A few months back, a new guy arrived and was put into my cellblock. In talking to him I learned that he was a drug-dealer, user and weed grower, very typical of the guys who come and go here.
This new guy is a likable fellow, so I was amiable towards him, but truthfully speaking, I didn’t like the way he carried himself – meaning that he acted and talked like he was, well, ghetto – though I knew he wasn’t. Usually, I’ll have nothing to do with a guy who acts like that, but, like I said, there was something I liked about him, and he had a baby that he loved to talk about, a thing I saw as a sign of a good heart. So, I chalked his mannerisms up to his habits and his desire to be a “Player.” I liked him, so rather than completely blow him off, I kept him at arms length – not the kind of company I usually keep.
About a month after he’d been here he asked me if I had a Bible he could borrow; I loaned him mine. He kept my Bible for about two months, then returned it saying, “My girl sent me one, just like yours,” ( a Dakes ).
During this afore mentioned two months, and after this, I watched him. I watched who he hung around with and how he carried himself and I began to see a slight change in him, and I could tell that he was beginning to evaluate those decisions that had sent him to prison; the choices he had made which had separated him from his new-born baby. Then one day between then and now I happened to sitting at the computer sending a “Love You!” to my granddaughter, (Love You, Baby doll!), and overheard him and, one of the guys being deported, talking behind, me about … well, smuggling dope. Now, I’m not passing judgment here, I mean I don’t know how the conversation started, nor how it ended. But I do know this: If your trying to avoid the temptation of going out and buying a new car you can’t afford, the last thing you need to be doing is dwelling on how good it would be to have it. Like I said, I ain’t passing judgment, I’m only pointing out the reality that what a man thinks about, he talks about, and what he thinks and talks about, is usually what he ends up putting into action – thoughts are the seeds of action. So as they talked all I could do was to get up and walk away, believing that he, like most of the others in here are, well, lost … destined to the failure of the street life.
In the cellblock I have developed the habit of walking, constantly walking. In this endeavor I have measured out the steps it takes to walk the interior walls, the odd rectangular shape of the building, and have concluded that it takes 19 laps to walk a mile – why? I don’t know, I guess I would rather walk than play cards, or watch countless hours of TV – or, talk to people, we cons call this, “Bugging Out!”. I’m what the cons call, a “Bug”.
I don’t know how that term came about, it was being used when I came into the prison system some 21+ years ago. I suppose It came about from us cons watching insect bugs seemingly roaming aimlessly along the edges of walls and so forth, you know, seemingly out of touch with the world around them. With us, the term “He’s a bug” is a politically correct way of saying, “Mark has been down ‘too’ long”, or ” Mark is slowly losing his mind”, or ” Mark has gone home. He’s no longer here”. Yeah, we cons understand better than anyone what happens to a persons mind after years and years, decades, of incarceration. There it is, I’m a “BUG”, it’s true. Somewhere along the way I have most assuredly become like those little black Rollie Pollie’s that everybody walks around and ignores.
Trouble is, I don’t really see this as a bad thing, I mean I would rather be in tune with the birds, butterflies, beetles, ants and cats than humans, yeah, it’s true. I’ll stop and pick up a bug and carry him outside rather than kill him. I sit in my cell and look through the bars in the middle of the night just to watch for the skunk who occasionally walks outside my window. I have an owl who comes and perches on a water drain not three feet away from my cell and I somehow know that he watches over me in my sleep. Ants, insects, birds, tree’s, cats and even the demon cockroach is my preferred companionship. Funny, I have no reservations about busting a cell-thief in the face, but consider it unthinkable to harm one of those little creatures. I am a “bug”, completely detached from the reality these other men believe important – that and I’m probably, institutionalized.
Yeah, that’s an ugly word, for sure, one that’s hard for me to even say, but in my honest contemplations I must admit the possibility. I say this because I’ve lost that drive for freedom that I used to have, I don’t even know what I’d do if were to suddenly be released; I have no home to go back to, and I could never allow myself to become a burden on my children, and frankly speaking, all I really want out of life is to write, paint and contemplate the mysteries of God, things I ain’t sure I’d be able to do on the “Outs”.
Yes, my friends, I guess it’s fair to say I don’t really care about a normal life anymore, prison has taken the sparkle from my eyes, it has altered me in ways I do not have the vocabulary to accurately explain. I have been bent, and I don’t know if I can ever be straightened. Truthfully speaking, if I were to be set free, I think I would be more comfortable in an ally, than I would an office. I’m definitely not the man you remember, I’m a man who talks to owls and walks in a circle for hours on end, a “Bug”.
The other cons understand, and for the most part, leave me alone, especially when I’m walking my laps. But the other day, the new guy, pulls up beside me and starts walking with me – something I don’t normally like.
After a few laps he starts telling me that he’d been so unhappy with his life that he’d actually contemplated turning himself in to the police, just to get away from the mess he was in and get a clean start. At those words I stopped and looked into his eyes, the way a man does when he’s trying to see something far away, and what I saw within the pools of his consciousness, were the words he said next, and my heart hurt for him.
“A few days before I was arrested, I begged God to help me get my life straight and show me the way.” At that I lowered my eyes and started to move around. Later that day we had a fifteen or twenty minute conversation about the deeper meaning of life, about kids, about Thought Control – about a freedom I no longer hungered for. It was a good day.
A couple of days ago, the new guy, walks up to me and asks me if I had any books on Buddhism. My heart leapt! “Yes” I replied, “I have exactly what your looking for.” I then took the time to explain the principles of the Buddha and the Eight Fold Path, as best I understand them. I explained that Buddhism is more than a religion, it’s a way of seeing and living life, a map for successful, happy living; a way far superior to all other methods. I could see his mind working, I knew his reservations, I too had experienced them, so I explained that he could believe in Christ, attend Mass, and still practice Buddhism, that there was no need to fear this pathway, and, well, so much more did we talk about, more than I have space for here.
The very next day, the new guy came out of his cell, found me, and with obvious enthusiasm tells me how awesome the book I loaned him was. Then he went about relaying a dream he’d had, and I knew that he, like me, had come to prison, to learn something … something we would not have learned in the world.
I guess I’m telling you these things because I have no one else to talk to about ’em, that, and I want to put on record that some men are coming alive behind these bars, and some men are dying behind them.
So … why was the skeleton afraid to cross the road? because he didn’t have the guts!
You didn’t think I was going to leave you on a sad note, did you!
A few posts back I told you about a painting I had once done portraying Christ as the Sacred Heart, the one where I used as a model, the face of a “Made Man” friend of mine and suggested that someone should try and get it. Well, Rae Lee Rodriguez, a friend of my sons, talked them out of it. Good for you. Hope you enjoy it … Rae Lee, how about a picture for the others to see!
Armando S. Yes, I remember that very well, ETPM and the Segovia brothers from Sinton. It’s good to hear from you. Peace be with you and your family.
Debbie S. Thanks for your comment on Thomas J., he really is misperceived; a really nice guy. Are you still in Ingleside? Peace to you and yours.
Eddie. Thanks, Good to hear that Anna still prays for me, God knows I need them. Thanks.
Gene D. Hope you don’t mind me calling you Gene, your first name is a lightning rod to my kids ( the name of an old girlfriend). Yes, God does move in mysterious ways and I’m glad you understood what I was trying to say.
Jerry C. Thanks for the encouragement. Thank too, for taking the time to read this mess! 🙂
Three Rivers, 2-5-18