Excerpt from My Friend Leonard by James Frey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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My Friend Leonard

by James Frey

My Friend Leonard by James Frey
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 416 pages

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On my first day in jail, a three hundred pound man named Porterhouse hit me in the back of the head with a metal tray. I was standing in line for lunch and I didn't see it coming. I went down. When I got up, I turned around and I started throwing punches. I landed two or three before I got hit again, this time in the face. I went down again. I wiped blood away from my nose and my mouth and I got up I started throwing punches again. Porterhouse put me in a headlock and started choking me. He leaned towards my ear and said I'm gonna let you go. If you keep fighting me I will fucking hurt you bad. Stay down and I will leave you alone. He let go of me, and I stayed down.

I have been here for sixty-seven days. I live in Men's Module B, which is for violent and felonious offenders. There are thirty-two cells in my module, thirty-two inmates. At any given time, there are between five and seven deputies watching us. All of us wear blue and yellow striped jumpsuits and black, rubber-soled slippers that do not have laces. When we move between rooms we walk through barred doors and metal detectors. My cell is seven feet wide and ten feet long. The walls are cement and the floor is cement and the bed is cement, the bars iron, the toilet steel. The mattress on the bed is thin, the sheets covered with grit. There is a window in my cell it is a small window that looks out onto a brick wall. The window is made of bulletproof glass and there are bars on both sides of it. It affords me the proper amount of State required sunlight. Sunlight does not help pass time, and the State is not required to provide me anything that helps pass time.

My life is routine. I wake up early in the morning. I brush my teeth. I sit on the floor of the cell I do not go to breakfast. I stare at a gray cement wall. I keep my legs crossed my back straight my eyes forward. I take deep breaths in and out, in and out, and I try not to move. I sit for as long as I can I sit until everything hurts I sit until everything stops hurting I sit until I lose myself in the gray wall I sit until my mind becomes as blank as the gray wall. I sit and I stare and I breathe. I sit and I stare. I breathe.

I stand in the middle of the afternoon. I use the toilet and I drink a glass of water and I smoke a cigarette. I leave my cell and I walk to the outdoor recreation area. If the weather holds, there are prisoners in the area playing basketball, lifting weights, smoking cigarettes, talking. I do not mingle with them. I do not participate in their approved activities. I walk along the perimeter of the wall until I can feel my legs again. I walk until my eyes and my mind regain some sort of focus. Until they bring me back to where I am and to what I am, which is an alcoholic and a drug addict and a criminal. If the weather is bad, the area is empty. I go outside despite the weather. I walk along the perimeter until I can feel and remember. I am what I am. I need to feel and remember.

I spend my afternoons with Porterhouse. His real is name is Antwan, but he calls himself Porterhouse because he says he's big and juicy like a fine-ass steak. Porterhouse threw his wife out the window of their seventh floor apartment when he found her in bed with another man. He took the man into a field and shot him twelve times. The first eleven shots went into the man's arms and legs. He waited thirty minutes to let the man feel the pain of the shots, pain he said was the equivalent to the pain he felt when saw the man fucking his wife. Shot number twelve went into the man's heart.

From My Friend Leonard by James Frey. Copyright James Frey 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

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