I felt helpless, terrified.
My heart bashed in my chest and clambered into my throat, making it difficult to breathe and a terrible chore to think. Processing what I was seeing was an impossibility as my brain had leapt into panic mode and rendered me woefully ineffectual. The five other men standing over the supine body were all screaming obscenities and oaths of disbelief so they were each one just as useless as me. But at least they could speak and gesticulate in response. I could only stare in horror at Rigger as he lay on the floor, convulsing. His eyes had rolled back to the whites and a milky discharge frothed from between his lips. A slim red line trickled from his right nostril. I knew he had a history of seizures. I thought I was watching him die.
Rigger liked to tell people that he was a biker or an Aryan. Sometimes both. He was neither. I’ve known both. He was simply a poser, a wannabe. I suppose he thought those particular fabrications gave him clout or a measure of fear/respect from guys who didn’t know any better. Whatever you may think of the specific ideas, values, or moral cores of the two groups that Rigger claimed to be a member of, at least they have certain standards and code of conduct. Rigger was just an idiot, a bigot, and a racist. That’s not to say that these character traits made him somehow deserving of his medical emergency. Although it did turn out that he brought it upon himself. Literally.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there—it wasn’t my cell. Being in someone else’s cell is a big no-no. Unauthorized movement is a major infraction of the rules. I was just in there talking to a buddy of mine. It was a six man cell. Three of the cellies were playing cards across a makeshift table formed by a property box on top of a garbage can. The fifth of Rigger’s cellies was lounging on his top bunk watching TV. Just another normal day in prison.
Rigger walked out of the small bathroom I the corner of the cell, clearly moving on unsteady legs. Three steps took him far too long, as if he were wading through hip deep oatmeal. His body was working in opposition to the ambulatory impulses his brain was sending out. A monumental mutiny appeared to occur in the briefest of moments as his musculature fought against the messages received. A last desperate act of clutching at the bunkbed frame was futile in keeping Rigger upright, and instead only succeeded in twirling him so that he collapsed flatly onto his back with a solid clunk of his head against the finished concrete floor. Everything in the cell stopped. He was out cold, eyes wide open, motionless for a slow three count. Then his body really began to rebel.
Rigger’s body seemed to have been electrified as it shivered and shook. A moaning grunt preceded the gurgle of foaming expectorant from his mouth at which point his pupils and irises disappeared from sight. I didn’t know what to do, and everyone else present seemed to be content to just cuss and yell. Finally, Crockett took control of the situation.
Crockett was a nice enough guy, but I’d always thought of him as little more than a loudmouth buffoon. He had often proved me right on that account, but on this occasion he turned out to be the only one of us who was both level-headed and pragmatic. Crockett began barking orders and pointing fingers at the person to whom he was directing them.
“Go to the bathroom, see if he left anything out in there; clean that shit up. Put the cards away. Push the box back under the bunk—anybody asks we were all in our bunks watching TV when he just fell out. Go get the CO, tell him your cellie is having a seizure, nothing more. You need to get the hell out of here—you were never here, you didn’t see anything.” This last directive was for my benefit, and I heeded its wisdom with extreme haste.
Rigger was unconscious and nonresponsive when the medical professionals arrived on the scene. With his documented history of seizures they didn’t doubt the tale that Crockett told. The rest of the cellies nodded dutifully along. Rigger was strapped to a flat board and hauled away.
There are a nearly infinite number and type of prescription drugs handed out in prison. Synthetic opiate painkillers, psychotropic mood stabilizers to bring a person up or keep a person down, and muscle relaxants. If you need them, you need them. If you don’t, they get you high. It is a complete fallacy, the prevailing “wisdom” behind prison walls. I’ve known some addicts who knew the names, effects, and side-effects of so many pills I’d never even heard of that I’d wager they could give any pharmacist a run for their money. Rigger was one of these, and he loved to experiment with different pill combinations to see what kind of altered state he could manufacture. I knew nothing of Rigger’s proclivities until after this incident.
My buddy who lived in the cell with Rigger filled me in on all the pharmaceutical shenanigans that Rigger had been indulging in. Rigger had even convinced and paid a maintenance man to put a small shelf in the bathroom under the auspice of needing a place to put toothbrush, tooth paste and other various accoutrements required for carrying out ones morning cleaning ritual. In truth Rigger wanted a surface where he could crush his pills more easily, and from where he could snort lines of those crushed pills.
Two days later Rigger returned from his stint being under observation in the infirmary. Same cell, same bunk, same activities. When I saw him I welcomed him back, told him I was glad he was recovered from his “seizure”. He appeared confused at first, but then he cracked a sloppy, silly grin and laughed a “thanks” at me before wandering off mumbling the word “seizure” again and again, chuckling to himself.
He was as high as a kite on some kind of concoction.