Sunday, January 27, 2008

Who Is That Man?

After putting my belongings in my locker, Gary, my new "cellie" asked if I'd like a tour of the facility. I said sure, and off we went. The heat blasted me as I stepped out the door into the compound. The August afternoon was in triple digits as we followed the hot concrete sidewalk away from our unit.

As we walked around the upper yard, Gary pointed out the "chow hall" and the library. He pointed a cursory in the general direction of the chapel and then across to the infirmary. We continued walking until we reached the recreation area. A large dirt track circled the soccer and softball fields in the center. The basketball court was filled with black "NBA" wannabe while the volleyball courts were filled with Hispanic men playing a version of volleyball that they must only find south of the Border. Inside, the smell of sweat filled the room as men worked out on stair steppers, stationary bikes and treadmills. I looked around for the weight benches but Gary told me that TCI didn't have any weight lifting equipment at all.

Into the next room we went and here there men around pool tables where the air was filled with laughter and cussing. That was to be something that I would never get used to in this place...the profanity. It seemed everybody used it and it wasn't something that I would get immune to. Along the walls, men of all colors were sitting, some playing guitar, others accordions. TV's hung from the wall, the sounds of various sports shows muted.

As we walked back, Gary informed me that I needed to be back at the unit by 1:00 because the compound would close and I hadn't checked out. He left me at the library and I slowly walked across the baked dirt compound toward my new home. As I approached the 10 foot high cyclone wire fence and gate that enclosed my building, for a moment I seemed to leave my body. I simply looking down at this man who seemed vaguely familiar wearing a white t-shirt and khaki pants and heavy work boots. "Surely that couldn't be me", my mind thought. This is a prison compound, what would I be doing here?

But as I walked closer to the doors, and the PA system loudly announced that the compound was now closed, I was drawn back into my body...and the reality hit me. It was me walking so slowly across this barren yard. And I was truly in a prison compound. For the next 36 months, I would continue to have this same surreal experience of wondering if this was actually happening, or if it was all just a dream. No where in my worst nightmares had I ever thought this would be happening to me.

1 comment:

Deb said...

I am in awe of the courage I know it takes for you to be writing this. I feel imprisoned reading your words and I feel your sense of unreality. I also feel tremendously proud of the man who is no longer afraid of the truth and who so boldly writes it. That man is my brother. I love him deeply.