I just got off the phone with an old friend, who’s
had the kind of life Oprah does shows on: shot, bad
car crash, raped, abortion, stalked and harassed,
deep depression, and now a single mother working
two jobs while trying to finish college. I hadn’t
spoken to her in almost a year and the conversation
soon turned somber as she tearfully vented some of
her recent and current hardships. She explained
how she’s never had anyone to talk to since I got
locked up and how the pressure of enduring her
persistent misfortune is becoming unbearable.
Being an only child, I viewed my boys as my
brothers, particularly from ages 16-20. During those
years, I had a violently selfless love for my brothers.
Homey love, 100%. But since I’ve been down, I’ve
gotten very close with my female friends (old
flames) because they’ve kept in touch and are
easier to talk to. Consequently, my love now finds
itself concentrated on my sisters. So it was
physically painful to listen to someone I view as a
sister cry about something I’ve made worse and
question how she’ll continue to push on without the
support I could so easily give her if not for these
Virtually everyone who’s been in prison knows the
agony of listening to loved ones detail the
difficulties our absences have caused them. It adds
a whole new torturous dimension to the shitpile we
brought upon ourselves. Knowing that the people
we care about most are hurting is tough enough,
but the added inability to help, to at least talk to
them and give them a caring audience when
needed, amplifies the pain to a feeling of cruelty.
It’s like being forced to watch a mob beat them
I tried to be reassuring and strong for my sister to
convince her of her own strength, which she’s
displayed throughout the difficulties life’s thrown at
her, and that things will get better. I couldn’t tell
how effective my words and tone were. But as the
automated voice said, “you have one minute left,” I
experienced a supremely powerful almost visible
desire to hug and comfort her, to make her see what
I see in her and know what I know about struggle.
Then, “goodbye,” click. No more calls for the day.
I understand the uncertainty of extended
supervision/parole. When it’s possible to be sent
back to prison for mere allegations, of course guys
are going to be nervous in their decision-making—
even on basic stuff. But prison is hardly any
different: any guard can send a guy to the hole and
jack off his early release or PRC if he so wishes.
Ultimately, what kind of man would I be to risk
making me once again helpless while listening to the
cries of my loved ones as they battle monsters,
especially monsters I helped create?