[Ed. Note — Joseph Urbiniak is an inmate at Harnett Correctional Institution in Lillington, N.C., and is the plaintiff in a pending lawsuit against the N.C. Department of Corrections to secure the right of LGBT prisoners to possess non-sexual, LGBT-themed books, newspapers and magazines. Q-Notes is publishing a collection of Urbiniak’s writings in this exclusive, short-run column about life as a gay man in prison. Names of individuals in the story have been changed; in some stories, Urbiniak refers to himself as Sebastian McShane.]
My shoulders were sore. I had done a pretty intense workout the previous afternoon out on the yard, and I was feeling it today. As I rubbed my right shoulder, I heard a voice behind me.
“What’s wrong, JoJo?”
Tony walked into my room and sat on my bed. I was standing next to the window at the head of my bed, looking out at the Blue Ridge Mountains that loomed across the valley from the prison.
“Just a little sore,” I said, keeping my attention out the window.
“You been working out?”
“Yeah.” I stopped squeezing my trap muscle. “I might have overdone it a little.”
I turned around to face Tony and leaned against the windowsill. All I had on were my white prison boxers. I was thinking of jumping into the shower.
Tony looked around my room through the Coke-bottle glasses that sat on his large nose in the middle of his pockmarked face. His skin was pecan-colored, he was over 40, and when he smiled, he showed a gap-toothed grin. He was either black and Asian, or black and Native American, or all of that, depending on what day he was asked. With his six-foot-two, 280-pound frame, he seemed menacing, but had the mentality of a 14-year-old. Once he had sat in my room crying like a baby because some young white guy he wanted to hook up with told him to fuck off.
I’d known Tony about a year-and-a-half, but he wasn’t someone I considered a friend. I could only take him in small doses over periods of time, otherwise I’d feel like screaming from listening to his whining and crying. But those of us who are gay in prison stick together and look out for each other. Sometimes he’d come to my room and just thumb through my magazines, not saying anything, while I read or wrote. Having each other’s presence felt it comforting and safe.
“You gonna take a shower?” Tony asked.
“Yeah. Maybe some hot water will loosen my shoulder up.”
“Can’t I massage it for you?” He had an excited eagerness in his tone, like a boy asking for a puppy.
“Uh, no. I’ll just get in the shower and — “
“C’mon. I give good massages. I ain’t got nothin’ else to do.”
“No. That’s okay.”
Tony looked down at the floor like he had just lost his best friend. It made me feel bad; I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings.
“Okay, you can give me a quick one before I take my shower.”
Tony jumped off my bed, his toothless grin beaming. “Cool!”
I pushed my door closed but didn’t lock it. I didn’t want anyone to walk by and see us. I could imagine the rumors that would be started from him rubbing my shoulders in my room, with me in my boxers.
“Lie down,” Tony said, patting my bed. “I’ll give you a good back run.”
I lay on my stomach, and Tony stood next to my bed, bending over, and began rubbing my shoulders. It felt good as he squeezed and worked the muscles. I could have fallen asleep under his hands.
“I’m going to get up on the bed,” Tony said. “My back hurts from bending over like this.”
He climbed up, straddling me just above my butt. I felt his weight on my legs and back, as he began to rub harder and deeper up and down my back. He rubbed up and down for another minute, sometimes using one hand, sometimes both. Then his hands moved to my lower back, to the waistband of my boxers. I felt his fingers curl around the band, and a split second later the boxers were being pulled down, as I felt his weight shift on me.
“Tony? What the hell are you doing?”
Before I even finished the question, he had me pinned to the bed, his hands locked onto my wrists. I couldn’t breathe. I felt him rubbing his hips into my ass.
“Stop it! Get off me!”
“Shhh, I’m gonna do it good,” Tony whispered in my ear. “You’ll like it.”
His hot breath made my skin crawl; it smelled of cigarettes and coffee.
“No! Get off me!”
He ignored me as he pushed his way inside me. Teeth clenched, I tried to push him up off of me, but I had no leverage. All I could do was shove my back up.
“Yeah, see, I knew you wanted to do this,” he said.
“No! I don’t want to do this. Now get the fuck off me!”
His grip tightened on my wrists. The more I struggled, the harder his breathing got, and the harder he slammed his hips against me. He stuck his tongue in my ear.
“Yeah, baby, I like it when you struggle. Fight it. Fight it!”
A bead of spit rolled down my cheek. I felt sick.
The more I tried to get him off of me, the more excited he became. So I stopped struggling and just lay there with him on top of me. He hesitated, seemed puzzled. I felt some of his weight lift off of me and used the opportunity to slide out from under him.
My escape surprised him. He let go of my wrists. I pulled my boxers up. He sat on my bed with his pants open. I didn’t want to look at him.
“Get out,” I said, my voice trembling.
“I’m sorry, JoJo. I just — “
“I said, get the fuck out! Now!”
Tony stood up, buttoned his pants, and walked to the door with his head down. “You’re not made at me, are you? I didn’t hurt you.”
I looked at the floor, my arms folded across my chest. “Just go.” I pulled my arms tighter around myself.
Tony opened the door, then slammed it shut as he walked out. The noise made me jump. I stood there trying to gather my thoughts, feeling cold. I paced back and forth in my room, I’m not sure for how long. Grabbing my soap dish, towel and washcloth, I quickly walked to the shower, looking first to see if Tony was waiting for me. In the shower I frantically pushed the button to turn the water on, not even bothering to take my boxers off. As the hot water cascaded over me, I realized that even under it I was shivering.
I cursed myself. How could I have been so stupid? Why did I let him do that to me? Why didn’t I fight harder?
I soaped up my washcloth, scrubbing my skin. I could still feel Tony on me, his skin rubbing mine. As I rinsed off and scrubbed down again, I looked down and saw I still had my boxers on. My mind told me to take them off, but my body wouldn’t listen. I just stood there, letting the water flow over me, still feeling dirty.
I remembered reading that this was how rape victims feel after being assaulted. All at once I felt a wave of shock wash over me with the water. I felt pain in my jaw and teeth, and realized it was from how hard I was clenching my jaw. I looked down to see my washcloth wound tight in my hands, as I squeezed it harder.
Shit! I told myself. No, this didn’t happen. I didn’t get raped. I just let things go too far. It was my fault. I’m a guy. Guys don’t get raped. It can’t happen to me. I must have led him on somehow. It’s my fault.
So why couldn’t I convince myself? Why did I feel raped?
This piece was originally published in The Urban Hiker in April 2004.
— Joe Urbaniak was sentenced in 1995 to 20 years imprisonment for indecent liberties with a child and crime against nature.
He hopes to be released in 2010. He was awarded Second Place for Memoir in the 2003 PEN Prison Writing Awards and has recently earned his B.A. in Business Administration.
He has requested that Q-Notes publish his contact information in hopes of finding penpals. Write him at P.O. Box 1569, Lillington, NC 27546. All correspondence should include his inmate number: 0415899.