Life in the cage: Shower time
In the prison shower, I reflect on the luxuries I took for granted at home: Being able to shower alone, without wearing shower shoes on my feet. Not worrying about a time limit…
Speaking of sexual harassment, you ever notice the new rookie female guard, Ms. Hewitt. She always seems to stand in direct view of us, when we are showering every afternoon.
Where prisoners roll the soap and size each other up
By Tito David Valdez Jr.
After a two-hour study session at the prison law library, I rush westbound down the long corridor to make it into my cellblock by 2:50 p.m.
Between 2:50 p.m. to 3 p.m. is the best time to take a shower since no one is there. At 3:15 p.m., yard recall takes place where about eight to ten inmates will share only four nozzles, in hopes to shower by the 3:30 p.m. hourly cell unlock.
I arrive to the cellblock on time, noticing only one inmate in the first tier showers designated for Mexican National inmates, Asians, and others (American Indians, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Columbians). The second tier showers are only for whites and southern Mexican Chicanos, the third tier is for exclusively blacks.
My shower bags, containing my soap, shampoo, and shower shoes, hang amongst thirty other bags on homemade hooks. I grab it quickly, spreading out my things, undressing down to my boxers, placing everything on top of one of four available garbage cans.
“Whooo, damn dudes you stink!” says Huero, a paisa who looks like a white guy, with short blonde hair and blue eyes, bilingual, born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“I know. I wasn’t able to shower earlier after work. It’s too crowded at 11 a.m., I heard you can get athlete’s foot showering too close to people.”
“That’s what the shower shoes are for. You wear them to protect your toes,” Huero says with a slight Mexican accent while washing his boxers with a bar of state soap.
Stepping into the shower, turning the knob to “hot,” I gaze down at the shower shoes I’m wearing, thinking how silly I look with them on.
“The ones I have on are only one-inch high. I sometimes still get athlete’s foot, since the drain in here is always clogged,” I say.
“Over two-hundred men use this shower a day. Look at all the hair clogged up in there,” Huero says.
We both look at the drain in disgust, noticing the water level in the shower is about two inches high.
I lather my body with Zest soap, and slide off my boxers, washing them with both hands wrapped around a bar of state soap.
“You know Huero, at home, I would throw my dirty clothes in the hamper, wash them at the end of the week in a washer and dryer. Look at us, we are standing here washing our boxers with a bar of state soap.”
“Hey homie, you could just throw your stinky boxers under your bunk or in a bag, but you know how it is with our people. Every Latino is trying to stay clean, trying to show respect. If you were a gabacho white boy, I think you could get away with it.”
“I think everyone, even blacks, enforce the unwritten rules. Every man washes his boxers in the shower. Imagine a guy’s skid-marked boxers, how it would stink after a few days, under the bunk."
“We pick up a lot of weird habits in here,” Huero says, smiling.
“For sure, think about it. Do you wear shower shoes at home, while showering?”
A dark Cuban inmate nicknamed “Chilito” arrives, throwing his clothes on one of the empty garbage cans, entering the shower, using the corner nozzle.
“Damn Dave, I thought I wouldn’t make it. Mothafucka Jackson working in front of C-Wing, pulling guys over. He taking forever to search a mothafucka,” he says, with a heavy Cuban accent.
“Yeah, he’s been known to even pat down your nut sack,” I say.
“A lot of brothas have put in a 602 appeal on him, claiming sexual harassment.”
We all laugh.
“Speaking of sexual harassment, you ever notice the new rookie female guard, Ms. Hewitt. She always seems to stand in direct view of us, when we are showering every afternoon. What’s up with that?” I say.
“Shee-it, I rather have her looking at my shit than Jackson touching my nut sack,” says Chilito.
“I think she is checking out your schlong, Chilito; you are a black man—by all means,” Huero says.
Huero and I look quickly at Chilito’s penis, which is about nine inches on the hang, the girth of a baby bottle.
“Damn, how do you even get that thing inside a woman?”
“A lot of foreplay and Astroglide. You got to remember, it is very elastic; a baby fits through there.”
“It’s crazy that they call you Chilito, that’s a Spanish name for ‘small dick’.”
“They should call you Chilito, Dave,” Huero says.
They both look at my penis and laugh.
“You two ain’t right. Me and Huero are about equal size. We Mexicans seem to have gotten short-changed.”
As we wash our boxers, soap in hand, we look over at uniformed Ms. Hewitt, who is staring back at us from about twenty feet away.
“Hey, check it out. She is doing her thing, peter gazing,” I say.
“You think I should just hit it right here, in front of her, get her excited even more?” suggests Chilito.
“Nah, just act like you don’t notice her staring,” says Huero. “This is the closest you will get to any female that age for a long time.”
Hewitt is a 21-year-old white woman, with blonde hair and blue eyes, petite, 105 pounds, looks like a surfer chick.
An Asian inmate named Lee arrives. He is very skinny, short, has dark hair, tan skin, works as a clerk in the education department.
“What’s up, Lee? You only got four minutes man before the crowd comes in,” says Huero.
“Nah, we got about 10 minutes. Jackson pulled over Pookey; he got him up on wall. He is going to go off on Jackson, you wait and see,” he says in broken English. Lee takes off his boxers and begins to wash them.
“Hey, Dave, maybe we need to call Lee Chilito,” says Huero.
We laugh out loud.
“What is Chilito?” asks Lee.
“Chilito means small dick,” Huero answers.
“Why you guys have to clown me. You don’t know how big this gets when it’s hard.”
“Why don’t you stare at Ms. Hewitt, get excited, and show us how big it can get?” says Chilito.
“Shit, hell no! She might write me up for sexual harassment.”
An alarm sounds, loudspeaker blaring: “Code one, Code one, C-Wing, C-Wing!” Hewitt and the other two cellblock officers, who were hiding out in the office watching football, run to the scene.
“I told you. Pookey doesn’t like to be touched. He has priors for knocking officers out who touch him.”
The four of us continue to wash our boxers. Lee steps out of the shower and pulls out a week’s worth of laundry from his laundry bag, comes back into the shower, washing each item with soap.
“Damn Lee, why do you come in here like it’s a Chinese laundry?”
“We Asians, we try to be clean as possible. I wash all my clothes that I use, every day, not just my boxers.”
“Why don’t you wash it all in the cell?" I ask.
“My cellie has the cell looking like a museum. You ever see my sink? It’s like a bumper on a classic muscle car, sanded down to shiny chrome.”
“I can’t live like that, with a guy who is like a woman, bitching about a drop on the sink, a crumb on the floor, a blemish on the wall mirror,” I say.
“Shee-it, my cellie is a slob, I wish I could find a clean cellmate,” says Chilito.
The officers come back to the cellblock, the loudspeaker crackles, “Resume corridor traffic.” Hewitt stands at her spot, checking us out—again.
“Damn, I’d hit that if I saw her at a club on the outs,” says Huero.
“Shee-it, you would hit anything, even a man’s asshole,” mocks Chilito.
“I ain’t no puto!”
“Why did you live with that Latin queen for a week, last year, what’s up with that?” I ask.
“I was doing the vato a favor. He was from my colony in Mexico, and nobody would live with him.”
“Shee-it. I bet you got a little side actions a blowjob, handjob,” Chilito says enviously.
“A kiss maybe?” I said.
Huero is offended. He establishes a fighting stance.
“You both are disrespecting me. You want to talk shit, say it again! Right here to my face!”
“You take things too seriously. Relax. You all make fun of me, and you see I don’t get mad,” Lee says calmly.
“You Asians got patience. Like the elders in all the Bruce Lee karate movies. We Latinos, we are hot headed,” I say.
“That’s why forty-five percent of the prison population is Latinos. Only three percent of the population are Asian. We think before we act.”
“You know you wish you had a penis like Chilito,” ridicules Huero.
“If it were a sausage, I’d put it into a Top Ramen soup,” says Lee.
“I’d be hungry if I ate yours, it’s the size of a Vienna sausage,” says Chilito.
“Hey, check out Hewitt. You think she is just bored, or is she lusting over us?” I ask.
“Holmes, they call it Peter Gazing, plain and simple,” says Huero.
“If I worked in a woman’s prison, I would be checking out the females in the shower,” I say.
“Well there, let her look. Nothing wrong. Would you rather have her check you out, or faggot ass Jackson?”
It’s 3:05 p.m., and Lee, Huero and I remain in the shower, enjoying the hot water. Chilito steps out to dry off.
“Chilito, you are like a woman. Shaving your ass, putting all that lotion all over your body. Moisturizing your face.”
“Brotha, if you want to stay young, you have to take care of your skin.”
“Why do you shave your ass though, do you and your cellie got something going on?” asks Huero.
“I shave it to keep my ass clean. Why are you even looking at my ass?”
At this moment, I reflect on the luxuries I took for granted at home: Being able to shower alone, without wearing shower shoes on my feet. Not worrying about a time limit. Here I am, with three other men, having a coversation about another man’s shaved ass.
“Hey, you remember in high school, when you were embarrassed to take a shower in front of other men?” I ask.
“Yah. I never took a shower at gym class,” says Huero.
“What about you, Cuba? You shower in high school gym class?”
“Of course. When you are nine inches on the hang, you are not ashamed. You show it off.”
The loudspeaker blares, “Echo wing, Fox wing, yard recall.”
“Ah shit, here comes the crowd,” I say.
“You better get out now before they rush the shower!” says Huero.
Closing my eyes, I try to savor every moment, absorb the sensation of the hot water flowing down my back. I open my eyes and see the rush of inmates approaching, desperate to get a shower before the 3:30 p.m. cell unlock.
The words, “Quien cige [who is after you]?” comes out of their mouths in Spanish.
Suddenly, as six men jump in the shower with us—bringing a total of eight men to share four nozzles—the smell of ass, body odor, and underarm, permeate the small shower area.
It’s now nuts to ass, any way we turn. No man dares to drop the soap. I’ve finished washing my boxers and safely tuck my soap back into its bag. My shower time is over. §
Tito David Valdez Jr. resides at and writes from the minimum security Correctional Facility in Soledad, Calif. Listen to his radio segments on prison life on the nationally syndicated program, “The Adam Carolla Show.” For times, visit www.adamcarolla.com. Tito can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail: Tito David Valdez Jr. J-52660, CTF Central E Wing Cell 126, P.O. Box 689, Soledad, Calif., 93960-0689. Read more of his "Life in the Cage" series here: