23 hours (a work in progress)

Posted: February 1, 2010 in prison, general, story, writing
Tags: , , , ,

A fictional piece (draft) inspired by work at the prison.

23 Hours
for s-

The situation: Sixty-two years old, black and displaced from Georgia to this northwest prison, I told the guard I would not get on my knees while he ransacked my cell. I have nothing to hide and it is easier to comply, but these old knees, this low back, my heavy-burdened soul is so tired of being told to stand down.

The punishment: Tell them no, refuse to bend, ask them why they have to come at you with pepper spray ready when they know you are too old to kneel, remind them you are human, try to remind them, say sir even though the word stings your mouth, and find yourself face flat to the concrete walkway, arms twisted behind your back, a knee piercing your ribs, a voice whispering in your ears, to the hole.

The place: I am a big man, in a small box. An old man practicing death. I lie still on this metal bed, stare at white-washed walls until I do not see them anymore and instead can feel the Georgia sun, see the pecan tree ahead where my father used to take me, smell peaches being sliced in the kitchen for a pie. Officers slide food through the door on a metal tray as if I might attack. I do not eat because I am not an animal.

The time: Passes. Does not pass. What does it matter? Twenty-three hours to pace from wall to wall, back again, turn, one more time. I’m too old for pushups, sit ups. I’m too old for slinging shit at the door to get attention and medication to dull the days into one blur of shadows passing. I’m too old to be dangerous. But, come the twenty-second hour, I sometimes think about killing somebody.

The hour: Twenty-three hours inside, one hour outside. It’s a cage outside as well. Fresh air, they say, is good for me. I pace for another hour, from one side of the cage to the other. I stretch my hands up, drag my fingers along my chain link roof, wonder if the guy in the tower has his scope centered on me now or if he’s resting, feet up, bullshitting with his girlfriend on the phone. An officer tells me to keep my hands down. At the fifty-ninth minute I take a deep breath, hoping to make the air last.

The return: Having learned my lesson, so they tell me, I am escorted back to general population. To be, once again, with my fellow thieves, murderers, rapists, drug dealers, thugs and some good men picked up for the wrong crimes. I do not speak, having grown accustomed over the past sixty days to keeping thoughts to myself. I think, perhaps better to keep to myself from here on out. To make peace with giving up the fight. Peace with being pushed and not pushing back. Standing up has only ever gotten me knocked down. I’m tired of picking up all my pieces.

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