Keeping Time

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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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