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Normally, I like to coin my own crackerisms and slang when it comes to describing indescribable prison behaviors, but I can’t improve on “thirstbucket.” In case you don’t know, that’s ghetto terminology for inmates who have crackhead tendencies. Thirstbuckets fiend for everything they see, constantly begging for handouts, but very rarely ever want to give anything back. Lots of them are irredeemable drug addicts whose sneaky ways enable them to get food, clothing, linens, radios, drugs, and basically anything else that’s normally hard to find in jail.
I think lots of people who don’t have much in the real world try to hold on to everything they can when they get locked up. Sometimes I’ll give a thirstbucket some cornbread off my food tray and then he’ll turn around and sell it or trade it. They call this a hustle. Or they’ll sit by the garbage collecting everyone’s leftovers and then try to cook later by combining resources with someone with real food. That’s just the way some people survive. Even if it’s cheap, petty, greedy, and pathetic it’s an accepted way of life in the stinkin’ clink-clink.
When it comes to the drugs it’s pretty fucking ugly. If someone has the get-high supplies and is asking for a price that a thirstbucket can’t afford, that ‘bucket’s going to do anything he can to get that intoxicating substance, ‘cause in his head he’s already high. He’s either going to go into debt and do something unscrupulous to pay it off, or he’ll try to sneak-thief the commissary to pay for the drugs up front. You can immediately see the change in a thirstbucket’s body language and the fiendy look in his eyes when he thinks ANY drug might be available. It’s kinda sad. Some of these guys go off the deep end and resort to extortion through intimidation, threats, and violence.
In the streets, lots of crackheads and dope fiends are super-stupid skinny, and most people believe this is due to the drugs, which isn’t 100 percent true. I’ve seen chubby dope fiends and porky crackheads, ‘cause they love food in addition to drugs or have enough dough to support their habits and eat healthy. Lots of fiends choose to only indulge in their drug and neglect food. That happens in jail as well. Convicts will sell their lunch trays for a “crackhead soup” (ramen noodles), and then try to flip those for some substance. More often they will just give all their trays to a dealer, and even their soap, toilet paper, and toothpaste. Some dealers are good people and don’t entertain that bullshit, but some dudes are scumbags that enjoy breaking a thirstbucket down. Some fiends become errand boys or even protection for a dealer as a result. It’s sad, but prison culture has little sympathy for the victims. There are potheads in jail who don’t even eat, which sounds painful to me.
The biggest problem with having contraband in prison is dealing with the thirstbuckets. They’re more annoying than the cops. No one wants to spend ten hours a day haggling with thirsty-ass crackheads with greedy stares and desperate eyes. It becomes such a hassle that it is easy to overcharge, ‘cause someone will be thirsty enough to get ripped off. Most times I go to jail I simply turn off the switch and opt to just go clean, ‘cause the drama and price involved is usually not worth the payoff high. Even smoking cigs and drinking coffee is an invitation for thirstbuckets to come up and ask for handouts. I usually just stay the fuck away.
The thirstbucket truly displays no shame. Some of them are locked up for shit like stealing jewelry or electronics from their own families. Other ones are scavengers who steal scrap metal or cooking oil to recycle. Thirstbuckets are on the streets, too, they just have more options out there so they don’t seem so despicable and awful as they do in the clink-clink. We also have the chain-snatching, purse-stealing, strong-arm robbery type violent dudes in here. Just think how thirsty you gotta be to do some shit like that while you’re fiending for drugs.
The thirstbucket manifests in the form of a pervert as well. Many convicts stare at pussy mags all day and do inexplicably juvenile shit like rubbing a sexy newscaster’s pussy on the TV screen and declaring, “That’s my bitch.” Liz Cho’s ears must be burning all day. A female can’t even show up on the TV without someone molesting the screen or saying, “I’d definitely let her urinate on me” or, “I’d suck the fart out that bitch’s ass.” There are quite a few convicts who masturbate compulsively all day every day. I guess it’s better than fucking and sucking with the fellow inmates… It’s kinda like monkeys at the zoo, I guess. If we ain’t pacing back and forth, we’re beating off something fierce.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a thirstbucket too, but I feel enough shame that I try to maintain some semblance of respect or discipline. Every time I see a woman I think about her sucking my dick; when I see dudes getting high I think, Oh, that’d be awesome. Every time I talk to my girl I want to talk with her on the phone all day if it wasn’t so expensive. When you’re locked in jail and deprived of almost everything, sometimes you just want more. I think that’s why some ex-cons suffer in the outside world—they try to make up for the deprivation and enjoy life at double the speed to make up for the lost moments in prison. Incarceration breeds a lot of unbalanced people who have trouble regaining order when they are released.
The things that we thirst for in here only bring temporary relief, and usually end up bringing us down after we enjoy ourselves. Even looking at porn gives me such mixed feelings ‘cause yes, I love staring at pussy-mouth, but then I realize I get no pussy-mouth and I’m sad the moment I blow the gunk out. I’m still waiting for a reputable psychologist to break down what happens to the psyche of an incarcerated man—maybe then I’ll feel better about how fucked up I am.
Constantly being thirsty is a pretty serious character defect, one which I wish I didn’t have. How nice it would be to simply be content only with life necessities. I want to kill myself every time I think about all the privileges and blessings I threw away. It’s sad, what I could’ve accomplished by now if I wasn’t such a stinky pussy… I was so, so thirsty, and I just wish I had slowed down so many times.
Bert Burykill is the pseudonym of our prison correspondent, who has spent time in a number of prisons in New York State. He tweets here.
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