When I Lay Sleeping – ITFO Chapter and Music

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

 

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

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

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

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

  <<< >>>

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

 

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Unintended Consequences – Chapter – ITFO

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It was so hard to keep his head together. Jamie’s mind went all over the place. It was hard when there was no one to talk to. He was so alone. There was no one to talk to so he often carried on conversations with himself. He was in 24/7 lock-up for a year. Administrative segregation, or adseg, it was called. He didn’t leave his cell except fir showers and commissary once month. He had tried so hard to not let this happen. Staying away from trouble was his goal, but it always found him, anyway.  

     Mentally, he felt himself going down and there was nothing to keep him from smashing headfirst onto the bottom. He didn’t know what was going on, but he tried to get it together. Before this happened he tried so hard. He didn’t know if he could try anymore.
     Before he got sent to lock-up he had made a change in his life. It was a pretty big one. He thought at the time maybe it would help, maybe not. Some dudes he met told him about Islam. He decided to join with them. They still believed in God, or Allah they called him, but there were a lot of differences in how they practiced.
      They weren’t like a lot of the other dudes. They didn’t talk tough. Peace was way more important than violence, or who was bigger and badder or who did the worst crimes.
     He decided to give it a try because everything he had learned through the bible never changed anything for him. No matter how much he prayed his prayers weren’t answered. It didn’t make any difference and he thought by now something would have happened to let him know God was at least thinking about helping him.
     One of them gave him a book to read and study. It was hard because he was supposed to pray about it five times a day. He needed a prayer rug but he didn’t have a way to get one. Anyway, he tried to learn and went to their meetings. He enjoyed the conversations about life. Then something happened and he was locked up, more alone than ever.
     To have your life so controlled as this was more than anyone would be able to take without getting angry and wanting to break everything. He was tired of being told when to eat, when to sleep, when to breathe or take a crap. He couldn’t do anything unless it was the right time.
     A year completely alone; it was too long. There was nothing to break the monotony. Bits and pieces of thoughts swirled around in his brain and they wanted to make him crazy.
     Things were happening in his life on the outside he couldn’t control or fix. How could he deal with this confinement day after day and not be able to do anything about it?
     Not only that, he knew there was another man in Morgan’s life. He convinced himself it had nothing to do with what they shared together. The two ideas didn’t touch. He couldn’t handle thinking about it any other way. They shared the treasure of a son together. Nothing could take that away. She wouldn’t be with this dude if he hadn’t screwed up. He needed to believe she was still waiting for him, but it was getting harder and harder to do.
     It was his own fault – all of it. Trying to find the answer was not easy and many days he wanted to crawl under the floor and give up. Just give up. Stop thinking of the future. He might not make make it. He might not get out of here.
     He started and stopped eating. He would only pull himself out of a funk because he was afraid of what it would do to his son. How would he deal with his own life when he grew up if he knew his father gave up on his?
     Jamie Jr. couldn’t read or write yet and it would be some years before he’d be able to. He wouldn’t miss his father during his childhood because he had never been there to learn to miss him. He had never been there, and that was what ripped him up. It hurt badly if he thought about it too much.
     His son won’t understand why his father wasn’t around. He really didn’t even know he should be around. But most of all, Jamie was afraid his son won’t love him when gets out.
     Maybe his son will hate him. His son, his only child might not care. He might not want to see him and that would just kill him. How could he stop these thoughts from going around in his brain?
     If he wrote to him what could he say? He couldn’t explain that he was in prison. What’s that? Why was he there? What did he do? He could never explain how bad it was in here. He didn’t need to think about that. When he gets a lot older and can see him face to face, maybe then he could explain.
     What is he being told when he asks about his daddy? He probably doesn’t ask yet. Even if he did ask there is nothing positive that could be said. He could only hope he was told his daddy loved him very much. He could hope.

<<< >>>

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

 <<< >>>

 

Dec, 3, 2009

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

Write back soon. Please Please
Love, Jamie

<<< >>>

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Can Anybody Hear Me?

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CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?

Can anybody hear me?
Is anybody there?
Can anybody tell me
How I’m supposed to bear
The never ending silence
of no one in my head
Yet chaos on the outside
makes me scream instead

Who am I to talk to?
Who can understand?
The pain of never knowing
The thoughts of another man
I wait beside my cell door
For mail to call my name
And hope I’m not forgotten
I’m lonely just the same

Did anybody listen?
To the cries they heard inside
Did anybody wonder?
If my hope for life had died
Did anybody hear me?
Did you wait outside my door?
Or did you leave and walk away
You’re not waiting anymore

by Sonni Quick. ©2018

http://sonniquick.net

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An Inside Out Oreo Cookie

Meet you on the hill , riding bikes
Meet you on the hill at 8 pm

“Mail call,” the female voice yelled as she came on the floor. Jamie had been asleep. Any time a woman came into the area they had to announce themselves. If they didn’t, no telling what they might catch someone doing, if you catch my drift.

As he sat up and stretched he wondered what the odds were he’d have mail today? He could use something new to read and think about. He needed some encouragement to keep going.  He gave up waiting for family to write years ago. There was a time he’d look at pictures of his family every day wishing he could see them. He missed his mama. He used to think it was his fault she never wrote him, because he caused her so much trouble when he was a kid. But now he couldn’t find any excuse good enough, no matter what anyone says. 

“I can’t write because it hurts me too much knowing you’re there.” What? Hurts who? Buy a card that says I love you. Wish you were here. Put a stamp on it and put it in a mail box. How much would that hurt? Better yet, how much would that help? Oh well, it’s long past.

He’s been ignored for so long he wasn’t able to care anymore. Oh, he knows he says that. He’d welcome her any day with big smiles but that wouldn’t erase the pain. Besides, she isn’t here anyway. No one in his family ever is. And it’s not like they lived far way. either. He doesn’t look at pictures anymore. It depresses him. They let him know how important he was to them a long time ago. 

But there might be a letter from Sonni. It had been more than a week since the last one so it might be possible.  He stood up to wait by the slot in the door just in case it opened.

She was all he had to hold on to. So many dudes in here had no one. Some of the things they had to do to survive he could never do. Prison law is different than on the outside. Some let themselves be used. Having someone on the outside was like gold. She was his only connection to this world to remember he was still part of it. She kept him sane and told him everything she knew about his boy. How he was doing in school and all that. 

They made an odd sort of family, Nana, grandson and dad in the middle like an inside out oreo cookie. She called him a Hershey Kiss ’cause he was sweet chocolate. Anything to make him smile. She did her level best to keep his head screwed on straight when he started to slip down. He needed her. She needed him. She knew things about him even he couldn’t understand, whispering in his head to not give up. Always making him think about why things are the way they are. 

At first he didn’t know why she was there. He thought he was a loser. What did she see in him? She laughed at him a little for saying this. Said she shook her head with a knowing smile. “You’re family”.  He wasn’t alone. He thought about her a lot. She was in his head. They talked. Not talk for real. He wasn’t allowed to make phone calls. They joked about imagining they were riding bikes out in the country and would go to the top of a hill and sit and talk about things. Have a picnic. They would both think about it at 8 PM so they could go together. Thinking about each other at the same time. Sometimes she’d write it at the bottom of her letters to make a date to meet outside the prison. 

Why did she care so much? Did she love him?  “Of course,”  She told him, “Love comes in many ways. Sometimes it comes and goes and you can’t remember who the feeling is attached to. But sometimes it is bigger than that. When you take it inside it becomes a part of you. No matter what, it is always there.

She called him Son. He called her Mom. At that time he needed a mother. Really she was a lot older than his mom, but she was beautyful to him. He was broken in a million tiny pieces and wanted to give up. He was going to die in here.  She came right into his cell, into his head and wrapped her arms around his being. She told him he was safe. He wasn’t alone. Don’t worry. He didn’t have anyone else to think about. She always knew when he was worrying too much. About his future. About his son. All the things he couldn’t figure out while he was in here. He didn’t know how to figure things out. He could do nothin’ about any of these things, but he worried anyway.

The biggest pain causing him the most heartache was not being able to see his son. His son, who has his name yet he is like a figment of his imagination. Born after he was sent away he has only seen him a few times in his ten years of living. His family hasn’t brought him. The mom won’t bring him. Only Sonni when she comes to visit but she is too far away to come often.

His boy, who he loves most in the world. He was afraid he would hate him for not being there. Knowing he is there, on the outside and he can’t touch him. He touched him once, when he was a toddler. It was the only time, the only time and he was lost, eyes closed reliving the memory.

“Cummings!” He heard his name and it startled him. “You got mail, really you got a box.” He had to move away to the back of the cell and stand there with his hands showing because they had to open the cell door. The guard brought in a box and a letter. Jamie thanked him. 

Only two things came in boxes. Food and books. Someone on the outside could go to the Texas prison website and order $60 in food four times a year. Not much but it was a few extras to supplement the garbage they served. Sonni got him some fun things. Cookies and Oatmeal Pies. Coffee. Something’s he could trade for stamps if he needed.

But this was a book box and he desperately needed books. They came from a used book store approved by the prison. All kinds. Mysteries, Sci fi, even romance and Westerns. 30 in all. That will keep him reading for awhile and get his mind off things and escape. But before he went through the books he settled down on the bed to read what Sonni had to say today.

He smiled. Sonni always had a lot say.

( This is not a book chapter. It is a submission for a writing class)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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There Is No Place Like Home – part 2

INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE

THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME – part 2

(Don’t forget to read part 1 before you read part 2)

     In 2012 I was moved to yet another Texas prison, the GIB Lewis Unit, in Woodville, Tx. Now I was even closer to everyone. I’m only forty-five minutes away from my mother. All I could do was wait – and hope.
      On September, 2013, I got a letter from mom. She was flying to Texas and was coming to see me. She had been sick for three years with a bad liver and had a liver transplant in the summer of 2012. She was sick for a lot longer than that, but the last years forced her to close her store in Key West and get on the transplant list. It was a difficult for her to give up everything and lose her health on top of it.  I was worried about her. The liver came through unexpectedly and she didn’t have time to tell me. Her sister wrote me a message through JPay, the prison email service. Mom knew it was going to be awhile before she would be able to write to me and she knew I’d be worried to death about what was happening.
      I was surprised when I got the letter saying she was coming to visit. It was only fifteen months since her surgery. She knows what it is like to have family who doesn’t care. When she moved to Pa to be near a transplant hospital she thought she’d have the support of her family, but she didn’t. They treated her with indifference. Even when she had the transplant no one called the hospital to see how she was. What kind of family is that? This is why she understands how I feel about my family. She knows how it feels when people don’t care. Even as sick as she was, she knew if I didn’t hear from her I’d worry because I knew how sick she was. This is what people do when they care. If someone says they care but their actions say something else, then they are not telling you the truth. They only say they care because it makes them feel less guilty. So she made sure I knew what was happening. Why is it that some people care about others and some people don’t? It’s not right. Maybe that is why Morgan’s mom and I hit it off so well. She wanted me to know important I was to her; important enough to make sure I knew what was going on.

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     In 2014 I was moved again to the Wynne Unit in Huntsville,Tx. In January 2016 I was moved to Allred Unit in Iowa Park, Tx. Moving people around like this keeps us from being able to make friends and keeps us in the frame of mind of always losing anything personal. The steal and break or property and we have no way of getting it back or replaced. There is nothing we can do to help ourselves, no recourse to take because they only deny doing it and we can’t prove it. Every time I’m moved more things are stolen from me. Tell me why i shouldn’t be mad

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     Some time passed and I was moved next was the Wynne Unit in Huntsville. A lot happened while I’ve been here. It took over a year, but my level was raised from ad seg to G4 and then to G2. While there I was able to make phone calls for a few weeks, I had a job in the laundry and was on the list for my GED. Because of actions by a guard it was stripped away and I lost it all. I was put back in lock up. It’s hard because I worked so hard to reach that point and in a matter of minutes it was all taken away. I became the punching bag of a few guards who had nothing better to do but throw their weight around and got angry. How could I not get angry? Anyone in my position would have gotten angry, too. I’ve been here awhile. I think this is the last stop before they ship me out to yet another prison, but I don’t know which one. There is no window in my cell, so I can’t see the sky. I haven’t seen it in months. I also haven’t breathed fresh air in all these months, either.
      The cell they locked me in is like living in purgatory. Will I go up or down? For awhile they took everything away; even my mattress. I have no books and no personal belongings. I was only allowed paper, pen and a few hygiene products. They took away my rec, too, unless you count the other little windowless cell they take me to a couple times a week. Later, they did give most of my stuff back. This was their way of showing me they are in control and I better deal with it or pay a price. Even when I were able to go outside for rec it is inside a cage, like an animal. They should parade the tourists by me and tell them, “See people, here is what an honest to goodness criminal looks like. Don’t get too close, he bites!” What kind of recreation am I supposed to do there? Jump up and down? Do push ups? That’s what most of the inmates do. The guards are trying to break me. If it weren’t for my son, knowing I have him to live for, they would succeed.
    I think they are trying to send me out west again. They’ve been shipping other inmates out there. It seems, all of a sudden, the prison is too full and there is no room for me in level G4. I admit, I’ve been on a downward cycle. But it didn’t help that I’ve been beaten up a few times and had my head rammed into a wall. It didn’t help that the guards filed thirteen sexual harassment charges against me that were false, just to make me look bad. It’s impossible to stand up for yourself when every single card in the deck is stacked against you. Whether I am right or wrong doesn’t make a damned bit of difference.
     I was only supposed to be here for thirty days and then I would be sent back to G4 but they said there was no room for me there. So they kept me in solitary for months. Then I noticed people were leaving. They were shipping inmates out west. I don’t want to go back to west Texas. I know I rarely get visits, but if I am out west there is no way anyone could come visit even if they wanted to. They only thing I could was to do something bad to break their rules, then they would put me in G5, or ad seg. There was room for me there. So I started yelling at the guards and threatening them. I was very abusive verbally. It wasn’t right but it worked. They lowered my level from G4 to G5. It could take a year to get out. I’ve already done 4 years in ad seg, so I know how to bide my time. At least in G4 I can leave my cell to go to chow. One benefit is I’d get more hot food, and I would have limited time in the rec room where there are two TVs and have the option to play cards.

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     Mom, tell me, why am I alive? I have your letter in my hand. Your letter tells me I am still alive and you are the only one who knows I am still here. Can you tell me, what was my purpose in being born? Was I destined to be here from the very beginning of my life? Is this the reason? Is this the space I was supposed to fill all along? Am I of value to anyone? Or is it because I have a dollar value attached to my head? Is that the reason? Or did I do something so bad long ago and this is the effect; I deserve to be here? You know, what goes around comes around. Is that what it means to reap what you sow? Cause and effect? Was each day of my life working up to this moment of understanding? I have all these questions I need to find the answers to. Does it have to be this way? Have I been kidding myself by thinking, when I get out of here, I can make up for all the sadness in my life, and it will be replaced with happiness? How am I supposed to know how to be happy? Is it possible this has all been a bad dream, because if it is, I wish I could wake up now.
      I wasn’t trying to get into trouble. I go back and forth in my head trying to understand the reason to keep trying. Sometimes I feel strong and sometimes I give in. If I could just know how my son is doing. He is all I have that gives value to my life and I couldn’t bear to lose him. The way things are going I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see or hear from him again. It’s hard not to think these thought. They scratch at the back of my head trying to get in.
      It hurts me to sit and think like this, but as time passes and I don’t hear anything, the worst always comes to mind. You have been my only way, mom, to know how he is and I appreciate that more than you know. Without that I would have lost it already. Morgan gets mad if you talk about me or even say my name. What did I do to deserve that? Is it because the man she is living with gets jealous of me? Is she trying to make herself believe she doesn’t care anymore? Does she have to punish me because of that? You only talk to her because I ask you to. Who else will tell her to write?
      Morgan has no way of understanding how alone I am and how hard it is. You see, I can’t figure out what I did to make Morgan want to punish me by not letting me know about my son. I don’t understand what I did. I have to stop thinking this way. If I didn’t have mom to remind me to stay focused on getting out of here I don’t know if I could do it. This is what happens to the inmates in here. They don’t have a reason to keep trying and they get in more and more trouble until they keep them locked up for good. Then they go nuts.
      Once in awhile, when I’m about to give up, Morgan writes. I think that’s when her mother pushes her. Maybe she feels guilty about waiting so long. She doesn’t have to sit and write me long letters. Sure, I want to know she’s okay. I want her to be happy. I think she needs to separate herself from me, she thinks she has to separate Jamie, too. This man she is living with probably doesn’t like her writing to me. Maybe he’s worried about what will happen when I get out. Nothing will happen. She chose him, not me. I wouldn’t want to mess that up. I only want time with my boy. Even if she just put pictures or schoolwork in an envelope and sent it I’d be happy. I’d feel part of his life and would have something from him. Wouldn’t she want that if the shoe were on the other foot? I’ve sat in my cell and cried so many times because my heart is feeling so much loss.
      I wonder if my family thinks life will go back to the way it was when I get out. I wonder if they have even thought of it at all? Will they help me get on my feet or help me get a job? I don’t think so. I’m not the child I was before. Besides, I don’t think we can just pick up the pieces and pretend the silence wasn’t there. That can’t happen. How could they look me in the eye and say they love me? There is no life to go back to. There is no home to go back to. Too many years have passed, and they aren’t done passing. But when I come up for parole I have to show I have a support system to help me. Where does that support come from?
      The thought of my family giving up on me is also really hard to take. I guess it was just a matter of time. It happens to other dudes in here, too. People go on with their lives and forget people who are locked up, especially the ones who are locked up for a long time. When someone isn’t around, how long does it take for people to forget about you? They don’t know you anymore and you don’t know them. They only know you until the time you go in and I have been gone for most of 14 years now, if you count the four years in Juvy. Sometimes, I don’t think I should plan on making it home. I see what they do to some of the inmates. Not everyone goes home.
      I want to make it home to everyone, but why go back to a place where no one loves or cares about me? They will have a party for me and everyone will be happy and give me big hugs. Then they will go on about their way thinking. I’m a man now and should figure everything out on my own. But I don’t know how to figure things out on my own. They won’t care. I’m not their responsibility. They have their own problems to deal with. I’m afraid because I don’t know if my son will hate me for not being there for him. I felt the same way about the dad I never had. You can’t love someone who was never there. Feelings don’t have a chance to grow. I’ll be a stranger to him. Maybe he’ll even be afraid of me. It’s would really hurt me if my only child hates me or doesn’t have interest in knowing me. Am I just feeling sorry for myself? Am I making a problem where there isn’t one?
      I look at what happened in my life and how it all led me to this very place. I look at all the things I did as a kid and the trouble I got into. I know I was a difficult kid. I gave my mama a hard time. She did the best she could. She did what she knew how. I wouldn’t listen to her. Does giving a kid the belt teach him anything? Because I got into trouble as a kid, is this why she never tries to help me in here or answer a letter? How can a mother never ever answer even one letter I send her? Is it my fault? Is it too much to ask? It’s rare for me to hear from anyone. Would it have been different if I had growing up if I had a dad? No sense thinking about that because i can’t go back andf change that now. I have so many unanswered questions. This is what happens when you have too much time on your hands. Time is all I have now.
      Will I always be judged by these years inside? Will people see me as a failure? Will being black make it extra hard? I feel I should know these answers but these are things you have to experience to know. I don’t think racism has changed since I got locked up. I’m in my thirties; I’m not a boy, but still I haven’t had a chance to learn these things on my own. I want to learn to be the father I never had. Maybe it’s too late for me, but I don’t think it is too late for my son. I want to change it for him so he doesn’t follow in my footsteps.

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     My mama had to go through a lot with me being sick when I was growing up. I guess I used up all the worrying she had. After I got locked up she ended up raising my sister’s kids because she got locked up, too, and then my niece’s kids, so she’s been raising kids all her life. Maybe she thought that since I was over twenty-one I was an adult and an adult shouldn’t need his mother. Tough love; She let me go. But the thing is, I still needed her. I still do. Just because I am a man does not mean I don’t need to know my mother loves me and is still there when I need her.
      The world preys on boys like me. Black boys with no father. They’re locking up all the black men. It’s very deliberate. Mothers can’t be fathers. Mothers can’t be mothers, either, when they have to work all the time and be the only ones to discipline the kids because there is no one around to do that. Us kids were left to fend for ourselves most of the time. We weren’t little kids. But still, even teenagers need to have someone around to watch what they are doing and to try to teach them the things they need to learn.
      Mama worked two jobs to take care of us kids. She made sure we were fed and had clothes. We weren’t on welfare or food stamps. She worked hard, so I can’t fault her for that. I think that is why, when Sonni came into my life, she took over the role of mother. She knew I needed a mom, and she’s been there every year since then. She can’t really come to visit me because she’s so far away. She can’t send much money, but she sends enough so I can get my hygiene and stamps and extra stuff when I need it, and she pays my medical fee each year so I can call for medical help. This is what a mom does. But aside from doing these things, I know she does this because she loves me. She tells me she loves me and I believe her.
      All these years we’ve been writing, and with all the things we’ve shared, there is no way there isn’t love. Yes, she’s married and she loves her husband. I know she is twenty-nine years older than me and nine years older than my mother. But in prison, age, looks, race and anything else doesn’t matter. You could be an ugly dog, but it wouldn’t matter. Sometimes people love someone because they are beautiful and they are attracted to each other, but what happens when the beauty is gone? When all you do is write words, you get to know someone in a completely different way; from inside their mind. You end up loving the beauty of the person through the things they write to you. When those letters become hundreds of letters and you can reread all the way back to the first one, you can see how the caring grows.                                                                                                                     Above all, I don’t want to disappoint her or let her down. When I do things in here that I’m not proud of,  I don’t want her to know these things because I don’t want her to think less of me. I know that doesn’t really matter because she says there is nothing that would make her go away. I just get disappointed in myself. My real mom only knows me as this boy she raised, but she doesn’t really know who I am. She doesn’t understand what her silence does to me. I know I can’t change that, but it is part of is the reason why this is so hard to take some days.

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     People on the outside have no idea what it’s like to live in a prison. They see TV shows and movies but they never tell it like it is. They don’t show the things that really happen. They don’t show guards beating the crap out of people or tasing and gassing them. I can’t change the channel and make it go away. There is no way to explain what it does to your head to be in here day after day, year after year. Growing up I had no common sense. No kid does. My wisdom was that of a boy. Yeah, I learned certain things in juvy but none it had anything to do with how to live your life and not screw it up.
      When I get out, when I am nearly forty, how am I supposed to know what the right thing is to do? I will have to be so careful.  The simplest thing could land me back in here again.  I don’t know how to do the things an adult would know. How can I rely on my own wisdom when I don’t have any? The only things I know, is how to survive in here. It’s scary to think about being on the outside when I don’t know how to the necessary things to take care of myself. Everything will be so changed. My family might have a welcome home party for me, but most of the people won’t even know me. After that they’ll say, “You’re an adult. Go take care of yourself.”
      When I get out of here half my life could be gone. How will I be able to pick up the pieces when I don’t know where the pieces are, or how to put them back together. I’m clueless. I have no experience how to live my life and be free to do what I want. I don’t remember what being free feels like. It is easy to see how inmates get institutionalized when they are in here too long. Some of them, when they get out, are only comfortable when they are in a tiny closed room.  it makes them feel safe. I don’t want it to be that way for me.
      Do you know what it feels like to have people look at you like you’re dirt, when they don’t even know who you are; just because your skin isn’t white? A white person can’t really know how that feels, to be looked at like that your entire life. In prison it’s even worse. What’s weird is even the black guards look down on me like I’m scum. But what can I do? They have control over my life and if I don’t kiss their ass they’ll lock me up in an even smaller room. Besides, they don’t care who I am. They get to bring out the bully part of their nature that gets off on hurting people.
      I sit here for awhile and the reel in my head starts all over again. I need to keep the determination to change this. I want my life to go right for a change. I made mistakes. I loved a woman. I didn’t have the sense to know the right thing to do. I know that sounds like I’m making excuses, but it’s the truth. Because I loved her and needed to provide for her , I went with my cousin to a gaming hall where he pulled out his gun and it ruined my life. I didn’t think I had any choice. I couldn’t leave. Friends don’t leave friends behind. In juvy, that’s what you learn; loyalty.
      “There is a baby on the way,” Morgan said one night, driving home the point that it takes money to have a baby. I was so happy but I didn’t know what to do. How was I supposed to get money to take care of her? I couldn’t get a job. I didn’t even have a GED.  I couldn’t drive a car because I can’t have a license with epilepsy. We are all capable of doing stupid things when we love someone and our back is up against the wall. I did something crazy, and I didn’t understand what the effects could be because all I thought of was Morgan so I didn’t stop it from happening, and I could have. So that makes me just as guilty. I hadn’t been out of juvy for long. I was just being stupid. Who did I have to teach me? We learn from the people around us. I feel my son has paid the highest price for my mistakes. What a mess I made of things. There is no place like home. I lost mine. If I could just go back and start all over again . . .

I want to thank everyone who has been following this blog and those who have been reading the chapters of the book as I write and rewrite, finding my way. I’m very determined to do this, and do it right. Between writing the book and writing for my two blogs, and writing long letters to three inmates, and writing music, I write until sometimes i fall to the right and almost land on the floor! Every time you share something on your own SM, you help me tremendously. Every new address on the mailing list gives me more credibility for publishing. I hope you continue to give me pushes in the right direction.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world
Sonni’s Pinterest boards

Chapter List:
A Message From Someone Who Cares
Everyday Dreams
I Love You Always, Daddy
Jamie’s Story
The Nightmare
A Roof Over My Head, Three Squares a Day and Free Medical
Sometimes They’ll Give You Candy
There Is No Place Like Home – part one

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