By now you all know that Rambo’s main job is a correctional sargeant at a supermax prison. This wasn’t always his job and probably something neither of us ever imagined he’d do when we were young and talking about spending our lives together.
Even though the job fits him, when he got out of driving semi so we could begin having kids, I never imagined a prison would be his next employer. Ever.
Rambo is a manly man. My personal definition of that means that he doesn’t own a suit and tie, has never spent 8 hours behind a desk and you won’t ever catch him reading a novel so he can relax.
He’s a major hunter of any animal that moves. He owns more guns and knives than most serial killers. He drives a 28 ton semi on his days off. He owns a huge 4x4 truck. His normal attire is camo and camo. He grew up on and ran an entire farm by himself when he when he was only 17. He’s weapon-trained and trained as part of the team who does cell entries on inmates. He’s trained in hostage situations, full body riot gear and assists with armed inmate escorts. He uses tasers and electric shields and multiple kinds of noxious gases on inmates – and every one of those things have, in turn, been used on him during training. He takes the garbage out, changes the cat litter, mows the lawn and changes the oil in our cars.
He’s my manly man. He knows how to take care of himself. And usually I am content in those words. I don’t worry. I don’t think about what the word “supermax” means….until someone asks me about it. Then I have to say that it means that it’s a prison for the worst of the worst. Sometimes the inmates come in the dark of night via the feds under complete secrecy because they are that dangerous. These inmates can’t survive in other prisons – because they are pedofiles or because they are high ranking gang members with hits out on them. Or they are in the supermax because they are a danger to or have wounded or killed guards in other prisons.
They are the worst of the worst. A large majority of these men are HIV positive or have Hepatitis C or other diseases. Throwing feces and urine on the guards is a common occurrence. Rambo has been to court too many times to count so the judge can slap extra time on an inmate’s sentence for assaulting Rambo and his other co-workers.
Even that didn’t bother me because men like this are in almost 24/7 segragation. They are one to a cell. They rarely get out, if ever. They have a shower and toilet and bed in their tiny cell and have no need to get out. There are no fights or rapes or even a lot of interaction with staff unless they refuse to cooperate. Men like this only see their visitors through a tv screen.
At least that’s how it was for the first 10 years or so. And then half of the prison became a general population prison. Then the stories of blood and fights and gangs started coming home. The numbers like 200 prisoners to 1 guard got imprinted on my brain. Radios with dead batteries so “MAN DOWN” sirens didn’t work and weren’t heard became a problem.
Still, I can honestly say I don’t often think about the danger Rambo is in every single day. I just don’t. We don’t talk about his work much unless something out of the norm happens – like an assault or fight or a cell entry.
I suppose I don’t think about it on purpose. It wouldn’t serve either of us well for me to live in fear or be scared for him.
And I believe he has proven he can take care of himself.
Which is why I’m surprised about my nightmare last night and even more surprised I remember so much of it vividly.
I was a prison guard. A rookie. I was following around veteran guards because it was one of my first few days. I was still learning.
As I was being taught I just remember my mind RACING. Every time my eyes would see something new with regards to prisoners or the physical surroundings like the mess hall – my mind would react like I was shocked and just plain panicked. Like I could not believe I was going to work there. I could not believe this was safe for any guard to work in.
Prisoners were everywhere. And most of all – behind me – where I couldn’t see them. I remember seeing a guard enter a room with 5 inmates in it. I remember watching the guard go in and in my head I’m screaming, “ OH MY GOD!! Are you stupid? You’re entering a small room with FIVE inmates. They are everywhere. 3 of them are behind you that you can’t even see!!! THIS IS INSANE!!”
Then I was watching a few other guards take a strapped down inmate to another wing. They quickly showed me how to run the electronic doors and said to stay where I was – that they’d be right back.
And then they were gone. I turned around and I was alone. In a room with the worst criminals in the state. But the inmates hadn’t realized that fact yet.
I started praying they wouldn’t any time soon. I was pleading with God to not let the inmates realize the other guards had gone and left a rookie woman guard alone.
And then another inmate on the opposite side of the glass realized it and he screamed at the inmates in with me so they would turn around. I knew what was coming. I knew what would happen. A woman’s worst fear. I remember following the aftermath through to the other guards finally running towards me to help me and one of them was Rambo. I remember thinking how his face would look coming upon me after the inmates had even mere minutes alone with me.
I had no escape. I couldn’t remember how to work the doors. I had no man down button to push. I was outnumbered.
My God – what a nightmare.
So much panic and pain. So much helplessness. Ugh. Such a rotten feeling.
I almost hate that I remember it. I wonder if I’ve had this dream before and I just don’t recall it.
Apparently my subconscious fears Rambo’s work more than my awake brain.
Yuck, yuck and more yuck.
The fact is that it’s not that far off. The being outnumbered part and the fact that guards have to come running from far away to help.
The guards have to rely on a human’s basic instinct to weigh behavior and consequences. They have to “hope” an inmate doesn’t want more time added to his sentence with assault charges. They have to “hope” inmates haven’t hatched a plot to hurt a guard that day every time they turn their backs.
The thing is though – I know most of these inmates have nothing to lose. These are men who have already proven they don’t often make the best choices. They’re lifers and even 5 more years added on means nothing to them. Hatching plots and hurting guards adds some excitement to their otherwise mundane imprisoned daily life.
I thought maybe writing this out would make it less scary but I’m not sure it worked. I just can’t figure out what spurred this dream to begin with.
Maybe it’s because Rambo just had 3 weeks off of vacation time and just went back to work. For 3 full weeks – every day I felt he was safer than usual without even knowing it. Watching him go back isn’t fun. Not just because I miss him and I love having him home 24/7…but because it’s like sending him back into a mine field.
And then knowing I have to become strong enough to handle that again.
How about you? Do your fears come out in your dreams? Do you remember them if they do?