Prologue for Inside The Forbidden Outside

 

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I’m doing some editing. I have found that as I learn about writing and later go back to things I’ve written. So many mistakes glare out at me. It might be grammar but it is usually sentence structure or I had written something totally unnecessary and twisted it in a way that didn’t fully explain what I was trying to say.

I was naïve in the beginning thinking I could write something and publish it when I was finished. After all, I was writing blog posts, right? Wrong. It would be like learning the lines and spaces on a music staff and thinking I would be able to write music. It has taken me a lifetime to learn what I know and I’m still a long way to what I think is my potential.

Even though I’m doing a second draft, I have gone back a number of times and re-edited something I thought needed shaking up.  When I’m done with this draft and someone professional looks at it, I’m sure there will be much more to do. I’ve read the beginnings of too many lousy, self-edited and self-published books that I’m sure the author thought was good enough, or perhaps they were too broke to pay someone. Maybe they had their best friend read it, and didn’t care enough not to throw the time it took to get this far down the drain, cross their fingers and hope for the best.

Many people have read bits and pieces of chapters I have posted but really don’t know how it all got started, so I decided to publish the prologue. Why now? Because I just edited it – again – and made a lot of changes that I hope will make parts of the book fall into place better.  If you want to comment and tell me what you think I’d like that.  I need feedback from people who read what I write. If something doesn’t read right – tell me. When you are done, subscribe to the newsletter so I can keep you up to date and let you know when it is – FINALLY – published.

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PROLOGUE

Dear mom how are you?

Fine I hope as for me I’m okay. Anyway, the reason I’m writing this letter is to let you know how sorry I am about the phone calls and the hours I was calling. Once again I’m sorry it’s just being in here is hurting me do to the fact that I don’t know if I’m going to be there for my family. I love Morgan with all my heart and being here while she is in pain is putting me through pain also. I love her not only because are having a child together but because she is a loving, caring and bright young woman. I love her with all my heart. I would do anything for her even if that meant giving up my life. I love her so much mom. I sit in hear and think about her all day every day and that is why I called so much. Worrying myself about how she’s doing wondering if she’s okay. It hurts me to go so many days without hearing her beautiful voice. If you could please tell your husband that I’m really sorry about the phone calls too. I’m really sorry for being disrespectful to the both of you I just worry about her every day. Well I have to go now but before I do I want to say I sorry again. Love you Mom

P.S. Thanks for the positive advise
Love Always, Jamie

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The year was 2006. My life was busy. I had a store near Mallory Square in Key West where the cruiseships docked and I loved my life. I lived where people go for vacation, but I didn’t have to leave. I could stay. I was happy.
Sometimes events happen in life that create a turning point we can look back on. I call them ‘Sharp turns to the left’. In the midst of my happy life, a monkey wrench crashed through it on the night I received a phone call from my daughter Morgan, who had recently told me was pregnant. Oh my, my life was about to get hit with a one-two punch, but it wouldn’t be the first time. After she explained what her problem was, I brought her and the children, ages six and eight, to Key West from Texas on a Greyhound bus.
They arrived at my home and moved into a small dollhouse sized apartment I had in the back. There was a loft, which gave her a place for the children to sleep. The problem? Her boyfriend, Jamie, had been arrested and was sitting in a county jail unsure of what was going to happen to his life. The only sure thing, he wouldn’t be around for the birth of his child. He didn’t have an attorney and would be provided a public defender. I didn’t know then that having a public defender who works for the system was usually like having no attorney at all. It didn’t look good for him.
Even though it was a difficult time, I enjoyed having my daughter near me. The bonus was being able to spend time with my grandchildren. We had lived too far away from each other when they were younger, so even though the circumstances weren’t ideal, there were still things to be happy about.
It was the only option, them to the Keys. I had helped her through the first two pregnancies as well. In addition to the emotional stress caused by what was happening to them, we had to find her a baby doctor. We had no idea how hard it was going to be to find an OB-GYN on an island that was only a little larger than one mile by three miles in diameter. We called every doctor in town and was turned down by all of them.
Morgan was in the latter part of her second trimester and no doctor would take on the responsibility of a patient this late in her pregnancy, because she had problems with her second pregnancy. Neither of us realized getting her a new doctor was going to be so difficult.
We had to start looking on the mainland, in Miami. With only one more number left to call, finally a doctor said yes. It was such a relief. We were starting to get desperate. I didn’t know what we would do if we couldn’t find one. When the doctor’s office said they would take her on I could finally relax. Morgan and I looked at each other and let out a long slow breath. We did it. Hurdle number one.
I knew it was going to be a grueling eight hour round trip drive, which made each trip a hard day for Morgan. It became even more difficult as the pregnancy progressed. As she grew bigger she felt every bump on the one hundred and five mile, two-lane road that connected the top of the keys at Key Largo to the bottom at Key West. I could hear Morgan grunt with every bump and swerve the car made, as I tried to learn and remember the rough patches.
The closer she got to her delivery date the more often we had to make that drive. The days were long but she had a date they were going to induce labor to make sure she would have her doctor delivery the baby, which was born at 4 AM. It was worth it. I was in the delivery room when she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. No joke. He was flawless. Even the nurses gathered around and stared at him. Not one baby wrinkle.
Jamie had a son. He was given his father’s name. He wouldn’t know yet that he would not be able to hold this child for a very long time. He would only see him through glass the few times he was brought in to visit. Having your child be so close yet never be able to touch him became a numbing grief that would be hard to bear. He couldn’t find a place in his brain to put it and it weighed him down constantly.
It was during one of the trips to Miami, before Jamie, Jr. was born, that the letter from Jamie arrived, addressed to me. It was waiting for me when we got back home. That was odd, I thought. Why would he write to me? I had briefly talked to him on the phone a few times and asked him how he was coping, but I never wanted to use up his minutes and would quickly get Morgan. Those fifteen minutes were precious to both of them and they went by fast.
I felt bad because their life fell apart so fast. For Morgan to have another baby, thinking the father would be there to help, and now you had another child to raise alone, was a hard life to face. But Morgan was a strong woman and a good mother. I knew she’d find a way to make it work. She had no choice.
I wasn’t sure exactly what happened to Jamie that night. Kids, no matter what their age, never told the whole truth to their parents when they thought the truth was too hard to explain without getting in trouble. How did I know this? I did the same thing. Morgan was her mother’s daughter. Her life had been one drama event after the other since she was twelve. She was a difficult teenager and those events happened a lot more often than I could deal with. She kept trying to grow up too fast, but the word consequence wasn’t a word she remembered until it was too late.
Jamie seemed to be good for Morgan. At 6’1”, a bit chubby, with a pleasant face and good manners, I liked him. He was nice. I met him the previous Thanksgiving when I went to Texas to visit Morgan and the kids who were living with my x-husband’s family. It didn’t matter to me that Jamie he was black. They seemed happy and that was the important thing.
He was arrested a couple months after we met. For a long time I had no idea what really happened that night. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people? Was he guilty? I didn’t know. Was he a bad person? Not by what I saw. I know good people can make bad decisions. I made plenty myself at that age that would come back to haunt me for the rest of my life. You’ll find out about that later. How much of his life would be taken away to teach him a lesson, and ‘pay his debt to society’? Are there any other ulterior motives going on that would affect how much time he’d be given?
The law of cause and effect is very strict and there is a reason why things happen to us. I had no idea back then what all this was going to mean to my life. We have no other way to deal with things except in the order they appear, and what we do then will bring more effects to deal with. Life is a constant learning process whether we wanted to learn anything or not.
The day after the arrest Morgan went to the police station to drop off his seizure medication for epilepsy. They wouldn’t let her see him. No one can have visitors until they have been processed and that can take weeks before they are allowed a visit.
After she handed over the medication they rushed her out of the building. She tried to press them for details, but they wouldn’t tell her anything. As she left the building and began to walk down the sidewalk, she stopped, turned around, and looked back at the jail. She glanced up, her eyes looking at the second floor. She could see him staring though the window at her. They didn’t signal each so no one would see and move him away from the window. They stood like that, looking at each other.
Jamie finally put his hand up on the grate that covered the window as if he wanted to reach through it to hold on to her one last time. He didn’t care if someone was watching. He looked so sad. At this point, Morgan still didn’t know exactly what had happened, but she knew she had to make a decision for herself very soon. She had a baby growing inside her and that was her priority.
Morgan knew she quickly had to figure out a plan. She couldn’t go through this alone. She didn’t even have a car now. Jamie was driving it the night before. After the arrest it was impounded. She didn’t have the money to get it out and knew every day it stayed at the impound lot the fine would get higher and higher. She needed to call her mom who was going to be upset. A lecture would probably come with it, but she also knew her mom would never let anything bad happen to her if she could help. She could trust that thought.

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After Morgan arrived I knew they needed to talk, but I had no idea what it cost to accept a collect call from a jail. It was shocking when I got my first phone bill – twenty-five dollars for fifteen minutes. What a racket. This is why he wrote that letter to me. I had to tell him he could only call a certain amount of times each week. He felt bad thinking I was mad at him. I assured him I wasn’t. I didn’t want to end up with a phone bill that would be hundreds of dollars. He was unaware of the cost, I’m sure. He just wanted me to know he was sorry.
The only thing I knew about prisons was what I learned in movies and TV shows. I have learned since that most of that was only the propaganda the government wanted you to believe. The truth wasn’t very important. I would end up learning more than I wanted to know, but still I kept digging to learn the truth. Once I knew about it, I couldn’t forget it. Once it got completely embedded in my mind I knew I needed to help people understand.
It didn’t happen right away. Morgan let me know occasionally how he was doing. She lived with me until the baby was a year old and then took the children back to Texas. It was heartbreaking to help them load their belongings into her car and watch them drive off. My life settled back into the old routine and life went on. I still had three years before my world fell apart and I had to leave Key West and go north. Another sharp turn was brewing. Jamie became a part of my life in a way I never would have thought.
But this story is not about what happened to me, even though my life got wrapped up in it. My life affected his. This is Jamie’s story, a sad story about entering the system, juvenile detention, for the first time at the young age of seventeen for something he didn’t do and having few chances to live a life as an adult on the outside.
He was growing into a man in his thirties, separated from everything he loved, and never having the necessary life experiences to learn from. That is how inmates get institutionalized. The routine of prison life becomes the norm. Functioning in society is sometimes too difficult and it becomes a form of PTSD, like when soldiers come back from a war zone.
As the years passed he feared I would I would stop writing, but I would never do that. He became my best friend and I could tell him anything that was going on in my life, but If I waited too long to answer a letter the fear would come back. He would be afraid again that I had gone away and was angry at him. Why shouldn’t he feel that way? Was else was answering his letters? Where was his lifeline, his support?
I knew there was a reason why this was happening in my life because things don’t happen by dropping on your head for no reason. I didn’t know then what was going to happen or the part he would play in my life.
Morgan would end up moving on with her life, even getting married again and having another boy a couple years later. Jamie couldn’t move on. The making of new memories had come to a dead stop. All he had were old memories and many of those were too painful to think about. In prison, growth and wisdom gained by life experiences stays exactly where it was the day you entered the system.
His life stopped. The world outside moved on. Depression set in. It became rare to get an answer to a letter. How was he to buy hygiene products or paper and stamps?
It didn’t matter to me what he did or if he was guilty, or even how guilty he was. The sum of anyone’s life isn’t determined by a stupid decision. Whatever it was, it was done.   People make mistakes. No one was hurt. I re-entered the picture about a year and a half after he went in. I asked Morgan for his address. I wanted to send him a card to let him know Ii was thinking of him. To me he was family because he was my grandson’s father. Our letter exchanges began.

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To begin the story, settle in. Relax. We have a good bit of time to cover. Hopefully you will see things a little different by the time we are done. Make a nice, hot cup of tea. Listen to some of the music I provided. You are entering the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that hopefully you will never get a real chance to see.

 

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Who’s Taking Care of My Broken Heart?

Listen to Who’s Taking Care of My Broken Heart by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud

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This is the most recent music recorded for Jamie’s book, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”.

This chapter is in the middle of the book at time when he is trying to really understand that he needed to give up hope that he had no family to go home to when he got out. He had tried to imagine for so long there was someone waiting for him and his family would be there but the kids would be grown and would his son accept him? Would he want to know him? He could talk to him. Even though he knew this already a part of him didn’t want to give up. The grief he experiences when he thinks of everything he lost he can never get back it is overwhelming.

Stay tuned! 

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I Can’t Believe it’s Been 13 Years – What’s Next?

 

This past year I’ve made a mad dash between Pa and the Florida Keys every month or so. Right now I’m fleeing the cold – again!

This is the most recent music at SoundCloud – Keeping Time

https://m.soundcloud.com/sonni-quick/keeping-time

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The book I’m writing about Jamie’s life finally starting looking like a book once I printed it out the mmanuscript.Now I can read one chapter after another to see how it reads. I’m sending it off to Jamie. He has the first 8 chapters. I’m sending 14 more. I still think I am about 60% done until it goes to the next step. This time in Pa I recorded more music and another music video. In between it is constant promoting and social media. All of this makes for a 12 hr day minimum, often 7 days a week. I am determined this is all for a reason and to be successful it has to be a priority.

How is Jamie doing? He has worked hard to keep his head on straight. Some days are harder than others. He was transferred to another prison to take part in a program that includes therapy with several other inmates but I don’t have the details yet of exactly what it is.

He comes up for parole again next April but if he were to get out right now he would unprepared to re enter society. It is like solders coming back after constantly being deployed in a war zone, dealing with death and trauma and then expected to walk back into the life they left. It’s not that easy. It is why the suicide rate and homelessness is so high for soldiers. So is lack of medical care. They receive 30 days of meds. Then what do they do? How does Jamie get his seizure meds in a timely manner?When an inmate has been locked in isolation for umpteen years, what is “normal” for them?

When he was moved to this prison they started feeding him the worst food – food loaf – mushed up garbage into a loaf that is sliced and fed to them. Under punishment the longest they can feed can it to them is 7 days so how do they get away with it?

This is why I’m selling T-shirts – pinned to the beginning of the blog. I’m on a fixed income. His yearly medical fee is coming up in Jan. It’s $100 I don’t have and buy food, too. I’m putting this out there in case anyone can help, even a little.

I think my train is getting closer to S. Fl. The leaves on the trees are green again. I’ll be here for 6 weeks then I’ll go home for a few weeks ( it will still be Jan!) And hop on another train. I have piano students in Florida so I can’t stay gone too long. It’s hard to get students these days. Nobody buys pianos. Kids are often not introduced to music in school. Parents buy electronic toys for their kids to learn on and they don’t sound or play the same.  But I have to keep trying to make money. 

 

Climbing The Mountains – ITFO Chapter and Music Video

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Below is a partial chapter for “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. There was a riot during the midday meal. Tension is always high strung  It doesn’t take much to set off violence that leads to injuries and death. Guards are extremely outnumbered. There are repercussions to everyone who participates a well as those who don’t. Subscribe to ITFO News below for occasional updates. Help support and share. Learn the truth about life in our prisons. Follow Jamie’s Story.

 

 

CLIMBING THE MOUNTAINS

Oh my God, what was happening? Jamie heard screaming and large objects being thrown against the walls inside the room where the inmates were served food. He could hear the thud of bodies being hit and falling into the tables. Guards were shouting threats, trying to get the chaos under control, but they were losing. The medical unit was going to be busy today.
     Jamie was walking down the hall on his way to chow. It was a privilege he had gotten back when he was finally moved from adseg to G4. He had almost made it to the large room when he felt himself being shoved from behind up against the wall. He heard the doors being slammed shut and bolted. There was tension brewing in the air along with the smell of panic.
     Two guards stood outside the doors. One guard had his taser pointed at the inmates lined up along the wall. The other one had his baton raised, ready to use if anyone moved. There was a third guard standing in a lookout on the second floor. He had a rifle pointed at them that was loaded with pellets of buckshot. The two guards near them looked scared that the inmates might try to rush and overpower them. One wrong move and someone was going to get killed.
     They were short staffed as usual and there was no telling how many guards were inside. It couldn’t be more than a couple because there was no time to call for help. There was usually one guard at either end of the room. They were outnumbered and they knew it.
     Being scared didn’t begin to cover what Jamie was feeling. These guards could easily lose control and think they were justified in shooting to protect themselves, especially not knowing if any of their own were being injured or killed on the other side of that door. One shot toward the floor with the pellet gun would riccochet hundreds of buckshot in all directions.
     Jamie tried to make himself look as non-threatening as possible. No sudden moves. In fact, no moves at all. It was total bedlam behind the locked door and it could easily turn that way in the hall, too. This was not a good day for dying. Riots didn’t often happen, but when they did they were usually deadly. High tensions started the fighting and once it got started it wouldn’t easily calm down.
     More guards soon arrived and they escorted the men back along the wall to their cells. He felt much safer when the cell door shut behind him and he heard the lock click in place.
     But what the hell happened in there? Was it planned or did something happen between two people and it got out hand? If he had been inside the chow hall when the doors were closed he would have been screwed big time.
     When there was a fight and guards got involved, others joined in. The dudes who started the trouble would expect the other inmates to join them. If they didn’t, they would hunt you down later and mess you up. If you were scared and got yourself chased to another prison, word would get out and people at that prison would find you and make your life miserable. You couldn’t run far enough no matter how many years you got.
     If Jamie had gotten involved in the fight the guards could have beaten the crap out of him. If not then, they’d find him later. They would retaliate against everyone involved even if they didn’t do anything. No one would stop them. It was one time they got away with murder with no questions asked. It was a no-win situation no matter how you looked at it.
     They would have put him back in adseg in a heartbeat and most likely would never let him out again. Being part of a prison riot would have affected his life in many ways. It didn’t matter that he had not been part of it. Getting caught up in one was all that was needed.
     Would it affect the possibility of getting paroled? He didn’t want to think about that. It didn’t happen. He didn’t get caught up it. Less than a minute later and he would have. He didn’t get beat up by the guards and he didn’t get in bad with those who chose to riot. It was close, but luck was on his side this time.
     He knew why they did it. So did the warden. People would only put up with being treated like dogs by their jailers for just so long. Kick a dog enough times and he was going to bite back. If you starve them and take away everything that makes them human, when they bite they were going to draw blood. Spray them with chemicals and laugh about it, feed them garbage and ignore them when they are sick and they will eventually riot if the opportunity is there. They aren’t dogs, they’re human beings. The riot might have been started by one of the dudes disrespecting someone’s space but the overall reason was because all of them were disrespected by the system.
     Until the people who run this place take care of their end instead of constantly finding ways to make the men responsible for all the trouble there was going to be even more trouble.
     The best thing to do was to keep to himself as much as possible. Do his time and stay away from everyone if he could.
     Jamie had missed lunch. He was going to get mighty hungry by dinner. It wouldn’t be the last time he would be hungry so it was no big deal. The warden wouldn’t care about that anyway, he had his hands full.
     Going over to his locker he went through his books to see if there was one that looked interesting enough to read again. He liked to do that. There was always something he missed in the first reading. Settling down on his bunk he tried to lose himself in some other place and time, somewhere outside this prison cell. He had read more books in the last six years than he ever would have. He found he enjoyed reading and could read a book a day of he had enough.  

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Seize The Day – The Music

Listen to Seize the Day by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud

 

 

 

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I finally recorded the music for the chapter in “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. Sometimes the music feels more right than others. I’ve gone through many changes in my music writing the past few years as I’ve experimented with sound and recording layers instead of just piano. It has been a learning process. It isn’t easy to lay one improv layer over an improv and then adding one or two more on top of that. I don’t know anything about playing other instruments such as flute or strings to know how it feels when you play them. It might not be appropriate to that instrument.  It is also next to impossible to make a flute breathe when it is played on a keyboard. So it is a learning experience.

I don’t play blues or jazz or other genres I enjoy listening to. I consider myself a classical musician who no longer plays the classics, but the training is there. So I play “myself.” and how I hear the music that comes out of my fingers. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I do.

At SoundCloud I have a playlist of just the music recorded for the book. At this time there are 25 pieces. There is other music there as well. I am also writing chapter 21. Starting over last January on a complete rewrite has been daunting but I’m now about 58,000 words into it.

When this is done it needs a story editor, to make sure it’s all connected and a line editor. Then I can set a publishing date and work like hell on promotion. The sequel, “Open the Cage and Fly” is already in promotional story planning because it covers from 2016 through Jamie ‘s reentry into the world. He has already lived a couple of those years.

The story of being in prison is only half of the story.  How he survives is also important. I have a catch up post to do on him yet because a lot has happened this past year I haven’t written about because of all the rest of the work that needs doing.

If you subscribed to the newsletter thank you so much. It’s the only way to let people know what is going on who don’t follow me regularly. It is so important to its success. Having a mailing list opens doors that otherwise wouldn’t give me the time of day. I’m so late at getting the next ITFO News out simply because I only have one set of hands. But there will be one out soon that brings it all up today plus a little extra. So those who have subscribed thank you very much.

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Poetry and Chapter – Unintended Consequences (edited)

Unintended Consequences

I never thought I’d have to live
in such a lonely place
I touch the walls on either side
I never thought I’d call this home
Memories here I can’t erase
Two thousand people all alone

I never thought this was where I’d be
My life would work it out
I never dreamed my window
was the only way I’d see
the beauty of the world outside
How can I continue?

An unintended consequence
Not thinking what will be
the end result, not thinking through
Pretending I was being free
I didn’t think, I never thought
my careless choice I can’t undo

I never thought what would I crave
the most if taken away
The touch of skin, your silken breath?
Sends goosebumps up my spine
I shiver once and cry for more
“You didn’t think,” I heard you cry

I only have my memories now
To keep me warm at night
I wrap my arms around my head
Pretending you are touching me
It will be years, will you be gone?
Touching someone else instead

An unintended consequence
Not thinking what will be
the end result, not thinking through
Pretending I was living free
But I didn’t think, I never thought
It would mean losing you

 

Sonni Quick ©2018

It is a process, writing, editing, chapters, blog posts, music, videos and poetry. I love doing all of it. It would be great if I could split my brain in two and do two things at the same time.

Today as I went through my notes I realized I had a half finished poem. That chapter was published about 6 months ago. Today I will post part of it for those who want to read it. Please subscribe for full chapters. Afterward just drop me a message and I’ll email the complete chapter to you.

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UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

It was so hard to keep his head together. Jamie’s mind went all over the place. It was hard when there was no one to talk to. There was no reason to not let his mind wander anywhere it wanted to go. He was so alone. He could only talk to himself. He was in 24/7 lock up for a year.

Administrative segregation, or adseg, it was called. Solitary in other prisons. It was all the same thing. He had tried so hard to not let this happen. Did it matter if he tried or not? Why did he agonize over it. He tried to stay away from trouble but it always found him, anyway.
     Mentally, he felt himself going down and there was nothing to keep him from smashing headfirst onto the bottom. He didn’t know what was going on. But he tried to get it together. Before this happened he tried. He didn’t know if he could try anymore.
    Before he got sent to lock up he had made a change in his life. It was a pretty big one. He thought at the time that maybe it would help, maybe not. Some dudes he met told him about Islam. He decided to join with them. They still believed in God, or Allah they called him, but there were a lot of differences in what the two religions believed. There were a lot of Christians and a lot of Muslims all saying they were right and the other was evil. His can they both be right? Islam has been around longer he was told.
     These inmates weren’t like a lot of the other ones. They didn’t talk tough. Peace was way more important than violence, than who was bigger and badder.
    He decided to give it a try because everything he had learned through the Bible didn’t do anything to help him. It never changed anything for him, no matter how much he prayed. His prayers weren’t answered. It didn’t make any difference and he thought by now something would have happened to let him know God was at least thinking about helping him.
     One of them gave him a book about the Islamic faith so he would have something to read and study. It wasn’t and he was supposed to pray five times a day. He needed a prayer rug to do it right but he didn’t have a way to get one. Still, he tried to learn and went to their meetings.    Then this happened and he was more alone than ever.
     To have your life so controlled in prison was more than anyone could take without getting angry and wanting to bust everything up. How was he supposed to get rid of the anxiety? Eat now, sleep now, shower now, breathe now, take a crap now otherwise the toilet won’t flush and you have to look at and smell the shit all day. No, you can’t go to commissary. He couldn’t do anything unless it was at the right time that someone else determines.
     A year completely alone, meals alone and no one to talk to. It was too long. There was nothing to break the monotony, the boredom. Bits and pieces of thoughts swirled around in his brain and they wanted to make him crazy.
     Things were happening in his life on the outside he couldn’t control or fix. How could he deal with this confinement day after day and not be able to do anything about it?
     Not only that, he knew there was another man in Morgan’s life, but that had nothing to do with what they shared. But he couldn’t talk to her about it and it was killing him. He had to keep what they had separate from any other person. It was his sanity. The two ideas didn’t touch. He couldn’t handle thinking about it any other way.  They shared the treasure of a son together. Nothing could take that away. She wouldn’t be with this dude if he hadn’t screwed up. He needed to believe she was still waiting, but it was getting harder and harder to do that.
     It was his own fault – all of it. Trying to find the answer wasn’t easy and many days he wanted to crawl under the floor and give up – just cash it in. Stop thinking of the future. He might not make make it that far. He might not get out of here.
     He started and stopped hunger strikes. He would only pull himself out of a funk because he was afraid of what it would do to his son. How would he deal with his own life when he grew up if he knew his father gave up on his?

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When I Lay Sleeping – ITFO Chapter and Music

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Listen to When I Lay Sleeping by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud
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When I Lay Sleeping

 

Christmas came and went as though it had never happened. Jamie watched as other dudes were taken to see their families and then listened to them talk about how happy they were to see their children. It was good to see someone happy. A few passed pictures around from cell to cell, proof of the family they knew was waiting for them on the outside. Their families loved them. He was getting used to it. He didn’t expect family to visit. It was too far away for anyone in his family to travel.
     Fortunately, the kitchen fed them pretty good this year. Enough to feel full. That didn’t happen very often. Throw the prisoners a bone once in awhile. Keep them happy with a little extra real food instead of slop.
     Getting mail would’ve helped. He received only one card from his brother and he smiled when he saw it. He usually sent one at the holidays. He didn’t get one from anyone else, not even Sonni and it had been three weeks. That wasn’t like her. He was worried. He felt something was wrong. It was already January fifth. He was glued to his cell door, standing in it all day waiting for mail delivery. Every time it passed him by his spirits sank a little lower.
     He was tired, mentally not physically. He felt like he was turning a corner and it wasn’t going to a good place. Once he turns it he wasn’t coming back. He felt like he was left out to dry on his own. It was hard to keep his head up. The feeling of loneliness was overwhelming.
     Was it so hard to send him a Christmas card? Then New Years passed and now his birthday was coming up in five days. Yes, he thought to himself, this was the hardest time of year to get through. All it showed him is how the ones who say they care, really don’t, or they’d find the time to tell him.
     Jamie went to his locker to get a sheet paper to write to his brother, then sat down on the edge of his bed. He had to try to get him to understand, if he has nobody outside these walls he’s like the walking dead.
     Picking up his pen to write he sat there instead with the pen in the air, staring at the wall. He couldn’t bring himself to start writing. Most of the time he crumpled up his letters and threw them away, anyway. He’d get his feelings out and then toss the letters. They wouldn’t understand. Besides, they had their own lives to worry about. They knew they weren’t helping him get through this. He didn’t have to tell them. They left him to think whatever he wanted.
     Jamie wrapped his arms over the top of his head and clasped his hands together pretending he was being given comfort. He breathed warm air into the crook of his elbow pretending it was someone else’s arm holding him.
     When he laid down he thought to himself he was heading on his way out soon. Maybe he’ll go to sleep and not wake up. He knee that this type of thinking is his depression talking to him but he couldn’t shake it off.
Sometimes it snuck up on him. Then he has one down day after another. It’s hard to pull out of it. He knows he can’t take much more of this. He often found himself spacing out, staring at nothing. Then one of the other dudes would turn on his radio and he would find himself listening to it. Most of the music was in Spanish but that didn’t matter.            On his pod there were two blacks and twelve Hispanics so he just had to deal with music from Spanish speaking radio stations. It was cool. He didn’t know what they were saying but music is music and he needed it to help him think straight about other things.
     Trying to find ways to keep his spirits up was hard so he had to use any way he could to get through another day. He needed to find a way to smile and be happy. He could only do that by crawling into his head to find memories or else make up something about what he wanted his future to be.

Morgan was still in his head a lot. She had a way of hiding in the shadows. He wondered if she had forgotten about him? Maybe she didn’t want to write and waste time anymore? That seemed pretty clear. Their son will be six this year and he has only seen him six times since he was born. A son he knows but doesn’t know. It hurt so much because in the future it will be his father he hates for not being there when he needed him. That is something Jamie wouldn’t be able to stand.
     He remembered telling himself he would never be like his daddy. Shit, he didn’t even know who that was for sure. At least his own son won’t have to worry about who his daddy is. He was sure he’d want to know about him, wouldn’t he?
     Jamie knew he was beating around the bush, always saying he was going to put his pen down and give up writing letters but he couldn’t do that as long as Sonni was writing to him. She was like a mom to him and cared about him like he was her family. He couldn’t let her down. He had to keep trying.
     Still he felt like he had been thrown to the dogs and there was no way to recover because he believed
the statement, “Just because we don’t write to you doesn’t mean we don’t love you.”
     He thought he had a right to feel sorry for himself at least once in awhile. No one wanted to write to him or help him get things the prison doesn’t provide. They didn’t understand writing is the only way he could communicate with anyone. What other way was there? Phone? But no one registered their phone.
     How was that supposed to make him feel? He was in this cell because he made a mistake. But he needed to know people still cared. He couldn’t be the only person in his family to make a mistake. He felt like his whole life was a mistake from the start.
     He never thought Morgan would stay with him a long as she did. His heart was real tender and caring, and he cared for a lot of people who have stepped on him. He’s never been one to hold nothing against nobody and more than likely never would. That’s why he kept trying.
     He really needed to lay down now and try to go to sleep. He started thinking about Sonni. He knew she was sick, but he hadn’t heard from her, and she hadn’t popped in here to see him in three weeks. He was hoping she would feel better soon. He was sorry she was going through so much and he couldn’t help her. She would be blessed soon and then she wouldn’t have to worry about pain.

As he closed his eyes he had a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. It felt like butterflies and it made him dizzy even though he was laying down.

Jamie immediately started dreaming. It felt strange because he knew he was dreaming. He found himself walking down a hospital corridor but he didn’t know where he was or how he got there. Nothing looked familiar.
     There were no windows to see if it was dark outside, but it was so quiet he thought maybe it was the middle of the night. There was no hustle of nurses or other staff going in and out of the rooms and there was no one to ask him who he was looking for. There was no beeping from machines or lights flashing on and off outside the doors so nurses would know someone needed help. It was so quiet and it felt strange.
     Looking down at himself he saw he was still wearing his prison whites. Did he look like an inmate in case anyone saw him? He thought maybe he could pass for an orderly.
     He knew what room to turn into but he didn’t know how he knew that. He opened the door and quietly closed it behind him and walked over to the bed to see Sonni, sleeping. Should he wake her?
     At that moment he heard the door open again behind him and a light came on. He jumped and his heart started racing. He quickly turned around and saw a nurse walking toward the bed, pushing a machine in front of her with her right hand that held a blood pressure cuff and other instruments needed to take vitals. She had a clipboard in her left hand. What would she say? Should he not be here? What if she called a security guard?
     She didn’t say anything. She didn’t even acknowledge he was in the room and instead walked over to the bed and gently woke her by touching her arm. He heard a soft sigh as she woke up.
     “How are you feeling?” the nurse asked quietly. “Are you in any pain?”
     “Uh uh, no. I’m okay,” he barely heard her reply.
The nurse took her blood pressure and temperature and then turned her back to him to fill a small cup with water from the sink near the bed.
     “I have a pain pill for you,” she said when she turned toward the sink. In that tiny second Sonni looked at Jamie and winked. It was the first indication she knew he was there. Did she know what was going on? He sure didn’t. Jamie also realized the nurse couldn’t see him. That’s why she didn’t say anything when she came in.
     The air still felt weird. It had a thick feeling almost like moving through cotton candy and there were no extra noises like from the fan near the window or. . . anything. It was like they were in a vacuum. The light that was on near the bathroom glowed a little as if there were extra colors in it. Hazy almost.
      Were they both in a dream or was he in her dream and she really was in a hospital bed? Maybe she was in his dream? It was confusing. He already thought it was strange that she came to visit him at the prison. Now this? What was going to happen next?
     The nurse handed Sonni a couple pills in a little cup and watched her swallow them. As she pulled the machine back toward the door she turned and asked, “Do you want me to turn out the light?”
      “Yes, but leave on the little one near the bathroom door, please.” The nurse nodded and soon after she quietly closed the door behind her. They both laughed a little at the weirdness of what just happened. 
     “This is strange,” Jamie said. “Where are we?”
     “You’re in control of this one, Jamie,” she answered all smiling. “You came to see me.”
     “I did?” he asked with an incredulous look on his face?       “How?”

  <<< >>>

This is the end of a partial chapter  When you subscribe to ITFO News to can send me an email at squick@mynameisjamie.net and ask me to email you the rest of the chapter or any other partial chapters I have posted. Please share and help me build a mailing list for when the book is done. I don’t hound your inbox. Most news letters are at least a month apart. Also let me know what you think about the story. Your input is needed. This is creative non fiction. His story and what happens is real, but I do get a little (a lot) creative when pulling the pieces together.

 

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My Mind is Playing Tricks on Me – ITFO Chapter and Music

 

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“I would enjoy riding my bike with you on a beautiful day,” Jamie called out into the universe with a slightly raised voice. He wondered if his words would reach Sonni and make her show up in his cell. He was lonely and desperately wanted someone to talk to.

     If anyone had been passing by his cell door at that moment they would probably think he was losing it. Other dudes down the hall probably heard him call out but they were used to hearing strange things being said by men locked in isolation, away from others. Most of them talked to themselves, too.

    “You ride your bike to the hill on one side and I’ll ride my bike from the other direction,” Jamie said, gesturing his arms to the right and left like he was directing traffic.  It was such a beautiful day. The sky was bright blue with puffy clouds passing over the sky. He stood and watched them for awhile. The green grass was the color of new springtime grass with dandelions growing randomly all over the hill.

     A thought came into his head – a memory, but he didn’t think it was his memory. That was strange. Maybe Sonni was in his head because he was seeing little girls with dandelions playing in a backyard. He was remembering children picking dandelions and holding them under each others chin. If there was a yellow glow on the skin it meant they were made of butter. A young child’s memory.

     Jamie had stuffed so many of his own memories into the back of his brain he had trouble remembering anything good. Sonni asked him to write down what he remembered as a child because she was thinking about starting a blog about him. Why would anyone want to read a blog about him? He was nothing special and hadn’t done anything special so He was curious about what she saw in him.

     He wrote to her about a couple things he remembered. They went to the zoo and his mom wouldn’t go in the snake house. That was funny, and they went to a pond to feed ducks. They were also going to see fireworks one July and he and his little brother had matching clothes for the special day. At the last minute his mom said they couldn’t go. That upset him but he was only eight years old and didn’t understand grown up stuff. So he sat on the steps of a house and listened to the boom! boom! He saw a glow in the sky, but he couldn’t see the fireworks. He remembered how deeply disappointed he was that night. He had been so excited about seeing the bright colors exploding in the sky. To this day, going to see fireworks was one of his favorite things to do.

     Picturing the serenity in his mind as he rode his bicycle to the hill was a way of getting out of his stark gray cell and into the warmth and colors produced by the sun. A nice cool breeze rustled the grass. The tree at the top would be great if it had a tree house. The thick branches would make climbing easy. He pictured a treehouse with a rope ladder. Little Jamie was standing at the door waving to him below. He waved back. He could hear a train blowing it’s horn in the distance. It had been so long since he had seen a day like this.

     With that picture in his head he closed his eyes and smiled. He pretended Sonni was standing there with him in this beautiful place even though he was really standing in his cell.

     “We’ll meet at the hill and climb to the top.” He told her. Even though it was only in his imagination, it lifted his spirits when he thought about the day he was creating.
     “Let’s bring a picnic of our favorite food and talk about how the future will be.”      

     Whenever Jamie thought of the future, his son was there and they would be playing together, whatever little Jamie wanted to do. They would both be happy and laughing. He knew there was more to reality than that, but he only wanted to have happy thoughts.
It was hard to develop a relationship with someone you never got to see or talk to. Did his son think about him? He was still very young, only five years old. He bonded to his oldest brother who was ten years older than him. He didn’t understand what prison was or why his father was there. He wouldn’t understand until he was older. He didn’t want him to be hurt by this, but there was no way it wouldn’t leave scars that needed to heal.

     An occasional picture was all he received from Morgan. It was never enough to quiet the pain. He couldn’t join him for birthdays or Christmas. He wouldn’t be in his son’s memories at all when he grew up and thought about his childhood, except to remember his daddy was never there. All Jamie could do was imagine what it would be like and that always left a huge hole in his heart. When would he see his son again?
     “Things aren’t going so good for me,” he said, still talking to the universe.
     “I’m doing my best, but I’m not getting nowhere.” He got to his feet and slowly walked five feet toward the cell door, turned around and walked back. He repeated the pattern over and over.
     “I know you have been very sick and can’t write me all the time,” he said as he paced, pretending she was there, “but to tell you the truth it hurts me when I don’t hear from you.”
     “That’s because you’re the only one I’m used to hearing from,” his mouth turned into a downward smile. “So when I don’t hear from you it worries me and I think I won’t hear from you again.”
     “Sometimes I think you’re mad at me,” he said quietly to the empty air.
     He closed his eyes.” My mind is playing tricks on me.”

“I told you I wouldn’t give up on you,” her voice came from out of the blue. ” I’m not going to go away.”
     “I got your letter yesterday,” he heard her say. “I told Jamie happy birthday for you.”
The unexpected sound of her voice made him jump.
     “He is getting so big.” Sonni smiled, and held up her hand to show how tall he was getting.
     “Geez, give me a little forewarning,” he said with a startled look on his face which settled into a smile. He was sure she wouldn’t be coming today. He never knew when she was going to pop in.
     Jamie’s days were long and boring, Sonni knew that. When all you have to look forward to is the possibility of a letter, your happiness rides on getting that letter, looking to see who sent it and feeling connected to reality that lives in the outside world. Letters are like gold and so many receive none. They keep you sane. Prison screws up many heads. She would never stop writing to him.
     “Does it take awhile to get my messages, and leave to get here?” he asked, “or is it like the old TV show, I Dream of Jeannie, and you zap yourself here with your arms crossed in front of you and a nod of your head?” He knew he sounded a little crazy, but then maybe he was a little crazy by now. How DID she get here?
     “Okay Jamie,” he said quietly to himself, “remember, her physical body is not really in this room.”
     He laughed at himself.

Jamie was relieved. He needed to see her, real or not. She had a way of helping him make sense of his life so he could learn to let his anger go. Yeah, he still had problems controlling it and it got him in trouble. Sometimes he started yelling and kicking the door trying to get rid of his anger.
     Sometimes he got into it with the guards because he was tired of being disrespected over every little thing. They tried to press his buttons to set him off. Sometimes they succeeded and he got angry. They could be such dicks.
     The guards often did things that would be considered criminal on the outside. They also do things to the inmates. They get hurt or killed. Although he hasn’t mentioned it much there was sex going all around him. Sometimes it’s between the guards and the inmates and sometimes it’s abusive. The guards bring in drugs and cell phones and set themselves in business. You couldn’t stop what is going on, but when you get hurt you need a way fight back against the abuse.
     No matter how wrong they were you couldn’t win. If he filed a grievance against a guard, the guard would retaliate. As prisoners they were supposed to have certain rights and being able to file a grievance because of mistreatment was one of them. It was pointless. The system was set up so prisoners would fail. Nothing good came of it when the guards had ways of getting back at them if they filed against them.
     It was more than that when it came to grievances. It is what the system was set up to do if you filed that grievance and went through the process, like a rat’s maze, chasing after a piece of cheese and finding out it was really arsenic with no way to save you.
     Most dudes, if they have been here for awhile don’t file grievances. After trying a couple times and getting denied you figure, what’s the use? Those who think they legally have a good case because what the guard did needed to be reported, might try to finish the process.
     The grievance process is set up so only filing a lawsuit will settle the grievance. You can’t win by just filing a grievance and hoping the right person read it and thought you needed to have justice. That wasn’t going to happen. You can only win if you have solid evidence that the officer was in the wrong. There would have to be evidence from a camera that the officer did what you claim.
     No officer will go against another officer even if he saw the officer doing it. If he did, the officers would retaliate against him. So if he wants to keep his job he needs to keep his mouth shut.
     If an inmate filed step one he’d have to wait 30 – 45 days to get it back – denied. Then he’d have to file step 2 and wait another 4 to 6 weeks to get that one back – denied. That is 2-3 months total. Step 2 along with step 1 is then filed in Huntsville with the TDCJ, for Texas prisons. If Huntsville sends it back not doing anything to correct the problem they will send all the paperwork back to him. If he wanted to continue the process he’d have to fill out a 1983 form for a lawsuit. He would have to take the officer to court and if he lost, because he didn’t have proof, then he’d owe the state $350. And since phones are illegal in prison, having proof by means of a cellphone is getting someone in serious trouble.
     This is a way to get more money out of the inmates and their families and it gives the officers time to get their stories straight.
     What good was having rights if you couldn’t act on them? It looked right on paper and that is what the outside world learned if they looked it up. Some people thought they had it pretty good inside – free healthcare, free food, free education, a free roof over their heads. They thought everything was handed to them on a silver platter without working for it. They even said prisoners wanted to come back to prison because they had it so good in here. What a joke. You had to be here to understand the truth of this place.

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“I’m Not Racist, but . . .”

Enough stop racism

I grew up racist. I didn’t understand why. It took me well into adulthood to figure that out. My parents were good people. They raised their children with values. They never talked badly about the black people in our town. We also had some Italians and I heard other people call them Wops and Puerto Ricans were called Spics. There were no Hispanics. No Mexican food. Not even a taco. Looking back I can see that segregation and the lack of blacks and whites mixing socially caused my racism. I was scared to death of black people and there was no one who talked to anyone about this divide.

I grew up in Pa in the 50’s thru the early 70’s then left to go to school. My town had a clear line and white families lived on one side and black families on the other. I learned many years ago that black families couldn’t secure home loans on my side of the line. I remember hearing if a black family were to move into the neighborhood property values would go down because those people don’t take care of their homes and would trash them. “Just take a look at how they live.” But they didn’t own the homes they lived in. They rented from white landlords who felt little need to keep their properties in good shape. They had approval from the government.

I read an article on Moorbay’s Blog, about the fairly recent history of the last 100 years of housing segregation that forced black families to live in substandard housing. Read this article for yourself and learn. It caused me to respond with this post.

I came from a lower income family who didn’t live in the best part of town. My parents worked hard to provide a good home. There was an empty I’ve cream factory across the street and a big park a half block away. Often in the summer black children wanted to play at the park and had to walk through white neighborhoods to get there. They walked down my street. Not my side of the street but stayed close to the factory. They were as scared of us as we were of them. We didn’t call to each or attempt to make friends.  I had never touched a black person and wondered if their skin felt like mine. I wanted to feel their hair. There was no effort to bring the people together. When I say, no effort, I mean absolutely none, ever.

Today many white parents are raising their children to be racist. Maybe not overtly, but by comments inserted into conversations that put white people on a rung that black people don’t deserve, so white kids learn in subtle ways that they are better than others. These kids grow up saying things like, “I’m not a racist, but . . .” and go on to say something disparaging about that race, be it black, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Guatamalen, Honduran and many more. White is superior in their minds.

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Today these kids are recruited on college campuses. Kids repeat what they hear and some become violent adults, like shooting at a teenager who knocked on your door for directions, and the man was a retired firefighter who saved people. A man who lied and said his gun went off accidentally. He couldn’t take responsibility for his actions.

After all this time how can this racism be continually perpetuated and not understood it is wrong. Everyone is human. No one is a superior human. Humanity comes from inside. It doesn’t come from skin color. We all know this so why do we continue to say, “I’m not racist, but . . .”

Since Trump, the rise of hate crimes has become staggering. People can openly hate now and the President of this country has called them ‘good people’ and mocks people of color. They use his show of support at their white nationalist rallies. Any race other than white is disgusting and inferior to this deeply flawed man. White people all over America are sucking it up like babies to a breast. It is nauseating to me.

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Last night my ten year old granddaughter needing a shower said, “At least I don’t smell like a Mexican.” That quickly got my attention. We had talked before about racism and racist comments but she had trouble understanding how she had slandered an entire race of people with her remark. Mexicans stink. “I didn’t mean that!” she said. I told her, “Maybe not, but that is what you said.”

My son works at a boat marina. Hot, sweaty, dirty, smelly work; a mixed race of workers. They joke among themselves calling each other names. They know they’re joking in good nature. My granddaughter overheard. She wasn’t trying to be disparaging but needed to learn if she used that among school friends how wrong it was to say that.

So many of today’s children are rude, undisciplined, smart mouthed and think they have a right to backtalk and argue and cuss at you. It is what they learn at home. Many parents are not teaching their children right from wrong. New racists of all ages are being raised thinking white people should be dominant – because their parents taught them that. I fear it will get much worse.

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