Who Do I See in The Stainless Steel Mirror

Sonni Quick improv piano

I have been working a lot on music to use in the book. I have been working on this for so long – because it is more than just a book. I have talked to a number of self published authors and some have written a fair number of books  mostly fiction. They can make a story be anything they want and a character can have any personality they can create. Even though I have to fictionalize the letters I use to base Jamie’s story on there still needs to be truth. The storyline follows what he writes about – for the most part. I have letters spread all over my bed in date order so I can follow where the story goes over time. I also have to take into account the letters I wrote to him because he answers them in his letters.

I received a letter a couple days ago and I will soon write about what he said. Nothing after 2016 is in this book, it will be in the sequel. But for those who want to know what goes on behind prison walls, what he wrote about needs to be told.

I am also not leaving marketing to chance. Many don’t think about that until their book is finished. Good books are written that no one knows about because the author didn’t take the time to learn the business end.

There is so much to do. Doing it by myself makes for long days. I never have to wonder what to do on any given day! I’m never bored. So today I am promoting two new pieces of music and this is one. If you like it please share it on your social media as I attempt to get my music out while I can.

Also  come to my music page at Facebook. I also promote other very talented musicians and bands! You can also listen to everything and see all music videos at YouTube or my website: http://sonniquick.net 

http://facebook.com/sonniquickspiano 

Thank you.

 

Listen to Who Do I See in the Stainless Steel Mirror by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud

I Open My Eyes And Pray – Chapter

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I OPEN MY EYES AND PRAY

 

(This time I’m inserting the complete chapter because the end is needed for the beginning. If you do a search on the title, other chapters will pop up. anything with the book cover on it is part of the second draft. Anything else has good info, but I’m rewriting the entire book)

A newspaper and magazine began arriving in the mail in February. Sonni told him she took out subscriptions for him to help him understand his life. Jamie needed to look at his life from a different angle. He had only known one way of thinking. There was a God in the universe who made everything, controlled everything, kept an eye on you, and had a plan for your life – if you loved and worshiped only him. If you didn’t you went to hell. As far as he knew he was already there.
     That was the key. He had to love God and make Him the center of his life. God demanded that there be no other gods before him. So he knew about other God’s. Everything happened because of him, even if your life ended up in a bad place like prison.
     God supposedly created the sun and the moon and the planets – the whole shebang. If he didn’t believe that, he would die and go to hell. That was enough to scare him into believing it was true. Better to be safe than sorry, he thought.
     Recently, when he had studied Islam he learned different, interesting ideas, but it was still a God based, Supreme Being religion, except it was Allah you worshiped. Both were far away in the universe so you were expected to have faith with no answers because it had been passed down through many generations. But did that make it true? People believed in one or the other but they couldn’t both be true, right? Each had a different way of thinking about life and death.
     Jamie got into Islam because there was a community of brothers at the prison who took him in and helped him study. He liked it because they were into peace, not violence. He didn’t want to fight and it always seemed to follow him. Maybe he could learn discipline, but when he was moved to a different prison and wasn’t around them anymore there was no one to keep him on target. Praying five times a day? It was hard to keep it up by himself and he slacked off.
     Sonni didn’t tell him he was wrong or that he should stop doing it. He needed to find his own way. But little bit at a time she told him things. She didn’t tell him at first it was the way Buddhists think, because a lot of it was plain common sense when he thought about it. She gave him different options to think about.
     It caused him to be unhappy when he thought about the mess of he made of things? It didn’t have to go this way. He knew it was his own fault he ended up here, but he didn’t know how to look at it deeper than that. Why did he do things that caused him to lose so many years of his life and have to live in a place that was a living hell?
     Buddhism said if you make a cause you get an effect. Everything about his life was caused by something. It didn’t happen out of the blue. If he could figure this out maybe he could ’cause’ it to go in a better direction.
     What made him who he was in the first place? What made him different from the next person? Did God make him with epilepsy? If so it was a cruel joke.
     He did know he didn’t have to die to go to hell, because he was already there, with a bunch of other dudes. Most of them thought they were victims and weren’t really responsible for being here.
     It didn’t take rocket science to understand he needed to change his thinking or when he got out he might do the same crazy things that got him put in here. He needed to find better friends. It started with the people you chose to be in your life. But was it as easy as that? How do you meet the right people? You couldn’t look inside them to see who they were. People hid parts of themselves so it couldn’t be seen. Jamie didn’t think he was going to meet the right people in here.
     This Buddhist thinking could get pretty deep and he knew so little. It was like peeling layers of an onion. It got harder and harder to peel each layer and the smell got stronger as he faced parts of himself he didn’t like.
     He prayed and prayed to God to help him and nothing changed. He was told he needed more faith. How much faith did it take for God to notice he was hurting? The chaplain told him that is what it means to have faith, but so far his faith didn’t produce any good results. His life only got worse and worse. It was time to look at other options.
     Some of the articles in this new magazine made him feel like he could change his life, but first he had to change how he thought he ended up here. He needed to understand. It sounded so easy, but it wasn’t. He could change his thinking one minute, but if a guard mouthed off at him his anger popped out real fast before he could stop it.
     It was easy to fall into a victim way of thinking. He might deserve being here but that didn’t mean he deserved to be treated badly, like he wasn’t worth the space he took up.
He liked reading the weekly newspaper, the World Tribune, and the magazine, Living Buddhism. Did he believe everything he read? He didn’t know. He didn’t understand some of it but he was trying. Sonni said she had been studying this for a long time, so he was willing to listen. He wouldn’t understand everything right away.
     In lots of ways it was like Christianity, teaching you how to be a better person, but instead of praying to God to fix things he knew he had to fix things himself. He had the time to work it out. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do.
     Sonni was in the hospital a lot right now, sick most of the time. She was slowly climbing the transplant list. It wouldn’t be long now. He was sure she was doing a lot of chanting to keep her confidence high. But he was still worried about her and wished he could do something to help.
     All of her letters came through the Jpay system. She was having trouble typing because her hands shook from the medications. She wasn’t able to hold a pen anymore to write, so she picked out what she wanted to say one key at a time with one finger. She said it took her a long time to type a letter.

Jamie tried to turn off his brain. It hurt from so much thinking. Kicking back on his bunk he tried to think about his future instead of the past or present. Changing the past was impossible, but maybe he could do better at creating a future for himself in his brain.
Thing is, he would have never learned about this on his own, yet it makes sense. What if there had been no Sonni? What would he be thinking right now? Would he be praying? Probably, because he didn’t know anything else to do. If it was up to God to change his life he would do it when and if he was ready. It’s not up to us when that is.
     Buddhists pray, too – while they chant. But they don’t pray for something in the universe to fix them. They pray for the wisdom to understand what they need to do to fix themselves.
     Either God thinks you’re worthy or he doesn’t. Sure, he knew the phrase, you reap what you sow, but it wasn’t really taught or explained because God could always override it if he wanted. He could change a bad thing and make it disappear, but he never jumped in and changed any of the bad stuff that happened to him. God doesn’t answer all prayers so how do you know if it’s pointless to pray about something?
     Jamie had to think deeper about why he was here because it wasn’t by accident. He needed to change what he did because he never wanted to come back here, or any other prison, again. Prison made him think about his life and the ball was in his court to make it change.
     A lot of dudes ended up with another prison sentence after they got out, even though they said they were serious about doing things different and staying clean. Some had families and wanted to be better fathers. But it wasn’t always that easy and they ended up inside again. Why did that happen? Was it because they started doing the same things again that got them in trouble in the first place? Did they go back to the same friends? Maybe they couldn’t make enough money. It was hard to get a good job as an x-felon. Or maybe their old life was too tempting. It could be as simple as breaking parole; getting caught with someone who had a gun or being in the wrong place. Maybe they missed a meeting with their parole officer.

He didn’t want that to happen to him.

Jamie picked up the magazine that came in the mail today. He rolled his blanket into a pillow and lay down on the floor. After reading for a while he decided to chant a little. He told Sonni he would. It did make him feel better. It took deep breaths to chant and that helped him relax. He tried to block things out in his mind and think about positive things he wanted to happen when he got out.
     He never thought doing something like this would be interesting. It was like meditating and he enjoyed doing it. Could he really use chanting to improve himself? He felt it helped him focus his thoughts. That was a start.
     The magazine had articles about experiences people had when they set a goal and chanted to reach it. He liked reading those stories.
     There is a man who is the leader of the people who practice this type of Buddhism. There is more than one kind of Buddhism just like there are many different kinds Christianity and lots of different churches. His name is Daisaku Ikeda. He teaches the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. There is also Zen, Tibetan and Shinto Buddhism and others. They aren’t the same, just like Mormons aren’t like Catholics.
     “Nam myoho renge kyo is like the roar of a lion. Therefore what illness can be an obstacle,” Jamie read aloud from a page in the magazine.
     Reading the words was easy. He could skim it and move on, but there had to be a deeper meaning. If he didn’t take the time to try to understand it would be pointless.
     A lion is powerful – King of the jungle. When a lion roars animals stop and listen. So chanting is like a powerful roar that goes out into the universe. Reading the article he learned that the power of chanting can break through obstacles. An illness isn’t always being sick. It is anything that has the power to defeat you.
     The hardest thing about living your life alone, stuck in a small cell, is there is nothing to do but think. No matter how hard he tried not to, it was impossible to stop his brain from latching on to every thought that went though it. It was exhausting.

Jamie looked up toward the window. He couldn’t see much but he knew the sun was out. It was a good time of year. April was was one of the few months where it wasn’t too hot or too cold. Daytime and night hours were both comfortable. March wasn’t bad, either, but come May you could feel the heat start to rise. It would be good if he could be taken outside for rec. He’d like to see the sun. It got depressing being inside too much never getting any fresh air.
     Today was commissary. The guards should be coming soon to take him down. It usually happened once a month, unless they were on lockdown. Then it was canceled. There was a little money in his account that Sonni sent. He needed to get hygiene – deodorant, soap and some stamps if he had enough. If he runs out of stamps they’ll still send letters, but they’ll take the money back the next time Sonni sends any. What he really wanted was some chocolate. That put a smile on his face. Chocolate tasted like freedom If he closed his eyes when he ate it.
     Jamie got up and stood at the sink with a couple pieces of dirty clothing. He soaked the shirt he had taken off this morning when he did his bird bath at the sink. Using his last tiny piece of soap, he scrubbed the shirt the best he could and let it soak in the water a few minutes before rinsing it out. He hung it over the edge of the sink to dry while he waited for the guard to come and cuff him.
     When he could, Jamie washed his own clothes. He doubted if soap was put in the washers. Either they were cutting costs or the inmates running the huge commercial washers couldn’t be bothered.
     They also crammed the clothing in the washers so tight he doubted water could get through it and get everything wet, let alone washed and rinsed. When he was given clean clothes, like after a shower, they always smelled like the men who wore them before him. Even when he didn’t have enough soap he still rinsed them out. The water that came out of the faucet often had a bad smell so his clothes never smelled good, like he remembered when he was young and his mom did laundry.
     Jamie heard the guards stop at his cell door. There were always two when they had to take him somewhere. He turned his back to the door and waited for the food tray slot to open and put his hands through it to be cuffed. He moved away from the cell door and turned around.
     It was uneventful. The other guard felt him up like normal to make sure he wasn’t hiding nothing and put the chains on his ankles. Off they went. He forgot what it felt like to stride down the hallway at his natural speed. He could only separate his legs about a foot so it was more like shuffling than walking. Anyway, it felt good to get out of his cell.

     “Mind if I tag along?” Jamie smiled. He heard Sonni’s voice behind him.
     “What are you smiling for?” the guard asked, looking over at him.
     “Oh nothing,” he said back. “It feels good to be walking. Don’t you think it’s a beautiful day?”
     The guard snapped at him, “Don’t get smart with me, asshole, or I’ll return you to your cell and you can forget about commissary.” Jamie turned his face and was silent. He really wanted to go to commissary today or he’d have to wait a month.
     Sonni didn’t have to be quiet, though. She laughed at the exchange. “I’ve never had a chance to see the rest of this place so I thought I’d walk along.”
     Jamie never knew when she was going to pop in and he was sure glad to see her. She was looking good, but he realized that was the way she wanted him to see her in her dream. She was the one dreaming this time. She had a massive shot of chemo into the tumors in her liver not long ago and her hair fell out. You wouldn’t know that looking at her today. Her hair was long and silky-baby fine. It was also very strange seeing her walk beside him and the guards had no clue she was there. If they knew, they would be freaking out right now. It was hard to keep from laughing. He coughed instead.
     They walked down several hallways and through a few double sets of locked doors until they came to the commissary. Sonni was looking left and right taking it all in.
     “It’s an unfriendly place, isn’t it?” she asked. “The air is really stale.”
     She stood to the side when it was Jamie’s turn to go up to the counter that blocked the entrance to the room where they kept the commissary items. A woman was standing there and asked him for his ID. She needed to look him up and see if he had money on the books.
     “You have twenty dollars in your account,” she told him without looking him in the eye. Jamie told her what he needed.
     They walked back to his cell in silence and waited to talk until the guards left. If he appeared to be talking to himself they might think he was nuts. He didn’t want to give them any reason to write him up.
     “I’ve been worried about you,” Jamie told her quietly.
     “I know,” she said. She wanted to take his hand, but couldn’t. Living without the touch of another human being is hard. We were meant to be touched.
     “You’re so sick and there is nothing I can do,” he told her. “If something happens I won’t know.”
     “I’ll find a way to make sure you know, ” she assured him.
     “You’re all I have, the only one who shows me you care and I don’t want to lose you. I don’t think I can take that.” Jamie talked fast to get the words out. He didn’t want her to see him getting upset.
     “I know you are much sicker than you appear,” he looked down and almost whispered the words.
     “Isn’t that the beauty of dreams?” Sonni smiled as she talked.
     “We can go anywhere and be anyone we want.” She glanced over at the bed and saw the World Tribune laying there.
     “Have confidence,” she told him. “You’ve been reading, I see. What do you think?” She sat down on his bed and patted the thin mattress beside her for him to sit.
     “It sure makes me think about things I never thought about before.” Jamie nodded his head as he answered.
     “This is deeper thinking than anything I learned in my life before. It doesn’t say you have to believe in something you can’t see, but you should believe it anyway.”
     Jamie tried to find the words to explain what he meant. “Believe what you know to be there. See the actual proof of changes in your life.”
     “When you see what is happening in your life, something had to cause it to be there,” Sonni finished his thought and continued. “There are no accidents or bad luck. There is only effects of decisions you made, although it goes deeper than that because this isn’t our first rodeo show. If you focus on where you want to be in your life and seek the wisdom to change your life, you can.”

Sonni stopped there. “There is so much more to learn, and prison is giving you the time to learn it.”
     “It’s time for me to go now, Jamie, but I’ll be seeing you again soon.”
     That fast she was gone. She faded and disappeared like a genie in a bottle. Jamie sat there and went over everything in his head. It was quite a day.
     He still had hard years to get through, but everyone had hard years in one way or another. We all live some good years, too. Hopefully he’ll have lots of good years in his future.
     Even though Sonni is sick, she still has freedom. He doesn’t have freedom and without it, it isn’t much of a life. He can only pray things will get better for her, as he knows she prays for him. That’s all he can do for her. But Buddhists don’t close their eyes and pray, they open them and send their prayers into the universe and pray for protection.

Jamie picked up the World Tribune and began reading again where he left off.

 

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Looking Into the Crystal Ball – Chapter

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I decided to publish this chapter again for people who are new to Jamie’s story – as I continue to work on the second draft – to create interest. This is the first chapter after the prologue as he learns, from jail  about his public defend and his sentence.

There are other chapters and partial chapters available to read as well as music and videos finished that are for the chapters that have the same title. You can find the music and videos at my website sonniquick.net. This is the video and music for this chapter.

Subscribe to ITFO NEWS for monthly newsletters about the book and other prison issues. It is only by you and people you share this with that will enable me to be successful  This has been a long project putting all of this together. Your support is important and appreciated.

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LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

 

One after another, thoughts kept racing through Jamie’s head. What was going to happen to him? Life would never be the same. His court date was today and he didn’t have a clue what was going on. Didn’t he need an attorney? He couldn’t represent himself. How many years could they give him? He had no idea but he had a feeling this wasn’t going to be a good day.
     A black man like him, born and raised in Texas would get as many years as they could possibly give him. Racism is alive and well and Texas ranked with some of the worst. They would lock him up whether he deserved it or not.
     Depending on your race, the same crime gets different sentencing. Looking around the room at the dozens of three tier bunks lined up across the floor it was easy to see there was more black skin than white. Maybe white men didn’t commit as many crimes in Harris county. That was a laugh.
     Jamie needed someone to talk to. Somebody on his side who would listen and help. He wanted to explain he did not go out that night with his friends so he could rob a club. He wasn’t the one who had a gun in his back pack. He didn’t even know the guy had a gun until he talked about it in the car. It sounded like he was joking. He didn’t think the dude was serious. If only he did something to stop him things would be different right now.
    Morgan wrote him a while back and said she tried to get him a lawyer but it didn’t come through. She sent money to his brother who had a friend who knew an attorney who would take a deposit. Payments could be made on the balance.
     It sounded kinda hokey to him but it was the only thing he had to hope for. Trust him or do nothing. They should have done nothing because the money disappeared. Morgan lost money she could have used herself for the kids.
     He knew his mom didn’t have any money to help him. Morgan sent money she made working at her mom’s store. He knew he was on his own. He would feel better if he could at least see her, but that wasn’t going to happen. She was too far away.
     Jamie’s life was falling apart. How could he control what was happening? He was never going to see his son be born. He wanted go be a father but he could kiss that goodbye. There would be no holding him or being the kind of dad he never had. The cycle of being raised without a father wasn’t going to be broken.
     Life wasn’t supposed to be fair all the time, but he felt his life had never been fair from the time he was born. He grew up being told to believe in God. Have a blessed day and all that. There was no reason not to believe, but he didn’t think God had done much to bless him lately. He prayed desperately since this happened but it didn’t do much good. Tears began to well up in his eyes, threatening to spill down his cheeks.
   “Choke it down, Jamie,” he told himself. “Don’t let it show.” If he started to cry he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to stop.
     “If anyone saw you they would think you weak,” he whispered under his breath. They would gang up on him to make him their whipping boy. He wasn’t about to let that happen.
     Today was supposed to be his day in court but nobody talked to him about it. He was scared. Hs heart was beating in his head and it echoed in his ears.

      Jamie leaned against the grate covering the window and hooked his fingers into the metal and stared outside, watching the day as the seconds and minutes of his life passed by. Everything outside looked normal. He could see people coming and going.
     Clouds were creeping across the blue sky as if today were a normal day like all the rest. It wasn’t normal for him. He wanted so bad to leave the building and walk out into that day and be free. Could he change what was happening? Not likely. It took all his willpower not to scream.
     “Cummings, you have a visitor.”
    Jamie was lost in his thoughts. He didn’t hear what was said. The guard raised his voice. “Cummings, wake up.” He almost yelled when he repeated it.
     Startled, Jamie whirled around to face him. He had a visitor? His first thought was of Morgan. Was she here?
     “Your attorney is here. You have to come with me.”
     “What attorney? Jamie shot back. “I don’t have no attorney.”
     “You do now.”
    Jamie was apprehensive. His mind began to race. Nobody told him someone was coming. Shouldn’t he have been told? How would he have time to help him now? There wasn’t time. He had been in here waiting for months. Why was he only coming to see him at the last minute? He hesitated before he began walking toward the guard.
    “We don’t have all day.” The guard insisted. ” Get a move on it.” Jamie turned around and let the guard cuff his wrists. There was no going anywhere outside this cell without cuffs. There were some men who would try to hurt the guard or anyone else on staff just for the fun of it.
He half stumbled when the guard gave him a small shove to start him walking. Down the hallway past three closed doors, the door to a small windowless room was standing open. When they walked inside, a man in a suit was waiting bedside a metal table bolted to the floor. Jamie didn’t remember seeing him before.
     He was a skinny man with acne scars spread across his cheeks. He glared at Jamie with contempt in his eyes. His thinning hair combed over the top of his bald head was a poor attempt at pretending he had hair. Poor dude. Jamie was sure he the public defender assigned to him. Maybe this was the only lawyer job he could get. He didn’t seem too happy to be here.
     Jamie needed someone who could help him, but this man didn’t seem like he enjoyed his job very much. He swept his arm in a gesture over the table which told Jamie to sit down.
    The man continued to stand and glare at him with his arms crossed over his chest with a ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude. It was a power move to show he was the authority in the room.
    The guard removed his cuffs. Jamie sat and waited for the man to talk. He was uncomfortable but he wasn’t going to let it show. The attorney took his time, letting his gaze slowly wander from his head to his hands as if he expected Jamie to jump up real quick and attack him.
It wasn’t the first time a white man looked at him like that, assuming he would be violent if given the chance. Jamie wasn’t a little man, but that didn’t mean he went around attacking people.
     “You’re in deep trouble, son,” the attorney began his practiced spiel.”You don’t have many options.” Son? He called him son? Was that his way of sounding superior?”
    How many times had this man repeated the same line, Jamie thought. Before he could continue, Jamie tried to talk. “I want to explain what happened. I didn’t . . .”
      That was all he managed to get out before this man, put both fists on the table, leaned over and looked him dead in the eyes.
      “I’m not interested in hearing your story. I don’t care what you did or didn’t do.
       “I need to . . .”
      “You don’t need to do anything. I said . . .” He hesitated for a few seconds, “I’m not interested. Tell your story to someone else. All you need to know is, the District Attorney has a case against you and your only option is to plead guilty.”
    He paused for a moment as he drilled that statement into Jamie’s head. He broke eye contact to take a few papers out of his brief case and lay them on the table.
     “You need to sign these papers admitting to guilt. I’m here on behalf of the DA who is offering you a plea deal of forty years. I advise you to take it.”
     Jamie stared him, stunned. What the hell? He was trying to scare him and it was working, Was he serious? Forty years? No way would he agree to that.
     “They have you dead to5th right, running out of a club after robbing it,” the attorney emphasized, rapping his knuckles on the table several times.
     “The money was found on your friend, in the car you were driving. There is nothing to defend.”
     Jamie stood. He could feel his anger rising. He was being railroaded. One case finished, on to the next sucker who couldn’t afford to pay for an attorney?
     “I’m not going to agree to that. I didn’t do it. I might have been there, but I didn’t have anything to do with what my friend did.” He knew it didn’t matter. Being there made him an accomplice. But he couldn’t go down without a fight. Forty years was beyond anything he thought could happen. “I want to go in front of the judge. No way am I pleasing guilty.”
     “Have it your way.” He put the unsigned papers back in his briefcase and closed it. Picking it up, he walked out.
     Jamie stared after him, speechless. “Now what?” he asked the guard who was leaning against the wall watching this while thing go down.
He shrugged. He didn’t make a move to take him back to the cell so Jamie sat down, waiting to see where this was going. There was no point in trying to talk to the guard. Twenty minutes later the attorney walked back in. 

     “I have another option for you and I advise you to take it,” the attorney instructed impatiently. He began tapping the toe of his shoe on the floor. “There won’t be another one.”
     It was obvious he wanted this signed and done. He didn’t want to waste any more of his day on Jamie.
     “You’re lucky.” He continued. “The DA must have a soft spot for you.”
Sarcasm dripped from his words. Jamie wondered what he did to make him dislike him so bad. He obviously didn’t want to defend him even thought it was his job. How many other people had he already said this to today?
     “Seventeen years,” the attorney paused to let it sink in. “If you don’t take it, and insist on going to court and wasting everyone’s time, they will slap on extra charges. You’ll end up doing fifty to ninety-nine.”
    “What charges?” Jamie demanded. He slammed his hands down o.k. the table. The attorney ignored him. “What about wasting years of my life?” he added.
     “I need time to think about this,” Jamie told him. How could he agree to give up the rest of his youth without a fight? He didn’t plan what his friend did at the club. Why should have to pay for it with so many years of his life? What would that prove?
      There were four of them that went out to the club that night. He had no idea what they were going through. Were they offered the same deal? He needed answers but there was no one who was going to give them to him.

     The dude who had the gun had been to prison before. He had a record so they probably went harder on him. Why did he go out that night? Why? If only he had stayed home.
     “You have five minutes.” the attorney told him. I’ll be back for your answer.”

How was Jamie supposed to know what to do in five minutes? This was wrong. He didn’t know how to fight it. This man was the only attorney he had and it was obvious, defending him in court was something he had no interest in doing. Why? Isn’t he supposed to defend him? Wasn’t that his job? He guessed not when the DA wanted it to end another way.
     Right and wrong didn’t matter. There was no such thing as justice. Another body to fill a prison bed. The only thing that mattered was locking up as many people as they could. Not just any people – black people. They went after Hispanics and other minorities, too.
     The government wanted to fill the prisons with poor people who couldn’t afford to protect themselves or pay for a real attorney. Racism toward blacks keeps growing. Why? Because they think black people wanted to knock white people off their pedestal of superiority? But most blacks and minorities only wanted to survive and raise their families. They wanted equality. They weren’t going to get it.
     Jamie didn’t understand it? He didn’t know all the history. He did know what he witnessed, though, and he heard the stories people told about why they were in jail.
     There was no way for him to come out on top of this. He was screwed no matter what he did. If he fights he loses.
     Jamie started to stand up but the guard glared at him with a look that said, “Don’t even try.” He sat back down and waited for the attorney to return. His brain was going a hundred miles an hour. How long would seventeen years feel. It was almost as long as his whole life up till now. He was only twenty- one.
     Should he take a chance and go to court? Possibly give up his entire life? He didn’t know what other charges they could add. They could make up anything they wanted.
     He closed his eyes and put his head back. He had no choice. His unborn son had no choice, either. He wouldn’t have a father. He would be giving up ask thought of raising his son. If he did all seventeen years he would be almost out of high school. They wouldn’t know each other.
     Morgan would have to go on and find someone else. It killed him to think about that. The pain ripped him in two. He couldn’t expect her to wait. Maybe he could get out early. Maybe he could get parole.
     So many unanswered questions running through his head at the same time. His five minutes are over. He heard the door handle click when it unlocked. The attorney stepped back into the room.
     “What’s your answer?” Jamie looked down, reached out his hand and signaled with his fingers for the papers.

 

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Sharing is a great way to do that. If you are new to this blog read his story on the blog beginning with the ones at the top. Early posts found inn the archived will also help you get tho know him. The story begins 19 years ago when the the kids in the family defended their mother from a racist cop who forced his way into their house. Jamie was put in juvenile detention. His story needed telling.

Sonni Quicks Piano Improv – YouTube channel of the music videos being created for “Inside The Forbidden Outside.” New videos released as they are made.

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Watch and Whirl – Sonni Quick.   This is my other blog. An odd assortment of rants and raves on a variety of subjects and music info, too.

 

The Reason For My Youtube Videos

I have made quite a few YouTube videos over the past year. Almost all of them are for the music I have recorded for my book, Inside The Forbidden Outside. Not everyone reads the description under the videos so I thought I’d do one explaining what they are about.

The comments I receive at the sites where you stream my music has been more than awesome. There have been many that say something like, “I love your music,” but there are even more that that go into great detail about why they love the music. Feedback about the upcoming book has been tremendous.

I know it seems like I’ve been writing this book forever, and it has taken longer than I expected, but it takes so much time to promote every piece of music and then communicate while I research “the letters” and write the next chapter.

I edit the chapters more than if I were submitting the entire manuscript to be edited because I post partial chapters, sometimes entire chapters, on my blog to be read. I won’t develope interested readers with poor writing and grammar so I correct it too the best of my abilities, because I want you to share it.

So the going is not a breakneck speed. I see the ads, “Write a book in 90 days!” and laugh. Really? Good luck with that.

Back to my chapter. Thanks to all of you who have been to my various sites. YOU are SO appreciated!

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Keeping Time

Listen to Keeping Time by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud

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KEEPING TIME

Jamie sighed and blew a long, slow breath through his lips, sounding almost like a low whistle. January of the new year had begun without even the breath of a whisper. He hoped this year would be different, in a positive way, because 2011 didn’t end so good.
     The holidays got him down. If there had been no one in his life before this, no family, and lots of dudes in here didn’t have families, he wouldn’t expect anyone to care. But that was not his reality. His being here was too hard on them so they didn’t deal with it. Realizing no one cared if he was okay, physically or mentally, was hard. He missed his family very much. He didn’t stop loving THEM but he wasn’t sure if he mattered anymore.
     How could he know if they were silent? Did they miss him? It didn’t seem like it, he thought. Most of the time he could shove it into the back of his head, but Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and his birthday all came bang bang bang one after the other.
     Some of the dudes in here had family that constantly showed they weren’t forgotten. Of course, if they were far away it was hard to visit. Cards were passed around so others could see them. They were still connected to people outside. Their families helped them survive and helped them get some of the things they needed.
     The choice of clothing was limited at the commissary but he could get underwear, socks and shoes, long underwear for the winter, sweat pants, a jacket, T-Shirts. These things made a difference during cold winter nights. If he could get them on his own it would be different, but he can’t. Sonni helps as much as she can but she can’t do everything. Besides, right now she has bigger problems and she’s still there for him.
     Did anyone think it might be hard for him to get through holidays or his birthday, even Father’s Day because he might be depressed at not being able to see his son? Jamie never had a father he could tell, “Happy Fathers Day.” He knew by now hoping it would be different wouldn’t change anything, but the thought was still planted at the back of his brain just the same.
     He did receive a Christmas card from his brother. He usually sent one, and he was grateful for that, but he waited every day to see if anyone else would remember. No such luck. He should also forget about getting any cards for his birthday, too, which would come and go in little more than a week. Twenty-nine this year. His youth will not be worth remembering. Maybe he was expecting too much. Going to prison seemed about as far away as going to Mars. Mail couldn’t make it there, either.
     He would have so few good memories to think of when he thought about all these wasted years. He had a son, his only son, and he was special, even if he couldn’t spend time with him now. Someday he would be part of his life. Someday this would be over.
     Last year, and the year before, was the same as this year. He wouldn’t think any further back because he didn’t want to remember everything. Time wasn’t something that created good memories for him. It was a noose around his neck that became more painful with each passing year. His life was like a battered, rusty clock that wasn’t keeping time anymore because the batteries had long since died.
     It would only take a small effort to bring a little happiness into his life. It would be brief, but needed. A little something to look forward to. A simple card would do that for him; a present he could stare at on his shelf, with colorful happy things on the front.
     They were lies, of course, because there was no truth in wishing he would have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Birthday, Happy Valentines Day, Happy Easter and more. Happy. Happy. Happy. He forgot what happy felt like. Was he feeling sorry for himself? Probably. He was craving the feeling of still being loved.
     A card was a new decoration for his residence, like hanging a picture on a wall. Whenever he was feeling down he could pick it up and look at it in his hands. It would lift him up when he was depressed. That’s what a card could do for him to help him through.
     The closest thing he had to human touch was holding a card. He imagined the person who sent it had held it, signed it and hopefully wrote something good inside.
     Once, Morgan sprayed perfume on a letter. He woke one morning to this wonderful smell. He didn’t know how or when it had been delivered. It didn’t come at mail call, so who had it? He laid in bed with his eyes closed and breathed this intoxicating smell deep into his lungs. He thought it might be a dream so he didn’t want to open he eyes and break the spell – until some dude down the hall yelled out asking what smelled so good.
     Jamie jumped out of bed and searched his cell. He found a letter under a t-shirt he had thrown on the floor the night before. It was near the door. Someone had shoved it through the opening under the door and it slipped out of sight under his shirt. How come this person had his mail?
     Someone had enjoyed his card before he did. That was disturbing. Was it a guard? Did he smell the card and removed it until he was done with it? Had it been opened? Jamie searched the back of the envelope to see if it looked like someone had opened it and resealed it again. He couldn’t tell, and probably would never know.
     Jamie sat on the edge of the bed, holding the card up to his face, breathing it in for the longest time. It smelled like Morgan. She wore this scent all the time. What intense memories it brought to the surface.
     He smelled the card often through the next days. It took a long time to breath in all the perfume. A little kindness and thoughtfulness went a long way when you’re locked up. It was an unexpected thoughtfulness that brought him a lot of pleasure.
     The guards didn’t usually allow stuff like this to be delivered. He guessed he could add this to the small list of good things that happened over the years.

Jamie read his mail over and over, saving every one from the very beginning. They were his connection to the outside and were moved from cell to cell, prison to prison. At times they were taken from him as punishment but he got them back eventually. Taking away a man’s letters was one way to keep him in line. He felt their absence when he couldn’t open one and read.
     Letters and cards were his only connection to people and he felt lost when that connection wasn’t there. They didn’t understand. They were the most precious property a man owns when he is locked up. 
     If they did understand, maybe they’d try harder to be there for him once in awhile. In the rare times he did get a letter no one asked how he was. It was sent to tell him someone had recently died. He hated those letters because he was left to grieve on his own. He didn’t handle death very well. Never could.
     Hoping for a visit was pointless, too. He wouldn’t let his mind go there. He listened to names being called out when someone had a visitor, but it was never his name.
Why did everybody who said they loved him end all contact with him? The thought went around and around in his head. It made no sense.

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Jamiee stood near the cell door, leaning on the wall. His head was down and his eyes were closed. There was no reason to move. There was no reason to do anything. He stood slumped over like that for a long while. It was a wonder he didn’t fall down.
     “I’m here Jamie, I’m here,” a soft voice whispered from behind.” She didn’t want to scare him.
     Startled, he raised his head and whirled around. He didn’t know what to expect.
     “I’m so sorry,” he said, speaking softly. The words spilled out of his mouth. She was wearing a robe over a hospital gown. She looked tired.
     “I was being selfish, calling on you to come,” he said.
     “I needed to know you were okay. I hadn’t heard from you in awhile and there was nothing I could do about any of it.” He collapsed down, sat the floor and put his head in his hands.
     “My head is in a bad place,” he said as he rubbed his temples. “I don’t feel so good.”
     He quickly added, “I didn’t mean to drag you out of bed.”
     “I think I’m going nuts in here. I don’t know how to deal with this,” he said desperately, looking her in the eye. Sonni could see the glisten of tears. She wished she could put her arms around him, but she couldn’t. That was a barrier they couldn’t cross if they wanted to.
     

~END PARTIALCHAPTER~

 

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Prologue for Inside The Forbidden Outside

 

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

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

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

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

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PROLOGUE

Dear mom how are you?

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

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

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

<<< >>>

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

<<< >>>

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

 

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When I Lay Sleeping – ITFO Chapter and Music

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Listen to When I Lay Sleeping by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud
https://soundcloud.com/sonni-quick/when-i-lay-sleeping

 

When I Lay Sleeping

 

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

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

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

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

  <<< >>>

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

 

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Life is a Merry-go-Round

This is my newest piano piece – You’ll find it later on one of the chapters to my book. One by one the chapters are rewritten, music is recorded and videos are made.

Read some of the chapters. They are easy to find. They have a picture of the book cover at the top. “Inside The Forbidden Outside.” 

Leave feedback! I want to know what you think. Subscribe to my newsletter and most of all – share, as I build a following. This is to help Jamie when he is released from prison, which is getting closer and closer. Only a little over 4 years to go! Also, go to sonniquick.net to hear all of the music and videos done so far.

This is the most important projects of my life. Years of learning to play the piano, performing and writing. But most of all it is for someone else – to help his life. To be there for someone that most everyone has forgotten.

How we treat people shows us what kind of person wee are. The golden rule, no matter what your philosophy or religion is: treat people the way you want to be treated. If everyone kept that in mind, the crisis America – and the world – is going through would make or lives better. That is all I’m trying to do. 

For those who follow me – or find me by accident – thank you very much. Come to my other social media and say hi.

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Seize The Day – ITFO Chapter

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SEIZE THE DAY

As Jamie slowly gained consciousness he realized his face was smack against the cement floor and his mouth hurt. Keeping his eyes closed he took an internal counting of his body parts. Anything else broken or bleeding? What the . . 

d      Waking up on the floor was not a good sign.

      He couldn’t move. It took too much effort to try. His body felt as though huge bricks were holding him down. Every muscle felt like it had been run over by a truck, more than once. He’d been through this before – too many times. He knew he’d had a seizure.
     A voice behind him said, “Should we take him to medical?”
     Jamie wanted to shout, “Of course you need to take me to medical,” but his mouth betrayed him and refused to form the words he could hear in his head.
     His blood needed to be checked. Was the right level of seizure medication going through his veins?
     Probably not. He had skipped too many days. What bullshit story would the doctor tell him this time? He usually ended up telling him to file a case if he felt he wasn’t being treated right, but he knows how that goes. It will get lost somehow and won’t get filed. They’ll lie. He wouldn’t know if it was filed or trashed.
     It was this kind of stuff that discouraged anyone from even trying to make them do their job because nothing ever came of it. Free medical care in prison? Not if they can help it. People in the free world didn’t have a clue how they are badly they were treated in here.
     The nurse had a bad habit of skipping over him when it was time to hand out meds. That happened more times than he could count. The medical staff conveniently turned into deaf and dumb mutes when he asked where his meds were. They wanted him to have a seizure, or at the very least didn’t care if he did.
     How do people get like that and turn a blind eye knowing they are hurting someone? He knows he’s not the only one. Surely they didn’t go into the medical field with the intention of hurting people. What happened to them?
     These thoughts went through his head at lightening speed. They were no different from all the other times he questioned if the prison staff was indifferent to whether or not they ended up killing him. After all, how many seizures can a brain handle before it gets fried?
     Jamie ran his tongue over his teeth and found one tooth broken off. It was sharp. The taste of blood was in his mouth so he must have banged his mouth on something when he fell off his bunk. It wouldn’t be the first time, or the last.

<<< >>>

When he’s seizing, he is never conscious of what is happening to him. He learned to roll with it a long time ago because fighting it was useless.
     Seeing someone have a seizure often freaked people out. They didn’t know what to do so they usually stood there and gawked at him with their mouths open. Afterward he usually needed to sleep for a few hours because it knocked him sideways. It often took hours to recuperate.
     Deliberately keeping his seizure meds from him, which didn’t stop them completely, but at least slowed them down, was cruel. How many other inmates suffered because the medical unit jacked with their meds? Probably a lot. It saved the prison a ton of money. He couldn’t see any other reason why they would do it. He didn’t matter to them. He was just a criminal in their eyes, and someone’s back to make money off. They thought he deserved it. He was just a loser in their eyes.
     Watching someone have a seizure would be freaky if you had never seen one. You wouldn’t know what to do. When you see it happening to someone your whole life, like his family did, you don’t feel any sympathy. It’s a fact of life. No big deal. “Jamie’s having a seizure,” someone would call out, then continue doing what they were doing.
     When he was a little kid and felt one coming on he got scared. He’d run down the hall and hide in the closet thinking it wouldn’t find him. Feeling a seizure coming on was like a boogie man chasing him. He hated it.
     Since he was born having a seizure, there was no time in his life when the next one wasn’t there, just waiting to jump him, never knowing when it was going to happen or how bad it was going to be.
     One time, he remembered, he tried to jump up and hold on to his mama, but she didn’t know why so she brushed him off and he fell to the floor.
     Another time he fell down the stairs, onto a glass coffee table and smashed it with his face. He still had the scars to prove it. He hated having seizures. Why him? No one could understand what it was like. What did he do to deserve it? Why did all this bad stuff happen to him? He thought he was a good person yet it kept happening. It was time for something good to happen.

<<< >>>

His mouth was still bleeding a little from where the broken tooth dug into the inside of his cheek. But there was no sharp tooth pain so he didn’t think it hit the nerve. They weren’t going to get him down to medical, anyway.
     “If we take him down to medical do YOU want to do the paperwork?” the other guard asked, “because I sure don’t. It can wait.”
     “Our shift is almost over,” he added. “Leave it for the next guys.” Jamie realized then there were at least two guards in his cell. He hadn’t opened his eyes yet, letting then think he was still passed out.
     “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” the other one said as he shrugged his shoulders. “There’s no reason why someone else couldn’t do the paperwork.
     “No one would know exactly when this went down,” the other one reasoned. “This inmate isn’t going anywhere to talk to anyone.”
     Jamie was fairly conscious by now, but he couldn’t move. He was being restricted, realizing his wrists were cuffed behind his back and his ankles were shackled.
     “What the fuck,” he started muttering as he tried to
sit up. He felt bad and his head was pounding.
     “Watch yer mouth,” the voice behind him said with a threat in his voice.
     “Are ya gonna be still now, or are ya gonna keep kicking,” one guard said, not really wanting to get in the middle of anything that would need explaining.
     Didn’t these dumb asses know he had a seisure, Jamie thought? He wasn’t just kicking because he felt like it. He knew he must’ve been out cold on the floor for awhile, long enough for them to chain him up. Maybe his legs were still twitching so they cuffed him. That happened sometimes with a seizure. But if he had had another seizure cuffed like he was now he could have broken some bones. Then they would have had some explaining to do.
     “My head is killing me,” Jamie said. “I need some water, and I need to go to medical,” he emphasized. When he got no response he spoke a little louder. “I didn’t do anything to deserve these cuffs.”
     He took a couple deep breaths and calmed himself down, “Please, take them off.” They obviously didn’t know what they were doing.
     “Now you’re talkin’ with a little respect,” one of them said and unlocked his wrists and ankles. Without another word both of them left the cell and the door locked behind them. They were going to leave him there without helping him? He wasn’t surprised. Closing his eyes, still laying on the floor, he rested.

Jamie sat up after awhile and rotated his head, stretching his neck muscles to ease the tension. He sat like that for a few minutes before pulling himself together and getting off the floor.
     Damn, he had wet himself. Sometimes he lost control of his bladder when he had a seizure. The guards didn’t notice it and he was glad for that. They would have laughed and make fun of him later – to his face – and would probable tell everyone on this block. So what? He took enough teasing from kids all his life. If the guards were THAT bored it was their damn problem. Dumb ass guards.
     There was nothing clean to change into. He’d have to pull it together, wash his pants and hang them to dry.
     “Now what?” Jamie said to thin air, with his hands raised. He wasn’t expecting any answer to miraculously come to him. What was there to believe in, anyway?      Counting on something up in the universe to see his problem and care about fixing it for him didn’t leave him feeling optimistic. How can you have faith in something you don’t even know is there? If there was something up there who cared about him like the h uBible said, he wouldn’t have let all this shit happen to him. He didn’t see any of his prayers being answered.
     Sonni told him more than once everything happened for a reason. Well, what was the reason then? He couldn’t figure it out. How does he change it? How do things happen for a better reason. Life was slapping him around and he couldn’t control it. There has to be a better way than to just wait for the next bad thing to happen.

Sleep was what he wanted. Then he wouldn’t have to think. Getting up and washing his pants wasn’t something he wanted to do. He had no choice if he didn’t want to stink. What he really wanted was to be anywhere other than where he was.
     Jamie had no idea how long he’d be here before anyone else came. After the shift changed he’d put in a sick call, but he’s wasn’t sure of the time. When did he eat last? Did he miss a meal? He didn’t care about that. He wasn’t hungry, but if he put in a call for medical he didn’t want these same guards coming back.
     Sleep was what he really needed. That wasn’t going to happen until he washed out his clothes, even if it meant later putting them back on wet. He pulled himself up onto his knees and pushed down the waistband of his white pants.
     Jamie rested on the edge of his bunk for a few minutes before taking them the rest of the way off. Standing at his small sink he began washing and rinsing his pants. He did have clean boxers in his locker so at least he wouldn’t be sitting there naked.
     Being inside this box gave him a jaded view of humanity. He saw the worst side of people, how jaded they become when they are allowed to abuse others with no consequences. If he learned nothing else from this experience but this, he knew what kind of person He didn’t want to be.
     Men built this system enslaving their fellow Americans for profit. It was a hideous side of human nature. They made everyone think prison is only a bad place with bad people. Yes, there were bad people in here, that’s the truth, and there were also many who shouldn’t be here or their sentence far outweighed whatever they did.
     Most people have a distorted view of what prison is like by watching TV and movies, but the reality of prison is by far much worse than anything that is shown to the public. If everyone knew the truth maybe someone would be able to change things. The real question is, would people believe the truth? 

 

 

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How Do I Find My Way – ITFO Chapter

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 How Do I Find My Way

Later: that afternoon, after Jamie got back from the showers, he sat on the edge of his bunk and opened his locker. He took out a stack of letters he had saved. They had been read so many times the creases from folding and unfolding were getting weak.
      These letters were all he had to connect him to the free world. Other inmates knew when you got letters and knew you had someone on the outside. Many men had no one, especially those who had been locked up for a long time.
      Family or friends who wrote when you were first locked up often slowly stopped writing. Maybe they ran out of things to say or got tired of writing. Life went on for them but it stopped for those inside.
      One sure fire way to stop them from writing was to ask if they could send money. No one wanted to support someone inside. Many didn’t have the money. Jamie knew Morgan could barely made enough to take care of the children. She couldn’t support him. But there was no way to get any of the things he needed unless he asked for help. The prison didn’t provide things like deodorant and other hygiene products, stamps, paper or envelopes. He’d like to be able to get some food items and maybe a radio but the other items had to come first.
      If there was no one to put money on your books for commissary you had to find another way to trade for what you needed. That could get you into a lot of trouble if you got caught. If inmates could get paid for work they did they would have a little money to to spend at the commissary. He didn’t mean housekeeping or laundry jobs, but the jobs where they made things for corporations to sell. Inmates didn’t get paid for those jobs, either.
      Texas prisons didn’t pay anyone for working although most states did. Even though the pay might only be twenty cents an hour they could still accumulate twenty to thirty dollars in a month. Texas said they give time off your sentence for good behavior but they always find a way to take it away from you.
      Jamie rarely heard from anyone in his family, although he did in the beginning. He made himself believe they were busy and he would get a letter soon. But that day rarely arrived and it was hard to deal with it sometimes. If he didn’t have Sonni’s letters he didn’t know if he would make it through with his sanity in one piece.
      Every day he listened at mail call to hear if his name was called. What if she stopped writing? She said she would always write but he was still afraid her last letter might really be her last letter.
      Finally, Jamie got up the courage to ask her if she could send a little money. He told her over and over it was okay if she couldn’t. He didn’t want her to think he was using her for money. It was hard waiting to get a letter back after that one. He was afraid he had blown it and she would be upset.
      She wasn’t. She wrote back and asked him how to send it. He sent her a slip to fill out and told her to send it back with a money order. Jamie was relieved.
    Letters from Morgan came with longer silences in between. She finally wrote and told him there was a new man in her life. He wasn’t happy about it. In fact, it ripped him up, but he knew she needed to go on with her life. He couldn’t blame her for that, but it also meant he would learn less and less about his son. Sonni helped fill in the gaps but it was never enough.
      That did not mean he expected someone else should take care of his family. Sitting in here year after year was pointless when he should be home talking care of them himself. It was hard for Morgan to take care of three kids by herself.
      He didn’t know what to do to make things better for her. He wanted to help but there was nothing he could do. He felt like was letting all of them down. He should be able to do something, but he couldn’t.
      Jamie carefully arranged his letters in piles by who wrote them and the date, the oldest ones on the bottom. This way he could read everything in order from each person. There were not many piles. He passed the rest of the afternoon by reading letters.

As he read he realized his day today could have ended up a whole lot different than it did. He had a short fuse. He knew that. He had no patience with people who had the authority to mistreat people just because they were locked up and they felt like it. Inmates could not fight back. If they argued because of being mistreated they paid a price for it.
      During the shower when the guard cut off the water, if Jamie hadn’t stopped himself from reacting in anger, the guard could have written up a case on him. It could have taken a couple years or more to turn that around. He was supposed to take the abuse because he was the inmate and had no rights, at least none they would let him use.
      From the time he was seventeen and spent four years in juvenile detention, being lied to over and over, he learned to have no patience with guards and staff who treated people with disrespect.

    Jamie pushed those thoughts out of his head and opened a letter from Sonni. Even though he had read her letters over and over, sometimes a sentence jumped out that made sense in a way he didn’t catch before.
   “Don’t believe something is the truth just because someone told you it was the truth.” That made sense, but what truth was she talking about?
      “It’s easy to believe something when you’ve been told the same thing over and over, but that doesn’t mean it is true.” She must have been answering something he had written to her in his letter. What was it? He could not remember.
   “Everything in your life happens for a reason. Something caused it. Things do not happen out of the blue just because you can’t figure out what you did to cause it.” All of this made sense but he had never thought about it like this.
      No one had ever talked to Jamie about why things happened in his life. He handled things in his day as they happened. He knew he needed to have more self control over his anger because he learned it could mess up his day.
     Jamie never thought much about these things up until now because he was always busy trying to dig himself out from under some problem. He didn’t always think about why it happened.
      The main problem was he didn’t think about what caused his problems until it was too late. What was done was done. It was hard to wrap his head around figuring out why it happened.

Sometimes one thing led to another and that made something else happen. He could see it looking back but he couldn’t see it looking ahead. But it made sense if he made different decisions it would cause different outcomes. But how was he supposed know what to decide in a split second when there was no time to think about how it might work out?
      Sonni’s letters made him think about things he never thought about. He didn’t know to think about his life in a deeper way. He was told God oversaw everything and he tried to pray for the right thing to happen. He could plan and change things in anyone’s life if he wanted to. He could bless people with good things. His family was not the type who went to church every week or anything like that, but he assumed everyone believed in God and would go to heaven.
      He always began or ended a letter hoping the receiver would be blessed or that he had been blessed. He didn’t think about what he was writing. It was automatic thing he wrote in his letters.
     If everything happened for a reason, then what could he do to change all of this for himself so he could go home? How could he know what to do?
      Jamie repeated this over and over in his head. It was like one big giant puzzle. It was starting to make his head hurt. All along did he deserve to be in here? From the time he was born it was God’s plan? Did God plan some things but not all things. That didn’t make sense so he didn’t think so.
      Did he have a choice or was he supposed to end up in prison no matter what he did? He was told God gave people free will. What happened if that messed up His plan. Did He have to make a new one – for everyone? He was expected to believe things that didn’t make much sense. But that was faith, right? He believed because it was all he knew.
      Having so much time to think about this yet have no one to talk to is difficult. Jamie was brought up to believe in God and you were supposed to pray to him when life got rough. Did God want his life to be this way? This was too many questions.
      You reap what you sow. That phrase was in the Bible, but he never really thought about it. Growing up they weren’t really a Bible reading family. The pastor here said he should trust God to take care of everything. These two ideas were so opposite from each other.
      Jamie went to church every week. He was trying to do the right thing. He wanted to hear the message. Did it change anything? He believed in God because it was what he was told to believe by people who were smarter than him. He didn’t think to question it.
      Going to church didn’t change anything in his life. The prison chaplain pushed it on the men. In reality, this man wasn’t very nice to those who said they didn’t believe and didn’t want go to church. That seemed hypocritical to him.
      So why did he believe in God? What did that belief do for him that made his life better? What prayers did God answer that he could say for sure happened because God made it happen? Growing up, hearing God made the world, and when we die we go to heaven is a pretty powerful reason to want to believe. If everyone learned the same thing it was easy to go along with it. No one had any different ideas. Believe, or not believe, was pretty much it.
      Where would he be if he wasn’t in prison? Jamie would like to believe he would be home taking care of his family. He would have a job, but he didn’t have any idea what that would be or what he was qualified for. He did have a job for a while. He worked for a cleaning company that cleaned offices and schools. One day cleaning supplies came up missing. He got blamed and was fired. He didn’t do it, but that didn’t matter. They had someone to blame. Why would he risk his job by stealing cleaning supplies? No one thought about that.

     He went to church every Sunday. He even sent off for Bible studies. He didn’t go to church just to get of his cell. He wanted to hear the message. He was searching for answers, trying hard to figure things out. He wanted to make sense of things, but somehow it wasn’t working.
      Not knowing what was going on at home was getting to him. Day after day he waited and prayed a letter would come, and it rarely did. But then, just when he was ready to give up, he would hear the mail person call his name. A letter would come, his mind was eased, and he would feel better for a while. The emotional seesaw took its toll.
      Soon the cycle would start again and his anxiety would slowly build until he couldn’t sleep. Weeks and months went by. The hardest part about this was not knowing what was happening.. Why was he kept in the dark? His mom said some things at her last visit about maybe being sick but she didn’t exactly say what was wrong, or if anything definite was wrong. He had no way to find out.
      Jamie was scared to death something was going to happen to his mom. He didn’t think he could handle that in here. His mind was thinking crazy thoughts. He couldn’t think straight.
      On top of that he was worried about his own family. It was all his own fault. He wasn’t doing so good. This was all because he wasn’t around. No one thought he needed to know anything. So he sat and stressed every day and could not stop himself. He wrote this letter to Sonni:

<<< >>>

Hello Mom, 8/20/09

First I want to thank you for the love and support you’ve given me even though you didn’t have to. I’m real thankful for it. Well, I’ll get to the point of what I’m saying. It’s rough when I sit here waiting for mail and I don’t get any from nobody but you. So I’ve made up my mind to just do this time and put everything else behind me. This way I won’t have to stress myself out. I’m not giving up on my family. I just have to do this because I’m hurting myself. I know something is wrong. I can feel it.
I’m not saying I’m going to go off and get in trouble. I’m going to end my letter here. But before I do I want you to know I’m still going to keep my promise and stay out of trouble. And thank you for the book, mom. It was good.

Love, Jamie.

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Living in silence was hard for Jamie. He couldn’t deal with it. It made no sense. When it became too much for him he lashed out. Depression surfaced easily. Maybe his family thought if he didn’t know what was going on he wouldn’t worry. It was just the opposite. He did worry, because he didn’t know. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. He wrote many letters hoping he would get an answer back but no one wrote. Sonni’s letters were all he had to lean on. They were his lifeline. She promised she wouldn’t disappear.

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