Commonplace

I skipped chow this afternoon and went out for a walk on the track instead. It started to rain after an hour, but I decided to stay out even after most of the field had cleared. Just me, three joggers, and the Mexicans who were playing a game of soccer. The blacks, who had just finished drawing out the chalk lines on their half of the field, decided to cancel their football game. “Blacks don’t do water,” a black friend once told me when I suggested we go swimming (something about how the water dries their skin and turns them ashen). The Mexicans hardly seemed to notice the water at all.

I kept walking the track until my clothes were heavy and soaked. Then I walked some more. It occurred to me that maybe walking in the rain with headphones was probably not a good idea and might get me electrocuted, and I laughed–literally laughed–at that absurdity that someone in my position, sentenced to twelve years in prison, should be concerned about a small shock, as if that would ruin what had otherwise been a perfectly good day. No. I think I’ll be all right, thank you.

It occurred to me then, as it often does when I walk the track, that I’m actually in prison. Me. In prison. I’m the last person anyone suspected would end up here. My brother later joked after sentencing that the prosecutor had gotten the wrong brother. “No, you don’t understand! You’ve got the wrong guy! I’m the bad brother–not him! He’s the good one!” And we sat in the court parking lot and laughed about it in our suits and ties. The absurdity of it.

Whenever the reality of prison dawns on me, I wonder: Is there any greater failure in life? If there was a failure continuum, where would prison fall? Most certainly at the extreme far end. The only greater failure I can think of is suicide. Suicide and prison–two sure signs that you’ve royally fucked things up. And it seems strange to say this, but when you’re there, when you’re actually living at that point on the continuum, it doesn’t seem all that bad. Even bars and fences can become commonplace.

I stayed out in the rain with the Mexicans until my socks became squishy. Then I walked back to the unit and hoped that the other guys might notice my small act of rebellion, my free-spiritedness. That’s right, boys! Look at me! I’m all wet, and I don’t give a damn!

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