You’re Only Out When You’re In

Two outs, bottom of the last inning, down by two runs with bases loaded – I step up to the plate feigning composure. There are only so many times in life that we get to be the clear and direct hero, and with the best two softball teams in the joint battling under the heavy stare of inmates and staff all over the yard, this was one of mine. I was moved over here from across the institution largely because of my hitting ability, and after an 0-3 performance so far, it was time to produce. A base hit would tie it. I readied myself, clenched the bat and watched the pitcher toss the bright green ball high in the air….crack! Ground out, game over.

As a competitive person who’s hard on myself, I knew ahead of me lie a long night of sulking and quietly repeating “damn” to myself.

In many ways, prison is a replica of society. We work and hustle then often spend our earnings unwisely. We have to deal with people we don’t like, rules that don’t make sense and government officials that don’t care. There’s crime, sex, and camaraderie; neighbors, shopping and cooking; and sports, school and even taxes. The only real difference is the quality of options. But, of course, this is an enormous difference.

If I were free I’d probably go to a batting cage and hit until my confidence returned or I’d escape into some music, a good movie, the arms of a lover, or maybe even all three. If nothing else, I could at least find a scenic path to walk along in relative peace and remind myself that there are billions of people who wish they had my problems. Instead my reality was cold walls, no privacy, and constant chatter.

It’s crazy to think about how rich I was on the streets. I don’t mean monetarily – though I made a decent living for a teenager – but rich in opportunities. Even if I’d been dirt poor, I had so many options, quality options. Some required more work than others, but they were right there nevertheless. Unfortunately, it took the dictatorship of prison for these “small” jewels of liberty to loom large in my understanding. Now they’re all I see.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, what a dumb ass. Immaturity already fooled me once into thinking my freedom was worth the risk of feeding false pride. Shame is a blessing compared to what I deserve if I do it again. No matter how many times I miss the target, I simply have to keep swinging. We all do.

The alternative: Cold walls, no privacy and constant frickin’ chatter.

Keep boxing temptation.

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