Muscular men in flatbed trucks picked them up on a Sunday in spring, better known as fuck-me-skirt-weather amongst the twenty-five convicted men. They were average citizens according to all accounts—bankers, businessmen, construction workers, banjo players, office assistants, insurance salesmen—some of them had wives. The ferocious camp guards could hardly wait to start jeering. They had been there too, once, in the same position, black bag over their heads, but these guards had not learned their lesson, and were now forever condemned.
The guards descended from the flatbeds, black boots on the ground. They didn’t say where they were taking them. “Fight back and I’ll fucking cut you,” one might have said. “This will only make it harder. Daddy will take care of you. Accept it.”
Once in the camp, the guards removed black bags from convicted heads.
“Mmm, you got a juicy ass.”
“How much you charge?”
“I’m gonna show you what it’s like. Yeah, just like that, sweetie.”
The voices were aggressive and more or less terrifying. The most frightful of them pretended to care. “Don’t be scared, baby, it’ll all be fine. Come over. That’s it. You’ve got a great dick, right?”
Prisoner #2 had his ass slapped, hard. “Now jack me off or give me head,” a guard chuckled. It wasn’t literal, he said. “I’m just messing.”
The prisoners were corralled into single file, with ample space between each man. Amidst jeers and catcalls, they were marched to the barracks.
“Smile! Somebody is complimenting you. Hey! Look at me, faggot.”
“Damn! You’ve got some nice DSLs! I’ll make a bitch out of you yet.”
The prison camp was small, with three wooden barracks at the end. Each could house seven to eight men. A long concrete sidewalk was the camp’s main feature—in fact, the replica city street was the entirety of the camp. There were trees, trashcans, light posts, and scaffolding. It felt like home, somehow, but it did not feel safe. Leather-panted men with tight shirts stood in circles, waiting for the convicts at the barracks entrance. Other guards, some of them women, stood at the other end, hissing.
“Now go change into these clothes. We’re going to show you what it’s like.”
“Hey baby, where you walking? Come back here and lick my ass.”
“Come on boy, what you got there? Why don’t you pull down those pants?”
“You’re beautiful, boy. Now come taste this dick.”
The catcalls continued well into the night. Bearded Prisoner #17 listened to the voices in the hall: “Did you see that one with the beard?” a guard whispered, sucking on a cigarette. “If the superintendent wasn’t around, I’d fuck the shit out of him.”
The first days were deemed The Adjustment Period—prisoners were ordered to walk up and down the camp’s thoroughfare, back and forth, up and down, over and over again. Mostly there were catcalls, harassment, and jeering. One guard had his penis out, dangling, though this was an exception. The hands-off policy was mostly respected, but of course there had been incidents, including one with the superintendent. The prisoners’ outfits were carefully picked—black yoga pants and white tees revealing the contours of frightened nipples. After the Adjustment Period came the Adaptive Period—“It’s not so bad, is it, sweetie?” one of the guards stroked Prisoner #9’s head. This second stage allowed for more female guards to enter the camp. Their voices were less aggressive, but their catcalls brutal nonetheless.
To escape the constant torment, prisoners could visit a coffee shop on the corner, complete with leather chairs, wooden tables, cinnamon shakers and smooth jazz. Whenever a prisoner entered, however, all eyes zeroed in. The waiters and waitresses hovered just a little too close, their crotches in heat, lingering next to shoulder blades. “You’re really hot,” a waitress told Prisoner #11. “What are you reading? Oh, you can’t look at me? Am I too good for you? Hey, Carla, we should make him lick our pussies.” Even when the sun was out, more than a few prisoners now feared the streets. “It’s just flattery,” the guards said to Prisoner #15, a self-proclaimed lady’s man in the NY neighborhood from whence he came. “Come on, don’t you get it? You should be thankful when someone says you’re handsome. Let her give you a kiss. Why don’t you get it?” And then one April morning, the superintendent told the prisoners they had reached the third and final period, Acceptance.
For one last time, in cut-off jean shorts to celebrate spring, the prisoners were paraded down the camp’s street.
“I’m gonna miss that sweet ass.”
“Remember who was nice to you, Number Eight.”
A guard sniffed as Prisoner #16 walked by. “Spring always reminds me of sex.”
When the prisoners left the camp there were no black bags on their heads. The next morning, after a long night of fear and silence and quiet weeping, they were returned to the streets from whence they came.
It was springtime again, just in time for fuck-me skirt weather, but none of them remembered this term, and all of them raised their heads. And for the first time they saw human eyes that happened to belong to women, strong and stoic as they walked busy city streets.
A woman passed the men with a black lab on a short leash. The dog stared at the former convicts and bared its teeth. Its flaccid tail remained between its legs. 24/25 men felt ashamed. Prisoner #6 made a catcall. He is now a camp guard, like all the others before him, berating prisoners as they pass, forever condemned.