Recent Letter From Jamie

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How is Jamie doing?

Sometimes it is hard to tell. I know he wants to show me he is doing okay so I don’t worry, but I don’t know how would fare having to live in circumstances like his.  How would you feel if you were never told anything and if you were you’d have to question if it was a lie or if he was just being given bull shit. How many years have I been dong this?

I know in April he comes up for parole again and he wants to be optimistic but nothing encouraging has happened. He actually has an uncle who is a parole officer in Huntsville, but I don’t think he has been in touch with him. So let me tell you what Jamie wrote.

Before I begin, I want to post an earlier piece – in case you might have missed it.

Good evening to you,

. . . .It is good to know you are still so much into your music. Not many people follow their passion. I can’t wait to hear the pieces you have made for me. I’m very thankful, not just for the music but for everything.

I know how things are on the outside with how bad it has gotten for black people just going into businesses and living their lives and white people calling the cops on them for stupid reasons. It is us who should be afraid of them, not them be afraid of us. They are the ones who are trying to kill us every chance they get. I hear it on the radio and read it in the newspapers that float around here at times.

When and if I ever get parole I know my family was trying to decide where I’m going and my brother said he would, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think I should try to go to a half way house. My family doesn’t know me anymore and hasn’t wanted to know how I’m doing and I don’t to be told what I have to do or be pressured. They don’t understand and there is too much that could go wrong if I’m not in the right situation. I have to make decisions for myself.

Thanksgiving, since I moved prisons again was different. Well, everything was the same but the chicken patty shocked me. Would you call Allred Unit and ask when they are going to send my property? I don’t have anything. You mentioned sending books so if you could, having something to read would be really good. I’m not going anywhere.

I’ll be here at Hughes Unit until I finish this program. After that I don’t know. I told Jamie jr. to never start something he can’t finish. This program is based on life and goals in life. Ho to deal with stress and depression and how deal with interaction after being seg for so long. But I have talked with the group yet. My case worker comes to my door to check up on me and talks to me about short term goals and long term goals. That is all I have done for four weeks now. There are four phases to the program and each phase is seven weeks long.

I can’t wait to hear back from you. It’s late so I better wrap this up. My love goes out to you like always.

<<< >>>

As hard as this has been for him, and I have been there through some pretty bad times and he through mine. I can only hope that having me there has helped him cope and gain wisdom about ho to deal with his life. But ultimately it has been responsibility to carry on with a positive attitude. I think he is doing that.

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YouTube – Sonni Quick Piano Improv

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.

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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. 

 

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?

(End of partial chapter. Click subscribe to get full chapters)

 

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Eyes In The Back of My Head – ITFO Chapter

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Eyes in The Back of My Head

 

There was a murder in the shower. A dude was stabbed twenty-seven times by his cellmate. Jamie was blown away. It was going too far. This could happen to anyone in here if they got on the wrong side of someone else. Punishment was dished out the way anyone thought it should be. Lots of these dudes had been screwed by the justice system, so they were going to give justice the way they saw fit.
     There was so much violence in this prison. No prison is a good prison but he heard dudes talk about this prison being one of the worst. The guards were corrupt and in business with the gangs. They make the inmates fight each other and bet on who will be left standing. He should be getting used to this by now, but he wasn’t. He didn’t want to get mixed up in it but they don’t let that happen. He was a big guy and he knew how to fight. He tried to stay by himself as much as possible. The last thing he wanted was to get more time added to his sentence, and they would do that in a heart beat if the wrong person saw a fight going down.
     Eyes in the back of his head were what he needed. He couldn’t trust nobody to have his back. More than half the dudes in here had some sort of weapon and they wouldn’t hesitate to use it if they felt threatened.
     Drugs were involved in everything. It’s how money was made on both sides of the fence. The quantity and variety of drugs coming through here was crazy. Pills, weed, heroin; you name it, it’s in here. There was more drugs in here than a crack house on a street corner, and just as easy to get – if you have the money. If you don’t, and you don’t pay up, that could get you killed.
     It comes in packed along with supplies and the staff that worked in the kitchen or handled other supplies for the prison made sure it got to the right people. That wasn’t the only way it came in. Visitors smuggled it in, too. Some got caught and some didn’t. It’s not worth the risk. If you were an addict you’d probably think different.
     On top of that, some of the men made their own wine. Five dudes recently got caught who were stupid drunk on their assess. Getting drunk wasn’t worth the possibility of getting caught with it, trying to escape reality. Whether inside or out when you didn’t like your life, drugs and alcohol gave you a false sense of a better world for a short time. Then you come down and you’re still living in the same screwed up place. People die of overdosing in here the same as on the street. He wasn’t tempted to do drugs, at least chemical ones that mixed with his seizure meds. That was dangerous. He didn’t mind a little weed, though, but in here you don’t know what you’re getting and there is some bad shit going around that really messes you up. The dude who killed his cellie in the shower was drunk when he did it. What happened that he needed to kill him over it? This wasn’t like the free world. No one thought about consequences. They reacted to what happened right that minute and didn’t care because they were already locked up.
     Without a courtroom the men acted as the judge, jury and executioner in a much worse way than the courts could impose. It took very little for someone to decide you needed to die and you ended up with a knife across your throat. He wanted to be transferred somewhere else, but he didn’t see that coming anytime soon. In the meantime he needed to be careful.

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Jamie was lucky. He had a window in this cell. sometimes he didn’t and never what time of day it was. It was suffocating. Sometimes he went a long time without breathing any fresh air. He couldn’t see much of anything out the window. He doubted if it had ever been cleaned. Still, when he closed his eyes he could feel light on his face when he closed his eyes and he could pretend he was anywhere but where he was.
     Summer would be on them really quick. Right now it was the time of year when it wasn’t to hot or too cold. It wouldn’t last. In Texas the summers were killers, and every year more people died. There was always talk about how that needed to be fixed, usually around an election time, but nothing was ever done about it. They weren’t going to spend money they would rather put in their pockets.
     It was going to be hard. There was nothing he could do but try to get through it. He dreaded this time of year. He had lived in Texas his whole life so he should be used to it. The difference was he couldn’t step through a door into air conditioning and find relief, except if he had to go to the medical unit.
     Things weren’t looking up for him. He feels like he’s in a no-win situation between a few of the guards and inmates. If he wasn’t careful it could get him getting killed in the shower, too.
     He had reason to be scared because these guards will let the inmates beat you up, or beat you up themselves. There was a fine line between guards and criminals that was crossed all the time. So it was really not guaranteed he would someday go home. He tried not to think about that, but it could happen.
     Wanting to be with his family was the only thing that got him through the day. He promised himself he would never give up, even though he was hurting inside. There were a lot of corners to turn and hills to climb but that it was part of his life now and he had to find a way to get through it.

Jamie decided to stay in his cell today. He had little to do except have conversations with himself. He was doing his best to stay away from trouble but it managed to find him if he left his cell. He didn’t have anything to read he hadn’t read countless times already. He was restless. Sitting on his bunk he leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes. Maybe he could go to sleep for awhile and kill some time.
     “It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it?” Jamie kept his eyes closed and smiled. He was starting to like this. It was good timing, he needed someone to talk to.
     He cocked his head to the right and opened his eyes.
     “I can only take so much,” he said, answering her question.
     Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail that went almost to her waist. It looked good on her. She stood there looking at him, wearing jeans and her hands were on  her hips. She was smiling. He never realized before how valuable a smile was ’cause he sure didn’t get many. She might be Morgan’s mom but they sure didn’t look anything alike. They were both beautiful in their own way.
     Suddenly he realized, if he was making all this up in his head he sure did have a good imagination, didn’t he? In a way he wished others could see her, to prove he wasn’t nuts, but maybe it was better this way.
     Jamie thought about the three years they had been writing.  He never really understood why she started writing to him after he had been inside almost two years, but he was glad she did. When he asked her, she said he was family, but after getting to know her she knew no one else was writing to him, so she did.
     She sent books, a little money, and their friendship grew from there. He hated to ask her for money, but she was the only one who would help him. She didn’t make him feel like he was begging. He was grateful for everything she did, but he didn’t want anyone to think he was using her, especially Morgan. She told him not to feel like that. She helped him out because she wanted to. She sends what she can when she can.
     Her letters kept him going. She was his connection to the outside world. He didn’t know if he would make it if she stopped writing. He knew people had their own lives and were busy surviving. He didn’t blame them for not having time for him. He didn’t need anyone to write all the time. The occasional letter he did get was about what was happening to whom, but no one asked him how he was doing or if he needed anything. If you don’t ask you don’t know. Gradually even those letters faded away .
     Jamie needed her, and she knew it. When she wrote it was like a conversation back and forth. She cared how he was doing. Apart from the mental need, if she didn’t help him get things like stamps and hygiene he’d have to find some other way to get them. He might end up owing someone and maybe that would not end too good. In addition, she was a sight for sore eyes, even if she wasn’t real.
     “I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to handle the situations I have on my hands right now and what to do about it.” Jamie told her.
     “What’s the problem?” she asked.
     “I can’t sit in my cell 24/7. In fact, I’m not going to,” he said, making up his mind.
     “Why do you think you need to stay in your cell?” not understanding the problem.
     “If I can’t talk to these dudes about the problem we’re having then there’s only one solution.
     She wasn’t going to like this. “I hate to go back down that road but I might have to. I’ve had two fights already and the way things are going there could be plenty more to come.”
     “That’s what they do in here – fight,” he told her.
She paused for a few seconds and frowned.
     “That’s the way karma works,” she began.
     “Causes made in the past come into play today, or in your future,” she gently explained. “When a cause is made there is going to an effect at some point, for all the good and all the bad that has happened. The same is true for everyone. No one – gets away – with anything.”
     Jamie got up and went to his locker. He sorted through a stack of letters until he found the one he was looking for.
     Taking it out of the envelope and reading through it, he stopped and looked at her, “It’s true what you said,” he paused.

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What Does It Mean To Be Alone – ITFO Chapter

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Standing next to the door of his cell, Jamie leaned his back against the wall. He stared at a cockroach walking across the floor, seemingly without a care in the world. He wondered what its plan was. Where was it going? He read somewhere that roaches had been around since the dinosaurs. The world could blow up from a nuclear bomb and the roaches would be the only living creatures that survived. He used to smash them for having the nerve to walk over his body, but there really was no point in doing that. There were a million more where that one came from.
     He felt the same way about the guards. They were like cockroaches. They crawled out of the cracks in the walls looking for someone to walk on. What was the point of hating one and wanting to get even for the way they  treated the inmates, when there was an endless supply of new guards getting younger and younger every year, replacing the ones who got burnt out and quit.
     Some of them were barely eighteen, right out of school. They got maybe six weeks training trailing older guards around the prison before they were released to do whatever damage they could do on their own. They were put up against men in cells who were two- three times their age who had years of experience dealing asshole guards.
     These young ones thought being a smartass was part of the job. The trouble was, they had a lot to learn. The men here had ways of getting even with guards who disrespect them for no reason.
     One day there was an arrogant, new guard. A tough kid who today was helping bring lunch trays to the cells. Couldn’t be more than nineteen. He thought he would show off and spit on Jamie’s food before putting it through the open slot. He laughed after he did it, with an expression of “eat that, sucker.”
     That was one meal Jamie didn’t eat. It pissed him off. This wasn’t the first time a guard intentionally ruined his meal and it probably wouldn’t be the last, and if this kid was doing the same thing to food trays of other men, he’ll learn his lesson the hard way.
     He’d seen it enough times. The men will collect piss and shit. On a certain day and time they’ll catch this guard in the hall and shower him with the waste they had saved up. Even some women guards got nailed.
     Man, you should hear the screams as all the stink landed on them. They couldn’t get away. Going back or forward, someone was gonna nail ’em. Jamie shook his head and gave a little chuckle at what the men have to do for a little amusement around here.
     The free-for-all stink bombs did make for some heavy duty, eye-watering fumes in the unit, and inmates had to clean up the mess, but how exactly were the guards going to punish men who were already in 24/7 lock-up? They could take away their personal property for awhile, but it was worth it.
     In defense, the kid tried to keep up his shitty attitude on his face to show he didn’t care, but it couldn’t keep the embarrassment from showing through pink skin as each man going down the corridor laughed at him. The young guard also learned that day not be so blatantly stupid.
     Some of the men locked up in here weren’t wound too tight. Maybe they kept them in adseg too long. Some cracked and couldn’t take it anymore. There wasn’t enough mental health people to take care of them. They needed the right meds they weren’t getting.
     You really had to have your shit together to not lose it. Too much isolation was hard, but no one who worked here gave a damn if it was right or wrong. Inmates became punching bags.
     Most everybody got out of here sooner or later but some didn’t leave being able to survive on the outside and ended up coming back from no family or friends to help them.
     Most of the teenage guards the prison hired were hyped up with making steady money but most didn’t make it past a year before they were fed up with the working conditions and quit. More took their place.

Jamie had just finished his breakfast of three small, cold pancakes with a spoon of peanut butter, cold coffee and an apple. It was still dark outside. Another long day stretched ahead of him
    He tried, sometimes to put a schedule together of things to do to fill the day. It was hard to keep to it. He had never developed the discipline to keep to a schedule. Keep it loose, but keep the day going.
     The workout room, where there were weights and equipment was off- limits to him. All he could do was what he could mange in his tiny space, like push ups, sit ups and squats. He had to tire himself out or he laid awake at night.
     The guards constantly woke them up all night anyway, making sure they didn’t escape, which was a joke. It was just another form of torture. If the guards had to be awake and miserable, so did they.
     Two weeks earlier he got his property back. Having all your things taken away really messes with your head. There was so little he could call his own that reminded him that being an inmate here was his only identity. Not having his pictures to look at or old letters to read again made him feel more alone than he was, if that were possible. These things, along with books and magazines made him feel human, and a human being had things, as few as they were. Did the prison want him to feel grateful for getting back these few personal items? It worked. Being able to see his son’s face, Morgan and his family made him feel less lonely, but it also made him feel depressed because he was away from them.
     “Okay,” he said out loud. “Don’t let it suck you in or it won’t let you go all day.” There have been enough days like that and they were miserable, “Get a grip.”
     Shaking it off, he went through the titles of his books, running his hands over the covers. When they take your stuff you don’t always get it back, or what used to work, like a fan, might be replaced with one not working.
     All his books on Islam were there. Guess nobody wanted those, so he tried to do some studying, and his prayers. He needed a way to focus on the positive parts of his life and trying to do these prayers every day would help him learn discipline. Five times a day, though, was hard.
     An hour later, looking through the slots in the wall that passed for a window, he could tell it was morning. He didn’t think the sun was out and it was already hot enough to know he would really be sweating in a couple hours.
     Summer was almost over according to the calendar, and he was glad about that, but Texas in the summer lasted a lot longer than it did in other states. It wouldn’t start cooling down until mid October. These thick walls trapped the heat and turned it into an oven.
      He kept himself busy by doing a little cell cleaning. It would make him feel better. Being moved around to different pods on different floors he found most cells were so filthy you didn’t want to touch anything. The little bars of lye soap the prison gave him each month had to do all of his cleaning including his body, the cell and his clothing. He kept his space as clean as he could. If he had a little money in his account that Sonni sent he could buy a bar of soap but mostly he used it for stamps, hygiene and food.
     It was time for lunch so he didn’t pay much attention to the noises he heard in the hall until they were at his door. He was on his hands and knees, looked up and saw it was the sergeant, with two guards. This man didn’t usually come unless it was something important. Was he in more trouble he didn’t know about? Again, he was trying to keep his nose clean of any problems, but that didn’t mean anything here. Trouble found him easy enough no matter what he did.
     “James Cummings?” The officer asked, glancing around the cell.
     “Yes, sir,” he answered with suspicion in his voice and got to his feet.
Jamie’s eyebrows knit together. Standing up he walked closer to the door, but not too close. This man knew who he was. He didn’t have to ask.
     There was a clipboard in his left hand. He glanced at it and let it hang by his side. He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the sweat from his forehead. The sergeant hated – hated coming into the adseg pods of the unit, especially in the summer. They smelled like an open sewer covered up in Lysol, which it was. Jamie could tell this was an official visit of some sort.
     “You’re being transferred.”
     Jamie lit up. “Transferred?” Maybe he’d be moved closer to home.
     “Where to?” He didn’t want to show his excitement.
     “McConnell Unit,” the sergeant answered. “in Beeville.”
     “Contact your family if you want to.” Then he turned away and walked toward the end of the hall with the two guards walking behind him.

Jamie walked over and sat down on his bunk. Putting his elbows on his knees and the palms of his hands together in a picture of prayer, he sat there tapping his fingers against his chin. He had to think. Why were they moving him? He hadn’t ask to be moved. He had thought about putting in for a medical transfer but he hadn’t done anything about it.
     They were moving him clear back across the state, way south, near Brownsville which was near the Mexican border. He would still be too far away for anyone to visit in one day so he’d be in the same boat he was in right now. And it would be just as stinking hot, if not more so. He was sure if he were close enough his family would come to see him regularly, or at least sometimes. They shouldn’t move people so far away from family. It makes it worse for them. Wasn’t locking them up enough punishment? Did they have to keep family away, too?
     He knew about McConnell Unit. He talked to a dude in the day room a while back who used to be there. He had nothing good to say about it, but was there anything good to say about any prison? A lot of inmates died there. He would do as best as always to stay out of trouble if he could.
     Going back across the state would be just as long and boring as it was getting here a few years ago. He was naive back then and thought if he were good he could get out early.  Now he just wanted to get out in one piece. The trip will be several uncomfortable days on the road, but he’d be out of here. He’ll be able to look out the window and see life, sky and birds. Cars on the road passing others who were going places. They probably didn’t understand how precious their life was and how easily it could be taken from you.
     This was another sharp turn to the left. Where would this take him?

 

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ITFO news is a variety of things. Published about once  month unless I get too far behind or traveling and skip a month. I don’t inundate you inbox, I only like to keep you informed on how the writing, music and videos are coming alone. 

I sometimes publish someone’s story that needs telling or other news in the prison industry that I didn’t put at Jamie’s Facebook page. It’s a way to keep you in the loop. You can follow my music and videos at my website. You have a wonderful day.

 

Jamie’s New Merchandise

I am raising much needed funds. For two main reasons. Jamie has some legal expenses that are connected to the lack of medical care he isn’t receiving for epilepsy that has caused him to have more seizures I am using legal means to force the issue. My second reason is the funds needed to keep the ball rolling in producing the book/music I am writing. I want to do a good job. The proceeds from this will help him get his life started when he gets out.

50% of the profit from initial sales will be used for jamie’s personal needs such as stamps, hygiene and items he can get at the commissary.  This is the first time I have for outside help from anyone who can. I survive on a disability check  and trying to take care of these things has become more difficult as expenses have risen.

 

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Unintended Consequences – Chapter – ITFO

Last Note 2 sm

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. He was so alone. There was no one to talk to so he often carried on conversations with himself. He was in 24/7 lock-up for a year. Administrative segregation, or adseg, it was called. He didn’t leave his cell except fir showers and commissary once month. He had tried so hard to not let this happen. Staying away from trouble was his goal, 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 so hard. 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 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 how they practiced.
      They weren’t like a lot of the other dudes. They didn’t talk tough. Peace was way more important than violence, or who was bigger and badder or who did the worst crimes.
     He decided to give it a try because everything he had learned through the bible 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 to read and study. It was hard because he was supposed to pray about it five times a day. He needed a prayer rug but he didn’t have a way to get one. Anyway, he tried to learn and went to their meetings. He enjoyed the conversations about life. Then something happened and he was locked up, more alone than ever.
     To have your life so controlled as this was more than anyone would be able to take without getting angry and wanting to break everything. He was tired of being told when to eat, when to sleep, when to breathe or take a crap. He couldn’t do anything unless it was the right time.
     A year completely alone; it was too long. There was nothing to break the monotony. 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. He convinced himself it had nothing to do with what they shared together. 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 for him, but it was getting harder and harder to do.
     It was his own fault – all of it. Trying to find the answer was not easy and many days he wanted to crawl under the floor and give up. Just give up. Stop thinking of the future. He might not make make it. He might not get out of here.
     He started and stopped eating. 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?
     Jamie Jr. couldn’t read or write yet and it would be some years before he’d be able to. He wouldn’t miss his father during his childhood because he had never been there to learn to miss him. He had never been there, and that was what ripped him up. It hurt badly if he thought about it too much.
     His son won’t understand why his father wasn’t around. He really didn’t even know he should be around. But most of all, Jamie was afraid his son won’t love him when gets out.
     Maybe his son will hate him. His son, his only child might not care. He might not want to see him and that would just kill him. How could he stop these thoughts from going around in his brain?
     If he wrote to him what could he say? He couldn’t explain that he was in prison. What’s that? Why was he there? What did he do? He could never explain how bad it was in here. He didn’t need to think about that. When he gets a lot older and can see him face to face, maybe then he could explain.
     What is he being told when he asks about his daddy? He probably doesn’t ask yet. Even if he did ask there is nothing positive that could be said. He could only hope he was told his daddy loved him very much. He could hope.

<<< >>>

This was not one of Jamie’s better days. He laid down on his bunk and placed his right arm over his eyes. Maybe he could sleep for awhile. He was laying on a metal frame covered only in a sheet and blanket.
     He had been here for a few weeks so far. All of his property had been taken away, even his mattress. He was supposed to get it back but he didn’t know when. Sharing the floor with roaches was not an option so he did the best he could to get comfortable.
     The days were long. They stretched on endlessly. He knew he wouldn’t set foot outside his cell today. It wasn’t a shower day, so there was nothing to break up the boredom.. He had nothing to read because they took his books. Sleep was the only thing he could do to pass the time.
     After an hour of trying to sleep he gave up. He got to his feet and did some stretches, trying to get the blood flowing. It was up to him to keep his body going as best he could. He had to try. It was harder now that he was in lock up. He was where they wanted him to be and they made sure he got there. He tried to mind his own business but trouble always found him.
     Jamie was hungry. When Jamie ha a little money in his account he could buy things like tuna or sardines, sandwhich spread and crackers and chips. But right ow they aren’t letting him go to commissary so he was stuck with what they fed him. They never gave him enough food. His stomach growled all the time. Even when they did bring food it was pretty bad. Bland, overcooked, tasteless and cold.  It was taken out of the freezers and thawed by the time it got to him, but it was never hot. It was hard to swallow but he had to eat something so he choked it down. It would be easier to eat if they put some jelly or honey on the breakfast pancakes so it wasn’t dry, but his comfort wasn’t something they cared about. Eat it or not, they didn’t care.
     He paced the length of his home, back and forth, over and over. Ten feet in one direction and ten feet in the other. Well, not really ten feet because his bunk took up some of the space.
     He couldn’t get Morgan out of his brain. Over and over he thought the words, “I’m thinking of you. I’m thinking of you. That’s all I can do.” Again. “I’m thinking of you. I’m thinking of you. That’s all I can do.” Again and again, like a broken record. As broken as he was broken and he cried.
     After rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands he bent down, opened his trunk and took out a couple sheets of paper. He laid them on the tiny stainless steel ledge attached to the toilet that served as his desk. Using the edge of an envelope he patiently drew lines across the paper so it looked like tablet paper. This way his sentences would be straight and easier to read. It also took up more time so he made the lines as carefully as he could.
     He began to write a letter to Sonni. She was the one person he could write to and explain what was going on in his head. If he kept everything bottled up it would make him crazy. Over and over he told himself, “I won’t be here forever. I won’t.” Fourteen more years out of seventeen.  It will feel like forever. Instead he tried to imagine the feeling of happiness when he walked out of the building, never looking back when it becomes time to start his life again.

 <<< >>>

 

Dec, 3, 2009

Dear Mom,                      
     I am sorry it has taken me so long to write back. Things are not so good on my end right now. I haven’t heard from Morgan in like a month.
     I’ve beat myself up about that. It has been almost four years since we were separated. The longest years of my life, including the years in juvenile detention and not letting me go for four years after promising me I would only have to stay nine months. They lied to me. Why mom? Why is this happening to me?
     My eyes are always full of tears, like blood from a wound that can never heal just thinking about life without her. I’m really hurting Mom.
     I’ve been in a fight. It happened a few weeks ago. I didn’t tell you. I’m on 24 hour lockdown now for a year. However, maybe it’s a good thing because there is really nothing to do where I can get into trouble. They don’t let us out of the cell for nothing. Everything comes to us unless we need to go to medical, and then we’re in handcuffs.
     Anyway, this is how I got into the fight. Me and some of the officers have had our run-ins. It just so happened that one of them was at the pill window when I went for my medications. Another dude who was in front of me started calling out the officer’s name. The officer came to me and wanted to write me up for it. I told him it wasn’t me. He said he didn’t believe me so we went back and forth about it. I didn’t tell him it was the dude in front of me. People have been known to get beat up bad for telling. I’m trying to stay out of trouble so I don’t point him out.
    Later I go to the dude and try to talk to him about it and he punches me in the mouth. I was shocked for a minute because all I wanted to do was talk. I let my anger get the best of me and fought back. I did that because in here, if you don’t fight when it comes your way everyone looks at it. Then it’s hell from then on if you know what I’m saying. Someone else will come at you.
     Afterward, the dude apologized and said he tried to take the case instead of me. The rage in me wanted to jump on him. I felt he took a lot from me because it was me who was put in lock-up, not him. I only had five months left to get my G2 classification and get contact visits. I could have held my family if they came to visit. If the came visit. He took that possibility away from me. Now I have to wait a year and a half. I’m now G5, adseg.
     They took my property from me. All I have now is my sheets, a blanket, tissue and a few bars of soap. My back is killing me. My books were taken away so I don’t have the study book for learning more about Islam r any other books.
     Now I just sit here and look at the walls. I can get more books if you send them; just regular books to help pass the time. It’s okay if you can’t. I don’t want to make you feel like you have to. I don’t have anyone else to ask.

Write back soon. Please Please
Love, Jamie

<<< >>>

Hopefully you’ve seen the new t- shirts I’m selling with Jamie’s face and name. I’m trying to raise much needed money to help him. So many have read his story and listened to the music for the book. Help spread the word by sharing, subscribing to the YouTube channel – Sonni Quick Piano Improv – to watch New music videos and also to the newsletter – ITFO NEWS. There are multiple ways to help support.

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I Will Not Let Them Break Me

 

wh jamie2I’d like to bring you up to date with the writing of my book, Inside the Forbidden Outside, because I sure have been writing it for a long time. It should be 500 pages by now!

I have read ads that say ” Write a book from start to finish in 30 days!” Really? I guess you could if you had a vivid imagination creating stories, edited it yourself and did no rewriting. But I am not creating this story out of thin air and the writing has taken time because the story is important and I really knew nothing about being a writer, except for blog posts.

My first draft, and those chapters can be read going back I the archives to 2016, was like a book of blog posts. The chapters didn’t connect as a story. So I went back to the drawing board and started over while talking a couple writing courses.

Writing the music for the chapters, poetry, and music videos is also very time consuming so it all goes forward at a slower pace. The music was written because of the letters I read from him. They were often sad and melancholy. The music is the emotion just like music sets the stage for movies to create an emotion.

I wanted to tell you what I’m doing now to bring authenticity to what T am doing. The first two years he was inside we didn’t write. I only heard what was happening through my daughter. That is why I sent the first card.  He told me about his life until that point. I had to take actual events and create story around it. In the narrative I reached the point where we are writing. After reading his letters I felt I had to write his story.  Not because it was happening to him, but because it is a common story shared by many. America still isn’t listening and many believe the propaganda they read in the news saying black people are bent to be criminals and they need to locked up.  They don’t belong in restaurants, coffee shops, on the street, the mall or in any store among “us”, the white people. Call the cops. Have them arrested. They don’t deserve to breathe “our” air. Go away. Shame on any American who believes that. Unfortunately, the number of people like this outnumber the people who are actually human and don’t feel entitled because of the color of our skin.

I recently unpacked two boxes that hold hundreds of letters Jamie wrote me began sorting them by the prison and then putting them in date order. Most of my letters to him are online at a website called Jpay. But many early letters we’re handwritten so I have no record of those. As time went on I almost always used Jpay because many handwriting can get illegible when I write fast.

I have just spent 28 hours over two days reading every letter he wrote, and mine in between and pieced the narrative together. The story that emerged with the dialogue already written made me cry. The pain of coping in such an inhumane existence with the authority of the prisons dishing out, with pleasure, anything they wanted to ensure the prisoners know their lives are meaningless. Their only value is to enough various corporations who use them for profit, much the way plantations did for 400 years. Free labor on top of everything.  Of course they want the prisons to be full. Jamie did not deserve what they have done to him, and continue to do, but of course, he is black so it doesn’t matter.

Countless times over the years they have denied Jamie his seizure medication for epilepsy. They also often deny him being able to see a doctor, unless he is bleeding from falling and cutting himself when he has a seizure. So often the medical unit would lie to me about what condition he is in.

Think about this – Allred prison has approximately 3500 inmates. Let’s say half of them take one pill of a prescription each day.  That is an extremely low estimate. Now, lets say that each of those inmates were skipped one day a month and not given one pill.  That equals 1750 pills. What is the financial value to the medical corporation by holding back one pill each month? Since pills are often given in multiples twice a day and inmates often take more than one medicine, what is the real number? Jamie is often skipped for days at a time, not one pill on one day. So he has more epileptic seizures they rarely monitor. And yet people get sarcastic online quipping about the wonderful free medical care inmates get which is better than what they get. Propaganda can be very powerful in forming your indignant opinions for you. Anyone want to sign up for prison healthcare?

But he is a fighter, pulling himself out of depression when he hits rock bottom over and over again. The last time, in March when he was denied – again – being let out of adseg, he was told he wasn’t ready. Ready in what way? They didn’t manage to break him yet? Over three years, this time, and they said he wasn’t ready. He went into depression again, but fought back with a vengeance. “I will not let them break me!”

I have now everything I need to finish writing, with notes from every letter. This is the story of man who was intentionally fed to the system, while they have done everything they could to render him unable to survive.

He entered the system a Christian because it was all he knew. He then tried becoming a Muslim, a tight-knit community inside that teaches peace and discipline. No, it isn’t the picture our media and government portrays that to be Muslim means you are a terrorist. He reached the point where he said. “Religion has done nothing to help me in here. No amount of praying to God or having faith that things will get better has helped anything get better.” He thought his faith should have some effect, and it didn’t.

It was then, when he was of options that I began teaching him the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. It put the responsibility of his life and understanding it squarely where it belonged. In his own hands and mind. This is where he got the strength to say, “They will not break me.” He wasn’t asking anything outside himself to fix his problems. He took responsibility.

This is a story of a man who is making his way through this system and growing as an individual instead of feeling he is a victim. I hope you continue to read about the progress of writing this and listen to the music I’ve recorded to be his soundtrack. Subscribe to ITFO News to not miss anything.

Last, I am having T- shirts made with the silhouette at the top of the post and his signature beneath. I need to raise money to help him. I have been using legal measures to fight some of what they are doing and those things are being put in place right now. Legal documents cost money.  Attorney consultations cost money. Enforcing those documents cost even more. But every bit of medical care they deny him puts more money in their pocket.

I’m hoping that people who know his story will want to help if they can. This is my first time of asking for help and I am the only one who supports him. In the next few weeks when the t-shirts come in I will write again. Thanks for reading. I couldn’t do this without you and the encouragement you’ve given me.

 

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The Smith Unit – Prison #1 – ITFO

Last Note 2 sm

Inside The Forbidden Outside

The Smith Unit – Prison #1

Jamie could see the Smith Unit long before they reached it. After the bus drove through the small town of Lamesa he saw it sitting way back off the road on flat, treeless, desert land. Ugly and boring. The prison was a series of large, connected concrete structures sprawled out in different directions. He was definitely a long way from the piney woods of East Texas.
     Guards were in the towers at the corners, watching everything below. He could see big guns sticking out. Jamie wondered if they had ever used them to shoot someone trying to escape.
     High metal fences inside even higher metal fences were topped with multiple rolls of razor wire. No, he decided. He doubted anyone could escape if they tried. The only set of buildings in sight, this monstrosity, was now his new home so he better get used to it.
     Jamie could feel his stomach churning. He was scared and didn’t want to show it. Trying to calm his nerves, he took deep breaths and slowly blew them out. He had never been inside a prison, but he knew it would not be good it he appeared nervous or scared. The men inside would be looking for any weakness they could take advantage of. He was told not to look them in the eye or draw attention to himself. If he looked confrontational he might become a target before he had a chance to figure out what was up from down.
     He saw two huge buildings with two floors of tiny windows. That must be where the prisoner cells were. He could see fields in the distance with people dressed in white, working in the rows of whatever they were growing.
     Men on horseback with dogs walked next to the horses. Jamie frowned. Is this what his life was going to be now? It was hot as blazes outside. Maybe it was better than being kept inside, but he knew when he got overheated it could bring on a seizure. He didn’t think they’d care much about that.
     He had a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. This was a different world, inside a world that most people would never see, or even think of. He was now going to be part of a part of a society that would always be considered outcasts, even when they get out.
There were millions of people locked up in America; more than anywhere in the world.

It was a way of life for people like him, much more than whites, but it was still hard to believe there were so many, of either race who were locked up. They were being hid in plain sight if anyone bothered to look. They were able to provide jobs for people because someone had to look after them.
     This was his new address. He had traded his name for a number. Towns with prisons were only to happy to have it there. Of course, they were far enough away so no one had to look at it. They could pretend it wasn’t there, unless it was putting food on their table.
     Pains were taken to keep people from knowing what really went on inside, no matter how brutal it was. He didn’t really know himself yet how bad it could get. All he heard were stories. He learned a lot from talking to other dudes at the jail who had been locked up before. Would his time be any better?
     Why would anyone care about people who were locked up? They were criminals. They were bad people. It didn’t matter what kind of criminal. Murderer, drug addict or bad check writer, they were all treated the same. He was about to find that out for himself.
     Jamie told himself he didn’t care. He could make it, as long as he had Morgan and the kids, he didn’t need anything else. Just thinking about it made his heart hurt. All he knew, if he had been inside before, he wouldn’t do anything that would send him back here again.
     He was headed into this prison and there was nothing he could do about it. He no longer had any control over his life, or anything in it. He better get used to it because it would be a long time before he got it back.
     Do what you’re told, when you’d told to do it. Eat what you’re given you to eat, no matter how bad it is. Sleep when you’re told. Wake when you’re told, even if it is breakfast in the middle of the night. Shower when you’re told. Crap at the right time, before the toilets automatically flush. Wear the same prison uniform every day. There was no decision he could make on his own for the next seventeen years.
     Jamie knew he had to worry about other inmates as much as he needed to worth about what the guards could do to him. There were different laws inside, enforced with a different set of rules. His rights as a human being were taken way. There was supposed to be prisoner’s rights, that maybe looked good on paper, but enforcing them was another matter. This would be a hard transition.
     He wanted to scream at the driver, “Pull over. Let me off. This is a terrible mistake. I’m not supposed to be here,” but he didn’t. He kept his mouth shut. It would be a bad way to start day one.
     None of the dudes he started with on this ride were still on the bus. One by one they had been dropped at other prisons and new faces came onboard. Five men got off with him at Smith Unit.
     It was hot as hell when Jamie stepped down to the pavement. They were lined up in front of the bus. In spite of the heat, it felt good to stand and stretch his legs. Sitting so long made his knees swell.
     The heat coming through the bottom of his slip-on tennis shoes would probably fry up some bacon and eggs. When Jamie was hungry he tortured himself thinking about the different food he knew he couldn’t have, and wouldn’t have again for a very long time. He really was hungry, though.
     There were no clouds in the sky and the sun beating down was brutal. He wanted to shield his eyes but didn’t want to raise his hand to his face. It might look like an aggressive move. Three guards had walked up to the bus and two of them had a mean looking German Shepard at their side. He was not about to test them.
     The third guard stood in front of them and carried a clip board. The first name called out was “James Cummings?”
     “That’s me,” he answered back.
     “When I speak, you say, yes Sir.” The guard instructed.
     “Yes Sir,” Jamie repeated back.
     He called off the rest names and said, “Follow the yellow line into the building. Stop at the desk on the right for instructions.” The guard backed away and they filed into the building.
     The guard standing at the desk handed each of them a clean set of whites along with a worn, white towel wrapped around a tiny bar of soap. Jamie looked down at it. This was all he had. Everything else was gone. He didn’t know when, or if his property from the jail would be sent to him. He wasn’t counting on it. Others told him sometimes things had a way of getting lost when you were sent someplace.
     They were taken into a room and told to get naked for a strip search. No privacy, of course. If anyone was embarrassed, too bad.
     “Open your mouth,” he was told. “Stick your tongue out, then lift it up and down so I can see under your tongue and the roof of your mouth.”
     “Put your hands behind your head,” while they patted him down and checked behind his ears and arm pits.
     “Lift your balls,” was the next order, and Jamie listened. The guard then turned him around while he put on latex gloves to do a cavity search from behind. It wasn’t his first strip search. He knew there would be many more so he better get used to it.
     The men were then taken to the shower, which was good because he he knew how much he stunk from the bus trip. They were naked as they followed orders to walk down the hall. He felt eyes sizing him up as they walked toward the showers. They entered one big room with a shower nozzle every three feet.
     The mold on the floor and walls made him want to back out of the room before he touched anything. There were a few men already in there, standing under the water, going to town on themselves as if they were in a room by themselves. They didn’t seem to mind an audience.
     He had five minutes to wash. As filthy as he was, it was barely enough time. He would have enjoyed standing there for awhile letting the water pour over his body, but he was no longer allowed to decide how long his shower would be. They shut the water off whether you were done or not.
     When he tried to put on the clothes he was given, he realized they gave him a white shirt and pants that were way too small. Maybe it was done on purpose to see if he would complain. The pants had an elastic waist and drawstring but he could barely stretch the elastic enough to pull them up. He was going to split the seams for sure.
     He was led to the first tier of a cell block in medium security. The cells lined the interior wall. There was a walkway around the second tier with men standing outside their cells, leaning over the railing looking to see who the new guy was. Cat calls and rude comments were shouted down at him. He ignored them. He was put in a cell with another person sitting on the bottom bunk. They didn’t say anything to each other. There was plenty of time for that later.

<<< >>>

After a couple weeks he wondered if he was ever going to get his stuff from the jail. He didn’t know what they did with the clothes and shoes he had on when he was arrested. That stuff didn’t matter so much, but there was also papers he didn’t want to lose.
     Maybe Morgan had them. There was also her letters to him and his pictures. She sent him pictures of herself and the kids and little Jamie’s pictures this first year. She also sent him pictures of his family. Now he had nothing.
     So many times Jamie had laid the pictures out on his bunk and stared at each one, trying to memorize it. His mom and brother came to see him in the beginning and then they stopped. He didn’t understand why.      All he had were their pictures and now they were most likely gone. 
He missed them. He figured it was his fault his mom wouldn’t answer his letters. He gave her a hard time growing up. And the letters?          Morgan’s letters were his lifeline. He reread them so many times. It was like she was talking to him. He didn’t feel lonely when he read them. Now he did. Now he had nothing. A little more of him was chipped away every day.

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Jamie never knew who his dad was, at least not for sure. There was never a man who was active in his life. His mama didn’t talk to him about it. The other kids in the family each had fathers and he was jealous sometimes when they went off to spend the weekend with their other family and he had to stay home.
     He got one letter at the prison from a man who said he was his father. Just one and then he never heard from him again. If he was his father, how come this was the first time he was hearing about it? Did this man write to his mom but never ask about him? Or he did ask about him but his mom never told him. What was the truth?
He told Jamie he just got out of prison. For what? Was he in since he was born? How come his mama didn’t write to tell him now that she gave his address to this man?
     In this letter he asked Jamie to give him a chance to be a dad. He was twenty- five so it was a little late to be a dad. Still, Jamie told him it was okay and asked one thing from him; to give the love to his grandson that he never gave to him.
     Jamie never heard from him again. He gained and lost a father in one letter. That was fast. Was this man really his father? Did it matter at this point? He was over not having a dad. He knew the most important thing now was that his son knew he had a dad.
     His son would grow up knowing his father was in prison. He didn’t like it that and hurt real bad. Jamie knew he wouldn’t be there for all the growing up years. He wouldn’t be able to teach him anything. He couldn’t watch him play sports. He couldn’t help him with school or share holidays. So in a way he was absent just like whoever his own father was.
     Maybe his dad loved him but couldn’t find a way to tell him because he was ashamed to tell him. Not knowing was worse because he thought his dad didn’t love him. But since he will never know the truth, it was too late to wonder what it would be.
     Jamie did know one thing for sure. He loved his son. He wanted the best for him. He wanted him to grow up to be a good man. He had to trust that Morgan would raise him right and keep him safe. When he got out, Jamie would make it up to him as best he could.

 

wh jamie2

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