There is little to no privacy in prison.
Everything is done under a microscope or under the watchful eye of “Big Brother”.
Hardly do you ever get time to yourself, an opportunity to be alone with own your thoughts. So with a mind cluttered and emotions bottled up it is much easier to look outside oneself than within.
One night early into my incarceration I wrote a quick journal entry expressing my thoughts and observations of my new environment. This entry later turned into a writing assignment for a creative writing course I was taking.
This is what I wrote:
At 19, I have no one to share how emotionally taxing prison is for me as a young kid in a land full of dinosaurs. A foreigner in an unknown land.
My family can’t relate because no one has done as much time as I have, nor did they start doing time at 17.
My “friends” can’t relate because many of them are either in college, in here with me or on their way. As for those in here with me, we don’t talk about these type of things because we were told “emotions aren’t manly”.
I am already 2 years into a sentence that more than doubles the number of years I have been alive, yet I would argue that I had to lose my life to find it. I had to die to be made alive.
I am finally starting to live my life, but this is no way to live. This feels like merely existing. There has to be more to life.
So on this one particular night, Eli, my cell-mate found himself in segregation. IDIOT! He is always doing something dumb to get our cell searched and everything in our room tossed up.
Having the cell to myself, for atleast a night, I thought I would have my first silent and restful night of sleep in years.
WRONG! This has been one of the most restless nights of sleep I had in my life.
A good nights sleep is hard to come by and comes far and few in between.
Constantly being awakened by the noises of the night.
All hours of the night I am awake hearing coughing, hacking, throwing up, noses being blown. What else would I expect its flu season.
Passing gas, urinating, toilets flushing, and the seldom washing of the hands. Simply running your hand throw cold water doesn’t kill the germs smart guy.
T.V.’s left on, radios barely audio, static from the officers radio, and the jingle of the officers keys as walks by about every 30 minutes or so to do his tier check.
You know when the officer walks past because immediately you hear new sounds. Electrical sockets being popped as guys try to “arc” with the hopes of late night indulging. Followed by the smell of smoke.
Then, the gut wrenching, stomach turning “things that go bump in the night”. At first it sounds like wrestling, fighting, and grunting. Than it’s as clear as day, even in the middle of the night. The homosexuals in the cell next door are having sex.
This is not my life!
This will never be my life!
This is a silent night inside of prison. When night comes this is the eery silence that lurks in the dark. The loudest silence. A restless silence because of a mind cluttered and tormented with thoughts…
The rhythmic snores and night sounds of neighboring cells are dying down or maybe my thoughts are drowning them out.
I get out of bed and just yearn to take a walk. I’m just dying to get in my car and go but instead I am locked in a 6 x 9 cage.
Standing at the front of the cell, leaning on the wall opposite of my bunk, staring at the ground outside, mind wandering. I notice a sound.
It is Mr. Jingles and his mice buddies coming out of random cracks and crevasses, scurrying about looking for a late night meal. These rodents got into my comissary box on the floor by chewing through the cardboardjust the week before. So I better move my stuff off the floor…
Another officer comes around to do another tier check.
It is nearly 2 a.m. I can’t believe I am still up like this.
I get myself something to drink from the sink attached to the commode and freeze.
I am frozen in place by a sound that is unfamiliar to me by now. A sound that has become alien to me by now.
This sound, well, this sound is indescribable.
Laying back down on my bed, I listen.
It is the man a few cells down from me, on the tier below, weeping. Openly sobbing uncontrollably. Moaning out in agony.
What a night this has been. He is one of the toughest guys I know.
A man riddled with bulletholes, scarred with stab wounds, inked with tattoos.
This man has been incarcerated before I was even born and yet he still is able to bench press over 400lbs. with ease.
But, men don’t cry! Not REAL MEN right?
Especially not men in prison.
We aren’t supposed to feel any emotions because that can end up hurting us won’t it. Pain and vulnerability is exploited so we can’t show any signs of weakness, right?
His lamenting sounds grow in volume as once slumbering men begin to wake.
“Lord, help me! Jesus, I need you!” He calls out.
“Yo, who is that cryin’ like a little b****?” Some unknown voice shouts over the tier.
“I don’t know Dawg but it sounds like it’s comin’ from the cell below me.” Some else responds.
“Noise check, shut the f*** up with all that cryin’ stuff.” Now everyone is silent and motionless as those words echo down the tier.
All are silent except the the dude that is still weeping.
“Lord, help me! Jesus, I need you!” He lets out repeatedly.
Laying silently on my bed listening to all of the commotion on this all but silent night, contemplating this present reality and the pain of so many that goes unmentioned. I do the unfathomable.
I close my eyes in hopes of claiming a couple of hours of sleep before I start the next day, but first I allow the silent tears to roll down my cheeks and onto my pillow.
“Lord, help me! Jesus, I need you!” I simply pray hoping that whatever has overtaken him stays clear of me.
Within the weeks that follow this ordeal I learn through this man’s testimony this was no ordinary night for him either. With his only child recently passing away, his petition for release being denied, and his wife serving him with divorce paper because she could no longer do the time with him this night was going to be his last.
That was until he decides to turn on his T.V. before his “grand finale”.
He is flipping through the channels and stops on TBN to hear a preacher quote John 10:9-11 where Jesus said “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved… The thief comes not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd.”
I came to learn that those cries weren’t cries of pain. No, they were the cries of a broken and contrite heart being healed through the grace of God, and the blood of Jesus. These cries were the cries of a man giving his life to the Lord.
This night he entered into that Door and received a hope to a life that lost all hope, this night he received an eternal hope.
Categories: Cyril D. Walrond