Tonight was my first night at the prison in more than a month. It’s always strange to be gone for a period of time. I have just enough time to start to think that maybe I don’t have time for it. That I ought to be spending the five hours it takes to travel to the prison, teach and get home on my own writing. That perhaps I give too much of myself and time, distracting myself from my own work with the excuse of wanting to give to others.

But then I go, and I remember, within minutes of the guys walking into the room, why it is I need to be there. True, I give. But I also get so much out of my time there. I am inspired by the stories of these men. I’m inspired by their words and by their very act of writing. I am always reminded that all the excuses I have for not getting to my work are just that–excuses. Truth is, I have everything I need to write everyday. Mainly, the freedom to do so. I have a quiet space. I have friends and family readily accessible for support. I have access to the internet, classes, travel, books and on and on. In my two and a half hours of in class time I am reinspired to come home and write my heart out. To take advantage of every day I have to put words to the page. If these men are going to show up to every class with words to share, then I ought to always have words to show for my time as well.

I was surprised tonight to see one of our guys from our old group. He spent a month in the hole and then was transferred to WSR. It’s good to see a familiar face, even better to see him healthy and still standing. He’s due to get out in twenty days, or at least that’s when his court date is. He’s been at this point before, and though I don’t know for sure, I think he self sabotages his chances for release. Likely out of a fear of being out. A fear many of the guys share. Still, it was good to see him, to hear him read his work, to be reminded of the where I started on my first day up at the prison.

He wasn’t the only one to experience the hole during my absence. One of our best writers, an older black man from the south, is there now. I worry about him, holding up in solitary. One of our other guys just got out, and though normally quiet, I was discouraged by the look of resignation on his face tonight. All he told me was that with only a year left on his sentence he needs to stay away from people, keep to himself. That sounds like a terrible and tough way to spend a year. But I trust him to know what’s best.

There are new faces in the group as well. It’s good to meet new guys, as with each new member to the group I get to learn a new story, put a new face to stereotyped image of “prisoner”.

I’m happy to be back in the swing of things. Pleased to be inspired. Lucky, I think, to have these few hours to step out of myself and my life, so that when I return I can appreciate it for what it is. A good and decent life. Easy.

  1. Melissa J. Varnavas says:

    Love you. Thank you for going and doing the work.

  2. islandwriter says:

    Thanks, Melissa. And thanks for stopping by to read my ramblings 🙂

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