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Life is made up of moments you cannot understand. Just as we cannot understand our ability to survive what seems a grave, even terminal circumstance in the face of adversity and the darkness of the unknown. Six by ten becomes not only your dungeon but your world, a world you come to understand, to need, and even grow to love because it’s your’s and your’s alone. It is your curse and your savior. Yes, it’s the one thing no one else seems to want to take from you, something most wouldn’t wish upon their enemy. The irony is as bad as they don’t want it and you come to embrace it when the day comes you get to walk out and leave it behind you may find you can never fully rid yourself of it ever again. Instead, it remains deep in the darkest recesses of your mind, the most hardened chambers of your heart, the most desolate part of your soul.
The choices we made a result of youthful ignorance, mistakes, crimes often unforgivable the kind causing insurmountable pain and anguish in too many particularly in those you never meant to hurt. Pain filled souls scarred by hard lessons learned. Not lessons taught by life mentoring, positive reinforcement or trial and error but lessons forced upon young minds by brute force, out of sheer necessity or maybe it was simply sheer will to survive what others had not. No, there was no room for trial nor error in our world it was not a luxury afforded us. Our only goal, to not allow them to take from us what they had taken from those before us, our will, our spirit, our soul. We were the corrupted, the incorrigible, even dangerous minds, world-weary old men stuck in juvenile bodies really no more than children, forced to be men or at very least believe we were being those things which we believed men to be. How wrong we were. We shared tough guy speak in high-pitched voices. So we walked the walk and talked the talk but barely more than kids still we were. Time will always try to make us old before our time.
Our youthful indiscretions, earthly violations, and absence of any legitimate life experience were our sin, a determination to punish by a broken system would be our penance and so men we would become. One thing we all had in common, there was little that was legitimate in our young lives. A little bit of loneliness, a little bit unsure, give some credit to the streets for they have raised one more. We walked through a gladiator school wearing a scowl and embracing our hatred like a suit of armor meant to protect us. Yet we wore our trepidation daily, it hung off of us like the ill-fitting state clothes two sizes too big for slight bodies. We yelled and screamed in vain and spilled blood as we fought, we drew our own blood, opened our veins simply to feel something, anything. Yes, we laughed and joked and sobbed wiping away the tears as we cried ourselves to sleep at night, we lived the best we could but died a little bit more every day. We accepted the physical damage they meted out yet had no idea of the psychological damage we inflicted upon ourselves. We would have killed another for doing the things to us we did to ourselves. But we were kids and these things we did not understand.
Sometimes I awake suddenly in the middle of the night. I stare wide-eyed into the darkness expecting what comes next, then, nothing. I am certain everything will be alright, sometimes I act as if, other times I’m not so sure. I am not there anymore, I know this, yet, I miss it. I know not how I know not why. Maybe because it was the first, the only semblance of security I had ever known. The line was drawn I knew how far I could go still I was unsure if I would ever go again, home, that is, where ever that was. Three squares a day not having to worry about survival on a daily basis and someone telling you what you never heard before that which you needed to do to get through the day, this can do a lot to a young boy on the cusp of manhood. This concrete room was my school, the yard beyond these bars my playground, these men in blue and boys in khaki my teachers. While the others may have danced at the prom and played in the park I became a man on a playground of a different sort. These days just as then I survive by a comfortable chaos and my knowledge that the only faith I have is in the pain I feel inside.
(To be continued)