Finally they came and one by one escorted us to cells on A wing, which was daunting to say the least, although I shouldn’t have been too surprised as in reality when I thought about it, it looked exactly as the images I’d seen in the newspaper or on television, every time a prison story had been reported in the past five years. The cells themselves however were a different story. The door clanged open and I was deposited in a room about 10ft long by 8ft wide, with a set of bunks along one wall and two small desk like tables along the other, followed by a wall about 4ft high which screened the toilet and hand basin — well, I say screened… It may have stopped anyone who looked in through the narrow glass observation panel in the door from watching you while you took a shit, but there was no privacy from the fellow on the top bunk should he choose to look!
My cell mate was a huge black guy of about 60, from Jamaica, although he had lived in Britain for almost his entire life. He was quick to regale me with stories of his conviction. He was a heroin dealer, but had not been arrested for drugs. Instead he’d had a client who hadn’t paid, so he and a couple of mates had been driving over to this fellows house to “cut ‘im up wit da machete, mun,” When the police had stopped them for speeding, searched the car and found the machete, hidden in his shirt down his back, so he had been charged with holding a prohibited weapon, and sentenced to 28 days prison. He reckoned he’d had a lucky escape, although he was worried about his stash. Evidently he was also a carpenter by trade, and had been renovating a clients kitchen, so had concealed some £50k worth of gear under the floorboards of the house whilst he worked there, however now he had been away for three weeks and had not found anyone he could trust to go back to the premises and collect it. I envied him. If this was the worst of his problems, he was in a far better place than me!
Actually he wasn’t as bad as I’d first thought. He soon gave me a running commentary on how things were run here, what the routine was and what to expect regarding food, hygiene and lock-up times, which was lucky really, because apart from dumping me in the cell with a complete stranger who could have been an axe murderer for all I knew — and almost was, the Prison officers hadn’t told me any of this. I learnt that there were manual jobs available where you could earn money, and also education courses which also entitled you to a payment, although neither was going to make you rich, in fact it was barely enough to pay for an ounce of tobacco a week, and the way I was wasting it due to my lack of rolling skills, I would need at least two! He showed me a copy of the education course list and most of it appeared to be fairly basic English and maths, but that was really the least of my problems.
They had given me a phone pin, and told me that if I needed to ring anyone, I would have to do it that afternoon before I’d been locked up, but the only phone available was in the holding room where we had eaten our dinner, and it hadn’t been working, so by now it was Saturday night, and no-one knew where I was. I needed to get hold of Tom,and organise for him to go and collect all my belongings, as at this point in time I wasn’t even sure that the flat was locked!
By 5.30pm we were locked up for the night. My cellmate asked if I minded if he prayed on the floor in front of the toilets it was the only area big enough to lay out his prayer mat. Frankly, compared to what I’d imagined might happen to me in here, praying was a relief. By 10pm he was finished and soon fell asleep on the top bunk, but I knew that it would be many hours before I could even contemplate retiring, so I sat down with a couple of pieces of scrap paper, and started to make a list of all the contents of the flat. Next, I made another one of all the people who owed me money, and then rearranged them in order of how likely I was to get it out of them. I knew that most of the people that I’d been dealing with had been low-life scum, and had refused credit to them, but there were a handful who I had rightly or wrongly called friends, and now that I was in here without the benefit of being able to prepare for it, I would have to rely on these people to pay up, so that I could survive!
I then made another list of all the contents of the storage shed I’d been renting around the corner in St John’s Wood. If I was brutally honest with myself, I would have to start to make some plans to have all these arrangements wound up, and someone would have to dispose of all the excess assets I had lying around the district because it looked like I was going to be here for quite some time. Besides, giving myself something to do kept my mind off the horror of where I was, and what might become of me — I seemed to be in a bit of a daze at the time, and couldn’t quite believe what had happened. Eventually I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, and fell into a troubled sleep.
I woke with a start at 9am as the cell door clanged open. Mr B, My flatmate was off to church. I would have gone too, in order to get out the hideous cell for an hour or so, but as I wasn’t on the list, I wasn’t allowed. Evidently the pastor would be around to talk to me, and I could put my name down if I decided to go next week. Left again to my own devices, I spent the morning revising my lists and making others, this time of names of possible people I might ask to help me out, with the number of chores which were on my next list to be carried out in the coming weeks. This was all well and good, but I still hadn’t been able to get hold of anyone on the telephone anyway, and now I would have to wait until my numbers had been added to my pin, and God only knew how long that would take.
Mr B arrived back at around 11.30am, and then half an hour later we were unlocked for lunch — just enough time to walk down to the servery, line up while our orders were read out, collect it and walk back to the cell. As I had only just arrived, I was on default so got what they had spare, from the looks of it. Lunch was a fry up,and not exactly a culinary delight, but certainly better than I had thought it would be! Maybe things wouldn’t be as difficult in here as I thought.
After lunch as we were locked up all afternoon, My thoughts turned to washing and showering. I hadn’t had a shower since midday Friday, and by the looks of it, I would be waiting a while longer! Mr B had said that they usually opened the shower room for an hour or so every second day, and two landings would have to jockey to get a spot, but on weekends it was never open. He had quite openly told me that he had given up,and would have a shower when he got home a week later, as it was too difficult to manage in here. I had been used to a shower at least once a day, quite often twice, so I was damn sure I wasn’t going to wait until I got out of here — that could be months, or even years away! I’d been in the same clothes for two days continuously too, so as much as I hated the idea of my prison issue garb, and in the absence of a shower, I decided I would at least feel a little fresher in a clean tracksuit and underwear. I probably looked horrendous, I couldn’t tell because there was no mirror, but then I reasoned, there was no one so far in here worth looking pretty for!
We didn’t have a television either. My predecessor had sold it to another inmate for a bag of ‘spice’! Mr B had asked the officers repeatedly for anther one, but apparently the answer had been the same on each occasion ‘Not our problem, there are none spare, you’ll have to wait until you’re moved to another wing.’ So far Mr B had been on this wing for the past three weeks, and it looked like he would be here until he was discharged a week later, so it also looked like there would be no television for the foreseeable future.
Monday morning dawned and I awoke early, keen to get things sorted and find out what was in store for me over the coming weeks and months. Mr B had a maths class scheduled for the morning, however as yet, I had no idea what was to happen with my day. Eight o’clock struck and a deafening siren rang out across the wing, followed by someone screaming out ‘free-flow’. Apparently the doors were open for 20 minutes or so to enable inmates to travel from their cells to their places of work or education. Mr B was off, and I was left standing in the doorway, with no idea what to do.
Before long an officer came along and handed me a strip of paper. I was to see the sexual health nurse. Evidently they wanted to take some blood tests and screen me for Hep B. I had already told them I had been inoculated for hep A and B, but that didn’t seem to matter. I had no idea where to go but that didn’t matter either. ‘Down the end of the landing, turn left’ He bellowed at me, looking at me as if I was demented. I followed his advice and knocked on the door, and waited. ‘What the hell are you doing hanging around here?’ another one demanded. Evidently I was just supposed to open the door and go straight in. Who knew? I was at my wits end. I had no idea what to do or where to go, with no one to point me in the right direction.
There was always someone bellowing whenever I was out of my cell, but as disgusting as it was, the best option seemed to be just to stay there and not venture out. Anyway, once inside the sexual health clinic they were much friendlier. The nurse told me to sit down while she prepared everything, then fastened a tourniquet, pulled out a needle and tried, without success to take my blood. I must confess, my arms were a bit of a mess, but I had become so used to self medicating by now that I could normally hit a vein within 3-5 seconds, in fact, after about four attempts, I even volunteered to find it for her, but of course that was not allowed! Eventually they decided to get me back later in the week when the doctor was in, and try again with him, so I was allowed to go.
Just then another siren went off, sounding a bit like those blasts you hear on movies when submarines are in trouble, and the word ‘lock-down’ blared across the loud speakers. Again I had no idea what was happening, but the nurse was quick to point out that I would now need to stay here until a full head count had been done, as there was either someone missing, or there was an ‘incident’ somewhere on the wing. She made me a cup of coffee, and we sat chatting about what I had been doing on the outside. Not the drug fucked orgies, but the writing and film stuff, and she was fascinated, only stopping to ask ‘What on earth are you doing in here?’ This was a question I would ask myself numerous times over the coming months, and only served at this point to illustrate how incredibly stupid and foolhardy I had been!
After about half an hour,an officer came running into the clinic, before yelling, ‘What the hell are you doing in here?’ It seems they had been looking for me! I was the ‘incident’. I was promptly escorted back to my cell and locked up again until lunchtime. Before long another officer opened the cell door ‘Where the fuck were you?’ He demanded ‘They wanted you for education assessment!’ ‘No one had told me, and even if they had, I wouldn’t have known whereto go anyway!’ I replied. Frankly I’d had enough of being treated like an idiot! ‘Can you try not to sound so fucking superior? With an attitude like that you can fuck off!’ As he slammed the cell door again and stormed off. I would gladly fuck off! Idiot! Where did he think I could fuck off to?
I was in despair at how I would ever get used to this place — there was no rhyme nor reason to anything they did. I would have thought that being on an induction wing they would show you where everything was, and how everything was supposed to happen, but clearly that was not the case. Lunch was served at 11.45, and I’m afraid the quality had slipped from Sunday’s fare. Potatoes which looked OK, but had obviously been boiled without being washed because they tasted not only of dirt, but of rotten potato blight as well. These were accompanied by a rather weak looking stew or curry or something, the taste was indecipherable. Wet and brown with bits floating in it, was the only way to describe it, but I didn’t manage to eat it. Two mouthfuls of potato and I started heaving my guts out, so I made do with the 3 slices of bread which came with it.
The following afternoon was torturous. Mr B had nothing scheduled for the afternoon, so he spent the entire time until dinner,pacing up and down the cell. On top of this he had developed a nervous twitch and his lips started flapping together which made an annoying hollow clapping sound, relentlessly! I tried concentrating on my lists again, but it was too much so I lay on my bunk staring at the ceiling, wondering how the hell I was ever going to extricate myself from this mess.
I had another more immediate problem as well. My case had been bound over for the crown court on the 5th of March, approximately a month away, and I was without legal counsel. The little guy with the dreads who had represented me in the police station, had given me the details for his boss, but as I still had no access to a telephone, I couldn’t call them. I decided I would have to write a letter, but at present I didn’t have anything on which to write it. It seemed the further into this mess I got, the less chance there was of ever getting out of it!
I was jolted from my thoughts by the door clanging open again, this time to a tall skinny woman who called my name and then took me outside onto the landing to ask me some more questions. ‘Where do you live?’ ‘Marital status?’ ‘Have you ever been a victim of domestic abuse?’ ‘Are you on medication for depression?’ ‘What’s your occupation?’ ‘ Do you have a drug or alcohol problem?’ I had no idea where these questions were leading? Who was this woman? And why the hell should I tell her all the intimate details of my life? For all I knew she would be around to my house while I was in here, and clean the place out? When I asked her she muttered something about providing assistance for dealing with family issues on the outside, but I didn’t need help with family — I didn’t have any family in Britain, what I really needed was access to a phone, help in engaging a lawyer, and someone to tell me exactly how everything in here worked so that I wasn’t constantly running up against brick walls all the time!
Interestingly though, the Drug and alcohol question got me thinking about drugs for the first time since my arrival, and I realised that I couldn’t in fact be addicted to crystal meth, as I’d been told I was, because until this woman had mentioned it, I hadn’t even given it a backwards glance, which only served to prove my point, that it wasn’t in fact ‘highly addictive’ as all the do-gooders made out, but rather a bloody good excuse for bad behaviour! Throughout the whole ordeal over the past twelve months I had been convinced that I could give it up if I’d wanted to, but that was just the point — I hadn’t wanted to. And now I came to think of it, I would have loved a long, cold Gin and Tonic, and a nice, big, fat line of coke to top it off!
I’d started to get bored with everything now. Left alone with too much time on my hands I started to think about things which I shouldn’t have been. I’d completed all the lists I needed, and for the moment had drawn a blank on where to source paper and a pen to write letters to all my friends and acquaintances whose addresses I remembered. My thoughts then started to turn towards how I could have run the drugs operation better, how I could have foiled the police for a while longer, and how I could have got away with it, or rather how I would getaway with it when I set up again after I was finally released from this hell hole.
I was still angry with the police, because they had acted so superior about how they had managed to capture me, and disrupt one of the biggest drugs cartels in London, when in actual fact, it was only a one man affair, there were no great import processes, In fact it was most likely not me they were after at all, but the guys above me who had been forcing me to sell their shit, under penalty of violence and abuse for some months. The reason I had got caught, I realised now was that because I had only started off intending to deal a little to my friends in order to fund my fun, but also to make a little bit of pocket money in the short term, I hadn’t given any thought to how the operation was set up, and how big it would grow!
Because initially it had just been friends, I had allowed them to collect from my apartment, which had meant that I had to have a supply of everything on the premises. I had started off very carefully, however things had very quickly spiralled out of control and within the space of just a few short months I had a database of some 3000 clients, so in a sense I had set myself on a path of destruction from the word go.
Later on in the proceedings when I had been getting away with it for some months, and had been entertaining a string of boys who had beat a path to my door every day for months on end I had become ambivalent to all precaution, and in fact had become rather sloppy, however the very fact that I’d been caught was testament to the fact that I hadn’t been running the ‘sophisticated and elaborate affair’ that the idiotic police had been claiming, and I wondered whether if I told the solicitor this, it might in fact form quite a robust defence, coupled with the fact that I had been under duress to sell huge volumes of the stuff, in order to escape harm for me and those around me. Surely if I told the truth, the judge would be more lenient, as just by the sloppiness of the way I had been caught, surely they must see that I was no professional at the game!
Once I was finally released though things would take on a whole new shape and form. Gone would be the store of product in my flat. I would set up a delivery system during the day using keypad storage padlocks, which I had already sourced from China, and that way I would be able to deliver in advance and then give them the pin code when they paid the money, and I was damned sure there would be absolutely no credit! To date I was owed some £14,000 if one included the money that had been stolen from me by one of my ex-clients, and one of my ex-employees. Just in little people alone around the district and my so called friends, I was owed some £2,700 which I was pretty sure could be accessed fairly readily, as they were all good for it, but again it got back to the point that I needed access to the bloody phone, and my two phone numbers had still not been added to my pin, however, when they were, I would be ready, with all my lists in place.
Double Bubble is the third book in The Chemsex Trilogy — a series of books written by Cameron Yorke about his experience with Chemsex, addiction, and imprisonment in the UK.
We are serialising Double Bubble on Mainly Male. This is the second instalment in the serialisation.
The Chemsex Trilogy
We want to hear your opinion
“In a fictional universe I would wield magic”
I caught up with artist Stefano Junior to talk art, illustration, and super-powers.
When did you start to explore your passion for illustration and art?
I’ve been drawing as far back as I can remember. According to my parents, I drew a very convincing female figure from my imagination at about three or four years old. From then on, when I wasn’t at school, watching cartoons, or voraciously reading comic books, I’d be drawing. My parents eventually enrolled me in a fine arts weekend program at a local college — I studied there for several years while going through grammar and middle school.
What is it about superheroes that appeals to you?
In hindsight, apart from the obvious colourful allure of superhero adventures, it was the transformative nature that is the basis of most superhero narratives. As a child, in suburban 80s America, with my penchant for the arts, girls toys, and a foreign name, I was bullied extensively — superheroes provided a means to escape, I could imagine that I might one day extricate myself from that oppression.
Books like Chris Claremont’s X-Men, which were ripe with soap-opera-like drama, reassured me that my ‘latent’ powers weren’t things to be ashamed of. Roger Stern’s run on Superman affirmed my beliefs that though people could be cruel and misguided, it didn’t mean that I should have to sacrifice my ethics and sense of what’s right. George Pérez’s Wonder Woman — that she was an immigrant appealed to me as a first-generation Italian, and she never lost her compassion for even her greatest foes.
Growing up with older sisters and a strong Italian matriarch may have influenced me gravitating to female heroes. But there was also the allure of the outrageous 80s feminine glamour of heroes like She-Ra, or the many fantastic mutant women of the X-universe who all played such pivotal roles in the series while donning fantastic costumes created by amazing artists like Paul Smith, Arthur Adams, and Marc Silvestri.
I love your drawings of Sorceror Stefano — is that an alter ego?
I’ve been developing an illustrated version of myself over the years. I’m currently studying cartooning at the School of Visual Arts — comic legend Phil Jimenez was one of my instructors my sophomore year. Our mid-term assignment was to create a fictionalised life drawing of ourselves in a turnaround. So I photographed myself, and further developed the design of my Sorcerer self. As an artist, the process of creation feels like sorcery, so were I to exist in a fictional universe, I would definitely wield magic. I’d also like to be physically invulnerable.
Who are some of your art heroes or inspirations?
My inspirations are pretty vast. From the art world it includes Bernini, Gabriel Rosetti, and Waterhouse. From comics it includes Esteban Maroto, Garcia Lopez, Marc Silvestri, Brian Bolland, George Perez, Phil Jimenez, Adam Hughes, Colleen Doran, Art Adams, and especially Alan Davis — both for the aesthetic beauty and elegance of his art, and as a draughtsman and storyteller.
If you could do a life drawing of a male super-hero, who would you choose?
Henry Cavill as Superman.
Your moustache game is pretty strong — what does your moustache say about you?
At its most base, it’s a homage to the machismo of the 1980s — particularly my hero, Tom Selleck as Magnum PI. He’s the epitome of masculine idealisation.
I grow it and shave it constantly — it’s spawned its own cartoon of my creation. You can follow the exploits of me and my moustache — Mr. Mustardo — on Instagram. It’s absolutely vain, but it allows for me to be humorous in a single panel cartoon form that deviates from the more representative work and superhero storytelling that I’ve primarily been focused on.
What are some of your goals and ambitions for the months ahead?
I hope to further develop an original comic that I started in the Fall, that centres around a complex heroine and a magical discovery. Plus there’s some newer humorous cartoons that Id like to serialise online somehow — one that follows the exploits of a majordomo in an early 20th century hotel, another that follows a boy through multiple mediums and circumstances that end badly.
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