Ghosts In My Head – ITFO Chapter

last-note-2-sm

A few months ago I posted the music and music video for this chapter. I’m posting it again so you can hear the music with the story.

Only part of the chapter is here. Subscribe to ITFO News below to receive the entire chapter. In the notes section where it asks if you have anyone inside, simply write the word ‘chapter’ and I’ll send it ahead of the next newspaper publication.


 

GHOSTS IN MY HEAD

 

Jamie sat there, mouth open, immediately speechless. What the heck, was he asleep? Was he dreaming? Or maybe someone put mushrooms in his food and he was hallucinating? His food did taste a little funny.
     Scooting back on the mattress until he was sitting flat against the wall, he stared intently at the woman in front of him. He was afraid to say anything for fear it would make her disappear and he didn’t want that to happen. Why she was in his cell? How did she get here? People didn’t go around appearing in someone’s cell out of the blue, did they?
     Was being locked up in this place finally getting to him? He heard some men lost it and went crazy. Sometimes he could hear them screaming all night to be let out. No one ever went into their cell. At least he didn’t think they did.
     Honestly, he was a little scared. He didn’t believed in ghosts, but was this a ghost? That would mean she was dead, right? He didn’t want that. What else could he call it – her, or whatever she was? A spirit maybe?
     He had the cell to himself. He got locked up by himself a couple months ago. It was exactly what he didn’t want, but there was no way around it. If the guards wanted you locked up they made it happen. So there was nobody else in his cell he could ask if they saw her, too. This was weird and he didn’t know what to think.
     They stared at each other for a few seconds waiting for the other to speak. This couldn’t be happening, could it? No one, especially a woman, could get in here unnoticed. She would have to be let in by a guard.
     How many people would they have to go by who could see them? It didn’t make sense. Someone else would have seen her and that meant he should be hearing other dudes going nuts about it.
     Jamie knew he couldn’t be seeing what he was seeing. It wasn’t possible. Did he mentally go off the deep end, straight into crazy? If other dudes saw her and knew there was a woman in here she wouldn’t be safe. They’d riot to get at her. But no one was making a sound or yelling anything at all. It was quiet so he could safely think no one knew.
     If he didn’t know better, he’d swear it was Sonni sitting beside him – smiling at him no less. But she lived in Pennsylvania and he was in Texas. She moved there last year from Key West. How did she get here? Had she ever been inside a prison? He didn’t think so.
     He shook his head and rubbed his eyes trying to make the vision go away. It didn’t work. He hadn’t seen her face to face in a long time, almost six years. It was before he was arrested when she came to Texas to see Morgan and the kids. It was her, though. He was sure of it.
     She had been real good to him. She wrote letters when no one else would and she helped him get things he needed. Most of all she encouraged him and made him feel he could make it through these years. Sometimes just knowing she was out there made him try harder to do the right thing. After all, she was a grandmother to his son. As weird as this was he was really glad to see her.
     “How did you get in here?” he asked at last. “Is it really you, I mean, no tricks or anything?”
     “I’m not sure about tricks,” she laughed. “I don’t know how I got here, but yeah, I think it’s really me.”

<<< >>>

Subscribe to receive the rest of the chapter – along with “The Death Trap” which leads into this chapter

 

itfo newsletter

SUBSCRIBE

 

Twitter  @sonni-quick

Facebook  Jamie Life in Prison    

SonniQuick   Main music website – YouTube videos and separate music tracks – subscribe to a separate mailing list for music.

Watch and Whirl – my other blog –

Ghosts in My Head – YouTube Video

 

This is the latest music video I have produced for my upcoming book “Inside The Forbidden Outside,” based on the life of Jamie Cummings and his years in prison. I sincerely hope you like it and subscribe to the channel. these numbers are very important for the success of the book.

So far he has completed more than twelve years out of seventeen, bouncing around to eight different prisons from one end of Texas to the other. He will be nearly 40 when he gets out. Unless I can raise the money to hire a parole attorney he stands little chance of making parole. Inmates are not allowed to be present for parole hearings. Their files are looked and a decision is made – almost always denied. What is in that file?  I intend to find out.

It is a tragic story and not an uncommon one. The prison system attempts to suck the life out of anyone it can get its hands on to increase the wealth of the corporations that run them. They make that profit by denying them the very things they tell the world they provide. They do that with smiling faces on their websites.

Horrible food, withholding medications and treatment for illness that do not have to cause death, but will if they aren’t treated. These are only a few of the inhumane things they do to abuse the people – the human beings – they are in charge of. They keep many, a higher percentage of black to white, in a classification called adseg or G5. When they are kept there it is very difficult to get out get their classification raised for years and even decades. These inmates are denied any form of education, even a GED, knowing when they get they will be unable to support themselves and society will not welcome them. Many in society say they deserve anything that is done to them – but do they? 97% of all arrests never make it to court and are forced to take guilty plea deals whether they are guilty or not by threatening them with added charges.  A 20 year plea deal can easily become a 65 year sentence for someone not guilty of what they are charged with.  But the public assumes they are guilty. They are black aren’t they? Much of society thinks being black is a crime itself, so lock them up.

girl-2696947_1920

Ghosts in My Head is music for the chapter when the conversations he has with the woman in the letters crosses over from reality to fantasy and he is no longer alone in his cell. 

I hope you subscribe to the newsletter below so you won’t miss updates as the book gets closer to completion. Writing a soundtrack to read by is a bit unusual for a book and this music was written for him and the emotional roller coaster ride the last twelve years have been. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support.

 

itfo newsletter

SUBSCRIBE

IMG_20180324_211754_745

Twitter 

Facebook  Jamie Life in Prison

SonniQuick   Main music website – subscribe to mailing list

Watch and Whirlmy other blog – diverse in subject matter

Chapter – Waiting . . . Too Long

 

Last Note 2 sm

(Sonni’s note: This is another random chapter in the book I’m writing that is based on Jamie Cumming’s life. Some scenes have been enhanced.  This did happen, but exact conversations and actions are fictionalized for the sake of the story. Chapters are still being rewritten and music recorded. Publishing date not established yet)

WAITING . . . TOO LONG

Twelve years was a long time. It was hard for him to believe he had been here for so many years. A huge chunk of his life was flushed down the toilet. What a waste. He had been waiting . . . too long. Waiting for it to be over. Waiting to see his son. Waiting for someone to look him in the eye and realize he shouldn’t be here. It was a mistake. He wasn’t a danger to society. All he was doing was waiting, locked up in a cell by himself with no one to talk to.
     Jamie had been bused around to quite a few prisons during the years. Some prisons make you work the field tending acres of vegetables. Some raised pigs and other farm animals. They want to utilize the free labor as much as they can. If he went back to the beginning and counted how many prisons he’d been in, this was the eighth one. He had been in Allred Unit for three years now after being shuffled all over the state.
     The first prison he was sent to was in West Texas, a two day drive across the hottest, driest part of the state. Then he was sent to South Texas near Brownsville. He was also in a unit in Huntsville in the middle of the state, and two more north of Houston. Now he was in northern part of the state, near Wichita Falls. There were a couple more prisons scattered somewhere in between.
     The last six years he was close enough to his family for them to visit, just an hour or two away, but only his mom came to see him a couple times. Some dudes in here had no family. Maybe it was better that way. They wouldn’t be disappointed because no one showed up.
     He was trying to let it go. It was hard. He couldn’t change it. He would get depressed thinking about it. His mom wouldn’t help him. She would tell him she would, but she never did. No one in his family cared enough to do a damn thing. It was hard to wrap his head around it, realizing this was the family he grew up with. After all this time. . .
     “Oh, stop it, Jamie,” he said out loud, talking to himself.
     “If they don’t want to see you, they don’t want to see you. You can’t do anything about it,”
     “Be patient,” he said to himself as he opened his locker and went through his books to see if there was something he could distract him.
     “This won’t last forever.” He found a book he had only read twice and settled on his bed to read the rest of the day away. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine a life outside these walls.
     Whenever he tried to put these issues out of his head they crept back up his neck and sneaked into his brain when he wasn’t paying attention.
     He read for a couple hours and fell asleep with the book open on his chest. Even when he slept he couldn’t get away from his thoughts. He woke thinking about Morgan. The thought of her being in his life sometime in the future was long past. But she will always be his son’s mother and he would always love her for that. They were so naive back then. Things don’t work out if you don’t plan for the right things to happen. Relying on luck wasn’t a good plan. Getting pregnant so fast before they knew each other probably wasn’t a good idea. He needed to know he could take care of a family and that meant going to school first so he could get a good job.
     Morgan went on with her life. That was okay. He wanted her to be happy. It made him sad but he couldn’t blame her for that. She ended up angry at him, though, because he wasn’t there to help her. A lot changed in twelve years.

<<<>>>

Jamie had countless hours to think every day. That was almost the only thing he did except sleep, or read. He loved it when Sonni sent new books. Sometimes he got ahold of a newspaper and found out what was happening in the free world. There was a lot of ‘not so good’ stuff going on out there that was affecting a lot of people.
     He heard about other prisons from some of the other dudes down the hall who had been bounced around like he was. They were all bad – corrupt. He knew deep down there was a bigger reason why a lot of them were locked up with long sentences. Destroying the lives of people like him also destroyed their families. That’s what the government wanted to do. He only had to look around to understand that. There was much he had learned since he came here. He wasn’t a young immature boy anymore.
     He wanted to forget what had happened. He preferred to close his eyes and think about a happier time. Maybe he couldn’t change where he was but these people didn’t have control over what he thought about. It saved his sanity more than once.

<<<>>>

A special memory was the first time he saw Morgan. It was a place he often went in his head to get out of here. Back then, in 2005, he had just gotten out of juvenile detention after four years. He had no idea what he was going to do with his life. He guessed his family was glad he was out but after a couple days the novelty of him being home had worn off. Everyone was busy with their own life and their own problems. They didn’t have time to help him with his.
     Since he had been gone for the rest of his teens years and then some, he had no experience living on his own and taking care of himself. He was twenty-one and that legally made him an adult so he should be able to figure it out. He was fixin’ to get a job somewhere, somehow, but he didn’t know what he could do.
     He didn’t have a clue how to get his life together so he started hanging out at an apartment complex known as “Little New York.” It catered to people who didn’t have their shit together. It was so scattered they couldn’t find it if they went looking for it. Low level drug dealers, users and prostitutes – people trying to survive in a day to day struggle, most of them losing. Still, it was someplace to go hang out. His shit wasn’t together, either.
     It was at that apartment complex where he saw Morgan for the first time. He thought that was his turning point and life was finally going to be good. After they got together he felt like he had a purpose. He had a family to take care of. He couldn’t believe how badly he screwed that up. Maybe that was why his family didn’t answer his letters. Maybe they thought he was a loser and didn’t want to bother with him. He wasn’t a loser, though. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that was all.
     The time he spent with Morgan was the only time in his life where it felt like he had possibilities for the future. He used to think maybe he’d be lucky when he finished these years in prison and he and Morgan could get back together. He didn’t want to give up. He needed to believe it wasn’t over or he wouldn’t be able to survive this place.           Thinking about her was the only thing that kept him going. Maybe if there were no more cases filed against him he would be able to get out early. He stopped thinking that a long time ago. They weren’t the same people anymore.
     When Jamie closed his eyes he could picture her in his head. He was attracted to her the instant he saw her. She was at the other side of the parking lot that day. He had never seen her before.
     The day was hot and humid. Texas summers re brutal. Leaning against a car, she was in a heated argument with some dude. He looked familiar but he didn’t think they had met. He said something that pissed her off. She looked mad enough to hit him. He could tell she wanted to, but she didn’t. She bowed up to him, though, like she was daring him to hit her. He watched them go back and forth for about five minutes wondering if he should walk over there. Maybe it would stop the argument. He could walk casually by the car like he wasn’t paying any attention to them.
     Jamie wondered where she came from. She didn’t grow up here. He didn’t remember seeing her around town. Did she live here? He started walking toward the car. He was determined to find out who she was before she she had a chance to take off.
     As he walked across the parking lot the man stomped off with his hands shoved in his pockets. He had an angry scowl on his face. Jamie wondered what was up between them because they sure didn’t look like a happy couple. As he closed the distance, she opened the car door and plopped down on the seat.
     “Goddamn asshole,” she said, loud enough for Jamie to hear. Both legs were out the door, one foot on the ground. She lifted her right leg and dangled it over the other knee. She turned and reached over to the radio with her right hand and turned on the music. Country. Her foot started moving with the beat.
     “Hi, you okay?” Jamie said as he walked up to the car door.
He couldn’t think of anything clever to say. Startled, she looked up at him, ready to cut him off from butting into her business. A couple seconds later the pissed off look on her face turned into a smile.
This might be interesting, Jamie thought. That was okay. He didn’t want to look like he wanted anything from her.
     “My boyfriend, or rather, my ex-boyfriend,” she emphasized, “as of right this minute needs to find a way out of town.
     “I’m Jamie,” he offered. “You live here?
     “My name’s Morgan,” she answered back.
     “You live here?” she asked.
     “At these apartments?” He shook his head no.            “Na. I come over here most times to hang with my friends. You?”
     She glanced around in the direction her boyfriend went. It looked like she was waiting for this dude to come back to the car any minute. He didn’t want to lose his chance to find out how he could see her again.
     “We rented an apartment here not long ago but it’s not working out.” She volunteered on her own, letting him know she would soon be available.
     She continued, “Getting a job hasn’t been on his list of things to do and I’m not going to support his ass.” Morgan added under her breath,”I didn’t want him here in the first place.”
     Jamie caught that and smiled a little.
     “Where did you come from?” He wanted to keep her talking. He found out later she used to live in California and met there. She broke up with him and moved to Texas to be near family and he followed her. He just showed up uninvited. She wasn’t happy about it but he had no place to go and had no money. What was she supposed to do? She had enough of his mooching off her, she had to kids to take care of.
     Before she could answer she glanced to the right and saw her boyfriend – ex-boyfriend – walking back to the car. Jamie decided that was his cue to leave. He didn’t want to blow it. He would see her again. He was sure of that.
     “I’ll see ya around.” He turned and started walking back to his friends. Halfway there he glanced over his shoulder to see if she was watching. She was. That put a smile on his face. She sure was pretty.
     It didn’t take long before her boyfriend was out of the picture. He claimed he couldn’t leave town because he didn’t he didn’t have no money, so Morgan bought him a bus ticket just to get rid of him. She went to the bus station to make sure he got on it, and waited until the bus left so she knew he didn’t sneak off. The next bus stop was too far away to walk back.
     Morgan and Jamie were good together. For the first time since he got out of juvy he was happy. His future had possibilities. Morgan had a boy and a girl. It made him feel like they were a family.
They weren’t always careful about having protected sex so it didn’t take long before Morgan was late with her period. She didn’t take a test but she was pretty certain after a few days. She was regular. But now she had a problem. Her mom was coming to visit.
     “How do we tell your mom?” Jamie wanted to know. “Will she be angry?”
     “She’ll kill me,” she told Jamie. “I can’t tell her right now.”
     “Because I’m black?” Jamie asked.
     “No, because I wasn’t careful.” Morgan said.              “She’ll say it’s hard enough raising two kids. What was I thinking? Besides, she doesn’t know about you yet. It would be kinda hard to lay all that on her at once.”
     After a five second pause,”I think she should meet you first.” Morgan added. “We’ll tell her later, after she goes home.”
     Her mom stayed for a week and he had a chance to meet with her twice. Her name was Sonni. She came with her husband from Key West. She helped Morgan rent an apartment because by then she was living at her grandmother’s house. After she left she didn’t know Jamie moved in, too.
     They never got around to telling her about the baby before Jamie got arrested. Morgan didn’t call her mom then, either. She had to figure things out. Could she get through the pregnancy on her own? She wanted to stay near Jamie so she could visit him at the jail. He was still waiting to be charged. There was no telling how long that would take. It could be months.
     Morgan had no car now and no way to get another one. Jamie had been driving it when he was arrested and it was impounded. The fines piled up fast before she could get the money together to pay it. How was she going to get to her doctor appointments, or anywhere else? 
     Her father’s family lived in town. They wouldn’t give her the help she needed. Between the kids and the pregnancy she needed more than they’d be willing to give.
     Now Morgan had no choice, she had to call her mom. She wasn’t just hoping her mom would be okay knowing she was pregnant again, she was hoping she would let her come to Key West and live with her and help her through the pregnancy.
She briefly thought about asking Jamie’s mom to help her but they didn’t know each other very well. She needed someone who could take her to her doctor appointments and help with her other two children. The longer she waited the harder it became.
     Finally, when she was almost five months along she called her mom and told her.
     “Mom, Jamie was arrested and I’m pregnant,” she said in a rush to get it out at once. There was dead silence on the other end of the call. Morgan told her the story about what happened. She didn’t come down on her. What was done was done. Her mom had always been there for her. All she said was, “Do you want to come here?”
     Bus tickets were purchased for her and the kids. Her grandmother helped her pack enough food for a two day bus trip. A very tired and worn out trio got off the bus at the greyhound terminal. Fifteen minutes later she was in the small, separate, two story dollhouse apartment attached to the back of her mother’s house, and the prologue of the story begins.

<<<>>>

Jamie opened his eyes. That part of his life seemed so long ago. Now the baby is twelve years old and he knew so little about him. What started out so happy came crashing down in a few short months. Was that the way his life was going to go, never working out? That caused him such pain.
     Morgan had been a good mom. He knew his son was well cared for. He hoped he would waiting for him to get out. His son was his reason for living – for making it through this.
     Back then Morgan talked about going back to school at Angelina Jr. College in Lufkin. She already had the certification to be a CNA – a certified nursing assistant. He could get his GED and go to college, too. It sounded so perfect.
     He thought they had a good relationship. At least for the few months they knew each other. What they didn’t have was time to get to know each other and have a strong enough bond to last. They did have a son that would tie them together no matter what.
     He didn’t think he would make it this far. Sometimes he wanted to give up. Sonni told him not to. She kept telling him he had value. He wasn’t sure about that, but it made a difference knowing someone cared.
     Jamie had wrestled with depression since he was a kid. It was hard having epilepsy and being different from the other kids. In prison, if you weren’t depressed when you got here you’d be depressed soon after. He was finally over halfway through his sentence. Only someone who had been inside could understand what that was like.
     Everyone was so aware of time in here. Everything was about time. Life was on a schedule that never changed. Everyone’s day evolved around how much time you had until you got out – or how much time you had to live because you were never getting out. Parole could still be possible. He needed to keep that dream alive in his head.
     Jamie had been keeping it alive since he walked in the door. He never got tired of playing these scenes in his head, over and over. He replayed every conversation he could remember, every nuance. He never got tired of reliving the first day he met Morgan. Things might not be good between them now but it want always like that.
     When he was waiting at the jail after he was sentenced he didn’t know what to expect. How long would they keep him? Was prison like jail? He had such anger and frustration. It often got him into trouble. He was tired of always having to pay the price for things he didn’t do. How long would they keep him in this limbo? He didn’t know what to do. His memories were all he had left.

itfo newsletterSUBSCRIBE

A new issue of ITFO News will be going out soon. Sign up to get them in your inbox and read new chapters and hear new music you might have missed. It will son be available to download.

If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

My personal music website  – sonniquick.net

Sonni’s Pinterest

Jamie Life in Prison at Facebook . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Jamie’s Mountain

Inside The Forbidden Outside

Chapter Three

cartoon4

Jamie sat still on the edge of his cell bunk, lazily dozing off and on with his head in his hands, not aware of time passing. Time doesn’t matter? Why think? The future too far away to matter. Flashing thoughts and images pass through his mind quickly change to something else. Concentrate? What’s the point? This wasn’t one of his good days. He would have given long ago if it weren’t for his son. He didn’t want his son never know who was. It wouldn’t fair to him. It wouldn’t fair to Sonni, either. She has done so much help him. He couldn’t change anything about his life or affect it in any positive way. Anyway, it was too frigging hot to care. It is, what it is, what it is. While he thought he swung one hand back and forth like he was conducting an orchestra.

The only difference between existing and not existing was if he paid attention to the drama in his head, and only then if he wanted to latch onto any piece of it. It was easier to live in this non-reality space than the one his physical body lived in. It took too much effort to want to stand up and pee. There was nothing to bring relief. Nothing to break the monotony. . . nothing.

He hoped he’d hear his name at mail call. Maybe there would be a letter or book, maybe a magazine from a subscription Sonni had taken out for him. Anything to fill the time until this day was over and he could cross off it off.

He was hungry. They were on lockdown again. One month out of every three. Food rations were cut to the bone. Lots of peanut butter or plain meat sandwich. No mayo or mustard. Baloney and white bread.  The lockdown came early this time because there was a gang fight in some part of the prison. He had been waiting on a food box from Sonni. She could spend $20 a month at the main commissary, or $60 at one time every three months. They would deliver it to him. Now it won’t get through until lockdown was over. He smiled. She had a bookstore, approved the prison, send him three sexy lingerie magazines full of beautiful women. Eye candy, she wrote – to make him smile. It worked. She wrote he must be awful horny after all this time with only his left hand to keep him company. Yeah, he thought smiling, they could write about these kinds of things after all the years they been writing letters.

Not everyone was lucky enough to have someone like Sonni. He didn’t know what he would have done without her. He’d be pretty damn lonely that’s for sure. And he would have forgotten what a stick of deodorant looked like. Hygiene costs money. You do not want to be in this unit during the hot and humid summer months in Texas with a bunch of stinking men, aside from the unit always smelling like piss.

In her letters she kept asking him to dig in his memories and tell her things about his life growing up. That was hard to do. He didn’t want to remember any of these things he stuffed way down inside so long ago. Who wants to dig up things better left buried?

She’s writing a book about him. He would have never thought his life was worth writing about. The only thing he was good at was doing the wrong thing. She asked him if he had a happy childhood. Birthday parties, holidays, fun times? It made his head hurt. He doesn’t know what happy means, then or now. Did he have happy memories as a kid? If he did, he should be able to think of them. They should pop right up. He couldn’t keep putting her off.

He got off the bed, turned on the faucet and soaked a cloth called a Cold Pack. They sell ’em at the prison convenience store. Convenient my ass. A guard cuffs and shackles him once a month and leads him down to the commissary like a pet. He doesn’t always have money in his account to buy anything if she isn’t able to transfer a few bucks into it. She has money struggles and helps as much as she can.

These cold packs, he thought, must have some kinda chemical in them that gets activated when they get wet. It’s better than wetting a towel, which is what he usually does. When you lay them on the fan and the air blows, it creates cool air for a little while. He uses it sparingly because they only last so long, and it’s not like he can go to the comm whenever he feels like it and buy more. But today he needs a little relief.

He put the fan in place to blow on his face and laid down. Maybe he could fall asleep for awhile. Think back and try to remember things he could write about to Sonni. What is she thinking? His life is important? It’s depressing and it gets him down. If not for her he wouldn’t be able to even hope he got something when mail call came in. So, was he a happy kid? He sighed . . . .

================================

 

Everyone else had a dad, why didn’t he? His older brother and sister each had a dad. Even his younger brother, born a few years after him had a dad. They spent weekends and holidays with other family. Family who weren’t part of his life. Funny, not ha ha funny, but thinking back, he and his mom never talked about it. He never asked who his dad was and she never told him, at least not until he turned 32 a few years back. But he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself explaining anything. First things first.

Birthday parties? No. At least not the kind you think of when someone says it’s their birthday. No party invitations. No friends bringing presents. No balloons or party hats. No pictures of everyone yelling, ” Make a wish, Jamie. Blow out the candles!” with a camara flash going off in his face. What would he wish for? To be like everyone else? No. No parties like that. Nothing special. He remembered a few cakes, but if he ever had a party he sure forgot about it.

His mom had a rough time raising four kids by herself. The older they got the harder it got. She went to school to be a nursing assistant and after that she worked hard. Sometimes two jobs. When you’re a kid you don’t understand how much money it takes to raise kids. He did learn, you can’t work full time and stay home being a mom. Family was nearby but mostly they had to take care of themselves. The older kids took care of the younger kids.

He only had snatches of memory. Incomplete thoughts and pictures. He was a loner, even as a little kid. Because of his seizures he didn’t go outside and run around like other kids. He wasn’t sure if it was because they were afraid of him or if parents didn’t want their kids near him. Maybe they thought epilepsy could rub off. All he knew, he had very few friends and he always lost the ones he had

When he was six or seven his mom would take them to the park and have picnics and sometimes they went to the zoo in another town. We didn’t go many times but we made the best of it when we did. We also flew kites a few times. That was okay – more than okay. It was fun to run and watch the kites take off with the wind and dance around the sky. It would be fun to ride a kite and see the town from way up in the air and see the tiny people way down below. He’d feel so free without a care in the world. That was a good day.

He also loved fireworks, exploding into arcs of color, each one more beautiful than the next. One 4th of July they were ready to leave togo watch the fireworks. He was excited about going all day. He and his little brother were dressed in look-a-like outfits. At the last minute mama said they couldn’t go. He doesn’t remember why. All he remembers is hearing booms in the distance while wishing he could see them.

He didn’t have a bad childhood. He had ten aunts and uncles. He really loved his aunts. Two of them died, one when he was in juvenile detention. He flipped out with grief. He couldn’t handle knowing he’d never see her again.But was his childhood happy? No, he couldn’t call it that. He’s aware now he was mostly depressed. He felt invisible. The seizures were pretty bad. The kids were used to it happening. “Mama, Jamie’s having another seizure,” they’d yell.

When he was eight Jamie and his older brother ride to the store on their bikes. While in the store he stole a bag of skittles. Afterward, he showed his brother. He smiled and took it from him and tattled to his mother. He got sent to his room. His brother probably enjoyed getting him in trouble.

He had a friend, Brandon, who came over to play. When he found out he was grounded went to his window and asked what happened. He was upset he couldn’t play. A week later, playing together at Brandon’s uncle’s house, where he lived, Brandon’s mom came. He has never seen her before. His dad was there, too. The boys went outside to play basketball and left the grown ups inside. They found soon enough it would be the last time they’d ever see each other. They said goodbye and he watched them drive off. Jamie walked home mad and sad. In his mind the parents decided they couldn’t play together anymore because he stole a pack of skittles.That didn’t make sense. No one explained anything. Whatever, it was the last time he saw Brandon. He was the last real friend he ever had.

Jamie had to smile a bit at that memory. Kids understand so little. But at nine it was the end of his world.

Maybe his brother thought he got too much attention but he was only guessing. He doesn’t blame anyone for things they did as kids. Maybe it did look like he got too much attention. His brother kicked him into a ditch one time when he had a seizure and he didn’t help him get home. He let him lay there. A seizure knocked him out for hours. Muscles don’t work and his brain gets scrambled. He can’t get up and walk home like nothing happened. It was hard making it home that day.  He didn’t want to remember that, did he?

He doesn’t think his brother liked him much growing up. Still doesn’t. Maybe that’s why he ignored the letters he wrote. He could visit if he wanted, but he doesn’t. He lived close to this prison. He wasn’t always close. Sometimes he was in a prison far away.

Sonni called him once and asked him why he didn’t come. He said, in a so-what kind of voice, “It’s not my fault he’s in there.” Nobody said it was. Sonni sent him a video of the song ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother.’ Jamie wanted to see his brother. They aren’t kids anymore. Guess he doesn’t want to see him. He can’t change that, but it hurts. That’s life. He hadn’t seen his younger brother or sister, either. Every three or four years, one time five, his mom came, but she never answered any letters. He guessed she had her reasons. She’s still his mom. He loved her very much. He probably gave her too hard ‘a time growing up so she’s done spending time on him.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When he was twelve he had brain surgery. It was scary being wheeled down the hallway on a stretcher. He was used to getting needles all the time having his blood tested. But it’s different when they’re going in and looking at his brain. What if they did something wrong? He knew his mom was there waiting for him. Having this thing wrong with him must’ve been really hard on her. They tried to stop as much of the brain bleeds as they could. It helped. It didn’t stop the seizures but it did slow them down.

His only friend growing up was Keithy. He was an older cousin, and he was sick, too. Sickle Cell anemia. They were the “sick ones” and were always together. One day when he was about fourteen he went over to his house. He had been away, visiting with his dad. When he came home he was sicker than usual. While they were playing a game he started to cry. His mom came in to help him and she called Jamie’s mom to come pick him up. While he waited Keithy’s pain got worse. He could hear his cries for help. It hurt so much to hear him in pain and there was nothing he could do. After that, he wasn’t allowed to see him very often.

Jamie became depressed and couldn’t pull out of it. He began disappearing in the middle of the night to go walking. He did it over and over. He couldn’t lay in his bed at night so he walked. He must’ve scared his mama. She checked him into a children’s hospital to get help. He hated it there and begged her over and over to please come take him home. One day she did, but she didn’t tell him why.

They talked on the way home, about everything except the most important thing. It was fairly long drive. When they pulled into town she drove to his cousin’s house. There were a lot of people there. He still didn’t know why she came for him. He realized a long time later, she knew he wouldn’t be able to handle it. She didn’t want him falling apart in the car. She took him by the hand and led him into the back room of the house. There he was. Keithy was laid out. He was dead.

This is the way Jamie found out his cousin had died. It was a crushing blow. His mother couldn’t find the words to tell him.  He reached out his hand that day and gently touched him. His skin was so cold. That is when it really hit him. He closed his eyes with tears swimming behind his eyelids. He tried to keep it together but he didn’t think he could. He was never going to see him again. His brother grabbed him by the shoulders and said, “Don’t cry!” Then they fell into each others arms, chests heaving with sobs. He cried for the loss of his friend’s life. Cried because his heart was broken for the boy he loved. Cried because his disease had killed him before he had a chance to live his life.

Then we buried him.

Jamie laid there, hands behind his head, staring at the gray ceiling of his cell. Tears were silently running down the sides of his face. He was glad Keithy never knew he ended up in prison. It would have broke his heart. He still thinks about him. Some pain never goes away.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
After Keithy died he began hanging out with the wrong kids. Even though he lived in a small town there were still dudes who thought of themselves as wanna-be gangsters. They weren’t like city gangs where kids were born into extreme violence and drive-by shootings, but there was buying and selling drugs and some carried guns and knives. They got in trouble doing stupid stuff. Jamie wanted to feel like he belonged somewhere. Excepted. Friends. He didn’t have that closeness anywhere else. He was more a follower than a leader. He starting getting into trouble and becoming defiant.

Sometimes for a few days he slept in other places instead of coming home,  He’d sneak home to eat, shower and take a nap when his mom was at work. She’d usually catch him. He never got too old for the belt.

He was found passed out in the middle of the street one day. A man who saw him thought he was on drugs and was going to call the cops. Before he could, another man who recognized Jamie realized he’d had a seizure and called an ambulance instead. He was lucky the cops weren’t called. There’s no telli what the cops would have done.

Because of trouble he got into, the court gave him one year probation. It was decided he’d live with an uncle near Dallas for one year and attend tenth grade there. He was strict with him. He was also a parole officer. It ended up being his last year of formal education. He kept Jamie on a short leash. When he wasn’t in school he couldn’t leave the house. The only time he could go anywhere was when he rode his bike to see his probation officer. He learned to enjoy the long ride.

He began community service at the local boys and girls club. One evening, riding his bike home, it started getting dark. He was being careful riding on the sidewalk. A man in a truck pulled out of an apartment complex driveway with his headlights off. He couldn’t see Jamie coming down the sidewalk. He hit the front side of the truck, flew over it, breaking his left leg when he landed. He was knocked unconscious and later woke up in the hospital.

When he completed probation his uncle asked him to stay and finish school. He was doing good, but Jamie was homesick. If he had stayed would he have finished high school? Would his life be different? It was only a few short months later his life changed for the worse when a cop forced his way into their house.

The choices we make matter. He grew up without anyone teaching him why certain things matter. He sees that now. His mom did the best she could. She took care of us, fed us, bought us clothes, had my medical problems to handle, and she did a great job. Her way of teaching was giving us rules to follow and if we didn’t we got the belt. She was fierce with that belt.

Most every kid he knew came from a broken home. A mother can’t do everything. It’s harder he thinks in black families because the goal is to keep their kid safe and at from the cops. We learn early as kids we are not supposed to reach as high as white kids. There is always that shadow hanging over you. Prison is the end for so many black men – women, too, especially in the South. If you can’t go to school and a good job how do you feed your kids? The doors that line this hallway? Behind almost all of them are black men.

In his family there were four broken relationships with four dads. He didn’t know his but he’s gotta be out there somewhere. He had no dad to teach him anything. He can’t go back and fix that. If he knew it before he might’ve made different choices. He let white society push him through the pipeline to prison because he didn’t really understand years before that it existed.

Now he’s given up seventeen years of his life to pay for it by going through hell. But he knows he can choose his future. This he knows after ten years. His story has to go through those years so you understand.

One important thing he learned is he can’t run away from his life. He has a mountain to climb, and that mountain will appear wherever he is, in some form or another. If there is something he needs to learn he can’t fool himself into thinking he can avoid it or walk around it. He is where he is because this is his mountain to climb. Win or lose.

But right now he’s gonna get up and re-wet his cold pact and maybe sit down and begin writing a letter . . .

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

( Sonni’s note: The chapters of this book I’m writing is at the first rewrite stage. When it goes through a professional edit I’m sure there will be other changes and revisions. I have found, writing a book is a process.  You don’t just write it, edit it and publish it.  It takes time to put out something worth reading.  If you want to give me feedback – please do.)

 

itfo newsletter

psst . . . .tap this button!

Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. As I build my mailing list for the book I’m writing about Jamie Cummings life, Inside The Forbidden Outside, keeping people informed along the way is important. Most of the information in the newsletter is not on this blog. We have a government now more gung-ho on locking up as many people as they can for even longer years. It is going to affect even more people who will get knocked sideways when they find themselves behind a steel door. Staying informed helps you protect yourself. Yes, it can happen to you, too.

If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

Jamie Life in Prison at Face book . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Protect yourself by having an attorney on call with an app on your phone. Stopped and given a ticket? harassed? Click on the link below and see why you need this. A friend has a brand new problem with a landlord. She had just signed up for the service. She didn’t even think about Legal Shield until I reminded her. Call me, email me, msg me at fb. It’s that easy. You can also contact me here: Legal Shield

ls101_Reasons_to_Use_LegalShield

Sonni’s Pinterest