Jimin stands in the massive hall of the administrative building overly aware of the tension and unease, crawling through his veins. Just a few minutes ago, he’d been issued a utility belt with his radio, handcuffs, pepper spray, and other tools to help him perform his job. He tries not to shake as he loops each item onto his belt, arranging them to suit his dominant hand, radio on the left, pepper spray on the right. He winds his radio across his back and over his right shoulder, hooking it into the sewn flap on the front of his black polo near his badge. He knows where his emergency buttons are, and he’s trained for weeks to handle violent inmates and dangerous situations. Still, he’s scared, nervous...but he’d been assured that being scared is what will keep him smart and alert...though it still feels nauseating.
Starting a new job is stressful...but… especially when your new job happens to be in a prison.
At twenty-four years old, Park Jimin found himself with empty pockets, a useless degree, and a lot of debt that wasn’t going to resolve itself anytime soon. His part time jobs seemed to barely scrape the top off everything he still owed to the university, and the endless collection calls had begun to wear on his mental state. All of his money practically went to the school, and the tiny amount that didn’t, bought him the same ramen and eggs he’s been living off of for years. Really, he probably could’ve gone to his parents and asked for help, but Jimin isn’t that sort of person. He didn’t want them to know he was struggling, and he didn’t want to admit that they were right about his degree choice. Instead, he spent weeks scanning a local job board until a new position popped up.
Correctional Officer | Medium Security Male Facility
It’s not like he’s ever really considered working in a prison, and it’s not like he really thought he was qualified . But really, what other choice did he have? It’s sink or swim, and Jimin only knows how to swim like hell.
There’s a lapse in time in which they pulled his background, ran drug tests, and administered a physical fitness test. He ran, lifted, and was then pushed off into the officer’s academy to learn the local laws, department policies, and combat skills. In a class with twenty or so other new officer’s, Jimin studied harder than anyone else, took it more seriously than anyone else, and came out the other side twelve weeks later with recognition from the academy and a hopeful future.
Still, right now it’s six in the morning, and the administration building is buzzing with officers freshly arriving to begin their shift, and officers leaving now that their overnight shift has ended. He can spot the higher ranking officers by the color of their polo’s, a dark gray unlike his own black one. He can also see their gold badges, and the clipboards in their hands. Jimin stands off to the side near a concrete wall, there’s an old school style clock above his head, one he nervously checks as he watches officers coming in and out. Jimin’s eyes search the enormous hall, taking in the various wooden doors, each one labeled to designate the purpose of the room: one for mail, one for supplies, another for weapons, and more for the major’s and lieutenants. He knows that behind him somewhere is the wardens office, but there are also trophy cases filled with department awards from the state or the country, and bulletin boards showing their pay cycle and announcing the next staff potluck. It’s strange how both familiar, and wildly unfamiliar everything is.
Wearing tan tactical pants with black tactical boots and a black polo, he waits patiently for the shift commander, who is currently sitting on a bench near the wall, to finish assigning each officer to their area. Once the hall has cleared out, the commander glances up at Jimin, squinting as if trying to read his nameplate from a distance.
“What’s your name?”
“Park Jimin,” he steps closer, stopping when there’s five feet between them. To their left, they’re only a few feet from the airlock that leads them back into the parking lot, and just a little past that is the security check point. Through the glass in the metal door of the security airlock, he can see the prison grounds and other officers making their way to their assigned area.
“Mr. Park, you’re going to be on the rec yard today. Give me just a minute and I’ll have an officer to pair you with for training.”
Jimin glances at his name tag, reading the surname ‘Kim’ printed on it before Shift Commander Kim raises his head from his clipboard, smiling warmly and displaying his dimples. “By the way, welcome to the team, Officer Park.”
Jimin smiles politely, “Thank you, sir.” before stepping back to let the commander stand.
“You just got out of the academy, right?” He holds his clipboard in one hand, waiting until Jimin nods nervously to continue. “You’ll be okay, just don’t give any of the inmates anything they don’t already have coming to them, alright? And ask questions if you don’t understand something, we’re gonna throw a lot of information at you but nobody expects you to remember everything today.”
“This is now your second family, watch out for yourself, but also know that everyone else will have your back. It’s not an easy job, but just stay positive and don’t let the negativity get to you.” Kim pauses, glancing off towards the airlock leading outside. “Oh, there’s our officer,” he motions to an officer who just entered the building from the outside airlock, a frown already on his face as he shifts his black, nylon utility belt onto his shoulder, offering Jimin a view of the dark black tattoos winding down his left arm all the way to his knuckles. The blond officer takes a sip from the paper coffee cup in his other hand, waving to the officers behind the bulletproof glass of the control room. “Officer Min.”
The seemingly irritated officer looks up, his brown eyes shifting between Jimin and the shift commander before he nods at Shift Commander Kim. “Good morning, Kim,” he says, his voice surprisingly deep and gravely.
“Morning, Min. I have a new trainee for you, this if officer Park, he just graduated from the academy.” the shift commander beams, his bright disposition awkwardly juxtapose against Officer Min’s grumpy one. “I want you two in the rec yard today.”
Officer Min looks again at Jimin, but this time he’s taking him in as a new officer rather than a random coworker he’s just never met before. “Okay, no problem.”
“Great, also Officer Park, I have an open door policy, so if you have any questions you can come see me or Major Hyuk. Though, Officer Min is a seasoned officer and should be able to answer any of your questions.
Jimin nods, giving a polite smile before thanking the shift commander. Beside him, he can practically feel Officer Min staring at him.
Jimin looks back, nodding like he has a choice. “Yeah,”
“You’re gonna have to take your belt off when we go through security just so you know.” Officer Min says before taking another sip of his coffee. “You can put it back on when we get inside the fence.”
Jimin looks down at his utility belt with a frown. If he had known he’d have to take it off, he wouldn’t have put it on in the first place…is that why the other officers are staring at him…? Because he basically announced himself as a fuckin’ newbie?
“Oh,” He mumbles as they approach the security airlock. No two doors in an airlock can be open at the same time, so the two stand awkwardly, waiting as the officers already inside of the airlock pass through security. Beside him, Officer Min sips on his coffee, his eyes tired with dark circles underneath.
“You go first,” Officer Min says as the other officers exit the airlock and the door closes behind them. The officer in the control room looks to them, smiling just slight enough to be polite before opening the airlock on their side.
It’s awkward and embarrassing his first time. He forgets that he has his radio wrapped over his back and down to his chest, so when he takes off his belt he ends up wrapped in the wire while Officer Min snorts but offers no help to him. By the time Jimin frees himself from his radio and passes through the metal detector, he knows his cheeks are burning with embarrassment, and he knows everyone in the control room just watched him make an absolute fool of himself. Once Officer Min passes through the metal detector, Jimin snatches his belt up from the plastic bin, but makes no move to put it back on until the airlock door opens and he steps inside of the fence.
“You can keep your radio on your chest without wrapping it around your back,” Officer Min says as Jimin sets his utility belt on the plastic table outside.
“I know it just gets in my way.” He mumbles as he clips his belt back into place, winding the handheld radio across his back again and back over his shoulder.
“Suit yourself...” There’s a breath of near silence, Jimin can hear the inmates calling out to each other, the occasional beep or chatter on the radio as officers do radio checks, and the sounds of birds chirping from the nearby trees. As he clips his radio down near his chest, he tries not further succumb to his embarrassment. Instead, he finishes adjusting his belt to his liking and then glances over, watching as Officer Min clips his radio onto the front of his polo, letting the curly black wire hang over his stomach before looping around his waist and towards his main radio. He moves each of his pouches into position before looking up at Jimin, nodding towards the rest of the prison grounds. “Let’s go.”
It’s still dark outside as they begin walking down the sidewalk path. Being a medium security facility, the prison allows the inmates to free-roam during set times in the day, a quick glance at Jimin’s watch shows him that it’s nearly time for their free-roam. “Being on the rec yard is really easy normally, but it kinda sucks in the winter and summer.” Officer Min says as they begin passing massive housing units. They’re enormous gray buildings with black roofs, numbers one through ten on the outside of them along with barred windows and heavy metal doors.
Between each of the housing units, he can still see the tall fence, and beyond that, the twelve foot fence with triple layered barbed and razor wire meant to discourage escape attempts. Jimin holds his head up high despite his desire to look down, he doesn’t want to appear weak, he doesn’t want to be targeted for appearing weak.
“At least it’s still kinda nice outside,” Jimin muses.
“Yeah, for another few weeks it shouldn’t be too bad. But more fights happen when the weather’s nice, riots and whatnot. They don’t really wanna riot when it’s negative twelve and icy, y’know?” Officer Min glances at Jimin, and for the first time, Jimin sees a small smile on his face before the blond turns away. “anyway, sorry I’m kinda tired. I’m normally on night shift so I didn’t really sleep that great.”
“Oh,” Jimin watches as a few officers exit one of the housing units, one officer teasing another who appears to be laughing it off. “why are you here right now if it’s not your shift?”
“Coverin’ for someone, the usual.”
Jimin nods, pretending like he understands ‘the usual’ in a prison. They follow a curve in the sidewalk where it begins wrapping around an enormous gray brick building, and to the right, Jimin can see the hilly countryside through the enormous fence locking everyone in. “How long have you been here?”
Officer Min snorts as they approach a fence blocking the sidewalk path. Patting his side, he pulls out a large set of keys and jams one into the lock. “Too long, four years now I think.” the metal lock clicks, and Officer Min withdraws his key, pushing the fence door open and letting the two of them pass through before locking it behind them. “Oh right, this area here,” Officer Min motions to the seventeen by thirty area contained within a fence, the large gray building running along one side of it. “This is called Murder Alley, the cameras can’t see diddly squat here so always be alert. We have the most stabbings here.”
Jimin nods, biting his cheek to disguise the unsettling feeling sinking through him before Officer Min nods towards the opposite fence. “Come on, the rec yard is over here.”
He follows the elder officer through the second fence door, watching as Officer Min locks it behind them before leading him out into an enormous yard with a concrete track, a covered work-out area, a basketball court, and two armed guard towers to watch over everything. “We have to walk the yard and clear it before they can open it for rec,” Officer Min explains. “Just follow me, we’re gonna look for contraband on the ground, pills, knives, anything that shouldn’t be in the prison, y’know?”
Jimin nods, beginning to follow after Officer Min as they start the long walk around the yard. Officer Min uses a flashlight off his utility belt, but Jimin wasn’t issued one nor did he bring one, and so he follows after feeling very unhelpful despite being a second set of eyes. If Officer Min notices, he doesn’t say anything until they’re half-way across the yard. “So what brought you into the prison system?”
“Uh, I just wanted to try something new...” he says, earning a laugh from Officer Min.
“No future hopes and dreams of joining the police force or anything?”
“No...” Jimin admits. He wouldn’t be opposed to joining the police force, but this is just where he ended up first. “I wanted to do this first.”
“Uh, I dance, but that’s about it.” Jimin shrugs as they continue walking along the fence. It’s not electrified, but it is alarmed and so he’s careful not to touch it to avoid setting it off. “What about you?”
“Me? I make music, play guitar, piano, but I draw more than anything these days.” Officer Min is quiet for a few seconds before pausing, shining his flashlight into Jimin’s face until the younger is blinded by white. “Also, gossip moves fast around this place, so don’t tell anyone anything you don’t want everyone to know, okay?”
Jimin nods, his eyes squinted and directed away from the bright beam until Officer Min redirects it to the ground.
“Also, the inmates are always watching and listening, so definitely don’t say anything personal around them. We’ve had officer’s families threatened, kids, houses broken into. You’ve probably been called a rent-a-cop or something shitty by PD or family or somethin’, right?”
Jimin nods, following two steps behind Officer Min now, listening idly to a radio ten call for a sergeant on the yard.
“Don’t listen to that shit, what people say, okay? You’re gonna be dealing with more violent felons in a day than a police officer will see in a year. The public has no idea what sorta shit we deal with, okay?”
Jimin nods, and the flashlight swipes again and blinds him. “But we’re just medium security… Doesn’t that mean like, drug charges?”
“We’re medium security, but we have murders and rapists too, most of ‘em are... plea bargins and shit, that kinda stuff brings them our way. You need to be on your toes, don’t let anyone get in your head. Complacency will get you or someone else killed.” Officer Min points the flashlight back to the ground, and suddenly Jimin wishes it were light enough that they didn’t need one at all. It feels more like a weapon meant to blind people in Min’s hands. “We have level five offender’s here too. Maximum… most of ‘em are in the hole but they’re here.”
When they reach the end of the yard, the step back onto the sidewalk, their boots speckled with mud and grass as they approach the metal door of a one-story building. “This is the rec building, we’re gonna clear it the same as we cleared the yard.”
Officer Min doesn’t give Jimin another scare talk as they go room-to-room in the rec building. They scan tables, chairs, floors, and walls, looking for anything that could be used as a weapon or could be drug related. Once the building is clear, they walk back outside where Officer Min reports to the control center over the radio.
“Come on, we’re just gonna wait until they call the free-roam, that’s when the yard is gonna open up.”
Jimin follows Officer Min back towards the fence door in Murder Alley that they had come through in the first place. This time, Officer Min unlocks both gates, leaving them open before unlocking a second, larger gate that looks like it’s meant for vehicles. The road is mostly dirt and gravel, ending just before the sidewalk near an enormous, gray housing unit. It’s a lot to take in if he’s being honest, like something he’s seen in movies but didn’t really think was real life .
Stuck in his thoughts, he chews his lower lip as they begin walking back towards the gate nearest the rec yard. The sun is beginning to peak up just above the trees now and Jimin knows that very soon, they’ll be outnumbered by inmates, surrounded.
The two take up position just off to the side of the gravel road, their backs to the fence as a safety precaution. “So what sorta music do you make?” Jimin asks in an attempt to make casual conversation. Officer Min hums, glancing at his watch before shrugging.
“All kinds, whatever I feel like. It’s important to have a hobby.”
Jimin nods, and over the radio, he hears control calling free-roam twice, meaning they’re going to have inmates streamlining through the gates anytime now. Fuck he’s nervous, he’s so nervous…
“Do you enjoy it…? Or do you just do it to have something to do outside of,” Jimin motions to the prison, “...this?”
“I enjoy it, I’ve been making and producing music since I was a teenager. I dunno, I guess I always thought I’d do something with it, but then I just kinda ended up here doing this instead.”
“Oh,” Jimin looks up when he spots the first inmate walking down the sidewalk towards them, behind him, countless more begin heading their way. Most of them are dressed in their casual clothes, white t-shirts and orange shorts, or an orange jumpsuit meant to make them easier to spot at a distance. Jimin tries not to stare too hard because he doesn’t want to come off like he’s challenging them, but he also doesn’t want to come off as submissive. Finding the balance between the right amount of eye-contact, and the wrong amount, is proving difficult now that he has to do it.
Most everything sounded easier in the academy, before he actually had to do it.
“They can’t run until they hit the yard, tell them to stop if you see it.” Officer Min mumbles to him.
“What if they don’t stop?”
“We’ll write them up, just make sure you yell loud. Some of these guys have hearin’ problems.”
Over the radio, Jimin hears the crisp voice of a male officer. “Officer Min, what’s your twelve, Officer Min ten twelve.”
The blond reaches for the radio clipped to his polo, “Murder Alley monitoring the traffic to the backyard.”
“Ten four,” the male voice responds.
Officer Min doesn’t spare a glance towards Jimin, his eyes still monitoring the traffic flow of inmates entering the yard. Since Jimin doesn’t want to make a bad impression or be known as the rookie officer who can’t shut the hell up, he keeps his lips sealed and pretends not to mind all the leering glances and laughs from the passing inmates. He’s fresh meat and he knows they’re sizing him up, and as uncomfortable as it makes him, he doesn’t let it show on his face as he stands firm from his position against the fence.
“When free-roam ends, I want you to make the radio call to control.”
Jimin can feel the thump in his chest. Making a radio call shouldn’t be too difficult, right? “What do I say?”
“Say: that’s the last of it, six eight on the hill. Make sure you say it twice.”
He nods again, rubbing his lips together before realizing that could be perceived inappropriately by the inmates. It’s really starting to feel like most of his job is going to be him trying not to give an inmate the wrong impression.
“Officer Jung is on the yard with us today,” Officer Min says casually, “He’s been here longer than me, so feel free to ask him questions too.”
“Okay,” he nods.
“If you’re scared, they’ll be able to tell...so stand tall, Rookie. Otherwise, they’ll think you’re a duck.”
“A duck?” Jimin asks, glancing over at Officer Min. Though, he does make an attempt to stand straighter, squaring his shoulders.
“Someone who can be set-up, like as a drug mule or for sex. Y’know? Didn’t they teach you this in the academy?” Officer Min reaches into his pocket while Jimin shakes his head, taking out a pack of cigarettes before lighting one.
“They didn’t teach you about set-ups?” He asks before taking a drag from his cigarette.
“They did, but I mean… I don’t know all the terminology...”
“Oh, prison slang...” The Officer snorts again, taking another drag and then exhaling it. “You’ll learn it the longer you’re here.”
Jimin nods, but somehow, he doubts he’ll ever pick up everything .
The two remain at the fence watching as the seemingly endless flow of inmates continues to pour into the massive rec yard. When the call comes over the radio that free-roam has ended, Officer Min waits thirty seconds before he begins shouting at the stragglers to go home.
“You shouldn’t have waited until the last minute to leave your house! Go home!”
Jimin doesn’t say anything, or allow his expression to change as he watches the inmates angrily grunt before turning around and walking back towards the housing units. When the alley is clear of inmates, they turn around and walk into the now crowded yard. Only a few inmates pay them any mind, the others busy themselves with conversation or games. Jimin and Officer Min step onto the concrete track, following it as it circles the whole of the yard while inmates run or walk past them. Off to the side, Jimin observes groups hanging out on benches and metal picnic tables, while others are playing basketball on the court or working out.
“They’re not allowed to hang out in groups larger than five,” Officer Min explains as they walk. “You’re gonna see a lot of shady shit back here. Drug deals, tattooing… we can’t catch it all, but we can try.”
“What about the tower officers?” Jimin asks, nodding his head towards the two guard towers sitting on the perimeter of the fence.
“There’s blind-spots that they can’t see, and the inmates know that.” Officer Min nods to the nearest tower, its windows covered with a reflective screen that prevents them from seeing inside. “But they have our six for the most part. Are you still scared?”
“Sorta,” Jimin admits. “I mean, I know I have pepper spray but… there’s so many of them...”
Officer Min nods as they curve the track again, watching as two inmates glance at them before splitting. “If they wanted to, they could take us down… they just don’t want to… does that make sense?”
Jimin nods again, part of him wondering if he’ll have a crick in his neck tomorrow from all the nodding. “Why don’t they want to?”
“I can’t speak for all of ‘em… but some of them just wanna serve their time and get out… it’s not like taking us out will lessen their sentences or anything.” Officer Min shrugs, seemingly oddly nonchalant about the fact that they could be murdered in an instant should the inmates decide to attack them. It’s a chilling thought, and as the sun finally peaks, beams of pink and purple shoot across the sky.
It’s strangely beautiful…
“Anyway, do you know what shift you’re going to be on?”
“Uh, I think the evening shift.” Jimin says as they pass another large group of huddled inmates. Officer Min eyes them as they pass, but none of them appear to have anything in their hands, nor does it appear to be a potential fight in the makings.
“I probably won’t work with you then, but Jung and Captain Kim are on evenings… There’s a lot of Kim’s here, so good luck with that.”
Both Jimin and Officer Min turn towards the voice, their eyes settling on an inmate approaching them with a smile. “What’re you doin’ here? They keepin’ you overtime?”
Officer Min smiles politely, but postures himself off to the side of the inmate, his hands held above his waist. Jimin recognizes it as the pose for conversation with inmates, something that keeps you ready to defend yourself at a moments notice.
“They’d keep me everyday all day if they could.” He says, his tone even. Jimin moves to stand slightly behind the officer, his body turned to give him a view of the inmates approaching the two of them from behind. It’s his first time watching another Officer’s back, and honestly, even this is a little nerve wrecking, guard towers or not.
“Yeah-yeah, but who’s this? You got a new CO?”
Jimin turns his head slightly, off-put that he’d been brought up suddenly. Beside him, Officer Min’s expression remains unchanged, though he does tip his head ever so slightly. “Right, we have to keep hiring new CO’s because you guys can’t stop breaking the law.”
The inmate laughs, nodding and apparently not offended by the Officer’s joke. Instead, he crosses his arms, “’m tryin’, man. Look, when I get out this time, you won’t see me again. I got a kid now, I told you about him right? He’s already two!”
“Just keep on that train of thought, man. We don’t wanna see you here anymore, your face is getting old.”
The inmate laughs again, and Jimin decides that Officer Min must have a good rapport with this guy to be so casual with him. He returns to monitoring the scene behind them, watching as casually as he can until Officer Min tells the inmate to move along so they can do their job. As they’re walking away, Min keeps his voice low, addressing Jimin only.
“Don’t let them trap you in a conversation. If you’re busy, just tell them you’re busy and keep going. If you have time to chat, make sure you control the conversation or they’ll never let you get control of it.” Min nods towards two inmates who pass them, the two nod back but eye Jimin carefully. “Especially you because you’re new… they’ll try to get close to you so they can blackmail you or try to form a relationship. You learned about that already though, but just be careful. They’re always makin’ up new games, I can’t keep up with all of them.”
Jimin’s having a hard time keeping up with everything Officer Min has told him since they left the admin building, but he nods again, feeling like a bobble head as they finally make their way back towards Murder Alley, something Jimin decides must be an almost ‘safe point’ minus the cameras and suspicious name.
“You in school?” Min asks as he pulls out his pack of cigarettes again. Jimin leans back against the fence while Min lights it.
“I’m done with school,” he says it in the most neutral tone possible, trying not to show his bitter frustration over his degree, or his debt. “are you?”
“Nah, public school was enough for me. I couldn’t stand bein’ inside those walls listening to someone drone on and on about what sort of future I would have if I just jammed my brain up with shit...no offense.”
Jimin shakes his head to show he’s not offended and looks up to the sky. The sky is a lot more blue now, the tinted pinks and purples mostly gone as the sun climbs higher and higher. He had thought being inside the prison would be more depressing, that somehow everything would be a lot bleaker.
“The food here isn’t that bad, if you’re hungry then let me know. We’ll run down to the chow hall and get us somethin’ from the staff lunch room.”
That’s something he’d forgotten about completely. He’d been so nervous when he left this morning, that he’d forgotten his lunch on the counter. Worse, his roommate will definitely be home before him, and therefore subject to the stench of room temperature boiled eggs and cabbage… which is about all that he can afford…
“But I mean, it might upset your stomach.”
“It will?” Jimin glances back at Min, his eyes a little wider with concern which seems to amuse Officer Min greatly.
“Ah, Rookie…It won’t kill you, just some added fiber powders to meet government standards is all. You’ll get used to it.”
Jimin doesn’t feel too confident about that, but then again his usual diet is ramen and eggs in some shape or form, so maybe it won’t even affect him. Maybe he’s destroyed his stomach so much that even prison food can’t touch it.
“Do uh… is the food really uh… messed with… by the inmates?” He asks quietly.
“The food? Nah, there’s like a code between the inmates and one of them is don’t mess with the food. I mean, that doesn’t mean it never happens. Definitely caught a guy jerkin’ off into the black noodles once...” Officer Min snorts as he recalls the memory, but Jimin can only really feel his gut twisting anxiously. “But no, it’s usually fine.”
More traffic and chatter comes over the radios, and for the next few hours, Officer Min walks Jimin around the yard, giving him tips, advice, and teaching him random prison slang words that he might hear day-to-day. Since it’s so much information, Jimin begins to sort it as important or not-so important. The prison slang that isn’t threatening, he decides isn’t too important to remember right now… but the advice and tips, he focuses hard on remembering those.
As two other officers step onto the yard, Officer Min leads Jimin back inside of the rec building. They pass by various rooms, some of them housing inmates sitting in what look like church pews watching TV, another housing instruments the inmates can play. But the largest room acts as an indoor work-out area fully stocked with any and every type of work-out machine imaginable, Jimin glances around it, making eye contact with a few guys as he tries to disguise his awe. Though, they don’t stop to monitor the work-outs or TV watching, instead, Officer Min guides him into a small, office where Jimin spots another officer sitting behind a desk.
“Yo, Min! Did you hear about Kyung?” The other officer appears to be around their age, his hair brown and his excited way of speaking and bright smile throws Jimin a little off as he follows Min to two computer chairs near the wall.
“What’d that piece of shit do now?”
“He was searching a cell and found a fifi, but the guy fuckin’ thought it was like I don’t know drugs or something—and had his hand all in there trying to open it!”
Both Officer Min and the other erupt into laughter, Min interjects with ‘fuckin’ gross!’, but Jimin can only watch with a polite, albeit, confused smile. It’s more prison slang he doesn’t understand, a story he can’t laugh at or enjoy the same way, but he retains hope that one day he’ll be able to.
“Oh fuck, sorry.” Officer Min composes himself, stifling laughs as he motions to Jimin while looking at the other officer. “Jung, this is Park, he’s a new CO.”
Jung smiles at Jimin, holding up his hand in a wave. “Hey! I’m Jung, welcome to the island of misfit toys.”
“Don’t call it that,” Min scolds.
“What? Like any of us are normal?” Jung pauses, glancing at Jimin, “well, except for him. He seems kinda normal.”
“Uh… thanks?” That might not be a compliment.
“Just wait for it, Rookie. We all start out hopelessly lost and unsure, maybe a little put-off by prison culture and how the officers talk… But soon, you’ll be like this too. It’s just how it is, gotta have a twisted sense of humor to work in a prison.” Officer Min shrugs, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. “Like that time we all stood around debating which inmate we’d catapult first if we had a catapult.”
“I know who I’d send first,” Jung laughs. “I’ll get you a list if you give me a minute.”
Officer Min snorts, and this time, Jimin allows himself to laugh quietly. He’s still nervous, but being in the office with other officers is definitely more comfortable than being on the yard with a few hundred inmates leering at him.
“Anyway,” Min interjects. “it’s almost count time, we can go eat afterwards.” He reaches up for the radio clipped to his polo, pressing the button on the side until it makes a sound through all of their radios. A lazy way to check that his radio isn’t dead.
“Okay, that sounds good.” He nods.
“So, Park, sorry you ended up stuck with Min all day. A real drag, right?”
Officer Min snorts at Jung’s rather crass comment, his eyes rolling as he leans back in his computer chair until his head touches the cement wall. “I’m doin’ my best here, man. I’m not an FTO.”
“FTO?” Jimin asks.
“Field training officer,” Jung clarifies. “and you know they’ve tried to get him to qualify for it but talkin’ to Min is like talkin’ to a brick wall, you know?”
Jimin does not know.
“Oh, it’s been okay so far… I’ve learned a lot...”
“I’m sure, I’m just teasing Min. Anyway, Min is really a good guy, he knows a lot so if you stick near him, you’ll do fine.” Jung leans back in his chair as well, and for some reason, Jimin also wants to lean back and feel like part of the group. It’s strange how awkward he feels. “This guy has had my back more times than I can count. There was this one time when I was walking over by the vocational school, you know that like factory looking area near the sally port?” He waits until Jimin nods before continuing. “Yeah, some inmate was out of bounds and I started to get on him about it but one of his friends popped up and grabbed me. I was in for some shit, but I was able to call a ten six and Min was the first one to come running.”
“A ten six is an officer in distress isn’t it?” Jimin asks. It’s not like this is his first time hearing about an officer being attacked, but he hasn’t yet heard a story from someone who was attacked themselves.
“Officer needs help, yeah.” He nods. “the other inmate who was out of bounds had a poor man’s shank, you know a razor and a toothbrush? He was probably gonna slice me pretty good, but Min came tearing around the corner with this like, wild fuckin’ look in his eyes!” Jung laughs, a smile spreading over his face at the memory. “I’ve never heard him shout so loud, yelling for them to get on the ground and cuff up while holding out his pepper spray even though he would’ve fuckin’ nailed me with that shit too.”
Jung laughs again, and Jimin spots Min smiling slightly, his head turned down like he’s embarrassed that Jung is retelling the story. For however grumpy Min comes off, Jimin does find himself seeing the senior officer in a slightly different light. Min is dependable, he decides. Someone who will come if he calls for help.
“So what happened? Did they let you go?” Jimin asks.
“Well yeah, I don’t have any of those joker-esque scars right? The one guy let me go and they both laid down, which I don’t blame ‘em because Min was ‘bout foaming at the mouth. Anyway… The other guys were running in while we were cuffin’ em. Min didn’t even give them shit for takin’ so long, and I couldn’t because I was too hyped up on adrenaline from almost having involuntary plastic surgery… But what I’m getting at is that you can trust him to have your back… his short legs run fast.”
“You can trust almost anyone here to have your back,” Min follows-up. “it’s not just me.”
Jung rolls his eyes, leaning further back in his chair before crossing one foot over his knee. On the wall behind him, Jimin spots a suicide prevention poster.
“Have you met Officer Kim in the chow hall yet?” Jung asks.
“The shift commander?” Jimin asks.
“No, the CO, he usually oversees the food prep,” Jung turns his attention to Min. “Take him to meet Kim today, you’ll love him, he’s a character.”
The corners of Jimin’s mouth upturn slightly as Jung grins at Min who maintains the same disinterested expression. Arguably, he’s already met a lot of really interesting characters, but he cocks his head anyway and allows his eyebrows to knit.
“What do you mean?” He asks. “Is he new too?”
“No, Kim’s been here awhile, he’s just an odd guy. He does all kinds of weird things, says weird things, and the inmates are so used to him being weird now that they just shake their head.” Jung explains which coaxes a laugh out of Jimin. “You’ll like him, don’t worry. He’s a treat, we all love him. He always volunteers first to do the strip searches.”
“Anyway,” Min pushes himself up from his chair, checking his watch rather than the clock on the wall before adjusting his utility belt. “we should get going before the tower officer puts out an advisory.”
“Ah, right. You don’t want to be blasted for spending too much time inside the rec building.” Jung nods before looking at Jimin. “Word of advice, don’t let anything the inmates say, get to you. They’re going to make all kinds of comments, just write them up if you need to, or have them taken to solitary if it’s that bad. They’re definitely gonna test you… probably when Min isn’t around. His reputation protects him.”
Min rolls his eyes again and Jung laughs as though it’s some inside joke that Jimin isn’t privy to. As he pushes himself up from his chair, he gives Jung a small smile. “Thanks,” is all he says, and yet Jung smiles widely and reaches to clutch his chest.
“Keep that smile to yourself, Park, my poor old heart is too wilted to take it.”
“You’re a freak, stop creeping on our new guy.” Min mumbles, taking a step towards Jimin and thus forcing him to begin walking towards the door.
“I’m not creeping! His smile just weakened me!” Jung calls as they walk away.
Jimin and Min make it outside of the office, and after winding through the short hallways of the rec building, they step back outside and into the sunlight. “Ignore him,” Min says as they begin to walk towards the track again. “You’ll be fine.”
“Thanks,” Jimin nods again. The amount of times people have reassured him that he’ll be fine is beginning to worry him. Is he coming off as non-confident? Or has he really only been exposed to the bear minimum of what’s to come?
Jimin follows Min around the track, ignoring the stares and whispered comments made as they pass. Min explains the prison a bit more to Jimin as they walk. It’s like a small city, mostly self-sufficient, the prison employs contractors to fix anything that might break, they have a mini-hospital so inmates are rarely sent out for treatment. The inmates in a vocational program are the ones who fix the cars when something goes wrong, yes that sometimes means they fuck up, no Jimin doesn’t really need to worry about it.
When they make it a little further away from the inmates and potential eavesdropping, Min lets out a quiet sigh, raising his head to the sky and letting the sun warm his face as he speaks. “Just make sure you stick around for at least a year, you won’t really know if you like it for a year. Okay?”
“Okay,” Jimin nods. “Is that what you did?”
“Yeah, my parents fuckin’ hated that I worked here. I lost all my friends because I work so much, eventually it started to feel like I was an inmate too.” Min lowers his head, but he doesn’t make eye-contact with Jimin. Instead, he scans the yard from where they’re standing on a patch of grass. “You might lose some friends, Park… but you’re not one of them. You’re not an inmate even if you’re here almost as much as they are. Don’t let that thought get in your head, okay?”
Jimin follows Min’s example, scanning the yard with a quiet hum. He hadn’t really thought that he would lose friends over this. Sure, his friends weren’t thrilled about his job choice, but what Jimin does to pay his bills shouldn’t strain the friendship… “Did it bother you?” Jimin asks.
“Did what bother me?”
“Losing all of your friends…?” Jimin looks at Min, watching the way his expression doesn’t budge, but his eyes shift away until Jimin can no longer read his face properly.
“Yeah, of course it did… but you make friends in here and it gets better. My friends outside of the fence never really understood what I did and suddenly we had less-and-less in common. It was hard at first, but I had the option to quit, so in a way, I chose this job over my friends.”
Jimin frowns, turning his attention to the yard where he watches a group of inmates walking around the track and chatting as though they’re in school and not in a prison. “Do you regret it?”
“No,” Min says quietly. “I love my job, and even if I chose it over my friends, they never really tried to understand why I was doing this, or tried to keep in touch. Being the one who puts in all the effort is kinda tiring, you know?” Jimin nods. “I don’t mean to talk about it like it’s a relationship, but I was always the one working to keep up with them and apologizing to them, and fixing things in our friendship, and eventually it just wasn’t something I wanted to keep doing.” Min pauses, glancing at Jimin before shaking his head. “Sorry, to dump that on you. Really, if your friends are better than mine were, then you’ll be ok. It’s not like a rite of passage to lose them or anything. Hang onto them if you can, it’s good to have something outside of here, y’know?”
“I… I don’t really have any friends anymore.” Jimin admits. “I had a relationship that went south, my ex sorta took all my friends with him.”
“Him?” Min raises an eyebrow, and Jimin immediately blinks in mild shock for his slip of divulging his sexuality. He has no idea if Min is a homophobe, if maybe every CO here is a homophobe. It’s day one and he probably already screwed himself over…
“U-uh… yeah...” He mumbles with no desire to elaborate. “But it’s fine, I have hobbies, I won’t go crazy.”
Min doesn’t say anything, and the sound of the inmates chatter fills the empty space before Min finally clears his throat, and Jimin swears he can hear the blood rushing through his ears.
“I don’t have any problem with you dating men,” he says still avoiding Jimin’s gaze. “just don’t let the inmates find out.”
Jimin’s face reddens, his eyes dropping to the grass as he continues to inwardly curse himself for saying anything at all. “I won’t.”
There’s another short silence where Jimin watches a grasshopper working it’s way through the grass, the blood still rushing through his hears before Min speaks up again. “Raise your head, Rookie… You look submissive doing that...”
Jimin really could dissolve into a puddle on the grass and that would be okay. He could have a grenade explode in his gut and be happy about it, he could find a hole in the fence and run until he reached New Zealand...really...anything would be better than standing here in the awkward silence with Min. It’s only been a few hours, and he’s already fucked up.
Jimin and officer Min remain on the yard for two more hours. There are a couple free-roams called in the meantime, and the yard quickly begins to fill up which forces them to make more laps around the yard and keep a better eye on the activities. Jimin tries to push away his worries, ignoring the way an earlier warning repeats through his head.
The one about not telling anybody anything that you don’t want everybody to know.
While he doesn’t really think Min is like that, he reminds himself that he’s in a prison, that he shouldn’t be trusting anybody so quickly, that he’d be naive to think he can judge a person that well.
The dining hall has a very specific smell to it.
It’s humid from the inmates washing trays and other dishes, but there’s an odd smell of low-grade food and gunk that would have Jimin’s nose scrunching if he were anywhere else.
Min guides him across the concrete floors, side-stepping a drain before leading him back into the staff dining room. Inside, there are three long tables with padded chairs around them. Jimin spots four vending machines, a computer, a school lunch line style serving line, and a few other officers hanging out and eating or sipping on the free coffee provided to them.
Jimin eyes the other officers, his attention eventually settling on a stupidly good looking one who happens to make eye contact with him at the same time as Jimin is eyeing him.
The strangely beautiful officer smiles, and crap even his smile is stupid and cute. “Yoongi!”
Min grunts, leading Jimin to the chairs across from the officer. “Park, this is officer Kim, Kim, this is Park. He’s one of our new CO’s.”
Kim shifts his attention to Jimin, smiling wide. “Hi! Welcome to the food room, the best room, my room! Usually I charge, but you’re too pretty to charge.”
“For ever loving fuck, Tae.” Min groans, crossing his arms over his chest. “Why is everybody flirting with our new guy?”
Kim shrugs, still grinning as he begins tapping his fingers on the table. “This is my house, Yoon, my house my rules.”
“It’s the dining hall,” there’s a small smile peaking on Min’s face, Jimin bites his lower lip and tries to fight the blush from having such a stupidly attractive man calling him pretty. “you don’t live in the chow hall, Kim. You live with me.”
“Yeah, but I’m here more than I am at home; so this is my house. Now quiet, I need to pick his brain.” Kim looks back to Jimin, and Jimin tries not to hunch his shoulders under the pressure of a surprisingly intimidating gaze now that Kim is no longer grinning. “What’s your first name? How old are you? Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be modeling? Do you like my house?”
Jimin can hear Min sighing dramatically beside him, and although he wants to reach out for an anchor or something to save him from the onslaught of questions, all he does is shift before smiling shyly. Who said the inmates would be the hardest part of this job? “Uhm… I’m Park Jimin… I’m twenty-four… I’m here because my degree was useless and I needed a job… and uhm… no I don’t model… but I guess… your house is cool.”
“It’s smelly,” Min comments. “smells like the bathroom after you’re done in there.”
Kim holds his finger up to Min, “Shh, the adults are speaking,”
Jimin can’t help but laugh, which makes Kim smile again.
“If you had to pick between a beaver and a waffle, which one would you pick?”
From his peripheral, Jimin can see Min face palming, the other officers not involved in the conversation snicker.
“Uh… what for? Like… what do I need them for?” Jimin asks, his face scrunched in confusion. Is this a test? Or is he being made fun of?
“It’s the new world, Park. A new century, I’ll show you my fish tank and teach you where Min is ticklish if you give the right answer.” Kim finishes his statement by wiggling his eyebrows suggestively, and it takes everything in Jimin not to bolt upright and flee from the dining hall, AKA, Kim’s house.
“Goddamnit, Tae...” Min mumbles.
“Uhm… I guess the waffle...” Jimin says without a single hint of confidence. He really doesn’t understand the question, and he really doesn’t understand Kim.
“Good choice, the best choice. I’ll show you my fish,” Kim nods, leaning back and crossing his arms, and Jimin is still completely lost. “when is your next day off?”
“Thursday,” Jimin says. “I asked for Thursdays and Fridays.”
Kim reaches into the front pocket of his pants, pulling out a small notebook before flipping to a blank page and handing it over. “Write your phone number down and I’ll text you the address.”
Jimin hesitates, staring at the notebook and contemplating his next move. He really only just met this guy and yet he’s already agreed that he would pick a waffle to meet his fish. The hell does any of that even mean? “Uh… okay...” he reaches for the notepad, writing his phone number down while the officers at another table continue to giggle. Kim smiles again though when Jimin finishes, taking his notebook back before examining what’s printed.
“You have pretty handwriting.”
Kim nods, putting his notebook back into his pocket before motioning to the empty food line. Down the table, the other officers pack up now that the entertainment is apparently over. “Go get something to eat, my house is going to get loud in thirty minutes.”
“He means that the mainline is going to start,” Min clarifies. “meaning, the inmates are going to begin streaming in for lunch.”
Both Min and Jimin rise, and when they make it to the lunch line where there isn’t an option of what to eat, they just watch as the cook begins to fill up their trays.
“He’s strange at first, but he’s incredibly intelligent.” Min says quietly. “He’s just been here a long time.”
“Being here a long time makes you strange?” Jimin asks as the cook plops an extra spoonful of rice onto his tray.
“Working in a prison makes you strange, Park. Most CO’s flirt with each other constantly, gender and orientation aside, it’s just the culture. Doesn’t mean it goes anywhere, don’t get me wrong… But crude jokes, saying strange shit… That’s just how it is. As long as you don’t hurt anyone, it makes the job more fun.”
Jimin nods, suddenly understanding why Kim was saying those borderline flirtatious remarks to him now. If it’s just the culture, then maybe he’ll be less prone to getting the wrong idea.
When their trays are handed back, Jimin can see they’re having some sort of chunky sauce over rice along with veggies, gelatin, and two slices of bread. It doesn’t look awful, but it doesn’t look terribly appetizing either, though he doesn’t comment on that as they carry their food back to the table.
Kim has a small stack of papers on the table now, his eyebrows knitted as he appears to be filling something out and then cross referencing it with another piece of paper with highlighted lines. Jimin picks up his fork, starting with the rice and finding it actually isn’t as awful as it looks.
“So what shift are you going to be on?” Kim asks without looking up.
“Evenings, I think.” Jimin answers between mouthfuls. He hadn’t really realized how hungry he was before…
“Cool, I was thinking about moving to evenings, but right now I can carpool with Yoongi so I don’t know if I’ll make the move.”
“If you move to evenings, then I’ll just move too.” Min answers as he stabs his fork into his rice.
“Only if you wanna,” Kim hums. “I hear the new people are going there.”
“There are other new people?” Jimin asks.
“Yeah, I met this kid earlier who looks like a bunny!” Kim coos. “He’s so cute, his eyes are so round, I just wanna squeeze him!”
“You’re going to get sued one day,” Min mumbles. “and I think prison has ruined you too much for you to work anywhere else.”
“I wouldn’t actually do that, I just want to. Consent first, hyung.”
Isn’t it not really appropriate to use those titles in a prison? Isn’t displaying closeness bad?
“But if we all move to evenings then we can force Jimin to join our secret club.” Kim adds. “And this is the clubhouse.”
“I thought it was your house.” Jimin snorts.
“It’ll be both. My multi-purpose house.”
“A home for the mentally insane right in the middle of the prison,” Min smiles, capturing Jimin’s eye and he only just barely stops himself from dropping his gaze to eye the elder’s tattoos.
He’s really pretty.
“Yup, and you’re all invited. I’ll bring my fish tank in and we can start naming them again. I’ll give them inmate numbers.”
Jimin decides right there that he likes this Kim Taehyung person. He’s strange, but Jimin feels oddly comfortable with him, like he’s been roped into the friend group he didn’t know he wanted to be part of. So he smiles… “Are we going to be their CO’s?”
“Yeah!” Kim grins, looking up from his paperwork. “we’ll have to make up crimes for them! Ate all the fish food or something!”
“Those thieving fish,” Jimin grins back. “I bet they’re in a gang too.”
“Oh my god, you too?” Min groans.
“They’re mafia fish,” Kim corrects. “but we’ll have to pick their leader. I’ll bring you to them on Thursday!”
The door to the break room opens and Jimin watches as Jung pokes his head in. “Oh hey!” he waves to Jimin and Min before redirecting his attention to Kim. “We have a guy out here who says he swallowed a bullet of heroin.”
“Awesome,” Min snorts.
Kim makes a face, “swallowed it?”
“Let’s just hope it wasn’t in his body pocket first,” Min says. “take him to medical then have him put in a dry cell, and I dunno, maybe try calling a sergeant rather than us?”
Jung grins wide, “Oh, I didn’t need to know how to handle it, I just thought it was funny. Sergeant’s on his way.”
“It’s fuckin’ gross is what it is,” Min makes a face, pushing his half-empty tray away as though unable to stomach it further. “I’ll let the sergeant worry about getting it back.”
“I’ll tell him you wanna be the pooper scooper.” Jung laughs before disappearing.
Once the door is closed and both Min and Kim are snorting and shaking their heads, Jimin glances between them.
“What’s a bullet?”
“A bullet is when they take latex like a glove or a condom, and wrap contraband with it. They’ll do it with drugs usually.” Min explains.
“And a body pocket is your butt!” Kim pipes up with a shit eating grin.
“Oh,” Jimin feels a bit green. “and he swallowed it?”
“Yeah, let’s just hope he swallowed it first, instead of after it popped out of his body pocket.” Min shrugs, pushing his chair back and letting the legs grind against the concrete before he rises.
“We should get back to the yard, there’s only a few other officers there today and that’s where all the action goes down.”
Jimin nods, pushing his chair back before rising from his seat to follow Min in carrying their trays back towards the cook.
“Come see me again soon!” Kim calls as they go to leave.
Jimin smiles, waving to Kim as Min holds the door open for him, waiting until he’s passed through it to follow him.
After work, Jimin finds himself at his stove breaking a couple of eggs into his ramen before stirring it around. In the background, he has the news on as he listens to all of the tragedies in the world with one or two happy-go-lucky stories in-between. His apartment is small, a two bedroom with a tiny kitchen and outdated appliances, and a living room decorated with mismatched furniture and a small TV he was given for his birthday last year. It’s not much, but he is proud he’s been able to make it this far, and now that he has a new job with a higher pay grade, he knows he can make even more money so long as he’s willing to put in the hours.
Which, he doesn’t really have a choice if he wants to repay his debts…
As Jimin turns the burner on the stove off, he begins to stir the soup base in, watching as the cloudy water turns brown and the scent changes to some sort of meat knockoff. Maybe his happiness had dipped during his low-period, and maybe he’d been fighting some form of depression that he was too proud to admit he had...but right now he’s too busy feeling hopeful for his future, and also, incredibly worried about it too. What if he screws up and loses this job? What if he goes back to just barely getting by? What if he has to do all of that while being isolated from his friends and living something like a lie from his family? How much longer can he do that for? What else is he supposed to do? What’s the back-up plan?
While Jimin’s thoughts spiral into the familiar beat of his anxiety, he feels his phone vibrate in his pocket.
Oh, hi! :3
From: Kim Taehyung
You even text cute!
From: Kim Taehyung
From: Kim Taehyung
Come over Thursday afternoon!
Is Min okay with that?
From: Kim Taehyung
Yoongi? Yeah, he likes you.
Okay, then I’ll be there on Thursday. :3
From: Kim Taehyung
Bring a spork!
From: Kim Taehyung
For the waffle
Jimin snorts, letting his anxious thoughts slip away as he sets his phone aside to pour his ramen into the bowl. Steam curls up from the boiled noodles, the familiar scent of cheap instant food filling his nose as he picks up the bowl, carrying it into his living room before setting it on his coffee table to eat while he watches the news. Tomorrow, he has to go back and continue his training with Officer Min Yoongi, someone who both wildly intimidates him, but also interests him.
And maybe Jimin kinda also wants to meet this doe-eyed boy that Taehyung wants to squeeze to death...