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As unpredictable and violent as it often was, I think back on it with a certain sense of fondness. I don’t why, maybe because it’s all I knew back then, it was all I had? Life was a just game to play with no end. No one ever knew what was coming next, where the next curve in the road would lead us, to salvation or death. I don’t know that we actually understood were too stupid to know or even cared for that matter. In our mind’s we had nothing to look forward to because we never had anything to look back on. There is a certain sense of kinship when you’re a kid doing time. I mean serious time, not some punk school kid overnight jail time. The kind where people want to hurt you every minute of every day. The kind that you cry yourself to sleep every night as quietly as you can until you master how to only cry inside and never let them see you outside. The kind of time that you knew could be the end of you, you go in barely able more than whiskers on your chin and come out with tufts of gray hair in your beard, a void in your heart and a dark cloud that envelops your soul. Not any wiser, definitely not rehabilitated, that’s all bullshit Joe tax-payer likes to believe, fed to him by citizen do-gooder justice-for-all agencies fighting for funding, so they can all sleep better at night. No, you only get angrier and infinitely more dangerous. In jail, especially when you are a kid the stakes are frighteningly high. Every single choice you make in life at that point basically puts up at stake all you have done up to that moment. The question of self-preservation and survival stays the same, the only uncertainty is the answer.
Six to thirty, that’s what my calendar looked like and the judge told me to keep my calendar clear. I wouldn’t have to make any plans in life for at least that long. The only question was, would they give me a break or hit me with the whole ride. Kiss the fat baby, as we used to call it when they give you the maximum and your already bleak life looks like it’s come to an end. I was already a convicted felon on a previous beef so I didn’t hold out much hope. I look back on it not knowing if I even realized the severity of where I sat and the bid that I was looking at. By some stroke of luck down the road, I would score a change of venue. More because someone in my family had a little juice than any leniency anyone wished to afford me. Fortunately, the second judge didn’t want to body slam me and bury me behind the wall. It would still take a while for me to find out what my fate would be, how much time I would do. You would think I would have learned after this but the truth is I would have to go through it again and again, but that’s a story for later. One thing I would learn is; it’s not always about learning from the lesson but more about living the way you choose. Choices are something many people never consider. Choices are something we had no idea about. But the courts don’t care about your choices.
It’s strange when I think about it now, how violence or the prospect of it has become such a big part of my life, such a normal part. You always have to be ready for it when you enter certain rooms, violence is always a possibility. I learned that as a kid. I became used to it a long time ago and it would later serve me well. So much in my life has been precipitated by violence that I have learned how to use it accordingly. But sometimes you have no choice but to walk the path laid out in front of you, the direction in which your life goes. You have only the knowledge of what you’ve seen and what you’ve learned to make a decision on which direction to go. It’s not exactly an educated decision, it’s more guess-work and you hope you survive through the day to make it to the next.
We learn from those who are supposed to teach us the life lessons and skills necessary for in living right, making good choices and survival. Sometimes those tasked with teaching themselves have limited life skills so they have at best little more to impart than the skill of survival. I have come to realize it’s not really anyone’s fault, no, they were just ill-prepared to teach another something they had no knowledge of themselves. One thing that my folks did do was to teach me to not blindly accept anybody except God as law or the ultimate authority. Blind trust in anyone and anything will only at very least get you screwed and at worst help you get killed that much quicker. Blind faith is when the lie becomes the truth. Their few lessons would serve me well. They knew how to survive.
Something I always feared is my ma asking me about it. I never wanted to share with her because I knew it would break her heart. But she never asked and we never spoke about it as if it never even happened. She had been through it so often with the men in her life that I think she learned not to ask about it.
Being a kid can be hard enough. Being a kid who has no choice but to become a man while doing time can get a little dicey. Yet, that’s what will happen and like I already mentioned I can miss it at times. That was my home at that point in my life, it’s where I had my life experiences. I have come to accept that I do sometimes miss it and that it is okay, maybe even healthy? But that is what time does, it kills, but before that it makes you miss it. It takes something from you it will never return, more from some than others, but enough from anyone that has experienced it to make sure you never forget it. It taught me to embrace the silence as long as I can because it never lasts. I marvel at amazing sunsets and have befriended total darkness but can still spend too much time alone. I still have trouble allowing someone to love me the way I can love them. It never becomes easier to let them in. Troubling yes it is. I hate to admit it but even today I sleep with a shank not far from my bed. I still carry a knife even if out of habit. If someone is going to try and take me out I’m not going alone. That’s my attitude and I have no shame about it. Like I once heard and often repeat, we all have to decide how much sin we can live with.
(To be cont.)