My last Christmas in Prison
By Rob Adams
Every year ‘Sportie’ hosts a large holiday meal. Sportie gathers goods from all of the participants, then with a little help from me, each dish is lovingly prepared. My name is Rob and I am housed in a maximum security prison because I am HIV positive and my friends here call me ‘Carla.” Yes, Carla! Everybody here has an AKA.
We are segregated because of the HIV we carry in our veins…so rather naturally, I guess, there are a lot of openly gay men, drag queens and pre-op transsexuals here (some of which have breast implants).
Last year Sporty and Carla’s Christmas meal was a dreary event; even the fantastic cuisine did not help us forget the awful tyrant of a lieutenant who was making each day a thousand times more miserable than need be.
The mood this year is one of joyful exuberance. Our new dorm lieutenant is a kind and compassionate man who realizes we’re punished enough being away from all those we love, and he’s allowed the inmates to decorate and gather together for the holidays…even though I am certain that had he actually been present Christmas Eve during the festivities, he would have been just as surprised as I was.
So, Sportie’s specialty is southern homemade macaroni and cheese… and it is delish!* Mine is a hot and spicy candied ham. Yes, all this canned, and prepared in a microwave. Us culinary aficionados certainly have had the ‘time’ to be able to hone our art of cooking everything inside a microwave. I prepare 5 canned hams, each with 6 ounces of grape jelly, ¼ cup hot water, 2 tablespoons Sriracha hot chili sauce, 1 diced jalapeño, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 2 teaspoons of coarse black pepper. I score each ham just as if it had come from ‘HoneyBaked,’ then I cook it for approximately sixteen minutes. The jelly reduces as it mixes with the other ingredients and turns into a thick spicy-sweet glaze. As each ham cools, I continue to baste, allowing the tasty reduction to fill the harlequin-shaped scoring. I slice each ham into generous portions, allowing two slices per guest.
Mimi is a sweet feminine ‘Y’. Y is for Youth Offender, and yes, the State (of South Carolina) has man under the age of 21 housed with the rest of us, ages 21-79 all because of the HIV. Well, Mimi is a natural cook, very clean and well mannered. Her potato salad (made from instant potatoes no less) is effing great. Pickles, onions, sweet relish, plenty of mayo, salt and pepper. She or he, rather (I still mix up my pronouns here as you can imagine) also makes super yummy deviled eggs. Let’s just say, Martha Stewart ain’t got nuthin’ on us here at ‘The River.’ Our boys that work in the kitchen make sure us girly men or queens have what we need to cook. It is a real shame we (HIVers) are not allowed to work in the prison kitchen. I, for sure could take what’s in there and whip up dishes everyone would rave about. But, I digress; what I just have to tell you about is our very ‘special’ Christmas dinner.
Sport and I draped a row of card tables with red plastic table cloths, then laid out our spread. Hot & spicy candied ham, mac & cheese, potato salad, deviled eggs, finger sandwiches (tuna and egg salad), potato chips and a flawless cheese, sliced summer sausage, smoked oysters, sardines in olive oil, and a corned beef peppered paté and snack crackers platter.
Sixteen guests arrived on time at 6:00 pm. A few of the inmates dressed in homemade, very inventive holiday outfits. ‘Sugarfoot’ wears a Santa hat made of thermal underwear adorned with silver Christmas garland. I automatically feel very under-dressed, but since I have not participated in playing my role as ‘Carla’ for a very long time, I relax, comfortable to finally just be myself. My boyfriend/lover of ten years out of the twelve I have served so far is with me. ‘Snake’ is a stocky handsome man, short in stature with dark brown silky skin and very manly. Snake really did not want to come to a ‘Punk Party’ as he always refers to Sportie’s little events. For a black man it is not real cool to be hanging out with a bunch of queers, even though it’s a common fact he has a gay lover…go figure?
Well, just as everybody gathers (and as I notice I am the only white man in the room), Sportie makes an announcement, “Everyone, before we serve this wonderful spread…” I am thinking Sport’s about to lead us all in saying grace when I hear, “first we have, for your entertainment, a talent competition, then a costume contest; everyone quiet, please.”
I frown in total bewilderment and confusion as ‘Shameeka’ strolls into the middle of the room and freezes in a dramatic pose. ‘Cash’ follows Shameeka then moves over to the barred window and begins pounding out a rhythmic beat. The beatbox sound is accompanied by Shameeka’s talent, a rap song about hard punk bitches tricking to survive and gangstas holding down the fort or some such thing. Oddly, I am entranced by the skill this skinny little drag queen possesses; and I begin to tap my foot to the catchy beat of his song. Shameeka wears hot shorts trimmed in a sparkly red garland and a homemade halter top, large earrings made from Coke cans and her eyes are painted like a professional. I am tripping and so is Snake, but I see from the expression on his face that he is also enjoying the entertainment. Next comes ‘Coco’ with another jazzy rap song and real strong stage presence. Coco really looks like a female, the hormones are working nicely. She… er, that is… he (there I go with my pronoun mix ups again) has miniature tits, and all the guys are digging her ‘tude.
It was not just drag queens displaying talent, the guys got into the action also. ‘Dee,’ a thuggish, thick and sexy Y also rapped for us all. As Dee recites his song I can imagine him with his own album, CD and recording contract. This guy is twenty years old with a totally gangster mentality and he likes to flirt with me on the down-low (too young for me though and trouble with a capital ‘T’, but still, nice eye candy).
What follows really blows my mind. In walks a parade of drag queens in full regalia. I see ‘GiGi’ wearing a Niki Minaj outfit consisting of a clear plastic raincoat, mini skirt, and hoody to match; and a very piled-up ‘Chyna’ (I am not too clear on what his outfit is all about). Next comes ‘Gangsta Boo’ in a real holiday mess of an outfit; strangely I dig the use of White-Out for eye shadow and high drama Egyptian eyeliner. After that, in walks ‘McHottie’ (that’s what I call Scott). Scottie McHottie has on hot shorts and a sleeveless half shirt, and the long, lean body to go with it. Scott’s a new arrival who already has a ‘stalker’ boyfriend Don who totally flips out when McHottie enters the room; but since the entire crowd is so obviously welcoming, Don calms down, at least until the parade is over.
Lastly, in walks ‘Jump Judy’ wearing a dress made of two sewn together State-issued fishnet laundry bags and a thong, his business well-tucked, making it appear that he has a va-j-j. Jump Judy spooks the service prancing in nearly nude. The C.O. on duty (a very nice lady, usually docile and kind) freaks out over the whorish nudity. Jump Judy sports a slanted box-shaped hat covered in potato chip bags – the silver side showing; totally GaGa! Because the C.O. is now really uncomfortable, all of the inmates begin giving poor simple Judy hell. I however love Judy’s balls (not the ones between his legs).
After the talent and costumes comes the awards for best and second best. Coco wins best in both categories (must be the boobs!) and Dee gets second place for his rap, GiGi in her Niki Minaj raincoat look scores second for costumes.
I am smiling, truly and genuinely for the first time in a great while. My last holiday meal became the unexpected, oh…and the food was delish!
Sportie’s southern homemade macaroni & cheese
6 raw eggs
8 cups macaroni
10 cans evaporated milk
4 blocks real cheddar cheese
4 sticks butter
4 packages sliced cheese
*Sportie didn’t specify how long this cooks in the microwave, so you may have to try a few times on this one to get it just right.