothas could get a look at those luscious ass peaks coyly covered by granny panties. You could even style your hair by separating the thin barrier in a panty liner and using it to gather your mane in a dramatic updo.
Some of the men in return would
Fortunately, it was usually the well-built ones although not always. Maybe I’ve blocked out those others. Yah. They’d be as close to the glass as they could get—because they also knew our schedule—and they’d stand there posing, flexing, rubbing, or stroking.
Jailed couples would pause to press hands against glass, mouth "I love you"s, and then separate quickly because the guards were sweeping us along like the trash some of them thought we were.
Some guys thought it was sexy to be sitting on the toilet at that time and I’m sure there was a girl who found that shit sexy too, no pun intended.
While I admire a chiseled set of abs, I found the whole display ridiculous. Five minutes. No, it wasn’t even five minutes and the whole show was done. And yes, ninety minutes later we returned and the whole thing would start all over again, followed by the requisite breakdown of everyone’s favorite visuals as we hit the pod.
“Did you see him? Did you see him!?”
“Yeah, I seen dat nigga!”