Can Anybody Hear Me? ITFO Book Chapter

Anyone who is reading this chapter, I have favor ask you. I’d like feedback from you. I can tell how many times this post has been opened but I can’t tell if it as been read or what you think, except for just the wordpress bloggers who “like” it, but I don’t know why. I need good honest critique. What you like about my writing or about the story and what you don’t like. I spend a lot of time looking at it from every angle, but fresh eyes see things I don’t. When it is time to be read for professional editing, I want it in the best possible shape. If you can PLEASE comment. If you are coming from Facebook, leave a comment there if you want. Chapters are often shared with Facebook – tell me why. If you see it on my newsletter in April you can comment there. If you have read other chapters, tell me. If you think you might buy the book and music when it’s done, I’d love know. Are you a first time reader? Do you want to read more? Would you like to a beta reader and read everything? In your opinion, what can I do better?

Last Note 2 sm

CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?

“Put your shirt back on,” a female guard barked at him. Jamie and other inmates were being led back inside after working in the fields. “You can’t walk around like that.”

     “I need to cool down. I’m on seizure medication,” Jamie tried to tell her so she would understand. She cut him off mid sentence.
     “I don’t give a crap what your excuse is,” she fired back. “Put your goddamn shirt back on,” then turned and started in on another inmate.
     “Yes ma’am,” he replied with all the respect he could muster. No point in pissing off a guard. He couldn’t win that fight. He was learning he had to show respect and not expect any in return.
     Jamie continued down the hall until he reached his cell and went inside hoping his cellmate wasn’t there. He wanted to get some rest. His cell door was unlocked during the day, but in the evening all the doors were locked at the same time after the guards did the count to make sure they weren’t missing anyone. They needed to know everyone was in their cell and no one was someplace they shouldn’t be.
     He knew there were inmates who sold drugs and hid it in places outside their cell so they couldn’t get caught with it. Sometimes it was the guards who smuggled it in for them. You could get any kind of drug you wanted. Hooch was made, too. They could distill just about anything and make it into alcohol. Most of it tasted pretty nasty, but if it got you drunk that was all that mattered.
     He tried it a couple times but it wasn’t for him. If they got caught making it, so what. They were already locked up. They might do some time in solitary, but it was worth the chance if they wanted to get a buzz.
     General population – gen pop – his classification, meant he wasn’t confined to his cell and had more liberties than other classifications. G2,G4, G5, ad seg and solitary got lower and lower with less and less liberties. Some of the dudes couldn’t even leave their cell to go to chow, and had to be cuffed and in leg chains if they went anywhere. That wasn’t fun. They had a food tray shoved through a slot in their door. He never wanted it to get that bad. He needed to be able to at least walk around.
     It could be dangerous outside his cell, but it could be dangerous in his cell, too, if someone had a beef with him and came looking for him. He could never let his guard down. Having eyes in the back of your head could save your life.
     Prison rules about how to show someone respect wasn’t the same in here as it was in the free world. Some of the dudes were lifers and had nothing to lose if they hurt you. He always had to be careful. Someone could be carrying a shank. There were lots of things that could be turned into a knife. Stabbings weren’t uncommon, especially among the gangs.
     He could go hang out in the day room if he wanted, but he was too tired to do that right now. Besides, he was really grungy and needed to clean up. It was hot and stuffy, but it was like that anywhere he went.
His cellmate wasn’t there and Jamie was glad. They pretty much ignored each other. It was easier that way. He didn’t want to get to know him or be friends. He was an asshole with a bad attitude most of the time. He did nothing but complain and Jamie was tired of hearing him blame everything that happened in his life on someone else.
     He stripped off his clothes and wet his towel in the sink. He did his best to wash down his body using a small piece of soap he had left. Not until after the first of the month would he be given the meager supplies the prison was obligated to give him.
     They gave him a small tube of toothpaste each month, and every three months they gave him a new cheap toothbrush with bristles that fell out. It only had a three inch handle so it would be hard to file down into a blade. Much too small for a man’s hand, too.
     He got three little soaps, smaller than the soap you got in a motel room. It was made here in the prison and had lard and lye in it. It could take your skin off if you left it on too long. These the bars had to take care of all his cleaning. His body, the clothing he handwashed or cleaning his cell. It didn’t last long. Right now he needed to clean up as best he could. His skin was sticky with sweat. He felt dirty.
     Jamie would sweat rivers down his chest when he was outside. In this heat and humidity he was always soaked. Working out in the fields was some of the worst heat he ever felt.
     It was back-breaking work even on a cool day. Constantly bending over and pulling up vegetables was hard as hell on his back. He was constantly bending backward and rubbing the muscles in the small of his back. He never got used to it.
      When he bent over and his head hung down, the sweat ran into his eyes, and it stung. He tied a piece of cloth around his forehead but once it was soaked the sweat dripped anyway. It was hot and humid in East Texas, but West Texas was a different kind of hot. It sure felt like the sun had to be closer to the earth. When it beat down on you, and you got fried crispy like piece of chicken.
     Jamie knew what the slaves must’ve gone through long ago when they were forced to work the fields. Prison guards, slave owners, they were probably the same.
   Funny, now that he thought about it. They had overseers that probably walked the fields with whips and dogs just like the guards, except the guards had guns. Slave owners wouldn’t shoot their slaves because they paid a lot of money for them, like cattle. They needed their money’s worth out of them.
     All of them here in this prison were owned, just like slaves were. There was little difference between now and then except the slaves had their women to go to at the end of the day for comfort and he didn’t, not that he’d want Morgan to be here. But he did wish he could see her and little Jamie once in a while.
      “Stop it,” he argued with himself under his breath. “Just stop it.” He tried not to think about her all the time because it made him depressed. He tried to push it out his head.
     Jamie rinsed out his towel and hung it to dry by putting it over the round metal stool bolted to floor near the toilet. He stretched out on the lower bunk with his feet hanging over the end.
      Because of his epilepsy he wasn’t supposed to work in the sun. There were side effects from the medicine that sometimes made him feel bad. When he was overheated it could bring on a seizure. He wanted to be able to go outside so he rarely talked about it. Outside he could pretend he wasn’t here. In his mind he was able to start walking and keep on going. For a short while he was free.
    Jamie had felt like he was about to keel over and needed to cool down. That was why he had taken off his shirt. And he wasn’t naked, neither, no matter what she thought. He still had on his tank which was completely soaked.
      Coming inside wasn’t much relief. There was no air conditioning. If it was 105° outside, it was going to be 95° inside. All he could do was sweat. Playing cards or watching TV made him sweat.
     He wrote to his mom to see if she would send some money so he could buy a fan, but he didn’t hear back. Maybe she’ll send a letter later, sometime next week. It was always next week. He gave her excuses why she didn’t write. He never gave up hope. He didn’t care if she sent any money or not, he just wanted to hear from her. Was she okay? He loved his mama whether she wrote or not. He wished she would write.
    The field he worked in was huge. They grew a lot of different vegetables. Guards rode around on horses holding rifles. It looked like a different time in history. They had attack dogs walking around with them, too, in case one of them tried to run, which would be really stupid. There was no place to run except across the field and no way could anyone outrun those dogs in this heat. They’d probably drop dead of heat stroke.
       Even though it was stifling hot he still liked to go outside. As long as he could see the sky he felt free. He knew Morgan was seeing the same sky he was. Maybe they were both looking up at the same time. That was a new thought. He’d have to ask her to look up at a certain time. It was one thing they could do together.
       He had been here now for close to two years. In a way it seemed the time had gone by fast, and other times it crawled in slow motion. He tried to stick to himself and stay out of trouble. All he had to break up the boredom were Morgan’s letters. He daydreamed a lot. He would picture walking out of the prison and walking up to her with open arms. She was his family, her and the kids. They were all he had. To be honest he felt unloved by his family. He felt they didn’t want anything to do with him and that made him depressed and stressed out.
    Now, maybe it was his imagination but it seemed Morgan wasn’t writing back as much, and was taking longer between letters. He knew she was busy and all, taking care of three kids wasn’t easy, but she used to always find time, even if it was just a few lines.
     Maybe he was reading too much into it. He was afraid of losing her. What if it was over between them and he was by himself. What if he had no one to go home to? Sometimes when he thought about the years ahead he wanted to give up, but he couldn’t. And he had to make it. No matter who leaves him he always had his son. He couldn’t give up on him.
     His head started to pound. It was rocking back and forth between his temples. With one hand on either side if his head, he pressed. Not knowing what was going on really screwed with his head. He curled over and put his head on his knees. The pounding blood only made his head hurt worse. This is why some dudes went batshit crazy when they were locked up.
     Was anybody out there? Did anyone think about him in here all alone with nobody? Did anybody care? If he screamed would anybody hear?
      Today was his son’s birthday. Jamie bit his lower lip to keep himself together. It was heartbreaking to not be there. He never got to hold him. He would never get this time back.
     Jamie managed a smile as he pictured his son in his head. But why hadn’t she written back yet? He was starting to get worried. He sent a birthday card and put a letter for her inside. This was probably the longest he had gone without hearing from her. Maybe she had something she wanted to tell him but didn’t want to say it. Maybe she was seeing someone.
     Even though it scared him to think he would lose her, he understand the reality of how many years he could be gone. He had a meeting with the parole board when he reached five years, but if he didn’t get it they would probably put him off for another five.
     Jamie couldn’t give up on the hope of being released. But if he wasn’t, he knew he would be locked up too long to expect anyone to wait for him. Why would anyone else commit to being alone if they didn’t need to? It was a long time to ask someone to wait. He told Morgan in a letter she could talk to him about anything. If she wanted to move forward with her life he would understand. They could still write to each other and she could tell him about Jamie. But to not at least write? He couldn’t stand that.
     He thought he was the type of man who would want the mother of his son to be happy, not depressed and stressing. He wanted her to leave the stressing to him. But if she did find someone else he wanted her to say goodbye, not just stop writing and make him worry.
     It was easy to let his mind go crazy with all the possibilities that could go wrong with him locked up. It was hard to stop thinking about it.
     He closed his eyes. He was all twisted up inside worrying about not knowing what was going on in the world outside. There was nothing he could do about it. Not even make a phone call to find out. He had no numbers to call. No one registered their phone because it was too expensive, he guessed. He just had to wait.
      He fell asleep. He let go of the worry. His brain stopped spinning and he relaxed.
   “Mail,” the sound bounced inside his head.  “Mail.” Jamie was suddenly wide awake, listening. He didn’t jump up, but he still hoped there was mail for him. His head felt better. The pressure was gone. He could hear the cart being wheeled down the hall and soon come to a stop at his cell door.
     “Cummings,” was called out. “James Cummings, here’s your mail.” The inmate who delivered the mail reached in and handed him a letter. Then he turned to continue walking down the hall.
     “Thanks,” Jamie called out after him and looked down at the letter. He had expected it to be from Morgan, but it wasn’t. It was from her mom. Her mom?
     He sat down on the bed and stared at it for a few seconds. Why did she write? She had never written to him before this. Was it bad news? It had to be bad news. Did Morgan get her mom to write and break up with him? It looked like a card, but it wasn’t a holiday or anything. Finally, he ran out of excuses and starting opening the envelope.
     At that moment, before he had a chance to finish opening it, his cellmate walked in, pissed off and cussing up a storm. Jamie didn’t know why and wasn’t interested in finding out. The sound of his voice was instantly bringing his headache back again. He had to get out of here.
     He got up and headed down to the day room, hoping to find an empty table. He wanted some privacy to read and think. There were two tvs tuned to separate sports stations. If it wasn’t sports it was soap operas. They loved the soaps. People got hurt if they tried to change the channel. It wasn’t worth it. The old timers always got first dibs.
       He found a table and set the envelope in front of him. He looked at it again, front and back. She sent it from Key West. It was a card. A generic one. Nothing special. Did she just sign her name or did she say anything? He opened the card to see she wrote up the whole inside. He settled back to read:

Dear Jamie,

I should have written before, but time flies so fast some days. I have been very busy at the store. I thought of you many times these last couple years. I should have written before now. Morgan fills me in with how you are when I ask her. I know it has been very rough for you and I’m sorry you were moved so far away from your family. It would be easier if you could see them.

I miss not have Morgan and the kids here. Little Jamie had only turned one year old when they left. One day they were here and the next day they were gone. I asked her for your address.

I know she wants to come see you but she can’t afford it. Traveling with the kids would be hard. I told her if she could find someone to go with her I would pay her expenses and also pay for a motel. She asked your mom to go with her and she said yes. I’m sure she will write and tell you the weekend they are coming. You will finally get to see your son.

Write back if you want and I’ll answer your letter.
Take care, Sonni

Jamie sat there not knowing what to think. He closed his eyes and one tear rolled down his cheek.

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How Lonely is Your Prison Cell, Jamie

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Dear Jamie,

I was listening to some music on you tube last night and heard a singer who isn’t well known. Her voice was like silk, like running your fingers through honey. Lift your fingers and the words were pulled together. I don’t know if you recognize the words or can hear the melody in your head. It’s an old tune. I listened to it over and over and tears were running down my cheeks.

Sonni Quick   copyright 2017

This is not the music I was listening to that night. This is one of the first pieces I’ve recorded since the surgery on my arm from a fall in Oct. I was afraid I would be unable to play again. It’s painful and I can’t play for long but it should heal within a year. No gigs until then. Karma is a funny thing. It creates obstacles to overcome and it did a good job with this one. I had just decided to come out of retirement from playing professionally.  My last gig was 14 years ago. I decided age was not going to be a factor. I went in a new direction with my music and I liked where it was going. It was time to get back out there. I have not heard pianists be able to improvise the way I do and keep the continuity of a storyline going. It took the vivid emotions of what Jamie has been through to pull the music out of me this way.  The least I can do is play it for him. I destroyed my vocal cords and can’t sing anymore so I can’t use words to convey what I’m feeling. The music has to do that for me now.  I don’t really pay attention when I play. My fingers know what they are doing and play what I’m feeling. So Jamie, this is for you.

***************

I often think of you sitting in your cage with your life wasting away, not being able to choose for yourself how you want to spend your day. It makes me sad. Is this the result of a thousand years of justice for the black man? If it is America has nothing to be proud of and certainly can’t call itself a great nation.  Not with so much dirt on it’s hands. If you being in prison was going to do one positive thing for society, or if it was going to make you a better person, it could be different. But there is no value to what is happening to you.

Is the world safer with you locked up? Does it help anything anywhere? Have you “paid” for your crime and does paying with more years mean anything good anywhere? Are you ever done paying? Or are you just playing the part our society designated you should pay long before you were born? How would I feel knowing other people were getting rich by keeping me locked up like a caged animal and thought I had no worth. You should be the one to feel the benefit of being alive, because whether or not those in charge recognize your life has value, it does not mean it doesn’t. You, and so many like you were not born to be a slave for anyone to make a profit from. If they think the law of cause and effect doesn’t apply to them, and that their lives will escape the effect they deserve, they are sadly mistaken. No one escapes the causes they make. Their money will be no good and they will pay with their own lives instead.

I know there are many who are locked who are too far gone mentally to live outside those walls. Many were too damaged long before they lost their life to the system and can’t safely be let out. But that is only a percentage of those inside. The rest of you inside are only parts in their machine. But so little is done for you to make it possible to live on your own like free men. The adjustment between inside and outside is too great for many to make the transition no matter how badly someone wants it. They have no experience living the life they want and end up inside again where they want you. Where corporations get paid on the body count.

No matter how badly you want to be out here, the road blocks set up, keeping you from succeeding, are very high. Nobody gives a damn. In their eyes you are just another worthless, stupid, lazy, black man.  They don’t know you.  They don’t care if you have a chance or not.  All they know is you aren’t white, as though being white is all a person needs to have quality, as our top Republican racist, Paul Ryan, has been so pointed in telling us. All black people need is help from rich white men.  What a joke.

I don’t know what will happen before you get out in six years, but no one I have talked to has a positive feeling about the future of this country with the direction it is headed in.  Trump wants to make it easier to lock you up, easier for cops to kill you and lengthen the mandatory minimums. All I want is for things to be better by the time you get out. Good night. Sleep well. Meet me on the hill at 8 PM. I’ll bring a picnic dinner.

Meet you on the hill , riding bikes

***************

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Finally Going To The Prison To See Jamie!

There is a letter below I wrote to Jamie some time ago. It isn’t dated, but it was within the last two years. I was going through documents. For those of you who have read his letters or even some of the ones I posted that are mine, have commented on our relationship. You can’t write such personal letters to someone for this many years and not care about them. When the only communication you can have is the written word you learn a lot about each other.

This coming Wednesday I am finally taking a trip to Texas and I will be taking Jamie’s son to see him. He hasn’t seen him in almost 3 years – the last time I visited. He probably got my letter today where I told him I’m coming down. I wish I could have been there when he got the letter just to see the happiness on his face! I was hoping I could get new pictures but they only have a photographer one day in a month and it won’t be when I am there.

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Dear Jamie,
You and I – all these years behind us – our writing was never based on sex. It has always been been about friendship and being there for you because your family never was. You have always been behind bars. So we never had a fight or a break up and get back together the way every other relationship does. We haven’t hurt each other. We haven’t been judgemental. It was very rare to even see each other – only one time. But I know Jamie, as much as I have ever known anything, that I do love you, because you can’t write to someone for that long and not care. We have had these years of writing and getting to know each other. It was never about sex and romance.  It has been about two people who have been there for each other when we needed it. We both knew what it felt like to be abandoned by the very people you would expect to care and that is hard to deal with.

You in prison and me out here – it doesn’t matter what we look like. It doesn’t matter how old we are. It doesn’t matter that I am 9 years older than your mother. I know you – the man. I know your hurts. I know your desires. You can be honest with me about anything. You can tell me when you fail. You can tell me when you win, because underlying the whole thing is that I care very much that you succeed. I want you to get out of there and have a life you enjoy and are proud of. And I know that is going to be very hard because you won’t know what to do. It will be like getting out and no one speaks English and no one understands what you are saying. It will be very frustrating – and angering – because you will want respect and people are not going to want to give it to you. I understand because it is the same thing I go through with my family and it hurts. But it won’t put me in prison. You? It could, if you are not very very careful. But how can you know what to do when you don’t know what to do? It’s a vicious circle. This is why I stress that you have to be working on this now – not when you get out, or that swinging door will hit you in the ass and knock you back inside. Beyond baking you a cake, your family will not help you.

I am working hard to help you become the man you are inside that no one else sees.  I am working to make your life respectable and help you create a life inside this book I’m writing that will hopefully give you the support of people who will know who you are before you ever walk out those doors.reap what you sow

I am here for you to lean on so you don’t feel alone. This is the kind of love two people have when the desire for sex wears off – it always wears off. People start their relationship on how good the sex is but when they get bored they break up and find other people.  This happens because they didn’t take the time to learn how to communicate and be honest with each other.  I’m getting old and will be quite old when you get out. If I were younger it would be different. It’s really kind of a shame in some ways, but in a good way it doesn’t run through the negatives like jealousy and insecurity or wondering if the other person is cheating on them. It surpasses all that. I continue to use “mom” and “son” in my letters because people reading the blog would never be able to understand. I play the role of what a mother should be doing for you and isn’t. Your mother loves you because she gave birth to you – but she doesn’t know you nor does she understand how her lack of being there for you has affected you. This is why – all those years ago when I realized you had no one to count on – I jumped in there to fill that empty space. You had been through too much in your life and I was afraid you wouldn’t make it. Most everyone wondered, “Why do you even care?”  It’s because that is the way I am. If I were to describe my personality – I am a “fixer” with an addictive personality. That means when I do something – I do it completely, no matter what it is. I see things through to the end.

encouragement, grief, oevercoming obastacles

It was something about you. There was a reason that brought us into each others life and I believe it isn’t the first time. You and I are continuing on a path we’ve been on before or I wouldn’t have this intense desire/need to make sure you are okay. This need to help teach you what you need to know to change this path for yourself. This urgency to keep telling you that you have to take control and make your life go in the direction you want it to instead of letting life slap you around. That is love, Jamie. I want you to have a better life.  There is a positive inside every negative so even this time in prison has a positive inside it if you learn the meaning of why it happened to you.

Do you not think I have smiled and wished my life wasn’t going by as fast as it is – and inside my head I think I’m still 30. My brain thinks it but every day when I look in the mirror I go yuck – another wrinkle! My hair is starting to thin along my forehead. My skin is starting to get that crepe paper feel to it. I’m not 30 anymore. But the heart has no age. It gets bigger and it lets in more people. You can love someone and it doesn’t exclude another person and kick him out. You know, Mike and I have been married for quite a few years. We love each other. I know how much he loves me, because what we have now is far beyond the physical. We have friendship, the caring, the conversation, we have the same interests, I love to cook for him, and I know he loves me and I can count on him being there. What I want is for you to do -eventually – after you get your life together — find a woman and have a family – and if she did anything to hurt you she’d have to deal with me! lol. You deserve to have a full relationship with someone while you are still young enough to enjoy it

Mike is finally starting to understand my relationship with you. He watched a movie about a man in prison for life. This man, growing up, every day his father beat him and told him he did it because he loved him, so he learned that love was about how much pain he could make people feel. He grew up and become a very angry man. He killed a woman and child. In prison he was contacted by the woman’s mother and over time they developed a relationship. The man said, “For the first time I knew what love was. This woman should hate me for what I did. He cried”. He was speaking directly to the camera and cried.  I looked at Mike and said to him, “Do you understand now?” (meaning you) He said, “Yes, that is why I showed you this.” His attitude about prisoners – once a loser, always a loser – was wrong. He knows that now. You can’t automatically decide someone isn’t worth it just because they are sitting in a prison cell. You are human, and I couldn’t care less that you are in prison, as far as judging you as a person. It doesn’t affect how I feel about you. And Mike, my husband, is not worried about my relationship with you. Why – because he understands the value of our relationship – his and mine – and yours and mine.

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Guards Are Always Right. Inmates Are Always Wrong

black hands on cell door, prison guard brutality
source credit: pittsburgurbanmedia.com

Today I started reading through old letters I sent Jamie. This one is six months old and it was written at the time after he had just lost his new privileges of being able to make phone calls and have contact visits – for three weeks. It was devastating to be sent back to lock up again after it took him another two years to reach a level where it was allowed. It happened because of lies by guards and no one would listen to you. The guards are always right and the inmates are always wrong – every time. If a guard does not back up whatever another guard says he, himself, will be retaliated against. When that happens it is hard to keep your anger from making you lash out.

nmrk0731
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is like the roar of a lion, there what illness can be an obstacle?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mention daimoku which is a Nichiren Buddhist chant – Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.  Like meditation it allows you to have better control of your mind, your thoughts. Practicing Buddhism has been very good for Jamie.  It has been part of my life for a very long time.  I started teaching Jamie Buddhist concepts and how to apply them at least 6 years ago.  Being in prison is more difficult than you can imagine, knowing the years you lose, you will never get back, and the abuse you will have to take will be humiliating, because it is wrong and there is nothing you can do about it.

Chanting, with the deep breathing you have to do, lowers your stress level.  High stress also makes his epileptic seizures  more frequent. This allows the person inside to shine. We have to understand the right thing to do, instead of responding emotionally.  But chanting doesn’t mean you will always do the right thing.  We are human.  We learn from our mistakes. Changing our habits and our reactions is a life long battle with ourselves. But I believe – asking someone or something outside ourselves to fix our problems that cause us unhappiness.  Change must come from within.  Chanting gives you time to think about your life and take responsibility for your actions.  It is about gaining the wisdom to make the right decisions to change your life – to see things in a different perspective.

Living in a prison is about as close to the concept as hell as you can get. Buddhism does not look at hell as a place you go to when you die, but rather a life condition you live in here on earth. What better describes that life condition than a maximum security prison.

This letter was sent using jpay.com, a system set up for most state prisons, not federal. I can type an email letter, or send money through them.  To send a letter costs one “stamp” per page.  To send a picture is one stamp.  Two pictures is two stamps.  The advantage is they get it faster, and my typing is easier to read than my handwriting!  I do write, though, because I know it is a more personal connection.

 
Date: 5/11/2015  5:18:10 PM
Sent To: JAMES CUMMINGS
Attachments:

Hello son,

Just a quick letter today. I wanted you to know that I did talk to Ms Johnson in classification. She said you had to go to the UCC (prison court) on May 12 for a case. She said she didn’t have anymore information. She said after that you would be released, but she didn’t say released to where. Jamie, you can’t fight them. I know this is so hard. You worked so hard and waited so long for your privileges but they always find a way to knock you down even if they have to lie to do it. I know they didn’t do you right. You need to keep the bigger picture in mind and put all the rest of the garbage out where it belongs – in the trash. I know it’s hard.

You probably won’t get this letter in time – but chant daimoku (Nichiren Buddhism) before you go to court.  Center your mind. Stay calm. You have grown so much and learned so much, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes sometimes. The harder we try to change, life throws curve balls at us to keep us down. But if you remember there is something to learn from everything, you will be okay. This will  be over one day. It will be behind you and you will have a chance to live again. Have faith in that. You will have a life and it will be a life you will be proud of. All of this  you are going through is making you the person you are. A person with compassion. A person who will always know what it is like when the chips are down. You are learning things through all of this. I will be chanting for you tomorrow to be strong. Have no doubt, Jamie. Keep your dreams in the front of your head.

You might find this a bit funny. You REALLY upset Bill (my egotistic brother-in-law who uses his knowledge of the Bible as a way to feel important, but doesn’t apply any teachings inside the covers to his own life) with that plastic Christian remark you called him. If the shoe fits, wear it. My sister and family had a field day ripping you and me to shreds because of how much he “helped” you, and you had the nerve to expect him to follow through with the things he said he could do for you,.  I should have known better. You bruised his inflated ego. If it weren’t true it wouldn’t have bothered him so much. He knows what he did – he just didn’t want anyone else to find out about it. He said were ungrateful. It must have made him feel good to rip apart our relationship. Well, I hope he enjoyed himself. After all he is such a sincere Christian. You are a much better man than he is. The law of cause and effect applies to him as well. Hearing those words, “Cause and effect” makes him go berserk with rage.  But isn’t it the same as, “You reap what you sow”?

reap what you sow

My mom wants to have a happy family. It ain’t gonna happen any time soon. I wouldn’t go to any family affairs if they invited me, which I doubt they will – because I don’t like to be around plastic people either. I have other people in my life who know who I am and care about me. After almost 5 years of trying to have a family since I moved here – I give up. I just can’t live life they way they do. I can’t pretend.  But remember – the best revenge against people like that is to have a good, happy life. Live with the principles you know to be true. Treat people the way you want to be treated.

On that note – write me asap and let me know what’s up. What a mess this all is. I love you. Never forget that.

Your mom

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What Has Happened Now? The Prison Cut Off My Emails.

I’m concerned. Two nights ago I started writing an email to Jamie. I have used http://Jpay.com to write to him for about 7 years. I can send him emails, money and pictures, which is easier than handwriting mail, and getting money orders, although I do send him other things – articles and cards. But when I logged into Jpay yesterday morning, the option to send mail had disappeared. I could only send money. That had never happened before in all the years I’ve been writing.

I called Jpay. The rep I talked to had not heard of this happening, either, and called her supervisor. She told me the prison must have stopped it as a way of disciplining him. To me that says they are out of things to take away from him. There isn’t much more they can take away from you when you are in ad seg. So his books must be gone as well as all belongings, probably his mattress as well. His little fan? In this godawful heat. His food -still on food loaf, which I think they make from garbage. They feed it to them three times a day.

food loaf

So what the hell happened that they would resort to stopping my emails. They would know I am the only one writing to him. Will a snail mail letter get through? Is it also directed at me for some reason because they didn’t like what they read?  I’m grasping at straws.  I just double checked again and it’s still blocked.  My concern is mostly for Jamie because most likely it is a punishment for something.

Melvin, the man in Texas who goes to the prison to visit with him every 4 to 6 weeks was recently there.  He said he was in good spirits.  The cut on his foot was still hurting but it was starting to heal.  They chanted together for awhile.  Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.  Jamie has been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for several years, a practice that is difficult to do on your own.  It’s easy to begin, like deciding to go to the gym, but it is hard to maintain with encouragement, because since it is a practice it is something you do every day.  He has been learning that we are the cause for own problems.  We make the causes.  We get the effects.  Learning how to respond to life a different way takes more than just thinking about it.  If you have an issue with anger there are things that are going to press your buttons and you are going to respond the same way no matter how many times you tell yourself not to.  Actually changing something inside yourself that reflects in your environment takes time.  You make baby steps.  The first step is understanding how you could have reacted in a different way.  We chant – deeply – to change that part of ourselves that causes us the most grief.  It is a life long process.  Most people understand there are benefits to meditation and chanting has the same benefits of that.  Deep breathing calms you and enables you to think.  Chanting is deeper that that.

The universe runs on a rhythm.  We see it easily in the tides.  All life is a cycle.  Birth, aging, sickness and death.  All of nature and all living beings. When you are able to join with that rhythm it brings into your life those things that help you and also those things you need to learn so you can change the things that cause you unhappiness.  When you try to change the things that hold you down the only way to do that is to confront the very things that cause you unhappiness. We never get rid of problems.  What we want is to deal with our problems in a different way that gets us a better result. This is not about asking something “out there” to change your life but instead looking inside yourself to change negative into positive.  Accepting responsibility that there is no one but yourself to blame for the plan you have for your life.  The plan wasn’t decided by something outside yourself.  We make the causes that affect us.  If we don’t change these things – especially an inmate – when he gets out he has little chance of doing things different and gravitates back to the life he had.

So I have to think – What has happened?  Most of these guards have such low life conditions.  We read about prison guard brutality more and more in the media. They have no problem hurting inmates just for the pleasure of being able to do it and get away with it. Did he react to something they did and that gave them the reason to want to hurt him?

All I can do is wait while I send him a snail mail.  Today is Saturday.  I tried to call the prison and no one is picking up the phone. Are they closed on Weekends?  That doesn’t make sense.  They have visiting hours today.  I’ll keep trying. On Monday I’ll try again . . .

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Sonni Quick’s Jpay Prison Email to Jamie Cummings

Encouragement(Sonni’s note: I’ve posted many letters from Jamie but I’ve not posted my responses to him. Many of my letters to him were written through jpay.com, the prison email system. I can email to him but he has to write back longhand. They keep a copy of all letters. Yesterday I posted a letter he wrote in 2010, so I went back and found one of mine from the same time period. His letter to me was shortly before I had to close my store in Key West because I was losing my fight with Hepatitis C and was rapidly becoming to sick to work anymore. Add our crashing economy and the BP oil spill in the gulf and my life came crashing down. I moved back to my home state of Pa to be near a good transplant hospital, Penn State Hershey Medical. I thought being near family would be good. I could not have been more wrong. This letter was written right after I was accepted on the transplant list and the fun was about to begin.)

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November 2010

Hello son,

I don’t know the number of the institution you are in to make those phone calls you want me to make, but I am going to look on the net and I’m sure I’ll find it. I know you need to know what is happening. But also, I wanted to know if I should call as mother or mother-in-law and if it matters, especially since your mom  is not involved in your life at all. Megan told me she heard of your mom’s pending marriage when she took little Jamie over there and also found out about your sister’s pregnancy and your brother’s trouble. Maybe the person who wrote to you thought it would be better if you didn’t know but that doesn’t make much sense. It seems they keep a lot from you.

I hope the book I sent was good. On Amazon you can read the first few pages to decide, but that’s all. It looked interesting. I’d send you books every week if I could. It would at least help to pass the time.

I hated to hear about your seizure and the way they treated you. Since they haven’t been consistent about giving you your medication, I’m sure that had a lot to do with it. What is your cellie like? I’m sure they find out about your illness and wonder if you will have one in front of them. People get scared of things they don’t understand. I know that it can harm you and do damage to you. I understand that people are in prison for a reason and some of those reasons can be very bad, but that doesn’t me it’s okay for the guards to treat people as though they are less than human.

I’m sure there are decent guards and also those that get off on hurting people, enjoying having that kind of control. But people get back what they dish out. It may not come from the people they hurt, but what goes around comes around. The law of cause and effect is very strict. There is an effect for everything we do – good and bad – so just sit tight and do the best you can and ride this out because it will, someday, be over, and when you start your life again you want to feel good about what you are doing.

Yes, family is very important. But the hardest thing some people have to learn is to respect other people’s privacy. I had not spent  much time around my family and I didn’t expect them to be so judgemental. I felt that I couldn’t say anything to anyone, including my mom without everyone calling each other with their latest gossip. And my mom was getting aggravated because I don’t do things the say she does. It was hard ripping up my entire life and moving up here into to my mom’s spare 10×10 room. Not much bigger than your cell. I don’t like people talking about my life on the phone or discuss my medical tests with each other. I had asked her for only one thing. Respect my privacy, and it didn’t happen. Mike and I spend a lot of time in our room because it is our only space. But my mom is getting better about it. We’ve had fewer testy little arguments. She is 77 and I have to remember that aging is no fun. She’s losing her hearing and she repeats herself a lot because she forgets, so I have to learn to just let things roll over me and not react. 

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It’s hard to picture the rec area and the cages and the way they try to get people to fight. I think I would rather stay in lockdown to lessen the chances of getting written up. Although being able to play basket ball would be good if your knees were ok. What have the nurses said about your knees? There is something very wrong. Is it possible that it is water on the knee?

It was good to hear that you were helping other people. Some people have had such horrible lives and have people that don’t know the difference between right and wrong. They don’t have a chance. You, too, weren’t raised in a way to feel that you were capable of so much more. No one to help with your schooling. Where were the adults that you could look up to and respect? You have a chance to change all that when you get out. To do something your enjoy, to feel good about yourself and have the confidence to get past the negativity.

And yes, I would like to see a copy of the things the commissary has. Also – are you still getting the mag subscription you wanted?

Well, time to eat. I made a big pot of split pea soup. I like to cook, and not being able to work right now gives me all the time I want to cook. When Mike and I get our own place my mom is sure going to miss me because I do all the cooking! She finds it hard to cook for one person and doesn’t eat as well as she should. Since she has diabetes, what you eat is very important. I’m sure you would just like to eat something that tasted good with fresh veggies and fruit and maybe some nice bbq’d ribs. Oh! I’m being mean aren’t I? Just trying to get your imagination going!

Lots of love son, mom