There is a Muslim man here I will call “O”. O has started writing – hood novels.

A year or so ago, O, brought me a few chapters of a book he was at the time writing. I read a couple of pages and then put what he had given me aside – not my type of book. No, really I did try to read it; as a writer myself I know how important it is to get feedback from someone else. I also know that O respects me enough to have suffered through one of my books – the difference of course is, that I did not ask him to read it; I have long since learned NOT to ask people to read my books, because in reality, it hurts if they don’t like your work. But I said to myself, “Self, he asked you to read his book because he respects you.” So I picked it up again and tried once more to look at it from a purely literary stand point, but, alas, I couldn’t read it and I once again put it down.

The next day “O” comes up to me with stars in his eyes and says “Well?”. I started to tell him the truth, but I chickened out and sheepishly lied, “It was good.” Then when he looked as if he expected more, I added, “I really liked it!” He smiled and walked away, manuscript in hand.

I want you to know that I felt awful about lying to him…I had long since made a personal vow to be truthful, and I had broken that vow…was it to protect his feelings, or to protect my ego? I came to the conclusion that it really didn’t matter and I reasserted my vow of verity and moved on.

Time passed and time passed again and then last week, out of the blue, “O” come up to me and says “I’ve written a new book. It’s about these white cops killing a professional black football player in Dallas,” He says this with hand gestures, then adds ” and the black community goes off and starts killin’ cops. I got the idea from that shit that happened awhile back. I brought you a copy of the manuscript so you could check it out. And I want you to be honest!” With that he hands me his unsolicited manuscript. That was about 8pm.

About 8:45 pm I see “O” walk past my door and look in, like a kid tryin’ to catch a peek of his big sister in her underwear… okay, maybe that was just me…anyway, I could tell that he was so excited that he just couldn’t wait to get my reaction to his work. And, you guessed it, it was terrible; not just the writing itself, but the context as well.

I read about ten pages and then skipped a few pages and then check out some of the sex scenes…for spelling, of course. But in the end I couldn’t read it, not the work itself, because I appreciate anyone who can discipline themselves enough to write a book, even a bad one, but the content of his book was…well…just ugly.

I tossed and turned all night long and somewhere in the night, I decided that I’d tell him the truth…then I spent the remainder of the night trying to figure out the best way to do this most unpleasant task, and then practicing how to do it with the least amount of damage. I fell asleep and awoke at the opening of the doors…to the dreaded memory of what needed to be done.

Knowing as I do that “O” is an early riser I dressed and took the manuscript over to his cell. I knocked on the door and looked him in the eyes and said. “O, I can’t read this. In fact I’m offended by what you’ve written.” I then laid his book on his locker and turned to walk away…but, as you know, I have the idiot gene, so I turned around and added, “I didn’t know that you were a racist. And for the record. Not all cops need killin’ and not all white people hate niggers…your words, not mine. Don’t you think that the world has enough hatred and violence in it, without you, creating imaginary hatred and violence. Why don’t you write something positive…something that brings people together rather than writing things that further divide us?”

In his facial expressions I could tell that he was offended…so I turned around and walked out – feeling, well proud of myself. You know the old sayin’ “It’s better to be hated for who you are than be loved for who you’re not.”

The next three days “O” wouldn’t even speak to me; I just went about my business as usual; I’ll add that he’s still cold, to this day.

Why am I writing about this now, after the fact? Well, because a couple of days ago the movie “Dragonfly” with Kevin Costner was on the TV, I watched it, and on one of the other TVs I noticed the “O” was watching it as well.

Now I had seen this movie before, and so I knew what to expect in the end, so I had the freedom of looking around at the guys so I could garner their reaction…you know, to poke fun at ’em if I saw any tears.

When the movie was over it was deathly quiet as everybody, to include myself, was moved. I took the opportunity to look over at “O” and could tell that, even though his head and eyes were downcast like he was counting the treads on his sneakers, his eyes were watery. So I got up and walked over to him and tapped him on the shoulders and when he looked up I asked him how he liked the movie, he replied, “It was really good.”

“Good! No, it was powerful! and warm and sensitive and loving and caring…and positive.” I replied. Then I put my hand on his shoulder and added. “Why don’t you write something like that!” I smiled and then walked away, leaving him to think to himself.

About all a convict like me can give to these inmates is the little he’s learned and maybe what he thinks and feels in his mind and heart…assuming of course that they choose to listen…that of course is up to them.

I have tried to point out the value of having rules and honor, not only in life, but in prison as well, and I’ve told them that the most important rules are the ones a man makes for himself to live by; a man has to be hard on himself, too. Rules and a Code of Honor are what we use to show respect to ourselves and to others and Civilization itself is the product of rules and laws that we as a people have chosen to abide by. Yes. life is strange and life in prison stranger yet. I’ll tell you here and now that I know nothing, nor claim any kinda wisdom beyond that of the average man, but I’ve learned the one thing that makes me a man…truthfulness.

Last week a lady who reads my blog wrote me and told me that my life was as it is because I was working out my karma…as painful as that was to hear, I recognize it as the truth, and i accept it as the truth. Truth…my harsh mistress.

The days, months and years of this life have been strung together like prisoners on a chain…and this for whatever reason is my destiny…truth to self: be a better man, daily…find truthfulness within yourself with the only tool you have…truthfulness…truth is, I’m alone. I never thought that I’d see the day when my wife wouldn’t have my back. No my friend, you can’t really know what loneliness is until you hear a cell door close…to know that all you love is so geographically close yet as removed from you as a star…one you can sometimes see but never touch. Karma…Damn it man…I musta been a real son of a bitch in my last life.

I accept my destiny…my karma…and I vow from this day forward to try, with all my might, to not create negative karma. Oh…and for the record…I don’t have a sister 🙂

As always I ask that you help me get my writings out beyond the confines of these walls, and so it is, that I ask you to please pass this along to as many people as you can.

Peace be with you all. Mark

Three Rivers, 4-14-17