This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
” “I would like to help others learn from my experience.”
“I think of myself as having happily died that night.”
“I want my legacy to live on in the pages of a book.” “I want to share my happiness with the world.” Can you identify with any of these statements? You probably have a story that you have yearned to share, but could not because you did not know when, how, or with whom. The people in this book let out their secrets through their writing. Sometimes simply listening to others who have had similar experiences can be more beneficial than turning to religious texts, self-help books, or professional advice. Finding that we are not the only one who has lived through an experience, and that others share our desires and fears, helps us overcome feelings of being misunderstood or lonely. Our unique ability to identify with and accept others makes us understand ourselves.
“Prison with cancer takes fear to a new level.”
“After 5 years of marriage he died suddenly and tragically.”
100 Plus True Stories
Copyright ©2009 Cambridge BrickHouse, Inc. All rights reserved. www.cbhbooks.com Managing Editor: Heidie German Editors: Alison Keating, David Mallick, Priscilla Colón Designer: Ricardo Potes Correa Cambridge BrickHouse, Inc. 60 Island Street Lawrence, MA 01840 U.S.A. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 100 plus true stories : anthology / [editors, Alison Keating, David Mallick, Priscilla Colon]. -- 1st ed. p. cm. ISBN 978-1-59835-109-5 (alk. paper) 1. Biography--Anecdotes. 2. Social history--20th century--Anecdotes. 3. Social history--21st century--Anecdotes. I. Keating, Alison. II. Mallick, David. III. Colón, Priscilla. IV. Title: One hundred plus true stories. CT105.A135 920.009’04--dc22 2009 2009052511
First Edition Printed in the U.S.A. 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
100 Plus True Stories
BH Books would like to extend a very special thank you to the PEN Prison Writing Program, especially to Coordinator Eric Taylor and Director Jackson Taylor, for sharing the true stories of inmates incarcerated in prisons throughout the United States. We also thank the authors for sharing their experiences with those of us on the “outside.” The PEN Prison Writing stories may be read in their entirety by clicking on the Prison Writing Program link on PEN American Center’s web site: www.pen.org
Table of Contents
Paradise Lost & Found ...............................13
Homeless at Nine ........................................................................ 15 From Chaos to College ............................................................... 16 A Prison Poet............................................................................... 17 Seeing the Light .......................................................................... 19 Buddhism Behind Bars ............................................................... 20 Proud to be a Chindian ............................................................... 21 There Is No Santa ........................................................................ 22 The Man Scribbles of Big G ........................................................ 23 Pictures Don’t Lie ........................................................................ 25 Species of a Lesser God ............................................................. 28 Stripped of My Masculinity.......................................................... 30 Staying Sane ............................................................................... 32 Nobody’s Fault ............................................................................ 32 Hopelessness for the Homeless.................................................. 33 My Rapist Walks Free .................................................................. 34 Lifer.............................................................................................. 36 One Bad Decision ....................................................................... 37 Talk About a Bad Week ............................................................... 39 I Am a Murderer ........................................................................... 40 A Step in the Right Direction ....................................................... 41 Freedom From Addiction............................................................. 42 This Too Shall Pass ..................................................................... 44 Hope in the Written Word ............................................................ 45 Poetical Muralism ........................................................................ 45 Escape from Maximum-Security ................................................. 47 I Thought I Could Fix Him............................................................ 50 A Three-Strikes Sojourn .............................................................. 51
There Are Consequences ............................................................ 53 Withdrawal................................................................................... 53 My Regret .................................................................................... 55
Sex & Seduction .........................................57
First-Time Fizzle .......................................................................... 59 Do It For You................................................................................ 59 A Special Bond ............................................................................ 60 A Man Can Always Dream........................................................... 61 But a Glance Away ...................................................................... 62 Sexual Fantasy ............................................................................ 63
Small Miracles .......................................... 65
When the Cell Door Closes ......................................................... 67 Visited by Angels ......................................................................... 69 Someone Saved My Life ............................................................. 70 The Day I Died ............................................................................. 71 We Are Not Alone ........................................................................ 73 Everything Happens for a Reason............................................... 74 A Taste of Honey ......................................................................... 75 Smoking Saved His Life .............................................................. 77 Someone Knew My Pain ............................................................. 77 A Change in Outlook ................................................................... 79 Being Stabbed Saved Me ........................................................... 80
Matters of the Heart .................................. 83
My First at 41............................................................................... 85 Nowhere to Go ............................................................................ 85 An Undeniable Connection ......................................................... 86 I Just Want to Forget ................................................................... 87 An Older Man .............................................................................. 87 The Ultimate Forbidden Fruit ...................................................... 88
Four A.M ...................................................................................... 90 Love Advice from a Magazine ..................................................... 91 Love Is ......................................................................................... 92 The Prince Who Turned into a Frog............................................. 92 In Love with Another Woman ...................................................... 93 Aphrodite Gone Wrong................................................................ 94 Living Separate Lives .................................................................. 95 I Fantasize about My Teacher...................................................... 95 My Mississippi Man ..................................................................... 96 Cake in Acapulco ........................................................................ 97 Farewell ....................................................................................... 98 A Joining of Two, Not Two Hundred ............................................ 99 When “Going Green” Gets Painful ............................................ 100 Falling Out of Love .................................................................... 101 The Divorce That Never Was ..................................................... 102
Despite Diagnosis ....................................105
Fighting the Ninja ...................................................................... 107 A Tumor at 18 ............................................................................ 108 You Never Know ........................................................................ 109 The Scar of Life ......................................................................... 110 Fear ........................................................................................... 111 She Gave Me Hope ................................................................... 114 “Lights” Don’t Mean a Longer Life ............................................ 115 The Slow and Silent Killer.......................................................... 115 Stopping the Spread of STDs ................................................... 116
The Transience of Permanence ................ 119
LIVE from Texas Death Row ...................................................... 121 To Die or Not To Live ................................................................. 122 Check Out Day .......................................................................... 122 When I Ceased to Exist ............................................................. 123
Deconstructing Nonna .............................................................. 124 The Final Countdown ................................................................ 125 A Requiem for Freddy ............................................................... 127 I Lost My Baby Boy ................................................................... 128 I Miss You, Dad ......................................................................... 130 Accepting He’s Gone ................................................................ 130 A Parting Gift ............................................................................. 131 Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining ................................................ 132 Making Amends ........................................................................ 133 Slash .......................................................................................... 135 Death Mask ............................................................................... 136
Hidden & Forbidden ................................139
Admitting I Am a Rapist............................................................. 141 I Couldn’t Be What They Wanted .............................................. 142 My Most Embarrassing Moment ............................................... 143 Two Sides to Every Coin............................................................ 144 My Struggles ............................................................................. 145 The Truth ................................................................................... 147 Better Off Not Knowing ............................................................. 148 Keeping the Demons at Bay...................................................... 148 For Love or Religion .................................................................. 149 Words Speak Louder ................................................................. 151 After a Decade........................................................................... 151
Eerie Encounters ..................................... 153
Who Wants to Be Alone? .......................................................... 155 Drowning ................................................................................... 155 Dreams Reflect Reality .............................................................. 156 The Warnings ............................................................................ 157 The Monster in My Dreams ....................................................... 158 I’ve Been Here Before ............................................................... 158
No Grim Reaper ........................................................................ 159 Between Time and Space ......................................................... 160 I Saw It Happen ......................................................................... 161 Back to My Body ....................................................................... 162 A Different Level ........................................................................ 163 The Mournful Guitar .................................................................. 164 I See Spirits ............................................................................... 166 UFO Hunt .................................................................................. 166
At Home & Abroad ...................................169
Creating Our Own Melting Pot .................................................. 171 Do It the Legal Way ................................................................... 172 Patience is a Virtue .................................................................... 172 In Limbo..................................................................................... 173 You’re Not Peruvian ................................................................... 175 My Nibble Out of The Big Apple................................................ 177 What I Learned from the British ................................................ 179 Return to Paradise .................................................................... 181 The Other Emerald “Isle” ........................................................... 182 Taking It All In ............................................................................ 183
The Toughest Job in the World ................185
The Best Laid Plans .................................................................. 187 Through the Eyes of a Child ...................................................... 188 I Thought I Had Failed ............................................................... 189 Afraid to Be a Mom ................................................................... 190 The Hunt .................................................................................... 191 Moments Frozen in Time ........................................................... 192 Shame ....................................................................................... 193 The Glove Compartment ........................................................... 196 Standing Up for Me and Ma ...................................................... 197 No More with the Neighbors ..................................................... 200
The Sand Dollar ......................................................................... 202 If Not Me, Then Who? ............................................................... 203 Unsung Heroes.......................................................................... 205 The Taming of Cerberus ............................................................ 206
Paradise Lost & Found
T R U E S T O R I ES
Homeless at Nine
was born on the 18th of December 1941. At the tender young age of nine, I ran away from home for the first time. I lived on the streets of Baltimore between the ages of nine and 20, sleeping wherever I felt safe from the perverted child molesters who seemed to prey on runaway children. I survived the best way I could: stealing milk, orange juice, donuts, and raisin bread from people’s porches and doorsteps. I also ate out of garbage cans. For three years, I slept and lived in a Salvation Army clothing donation box, wearing the clothes people would throw into it. I always left the box each morning as I heard people drive up and would arrive at my “home” after the store closed. I also slept in many a doghouse, most of the time with dogs, too. At 20, I pulled my first burglary because I was starving for food. I was caught and sent to Jessup’s Maryland Prison Patuxent. At 21, I met the love of my life, but I was too immature at the time to realize, so she married someone else, a better person than I was. Today I am in a Texas State Prison because I stole a little less than $50 in change from a bar. The love of my life is back, and she feels as I do, that God brought us back together for a reason. I am not a violent individual, never have been, never will be. I was nothing more than a small-time, uneducated thief who broke into bars only to survive and eat. Due to my lack of education, I couldn’t find or hold a job, so I did what I had to do. They were and are
100+ all dumb decisions on my part. Since my incarceration in 1992, I have gone to school and got myself pretty well educated. I am proud of my accomplishments. My only desires today are to hopefully be paroled and find a good job, and to spend the rest of my life as God allows me to live, with my first love, and to die a free man, not in one of these human zoos, in these human cages, where no one gives a damn if a con lives or dies. Melvin William Joseph Vogt, 67 Amarillo, TX
From Chaos to College
hen I was 19 years old, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. From that point on, I was in and out of the hospital, my grades started to go down, and I started to feel anxious and without hope. I always thought I was living the distress of yesterday, the stress of today, and the anxiety of tomorrow, but I came to find that my story would have a happy ending. I started to take notes on my feelings and typing them into my cell phone. I told my caseworker about them. She thought they were really good and showed them to several people. Some people liked my poems because they could identify with them. Some of them were going or had gone through the same experiences. I kept writing to let people know what it’s like to live
T R U E S T O R I ES
with mental illness. People like me have to work extra hard to achieve their goals and end the stigma of mental illness. But the terrible burden of having to go through life feeling like a nobody is coming to an end and my hard work is finally paying off. I was finally rewarded for suffering so much. My book of poetry is about to be published! I recently enrolled in college and I’m working toward becoming a writer. Even though I am only 22 I think that my life will have a happy ending. I’d like to encourage people like me not to be afraid and to smile. Agatha Shelly, 22 Lawrence, MA
A Prison Poet
cannot imagine anyone in their right mind saying that they enjoy being incarcerated. Prison is a horrible place. It is not so much being told what, when, and how to live: the food is not that bad; you are provided with health care; you can avoid the violence most of the time; and there is usually something interesting to read if you look around. No, the horror, to me, is that I am thought of as being less than human. To the prison administration, we are only numbers wearing white. They train their guards to distrust us in an effort to keep a wall between grey and white—a wall that is called hate. We, the incarcerated, counter this type of
100+ psychological oppression in many different ways, some good, and some bad. Once inside, I learned quickly to let go of the past and to concentrate on making the best of the present. What could I do to make this time mean something, to make this nightmare work in my favor? Finally, I set my sights on the educational programs offered. I was a high school dropout and thought this would be a great opportunity to get that GED I had been putting off for the past twenty years. I got it, and then some. I worked my way through the system for nine years and was eventually blessed with an M.A. in Literature, an accomplishment I am sure I would have never achieved in the outside world. And as a bonus, along the way, I discovered the wondrous world of poetry. For the past few years, reading and writing poetry and literary criticism has dramatically changed how I view this world and all its complexities, good and bad. There is something about combining imagination and memories to create images that live in our subconscious that exhilarates me; it is like painting with words. But even more than that, my poems define me as being something other than a number. When I get a bogus case by some hate-filled guard, they can take away my privileges, but they can’t put me on poetry restriction—poetry is my lifeline to sanity, in an insane environment. Twenty-eight months to go and I’ll be eligible to reenter society. But I’ll have something I’ve never had before: new eyes with which to maneuver through life; a new addiction if you will, a new journey that I have begun inside this cave. I have entered a place in the mind that I like to call the “poetry dimension.” It’s like
By the 8th grade. I was in prison and have been locked up about half my life. my mother passed away from cancer. living on many different bases.T R U E S T O R I ES a kingdom of words in which my ideas. On March 3. desires. and hopes that all humans possess but cannot always express. so I grew up as an Army brat. I soon joined a gang and started a life of crime. 2007. My father was a career serviceman in the Army. 51 Rosharon. images. I’ve committed many crimes and spent many years behind bars. By 18. can be revealed to the world. Malachi Ephraim Florence. AZ I 19 . Nevada in 1968. I was drinking and using drugs regularly. Due to anger. TX Seeing the Light was born in Las Vegas. Dennis Forrest. the eldest child of one brother and two sisters. Her death has caused me to see the “light of reality” as I now await my release in the fall of 2008. or at least the world that each of us as individuals lives in. bitterness. and drug addiction.
and acting. Listening now requires my full attention. All of these things I never had time for as I jetted from one meeting to another. after all my travel and exposure to foreign cultures. to search spiritually. I spend my free time studying and practicing Tibetan Buddhism. I have been aware of my thoughts as they come up. and their condition. I rejoice in the art I produce. day out. to meditate and simply spend time with myself. listening. How do I know? There are subtle differences in my thinking. tomorrow. I have discovered true freedom in this place: freedom from attachment. and I am finally on my way to enlightenment. 20 N . Nothing could have prepared me for the grub they serve here. I am no longer running through this life without noticing the small miracles around me. freedom to expand my horizons. The obsessive worrying about what is going to happen in one hour. For quite a while now. for the humiliation and for the monotony of being stuck in the same surroundings day in. I know I am finally awake to life. I am aware of the way their covers feel. I see the doves and hear the birds in the yard. Yet.100+ Buddhism Behind Bars othing in the world could have prepared me for the shock of prison and its crazy rules. to develop boundaries. I am able to enjoy—or suffer—the present. When I do little jobs. or at the next parole hearing or when I get out… all that is gone. their heaviness. Today. such as putting up books in the library. and I can look at them neutrally. in a week.
I can speak Chinese dialects with the Chinese community. I’m Chindian and I am proud to say so. Brigitte Pauli Memphis. In closing. TN Proud To Be a Chindian eople often mistake me for either Malay or Chinese. communicate with my Indian friends in Tamil. once I am given the chance. I can easily mix with just about anyone. love. As a matter of fact. and compassion and when they do. a short prayer: May all of those in the prisons of the world. my learning continues. Yeshe. find true freedom. teachers. I know I will. I would have seen so much more and enjoyed it. Thanks to the writings of the Dalai Lama.T R U E S T O R I ES If I had been this awake when I was traveling. or spiritual. may their love and compassion reach others who so desperately need it. and Thich Nhat Hanh. Lamas Rinpoche. I always feel special and unique living in Malaysia because we’re very blessed. I really salute Malaysians 21 P . I make the best of every moment I am given in this small world. mental. I don’t blame them because I do have traits of both races. But for now. and even interact with my Malay associates just as well in Bahasa Melayu. or strangers away. My background has never been a drawback nor kept friends. be they physical.
18 Cheras. Kuala Lumpur. She told me that she loved me very much and that she was the one who put the gifts under the tree each year. Think about it: Where else in the world can you find an Indian marrying a Chinese person and producing a Chindian son like me? Growing up in this nation has really taught me to appreciate the gift of peace and harmony. She had 22 M . “These kids don’t know what they’re talking about. but didn’t join in the conversation. Prashant Devan Kumar. I asked my mom if Santa Claus was real. I thought about the stickers I had received a few years earlier. yet being able to live in peace and harmony. She broke the news to me as best as she could. MALAYSIA There Is No Santa y first grade class was in the courtyard getting ready to assemble into lines and walk into school when I heard a few kids talking about how there was no Santa Claus.100+ for being made up of numerous races and religions. I had asked Mom how Santa knew my name and how he had written it on the stickers. Even foreign travelers admire the unity in our society and this makes them feel safe in Malaysia. I thought to myself. Each was in the shape of a pencil and had “MATTHEW” written in the center.” That same day. I took in what the kids were saying. As I listened to my mom.
and wonder. reflect. It’s a lonely life and—in my professional opinion—when human beings are isolated like that. juvie halls. That’s all we do in these cells: think. Did this mean that the elves never made them? Matthew Antzes.T R U E S T O R I ES said that the elves made them just for me in Santa’s workshop. I had always imagined the little hands of the elves dressed in green and wearing red triangle hats making them on some assembly line. That day. NY The Man Scribbles of Big G ’ve been in prison for almost 11 years now. only thinking about those fucking stickers. 24 Queens. I’m in Administrative Segregation (Ad. I’m a dude who grew up in the early 90’s when gangbanging took America by storm. my hands are handcuffed behind my back. feel. not caring that there was no Santa. dream. and all kinds of state juvenile facilities. Every time I am taken out of my cell. Seg. I grew up in boys’ homes. TYC. imagine. Food is brought to me.). I loved those stickers and tried to avoid the temptation of using any of them because they were so special to me. confined to a one-man cell. I’m a dude from the ‘hood. 23 hours a day. You have to have 23 I . I remember sitting in the car. their world becomes a mental one. with life to go. ponder.
I’ve seen with my own eyes dudes driven to madness back here. It is something that I truly am sorry for. I saw his point and I left things as they were. But to 24 . The next day. I’d done it a dozen times. It was supposed to be a quick robbery—take the money. I called my attorney and asked him if there was any way I could write a letter to the dude’s wife. but I wanted to spill my guts and apologize and explain to her that I never meant to kill him. and everything went to shit from there. But I went into the store and there was not one clerk. but also because I sincerely do regret the pain and suffering I caused that dude’s family as well. staking out the store from across the street. run. It was by far the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Not only because I’ve ruined my own life. and no one gets hurt. and I got life in prison. I have no excuse or justification for what I did. I remember his wife testifying at my trial—the State sought the death penalty—and it broke me apart inside to see her like that. I was alone. In the end. Trust me. He said I’d have so many charges and restraining orders brought against me so fast that I wouldn’t know what hit me. There were three.100+ a strong mind to survive this type of living. it came out in the paper that the victim’s family wanted me to die. I’m serving a life sentence for capital murder. But my lawyer told me that was the stupidest thing I could do. There’s not a single day that passes that I don’t think about what I’ve done. watching the clerk close up shop. It was a robbery gone bad. I think now how naïve I was. the jury cited my young age—18 at the time—as the reason they did not sentence me to die.
in which the author served as part of the U. Look at the car. but I don’t hunch down because I’m already hunched down and I don’t even realize it. I’m keeping my pieces. all observant and such. I’m not moving.T R U E S T O R I ES this day. I’m thinking. Army’s 89th Military Police Brigade. right. “What’s up with this?” I’m holding my rifle in my hands like Dudley Doright. I also find myself thinking about the victim’s son—who was eight years old at the time—and calculating how old he’d be today. Big holes. I’m looking around wondering if somebody’s gonna put a round through my skull. or maybe I’ll carelessly blow myself up. It’s a mess. not benign crap. Gary Salinas Iowa Park. Look at the car… A giant BOOM shatters my eardrums every few minutes. it’s not going anywhere. I’m looking at this car. I mean. you step on this crap and you’ll go home in pieces. I think about that shit. and hoping and wishing that he is on a positive and successful path in his life. No way. Holes everywhere. o. Watch the crap. Crap is strewn everywhere. but I don’t realize I’m not moving or breathing 25 S . Yeah. Watch the crap. if you’re lucky.S. TX Pictures Don’t Lie Note: The following incident occurred in Northwestern Kuwait during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. It looks like a spaghetti strainer.
with holes in them all. with maybe a little inscription saying. “Here lies Surefoot—the dumbass who kept stepping on explosives. Whoever’s firing those damn things. K. I’m floating around in explosive crap wondering if this is it. Some other explosive devices are packed in the sand.” I thrash about like a drowning man wanting air. stop for one damn minute! I’m looking at the car. Good night.” or whatever you call it.P. I didn’t even see this stuff. or tunnel vision. I’m sick of this crap.—R. well.. Stupid! Stupid! So I fall again. I’m waiting for the lights to go out.I.100+ because an AK47—or maybe two. One of the few sorry losers to get whacked in this war. is my heart bleeding? I can’t hear myself breathing. I don’t know—keeps firing somewhere.I. I’ve been so careful all of these months. grenades. cars now. I’m angry. I’ve been three steps ahead all along. I’m so transfixed to the point that I fall down again. Now. right on the crap.A. hundreds of them. from messing my mind up further. and I’m exhausted— “hallucination tired” is more like it. I’m holding my privates. RPG rounds. a custom I quickly acquired in the combat zone. 26 . How many days have I been awake? Damn. Henceforth see potential to be blown up. hold privates. I kick and sling explosive everywhere. I’m doing a Fred Astaire routine trying to stay upright. I figured I’d hang on to something. I curse myself for being so stupid. this “Desert Storm. I can’t tell if the pins are in those grenades. but a thunderous BOOM and a thick rising mushroom cloud ahead sobers the buzz. and mines scatter everywhere. but I don’t care.
unless they shortened the fuses. I wonder what they’re thinking right now. They look like statues. Hello! Wake up already! But they don’t hear me.T R U E S T O R I ES I’m afraid. vehicles are everywhere. too. but I don’t need any fuel on my back when I catch a stray round—from friend or foe—or fall down again in a pile of this crap that I can’t seem to stop stumbling over. maybe. Maybe they were sharing pictures of their kids. Damn. I do. again. It was fun for a minute. but like some sick voyeur. Is the pin in that grenade? I’ve got eight seconds. I didn’t trigger any of the explosive devices though knowing this means nothing. I know I’m not dead. I don’t want to end up like him. His ID card falls out. swapping funny stories about little Abdul or Hakim. No stench. then… I can’t concentrate with all those damn explosives rattling the ground. It’s hard to tell. Is 27 . Did their entire army stop and dump every explosive device they had in their arsenal? Or maybe some of this crap is ours. which reminds me of how happy I am that I discarded that hellish-looking Iraqi flamethrower I found earlier. Or maybe they were talking about looking up an old girlfriend or something. I don’t like the burned ones. I’m rifling through this dead guy’s pockets for some ID and the photos pop out. Who keeps doing that? Most of them are dead. Unexploded cluster bombs are nasty. The glazed eyes give it away. The pictures don’t lie. along with the gaping hole through the skull. right? The ones I see are fresh. They were cruising northward leaving Kuwait talking about what they were gonna do with all the loot they stole. I don’t want to look.
we stepped 28 I . handcuffed. hoping his son will return from down South. that damn war. Maybe he’ll curse Saddam. The hero died with a scream on his lips. They’ll never know what happened to him.100+ Momma wringing her hands while Daddy reassures everyone Abdul will be home soon? His last letter is read again. Mark D. we will celebrate his bravery and good service—yes. They’ll never know me. GA Species of a Lesser God ndelibly etched in the canyons of memory.” as the prison transportation buses are commonly referred to throughout the California Penal System. we will celebrate. They’re unaware that I’m hunched over him thinking of them and his dead carcass. One by one waist-chained. “Yes. and shackled. If that’s heroism. from that war. Probably not. pictures don’t lie. McKenna Columbus. Where’s the glory? Where’s the honor? This ain’t Hollywood out here. Maybe his father will stand outside each night watching. I can remember being herded onto the “Grey Gooses.” they all say while I’m looking at this guy burnt crispy in places. Maybe his name will be inscribed on a wall somewhere in Baghdad. I want no part of it. We’ll have that in common. the Americans. No. his son—maybe even himself. He’ll think of his son every day and cry.
dismal chimes of shackles and chains broke me away from the melancholy spell I had fallen under. a psychological-emotional storm we would all come to know in the life-negating emptiness that awaited our arrival in the Security Housing Units (SHU) of Pelican Bay State Prison. who would periodically bark out verbal threats simply to emphasize the inevitability of our plight. That same anxiousness was apparent in the cold. the tranceinducing drone of the big diesel engine lulled me into reflections of my life. There was an ominous silence that hung thickly in the air like a heavy dark cloud forecasting a vicious storm. In retrospect. It projected the coming of a tempest that would progressively descend upon my life. apathetic stare of the armed transportation guards.T R U E S T O R I ES into the belly of the Grey Goose. and landscapes would all soon be but a memory of another lifetime. As the bus roared angrily down Highway 101. indeed. mountains. 29 . and there followed the sudden realization that the world of oceans. tinted windows of the anonymous Grey Goose and as swiftly as the life I had led thus far. Memories that had soared past me like the scenery flying by outside the barred. The restless. The low drone of the bus’s engine anxiously hummed its readiness to transport our bodies to the godforsaken temple of doom. it seems ironic and rather sadistic that it was the “in your face” moments such as these that served as a reminder of the cynical path that fate had paved before me. The heat inside the bus was as stifling as the tension that lingered in the surrounding atmosphere.
This is 30 M . for the other prisoners there seemed to be entertaining similar thoughts. a vacuum of uncertainty. NY Stripped of My Masculinity y mother put me in a mental hospital because she was going through a bad time. I found that I was not alone in this realization. a foreboding look from eyes that have themselves stared into the eyes of madness and human cruelty. Hector Gallegos Otisville.100+ Looking around me. the lunacy of a previous occupant. While I was in there. There is a look in the SHU prisoner’s eyes that is haunting. for most. sealed off from everything and everyone. refuge can only be found through a dreamless state of slumber. and. but no one dared speak of them. What awaited us at the Pelican Bay SHU with its eerily silent corridors was a purgatory of sorts. in some cases. a place where one is virtually entombed in a concrete vault with scarred and pitted walls depicting the idleness. boredom. eyes that have looked far into the abyss of emptiness… eyes belonging to a species of a lesser God. the doctors decided that it was best for me to receive an injectable form of the medication I was taking. It’s a world of its own where.
who I think was conceived during those times when she broke up with me. And this all happened from one day to the next! The experiences that I have gone through have changed my perception of gender and the fleeting sensation of love.T R U E S T O R I ES when the nurse did what she did. But this is not the bad part… Ever since then. It was of a different color and size than the one she showed me. I have tried to figure out what was in the needle that the nurse gave me. My relationship with my girlfriend has been nearly destroyed. and I have also developed small breasts from time to time. 24 Lawrence. I tried to have a child with my girlfriend. She injected me with what I believe were female hormones. My girlfriend broke up with me on several occasions because I was completely impotent and feminine. My eyes now have this weird feminine shape to them that I absolutely hate. I have been sterile and stripped of my ability to have sex. We used to have a very healthy relationship. She has a son now. I felt two injections on my left butt cheek while lying on my stomach. MA 31 .. I hope that someday I can prove this happened and bring up criminal charges against the nurse. I never would have known had I not felt it and had she not dropped the cover of the other secret needle. I can’t go one day without hearing someone calling me gay. Will Ferrara.. It pains me to think that some things are so temporary. but I had no luck.
Robert Hal Brame Coleman. I was always sad. I grew up spoiled rotten. I was convicted of bank fraud and sent to a chain gang high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I was arrested in Georgia and sent to the “Supermax” prison in Colorado—an Orwellian nightmare of razor wire and high-tech wizardry where the solitude and sensory deprivation were total. The few friends I had were less fortunate than 32 F . but that made me feel worse. I was at last transferred to Central Florida. I always felt lonely.100+ Staying Sane n 1983. My parents grew up in the days where depression just meant you were having a bad day. Five years of high living and more than 100 banks later. FL I Nobody’s Fault or as long as I can remember. and began robbing banks. flew to Florida. They never really understood that there was something wrong. Three years later. stole an airplane. I escaped. where I am today. and where the connecting of words on paper was the only thing that kept me from connecting my neck to the ceiling by way of a knotted sheet. After 15 years there.
CA Hopelessness for the Homeless magine yourself standing on the street as the temperature drops. and I am doing a lot more for myself. Seeing how badly my relatives treated my family made the feelings of depression even worse. Now.T R U E S T O R I ES me. I started therapy. the only person in my life willing to get close to me moved away. and then my house caught on fire. That was what made my mother and me realize what was going on. 33 I . but only for a little while. Momo. but there was something missing. I was hospitalized for depression and several suicide attempts. 16 Richmond. I began realizing that my lack of self-esteem brought on from no one “liking” me was actually killing me. This made me feel good. It’s going to be hard to get better. I didn’t think there was anything wrong until my sophomore year in high school. and was put on progressively stronger medication. When I started middle school. I’m in a better relationship with a guy who says only good things about me. or mine. Cars speed by. but I was already highly unstable by then. I had friends and a boyfriend. This year. Lights come on. but it will be worth it to not ever have to hear my mom ask where she went wrong. It wasn’t her fault. so I always tried to help them.
your feet hurt. “Where am I going to sleep tonight?” So you walk. under the three strikes law. This is why. most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. I have met a variety of people in prison.T. Homelessness is an insane situation from which many people try to escape through drinking and drugs. no one to call. Some of these individuals have not been able to come to grips with the overwhelming reality of serving life sentences that they don’t deserve. nowhere to sleep. CA My Rapist Walks Free ccording to statistics. it’s only a matter of time before a person seeks food or shelter on his own terms… I am serving 39 to life under California’s “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law. I am still alive.. G. God has been looking out for me.. for one reason or another. You think to yourself. There is no doubt in my mind as to who my assailant was: it was 34 A . Once the feeling of hopelessness sets in. Carrillo Atascadero/Vacaville. many of whom are serving life sentences for petty crimes. many homeless people end up in jail. you’re hungry. I have been fortunate. It’s cold. nothing to eat.100+ homeward bound. Those are the ones who “self-parole”: they commit suicide. You have nowhere to go.
I awoke to someone penetrating me from behind. So Joe walks free. and I had gone to a bar to celebrate Independence Day.” They didn’t find sperm because the act didn’t last more than a few seconds. but nothing came of it due to “lack of physical evidence. My husband. I immediately told my husband and we left. Nonetheless. his brother. They beat each other bloody before Joe wandered off… That night. my husband’s relationship with his parents will never be the same.T R U E S T O R I ES my husband’s brother. I must have asked to be raped. he was sitting behind me and kept trying to grope me. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law thought that I must have provoked it somehow—their beloved Joe would never do something like that… I was the slut. I brought it upon myself. I was the laughingstock of the local police station. We all had a few too many. Joe wouldn’t stop bothering me. and the rest of the family awoke. and he will never see or speak to his brother again. They say most 35 . my brother-in-law (whom I will refer to as “Joe”) started rubbing my leg under the table. I must have made the rape up to cover up an affair with my brother-in-law. My husband and Joe came to blows again. In their eyes. My husband and I filed a police report right away. my case was thrown out of court. I pushed him away and began screaming and crying. Without warning. During the car ride home. I thought it was my husband. but to my horror and disgust it was Joe. My husband pulled the car over and dragged his brother out of the back seat. and my lawyer’s appeal was ignored. just as my husband ran in from the bathroom.
and for the past 10 years. Men ask me. and I made it without becoming one of them. IL Lifer am a 63-year-old lifer. I have always been respectful to the guards and staff. “At your age how do you cope with all the time you have left and still be happy?” How do I cope? By writing. I keep getting turned down for parole. I love to write books and short stories.100+ rapists get a few years in prison. I’ve been a model inmate. you almost have to be a bank robber. but I am always in a good mood. It is an escape from the darkness in my life that 36 I . When I got locked up. or crooked politician. trying to survive among savage men. We had six kids—with so many kids. I just took the money and ran. My first eight years in prison were rocky. I was a good father and husband to the woman I lived with for eighteen years. No one was hurt or kidnapped. while the victims get a life sentence. But I didn’t even get the satisfaction of seeing my attacker behind bars. Zephyr Chicago. I believe the Parole Board has traded rehabilitation for warehousing human beings. for all the good it’s doing me. drug dealer. she dumped me like yesterday’s tuna fish. I have been incarcerated eighteen years for several bank robberies with a plastic toy gun.
anger. My world was governed by my mother and financed by my father. but I’d let you slap me around for a home-cooked meal. I knew almost nothing about the “real” world. compassion. not die. but all’s well in the end. I turned fourteen. They even rob banks and find redemption! My characters have a piece of me inside of them. Writing is like having an affair. My characters have adventures and walk on the razor’s edge of danger. flavors that today I’d die for—well. 1982. and my innermost thoughts and desires. At fourteen. Mom got a new apartment. sadness. the car. my parents became legally separated. But I was soon to learn how things can abruptly change for the worse. and us three kids. which are locked away deep inside me only to be shared with those who are worthy. laughter. they are good people with good hearts. That summer. When I’m writing. like taste good food. Fiction is fun and non-fiction at times makes my eyes tear up. tears. 63 Burkeville.T R U E S T O R I ES otherwise would haunt me from one day to the next. And it all transpired in 37 O . George Hughes. I love writing. I share love. and my characters can go places and do things I can’t. VA One Bad Decision n July 8. but I put the truth out there for all to read.
I went over to the shoe department. I couldn’t bear the thought of going to school in clothes too small and shoes with holes. I wasn’t too concerned. I went inside the dressing room and put on both pairs of pants under the old pair I already had on. something came over me that propelled me into decisive action. I was in State Prison. sister. My friends would have surely made fun of me.100+ less than an hour. but here it was. not enough to panic. So I decided to steal. running as fast as my legs would carry me to the nearest clothing store. placing my old pair on the shelf as if it were the normal thing to do. the last day of summer and tomorrow would be the first day of school. at fourteen. Then I put on all three new shirts. picked out a pair. looking down at my new wet shoes. “Mom. Once inside. Once outside. My mother’s silence told me that I would have to fend for myself. No one spoke to me as I sat on my bed. and me. sprinting as fast as possible. In 1982. I calmly picked out two pairs of pants and three new shirts. Like an NFL running back. I burst into our apartment and went straight to my bedroom. I was a gang member and quite a prolific thief. And by the age of eighteen. I burst through the front door. only 5 minutes from our apartment complex. On the very last day of summer. Within six months I was using drugs regularly. and inexplicably. and put them on. I took off like a bat out of hell. By fifteen. But as I stare at the ceiling of my 38 . where are my new school clothes?” I saw the quick wince upon her face. I was wondering about new school clothes for my brother.
punishable by up to 12 months in a state penitentiary. “For stealing other people’s money!” So I spent another 7 to 8 hours in jail. I walked around the corner to find guns pointed at my chest by several police officers. To my complete surprise. I would have gone to school in those old clothes with gratitude for all the things I did have! Malachi Ephraim Florence. they said. I was in my bank depositing a check when two detectives grabbed my shoulder and asked me to put my hands behind my back. I was sent to jail for about 7 hours before being bailed out. Obviously shocked. I am now facing two Felony 5 charges. I only have one wish: I wish that I could go back to that summer. I asked why I was being arrested. AZ Talk About a Bad Week am 18 years old and have been arrested twice in 6 days! I was arrested once for breaking into a house and restraining a man from moving off the ground. OH 39 I . Six days later. 18 Mowrystown. This was by far the worst week of my life! Kurt Yochum. When I was finished with him.T R U E S T O R I ES prison cell.
During my trial. The judge gave me life without parole. I never lost sight of this truth: we were family. how he cared for her. but the fact is I did. with a common goal. My mom’s eyes held a million words. the others are there to pick him up. In the depths of my heart and soul. and when one falls. 40 N . ignorance. I could not feel the unity through the beatings. From then on. My dad said one of the longest sentences I’d ever heard him speak: “Boy. I did not set out to kill anyone that night. mind. I could see in my parents’ eyes that one of their own had fallen. I deserved to do some time and make amends. hitting and abusing her. in the same room. Perhaps it was the first time I had really looked at my parents. I could not see the family unity due to my own uselessness. There is nothing to compare it to other than death. and lack of feelings. my mom and dad came to visit me. though he never loved her.100+ I Am a Murderer ot long after graduation. and mean words. Incarceration brought the fact that my parents truly did want the best for me into full bloom in my heart. At nineteen. and soul. I was ready to be judged and convicted. I killed someone. Before. you better pray!” And I did pray that night and for many nights after. fights. I felt that what I did was wrong. It was certainly the first time I recognized that no one could get me out of the trouble I was in now. I could not see from the way my dad treated my mother. one cannot grasp the depth of a life sentence. It was good to see them together.
but now everything seems tight. I was naïve. and my thoughts—my negative thoughts—are my only company… My only saving grace is that I write every night 41 A . and violent unrest. My coworkers are the closest things I have to friends. Spoon Jackson. what cause was there for smiles or laughter? I had killed someone. Besides. Money never used to be an issue. I’m getting older. and feelings inside and hidden behind a mask. CA A Step in the Right Direction fter finishing school. but I see only the negative things. I need to budget. 50 Represa. but my will to survive took over. smiles. but I take no initiative to start the process. the natural world—purple and red clay mountains and open spaces—and there was nothing natural about cells. I came from the desert.T R U E S T O R I ES I was ignorant to the prison way of life. but they all have lives. I imagined doing what I loved for the rest of my life. Now I’m working in my field and being presented with opportunities all the time. fleeting hope. Silence and dead-eyed frowns kept the strangers and guards at bay. I have no friends in this new city. I learned quickly to keep my laughter. and I’m not sure I remember how to make them. Even the air was tainted and twisted with unreality.
Depression and confusion drove me into despondency. I see that in spite of my depression. 27 Toronto. brought up in me. I’m not stuck in one place. I’m calmer and have more patience with what life throws at me. the only escape that I found was with a knife. My self-mutilation continued until the age of 18 when I was convicted of my first felony. mixed with big dreams of happiness. For someone like me. 42 I . go into a small. this is as close as it gets to opening up to another person. Now that I can look back at my thoughts. but moving slowly in the right direction. All of those negative ideas. As I’m finishing one thought and moving into another. CANADA Freedom From Addiction began cutting myself as a teenager. Ontario. Idris Samuel.100+ before I go to bed. In the few months that I’ve been writing. and abominable sexual thoughts about other boys my age. It’s a therapeutic process that requires only my presence and my honest opinions. my pen is capturing everything. I even see things in a more positive light now. I’ve still been able to grow as a person. a dead father. My adolescent rebellion was against the unwanted emotions that a broken home. inconspicuous notebook. I’ve become more expressive and understanding of myself.
I was offered the opportunity to take part in a study to test the effectiveness of the antidepressant Paxil on criminals like me. a need for the chemicals in the formula. new problems arose. How else would severe withdrawal reactions be explained every time I forgot to take my pills? These reactions included nausea. Paxil had not solved any of the key issues. never directly addressed. A drug that was meant to be a stopgap emergency measure had become a lifestyle. As I look back on the role that the drug played. and a strobe-like effect on my optical nerve. continued to build like a pressure cooker without a release valve. I was noticeably less gloomy and despondent. light-headedness. While on probation in 1995. While incarcerated. Due to the emotional drain of prison life.T R U E S T O R I ES The depression. But then. I began requesting increases in my dosage several times in the first year. It had become a habit. I see much to be alarmed at and thankful for. I was finally forced to deal with the underlying causes of my depression. other unanticipated problems began to arise… My body seemed to develop a dependency. This medication was to help me in the areas of depression and obsessive-compulsive thinking. I am free of Paxil for the first time in ten years. it became a hindrance when I was 43 . I found escape by using a pair of fingernail clippers to pierce my skin and draw blood. it merely put them on hold. Although Paxil was beneficial when my mental and emotional life was in turmoil. While in prison. All the signs of substance abuse seemed to be present. Within weeks of beginning the daily Paxil regimen.
I’ve always had low self-esteem. this is an illness like the flu and like the flu it will pass. 13 44 I . J. Now the reality I face is my own life.E. Never waste life. I am a different person. I have met a lot of different and special people along my journey. The masochistic teenager and the self-destructive twentyyear-old are behind me. It has been hard… It all started with bullying. I just want to tell everyone who is struggling with this illness that no matter what anyone says. The tendencies towards depression and obsessive compulsive thinking remain. Wantz Salem. you will be twice as strong. unaided or suppressed by a chemical inhibitor. but I never thought it would result in depression. Although the future is less than rosy to look at. much clearer.100+ stable. Anonymous. OR This Too Shall Pass struggle with depression. the present is much. Think about who really loves you. it’s too short and too precious. I am only 13 and have tried many different medications. but my reaction to them is not the same. And the present is where I have to live. and once it does.
Finding hope again in my faith as a Catholic. Thomas Michael Fox. Turning to drugs and alcohol in early childhood to try and deal with an assortment of problems. I began to start to feel differently about myself. The son of a research chemist. I have turned my attention back to God. writing helped. in the hope of finding my way behind these walls. CA I Poetical Muralism rowing up in the aftermath of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. cultural arts centers. 51 Corcoran.T R U E S T O R I ES Hope In the Written Word was born Baby Boy Nickel on June 16. community centers. and pornography. Illinois. I ended up in prison for life. After getting sober in 2001. By writing about my experiences I hope to help other avoid the pitfalls of drugs. 45 G . I moved to California with my family in 1966 at the age of eight. to help others get their GED and High School Diploma. 1958 in Elgin. Now I try. my generation and I were the beneficiaries of an abundance of free Chicano health clinics. alcohol. through my job in the Education Department here in my prison.
at the age of 17. It was the powerful poeticism of Chicano writers like Luis Valdez that influenced me to finally withdraw from gang life. The second and third place runners-up were announced. This history. When I was in second grade. would influence me to take up drawing at an early age. in the most unlikely of places—prison—I began to write poetry. prison scenes. my school sponsored an art contest. vatos locos. The winner’s drawing would become a full-scale color mural on school’s north wall. I won! I stood before the whole school and accepted my award to great applause. All students from grades K through six were to submit an 8 x 10 freehand drawing with an anti-drug message. On the day the winner was to be announced. and indigenous themes. the entire school was assembled in the gym—our impoverished school couldn’t afford an auditorium.and 12-year-olds. hardcore Chicano spoken word poetry that resonated with reality and the rhythm of resistance. migrant workers. my name was called. I remember thinking that there was no way my drawing could stand up next to the work of some of the 11. and just as I was preparing to clap for the winner. Mexican revolutionaries. written on the walls in blood and sacrifice. such as pyramids and Aztec warriors.100+ youth programs. many of whom had already embarked upon promising careers as graffiti artists around the barrio. These were giant murals covering large walls in brilliant colors with low-rider cars. it was poetry that saw me through those formative years 46 . I knew my first artistic triumph at the age of eight. Then. and hundreds of murals depicting scenes of the Mexican experience.
camouflage the cut marks. creating in and of itself a fresh juxtaposition. a new tradition: poetical muralism. manufacturing the rope. Getting the gear up to the roof was a heady experience in itself. Octavio with Orozco. uniting Diego Rivera with Carlos Fuentes. placing a cholo next to a Chichimeca chieftain. and obtaining the other articles took time. watching every move during a strip search. metaphors. WI Escape from Maximum-Security t took six months to inconspicuously saw through the thick gauge wire of the one-man recreation cage. Hiding the stuff was even more difficult. and crazy juxtapositions. Today. I fuse images using words. I had to get in the same cage. there was no turning back. and ultimately smuggle street clothes. a hacksaw blade. Once the day was decided and the final cuts were made. I consider myself first a poet. Siquierod with Cisneros. The guard was two feet in front of me. and sixty feet of rope to the roof. And yet.T R U E S T O R I ES and in the end. cash. it was slight-of-hand magic at its most 47 I . a freehand artist second. Securing the tools. it was poetry that would emerge as my redemption. my muralist roots have not been forsaken—as I write. José Boner Boscobel.
I was using a Vaseline-type ointment on the three-inch blade to reduce friction and the blade was burning hot from the frantic sawing. In a few minutes. I had to go on faith that they’d keep their mouths shut and quit staring. The cage was shaking and rattling. and I could hear everything yet I blocked extraneous distractions out. but they could see every move I made. I could see everything. crawled out of the cage and shimmied up the side to the top. and I was sweating a puddle. I hoped that the noise from huge air conditioner units on top of the roof would cover the commotion. my arms were screaming. I slung the rope over my shoulder. but the meshing distorted clear vision. already packed with the gear. The cross meshing of the cages created an optical illusion from the guard’s station. Two hundred general population inmates were cordoned off from the highpower cages. I just hoped the weight of the rope didn’t pull my pants down. It appeared that he could see into the cages down the row of ten. or nerves. doubt.100+ primitive. I was going. After the search I simply baited and switched to a different pair of pants. It was going according to plan 48 . I was through and bent back the bars. My heart was in my throat as he locked the cuffs on. I was balls-to-the-wall. every muscle was taut. D-day. full-tilt sawing on those bars like a wolf gnawing off its own leg to get free from a trap. Two minutes more and I was through the regular gauge fencing that covers the roof. There was no time for hesitation. I slipped through onto the fencing and peered over the side.
deeper introspections that my physical freedom was not meant to be that day. but now I would to fall to my death. yet it was eerily bizarre and surreal.T R U E S T O R I ES mostly. Yet. But that feeling of open air on my skin. from regret and anxiety. I know I’ve never been freer. needed more knots… whatever the problem. It was too thin. I should have made gloves. but couldn’t move. cages. The rope burned through my fingers. it was too late for solutions. My freedom had lasted only a few moments. I’d escaped. Free to discover untapped potential and develop absolute belief in oneself and apply that to all aspects of life. no matter where you are… to drink in life in huge cupfuls. I know from consequential. D. the exhilaration of the execution of such an impossible plan. free from fear. I secured the rope on a previously located drainpipe and slid over the side. from doubt. I was lying on the rooftop. The last-minute frenzy of sawing had left ointment residue on my hands and my muscles fatigued. so close to perfection… incomprehensibly satisfying. with nothing but open sky above and a sixty-foot drop. Almost immediately I began slipping on the rope… then sliding uncontrollably. outside the confines of the jail. I attempted to crawl away. Babb Corcoran. guards. There’s no greater freedom than the freeing of one’s mind from the restraint of selfimposed limits. CA 49 . through what I’ve gained and learned since.
I thought I loved him. Alcohol would always come first. One time. no matter what.I. he just kept hitting rock bottom. He pulled up in front of a house with an enormous front lawn and proceeded to urinate on it in broad daylight. I felt that if I were to forgo my “investment. I was scared to death that someone was going to come running out of the house or that a cop would pull up beside us. which never came. The second incident occurred when we drove to a Chinese restaurant. Two outrageous incidents stick out in my mind. it was too late. not getting pancreatitis. I didn’t realize that he was drunk when I got into the car with him. he was driving intoxicated with me in the passenger seat. but I just feared the thought of someone else reaping the benefits of his sobriety. and by the time I did.” all the months I had devoted to making him a better person would have been in vain. but the key was jammed. Why did I stay with him? I saw the relationship as an investment. nothing.U.100+ I Thought I Could Fix Him e were only 3 weeks into the relationship when I realized that my boyfriend was an alcoholic. I was finally forced to give up on him and 50 W .s. My boyfriend insisted on entering the restaurant and getting even more intoxicated on Mai Tais. not losing his license. I didn’t leave him because I thought I could “fix” him. But nothing could get him to stop drinking: not multiple D. He attempted to shut off the ignition. There was no wake-up call. By the time we exited the restaurant the car had overheated.
Crimes were what thieves. simply liked the quick. not a crime. a man with a past. who in the present. that was for sure. I was a nefarious entrepreneur at worst. drugs were simply a hustle. Unfortunately. To me. I had seen and done a lot.T R U E S T O R I ES never look back. I had lived an interesting life. victimless cash. Leaving him was the best decision I ever made. Adela Tedesco. I went from an absolutely fearless thug in my insane youth. 23 Hollywood. and sexual predators committed. In my 33 years. and loose women associated with the illegal drug trade. Facing a life sentence for a minor drug crime has made me mad rather than sad. thugs. to a college-educated writer and businessman once I calmed down. I received the mandatory term of 25 years to life in prison per California’s ultra-harsh “Three Strikes” sentencing law. CA A Three-Strikes Sojourn liked the easy money. I just happened to sell drugs as an added economic bonus that brought with it an incredibly expensive tax: my life. After having been found guilty by a jury for a felony drug charge. the heartless drug-war zealots didn’t share my enthusiasm. free dope. For a so-called civilized society to funnel astronomical 51 I .
tough-on-crime allies of law enforcement and prison industrialism. I understand the necessity for law and order. Now. not the solution. at this fateful juncture of my life. I participated in the discourse. the criminal justice system’s status quo is skewed. the entire world of academia. this time. Yet. for all practical purposes.100+ numbers of people through this for a nonviolent offense is a crime against humanity. as an activist. While I’m no angel. CA 52 . There are two primary schools of thought on “Three Strikes. at stake: my entire life. and with whoever. either. and a very limited and powerless group of left-leaning liberaltypes who disagree with the 30-year drug war. I’m arguing against it one more time. at the university.” There are the pro-drug war. Anyone who advocates overly harsh methodologies in order to maintain the status quo is simply part of the problem. things are different. Then there are those of us. Bring it on! Eugene Alexander Dey Susanville. It doesn’t matter what philosophical spin warmongers place on it. I argued it at every level: in the media. It helps those unable to defend themselves. Despite my rebellious attitude and anarchist’s disdain for the nation’s drug laws. I’m surely not the devil. Ever since “Three Strikes” entered the national arena of debate ten years ago. our families. it protects the innocent. who believe that maintaining the status quo is an absolute necessity. but it should never be used to guard one from oneself.
There are always consequences. but so many of us tend to forget or ignore that. We as human beings are inevitably curious and many feel the need to try dangerous things. Lance Corson. that nothing will ever happen to them. I felt it starting at my feet. I could feel the heroin rush when I shot it into my vein.T R U E S T O R I ES There Are Consequences rugs are evil. there are new users every day. coming up my legs. and nothing good ever comes of them. riding through space in 53 O . my stomach and chest. However. RI D Withdrawal ne thing a drug addict never does is set out to become one. They destroy lives. until it took over my whole being. What a wonderful place the world would be without alcohol and drugs! If only humans weren’t addiction-prone. I was floating in the air on a magic carpet. 24 Little Compton. One of the guards supplied it. no matter how much “education” people receive regarding the effects of drugs. even though they know that there are great risks. I started shooting heroin at age 16 when I was in reform school. So many people believe that they are invincible.
100+ the dead of darkness. I lay in my own defecation and urine and ate nothing. holding on to my elbows. The planets were caressing each other and pairing off like a love song. My body was curled. I was hurting! Hurting! Hurting! The center of the floor began to crumble away like wet cardboard and flames shot up beneath it. and I could feel the cramps coming. The sweat came and turned hot and burned my skin. across my stomach. legs bent and drawn towards my chest. Then I nodded off. The snow was up to my knees and I could hardly move my legs. I walked around with my arms in front of me. The fire didn’t seem to hurt them as the floor fell away. My stomach was cramping. falling. The hurt was like someone hammering inside me. I was freezing all over. only inches left to stand on. head bowed forward and my arms tucked under my legs. peaceful-like… When I came down from the high. I was terrified! I found myself falling. gritting their teeth. It was cold and I was walking through heavy snow with no shoes. The physical withdrawal symptoms were killing me. bad. For a time I was the thief on the cross next to Jesus. my back to the wall. falling. dying for a fix. my heart pounded violently. I needed a fix. I stood in the corner. My body trembled as a battle inside took place for hours on end. I was freezing and sweating snowflakes. My muscles tightened up and split open in the centers. There were monsters with long tails down there. The floor closed up as I hit it. My muscles 54 . The delirium made me crazy at times and I saw all sorts of things that were never there. I began to shake all over.
She beat me mercilessly over the smallest things. You want to be a tough guy then make it on your own and get out!” So from 9 to 19½ I lived on the streets. and grabbed a wooden broom and told Mom. to get a fix. lie. playing too loudly. I could have done what other addicts did: cheat. petty reasons. If I were on the street. steal. You will not beat me anymore!” My mother’s face turned white as the snow outside. jumped out. But I wasn’t. George Hughes. There was no fix at hand. not cleaning the dishes right. 2002. and sell anything and everything. got down on the floor and beat me with it. not scrubbing the floors right. One day. “Get out of my house. She opened the back door and said. not shoveling the sidewalk right. VA My Regret My mother was mean as hell with sadistic tendencies. 66 Burkeville. God and I both love you. such as stealing a slice of bread or a cookie to feed an empty stomach. Mom grabbed a frying pan.T R U E S T O R I ES exploded with cramps and I fell from the cross as convulsions wore me to a thin frazzle. I kicked at her. My mother passed away on October 2nd.000 other small. including their own souls. My biggest regret in life is that I never said to my mother “I forgive you.” Now 55 . and 10. “No more. Mother. wetting the bed.
I love and forgive her and I pray she is at last at peace with herself or her demons or whatever tormented her life. TX 56 . I don’t hold hard feelings toward her. I don’t hate my mom. I don’t dislike her.100+ I can never say it to her. Melvin William Joseph Vogt. 67 Amarillo.
Sex & Seduction .
it will occur over time.T R U E S T O R I ES First-Time Fizzle had so many expectations about my first sexual experience. so after 20 seconds it was all over! You’re never told that a young man of the same age is not going to give you an orgasm. and fulfillment after the first time. you’re left feeling empty and with many insecurities. Reading too many novels as a teen led me to expect fireworks. Stamina? For the poor guy it was his first time as well. an orgasm. when you’ve read one too many Harlequin romances and Danielle Steele novels. What I thought and felt afterwards was plain and simple: disappointment. He will have one—great for him— yet as a woman. I 59 M . We should tell our youth that it’s pleasure for the man instantly. Terri Giosia. But for the young woman. CANADA I Do It For You any girls my age are sexually active for the wrong reasons. 45 Montreal. They believe doing it for the status and temporary affections of guys will make things better. This is what occurs at 18. and that you should be with a person who’s ready to play and revel in discovering your pleasure points. Québec.
we had sex. I always tell my friends. When we were little. Don’t be scared. At the beginning of high school. who are ready to lose their virginity. We decided we were ready. I think it has to do with my very giving nature.100+ beg to differ. If you know your body. and one day when my parents were out to dinner. sex can be just as good for girls as it can be for guys. We have known each other since before we can remember. CA A Special Bond always knew I was very connected to my best friend. I will spare 60 I . Do it because you want to. I did it for me. people would assume we were twins. we can go for months without talking but somehow still know what is going on in each other’s lives. It’s experiences like this that I’ll never forget because I never did it for my partner. Now. it won’t be your last. I became completely infatuated with my boyfriend of several months. 16 Richmond. Momo. that even though it’s your first time. Oral sex is definitely one of my favorite things to give and receive. not because he wants to. despite the fact that we think we do not look alike. The most romantic place I’ve ever had sex was in a gorgeous park under a big beautiful tree and the stars.
We had even both brought the used condoms to the party to throw away so as not to risk our parents finding them. we said. at a “well-supervised” party. he wields 61 I . I grabbed her. anyway. Even though he is flat on his back and can only move his head and one forearm. Things have happened since that also show we are alike in personality and make similar choices. that is not what is important. and crying ensued. we blurted out that we had just had sex with our boyfriends. but we still laugh about this particularly strange connection. Obviously laughter. I ran into my best friend. Few best friends can boast such a special closeness. interesting story to tell. AK. “I have to tell you something!” Both thinking we had the more important. and we locked ourselves in. But I dread going to one of the tetraplegics because he is quite mean. Almost at the same time. along with a whole range of teenage displays of emotion that are now lost to me. 25 MA A Man Can Always Dream work as a caregiver for the seriously injured. or maybe she dragged me into the bathroom.T R U E S T O R I ES all of the unremarkable details for interest’s sake. It was unbelievable that we had lost our virginity within an hour of each other. Later in the evening. squealing.
however. but girly mags are his main source of info. even though he has no feeling from the neck down. He basks in their attention. “Colin” is 37 and has been paralyzed for seven years as a result of a car crash. changing his urine bag. AUSTRALIA But a Glance Away o entice. tempt. He believes he still has what it takes to seduce women. or backstabbing us to our bosses. he bombards her with flattery and wit and oozes charm until she treats him like royalty. if the woman is appealing enough. However. and seduce with desire… Just the words alone conjure images in our minds. He’s made the most of his unfortunate circumstances by having secret romances with his caretakers—all in his imagination— because life without them would be very boring. 54 Sydney. He also has a terrible temper and roars like a bull if even the smallest mistake is made. Christie. feeding him like a baby.100+ considerable power by yelling. He thinks he understands how to make women happy. rubbing his feet and back. being sarcastic. and showering and grooming him. turning him over. it’s like having a little harem. NSW. This way he can be surrounded by a bevy of nice-looking women around the clock who tend to his every need. the first rule before engaging in anything is being self62 T .
a look. the golden rule for seduction. Without confidence. unless a lot of alcohol is involved. we realize that the vodka gave us the courage and confidence that’s lacking within us. Once that is accomplished. this type of seduction is an illusion. it’s possible to seduce anyone. seriousness had ensnarled my frolicsome streak when I looked straight into his eyes for the third time. CANADA Sexual Fantasy t was all fun and games until all of a sudden. which lowers one’s inhibitions and makes one able to seduce with greater ease. That je ne sais quoi quality is powerful and attainable if you so want to achieve it! Your confidence. However. 45 Montreal. It is not real. It is stating the obvious. body language. yet the very mysterious secret about “how to be more seductive” lies within you: it is how you feel about yourself and what you look like and having that emanate outward. That is. beyond a shadow of a doubt. as upon sobering up.T R U E S T O R I ES confident. his complete awareness of 63 I . His hand rested on my forearm. smile. you will be a living magnet when you couple that with charisma. and the ability to seduce anyone you desire is but a glance away! Terri Giosia. a smile. one cannot seduce. Québec. ability to build rapport is all tied in with your charisma. With a glance.
Windoftheclyde. but something about the occasion made me want to go slowly: soul-kiss the hopes and dreams on his forehead. Not an iota of his desire did I wish to leave unsatisfied. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 64 . A few tears had expressed their desire to accompany me. his lips fell on my hips. which disoriented whatever strategy I had conceived to stay sane.100+ how his fingers embroidered a million brooks on my skin disembogued in my heart and described the lines of my arms. I pleaded with them not to show up. but my pretensions made no difference to them. My ways were haphazard. he breathed my name. they streamed down my face and wetted my Love’s. As my collarbone waited in anticipation. I felt his back tensing against my hands. I had never wanted to dissolve into a man’s body so much. True to their word. for they would make me look like a weakling. and revere his affections which lit up his eyes. Never had a burden been more welcome. his curiosity crept under my sleeve until it became acquainted with my shoulder. 27 Santiago. On the brink of a thrust. they only found solace when we smiled at each other. squeeze the life out of the fears that tormented his breast. In a shadowy whisper. but my anticipation was no longer tender. and he licked them off with meticulous care as he rested his wearied body on mine. Our bed sheets were wrinkled and hardly a light shone through our window. Always the seeker. I wanted to wrap my legs around his waist and ask him to lay his head on my chest to caress his hair.
Small Miracles .
I experience a feeling of safety and comfort even if my perceived comfort is a self-induced illusion. It’s merely that while I’m in prison. I am human. even the most brutal gangster prisoner sheds his macho mask to purge pent up tears. I’m locked in. I should hate the cell. I even welcome the closing of the door. With a twist of a key. but it’s fair to say that nine times out of ten. I know that no one can get in without the key. 67 T . I cry in the cell where no one can see me. but for now it’s the place where I rest my head. It becomes routine. rather familiar. and often after a long day. I’m on guard seven days a week. I need rest and time to unwind from the toil of the day and the madness of the “beast. therefore I realize I’m relatively safe within the confines of my cell. amongst the prison population. I do my deepest thinking there. At times. I know I have to be locked in. The clanging door feeds my ears an all too familiar sound. Even though I temporarily live in a cage like an animal. In no way do I confuse welcoming the closing of the door with actually liking the cell.” Out there. I never know what thoughts will surface when the cell door shuts. As a person.T R U E S T O R I ES When the Cell Door Closes he cell door shuts with a bang that echoes throughout my shoebox of a cell. but once inside my cell. I can’t deny the fact that the cell is my pad. nothing out of the ordinary pops into a prisoner’s head. Late at night. I’m in my inmate cage for yet another solitude-filled night. in the darkness.
listen to the radio. and loneliness. When the cell door shuts.100+ I pray in the cell. I don’t hear anyone talking. The cell is my castle until I reach home. When compared to the day’s inevitable racket. The swarming troops of roaches are unwelcome houseguests. but it’s also a think tank and entertainment center. I can relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. The cell door is now closed. but I’m in good company. the cell becomes the oasis that allows me to temporarily “pseudo-escape. I’m alone. Ironically. my cell is one of my best “buddies” in prison. it’s the very place I would hope to escape from. despair. these sounds are tranquil.” When I sleep here I can dream myself anywhere. and I write my loved ones there. There is always some noise filling the air and permeating my ears. read a book. and there is always the reverberating sound of something mechanical in the distance. The cell is a hellhole. While all these feelings and images are a part of a prisoner’s life. Those pillars of crisscrossed iron are not aesthetically pleasing to my eyes. To be honest. Nighttime has melted onto Sing Sing’s perpetual grey existence. It’s no picnic sleeping two feet from where I relieve my bowels. they don’t necessarily latch onto the prisoner like 68 . a man in a prison cell calls forth an image of gloom. To the outside observer. The walls seem to hum. a melody of pleasant proportions. It never is truly quiet here. The cage is itsy-bitsy small for my six-feet-fourinch frame. I have not experienced silence in years. but new doors open for me in the form of my thoughts and imagination. the cell is a paradox because in reality. yet. while here in prison. or write a letter to my family or a friend.
One touched my shoulder and without speaking said. though their faces were human-looking. love. “Let us show you the way. 69 I . I’ve decided not to play along with these rancid feelings. bleed. I’m human: I feel. cry. and I was filled with awe. and my heart is susceptible to pain and sadness. showing another dimension. I expect that the day will somehow unfold and will end with the clang of the cell door—just as it did the night before. and went to bed alone at about 11 o’clock. in it were four angels.” after which I slid out of my physical body into my etheric double and into the round cavity. and have the power to choose. think. I truly thank God for blessing me in spite of the wretched conditions of incarceration that have befallen me. thinking about what sights to see the next day when suddenly. I was lying in the dark. we have been there before. I also laugh. I ultimately decide to give power to despair. Michael McLean Beacon.m. What will tomorrow bring? I’m not sure. I know they were angels because they looked very ethereal. a sphere formed at the end of the bed. They looked invincible. Black horizontal lines formed across it slowly.T R U E S T O R I ES barnacles to a ship. NY Visited by Angels arrived in Cairo at about 7:30 p. In a small.
I felt my foot being pushed to the pedal. 70 I . circular spaceship. I lived in a house for what seemed like years. 54 North Shore City. and I came to an intersection where the car in front of me was stopped. I thought to myself. NEW ZEALAND Someone Saved My Life was driving along. there really wasn’t any time to react. I remembered being in a fancy hall walking up an aisle with my twin soul past a crowd of about 5. Misty. obviously attempting to make a left turn in front of me. guarded from dark forces. “Oh no.000 people into an inner chamber where I met Jesus. This was a kingdom on a large sun.100+ white. which sped my car up and brought me up onto the curb. I felt safe and secure when I came back in the morning. waiting to make a left turn. At that instant. I learned about Jesus ruling the universe and what roles others had as administrators. knowing order reigned in the next world. with no known entry point from the rest of the universe. I saw a van coming straight towards me. I proceeded to go around the car when all of a sudden. I went through a wormhole to the center of the universe and Jesus’ Kingdom. Auckland. I’m going to get hit!” It happened so fast. but time operates differently there.
Angels—or whatever you want to call them—are real and are here to help us! Cynthia Barchard. but I was in such a fog that I sent him off. a brand new box of pills. Hey. Where we die should be no less important. It is important to find the right place for an ending. In the breast pocket of my jacket. Ever since that day. “Sorry about that. It was a very surreal experience. including me. This wasn’t a selfish act—it needed doing before 71 W . not to mention step on the gas! I knew at that moment that something or someone had just helped me. I considered the importance of what I was doing. and in the hand-warmer pocket.T R U E S T O R I ES avoiding what I thought was an inevitable crash. I chose Mount Sanitos. would not even have had time to put his or her foot on the break. you are a really good driver by the way!” He offered to pay for my damaged tire. I have no doubt that there are forces beyond our realm. The driver of the van got out and came over to me and said. “Wow. I sat there thinking to myself. MA The Day I Died here we are born is an identifier we carry with us all our lives. what just happened?” Anyone in that situation. As I popped a ‘Z’ pill. 38 Methuen. there was a pint of blackberry brandy.
closing my bank accounts. and dropping off my car at a friend’s house.” I was sure this was some kind of vision. For a moment. On the far side of my fall. things were… strange. there was no reason to make a big deal out of it. There were shapes of people around. Blood was caked on my forehead. The others—I’ll call them guardians—crowded around. I cowered. My arm wouldn’t take any weight either.100+ someone else got hurt. no one was looking for me. then a shift. dropping off my recycling. and I had no idea where the trail 72 . I’d spent the afternoon riding my mountain bike around town. like someone hit the reset on my brain. I couldn’t get away because my ankle was jammed in a crevice and possibly broken. Necessary and common. There was a flash of light. until I realized no one was reading me my rights. I managed to pull my foot loose by abandoning the boot with a loud yelp. As I reached onto a flat-topped rock beside me. The guardians stayed with me until dawn. my hand slipped and I fell. but they sensed me there. I must have blacked out. When the east finally began to warm. One spotted me wedged between two rocks and calmly declared. I was now staggering to clamber over slick limestone. and rescuers would be a lot more excited. The guardians were gone. Four pills left. “He’s here. It was still night. thinking it could be the police. I placed them all on my tongue and worked the rest of the brandy down my throat. I finally reached the top. I panicked. hoping he found the note I left with the registration slip. passing on “he’s here” to each new arrival.
I crawled around until I saw a stone cabin. I had never done that before. a piece of bread fell to the kitchen floor. Zachary Redfearne Canon City. as I did. I’m free to do whatever good I can without worrying about what I get. but I had never been depressed before either. I think of myself as having happily died that night. hitting me on the left ankle. Then I saw the trail a little to my right. Clumsy me! I did not stoop to pick it up because I had sprained my back severely. so I continued making the sandwiches. I also know that I’m never alone. Everything after that has been pure profit. I was living alone. I was making sandwiches. CO We Are Not Alone uring the mid-‘90s. Three days later. I stooped down gingerly to pick up the two pieces 73 D . it got so bad that I became depressed. and then dragged myself towards it. When I got up in front of the cabin. I realized it was just a stone. That was my break-even point. At one point. Despite the obvious hallucination theories. I slid myself right over the middle of it and the first person to come along was a doctor on his day off. so I called out for Jesus to come and comfort me.T R U E S T O R I ES was. and it’s doable. Then a second piece of bread fell. I’ve been to zero. It was the first time I had ever lived alone.
“I am the bread of life. whether we see Him or not. I knew that it would be a constant reminder of what happened. That’s when it dawned on me that Jesus once said. we got pregnant again.” Two years ago. but I dismissed it and went into the other room. I suddenly spied the second piece of bread right in front of me! I did not know what to think. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together. Our little (well 74 I . but there was only one piece on the floor. Needless to say. When I returned to the kitchen. we found out that we lost a baby to a miscarriage. I was very puzzled. Jesus is always with us. the day before Valentine’s Day.100+ of bread. Then we had ourselves a little miracle. so we should not be depressed. He is still there. Byron LeBeau NY Everything Happens for a Reason think that Marilyn Monroe said it best: “I believe everything happens for a reason. Three months later. I never thought that I would ever see Valentine’s Day the same way again.” He had come to me just as I had asked Him to three days before! I interpreted this phenomenon as follows: when the bread cannot be seen.
he would have been born on Valentine’s Day! Isn’t that so amazing? Now we associate Valentine’s Day with his birthday. but left the bees plenty for the winter. When they shoved a tray of mush under the door one morning. I gingerly placed one drop on my forefinger and 75 It had been a long time since I had seen or tasted . There in my hand that morning was a wee package of liquid gold. we will always think about the baby that we lost. I did not waste it on the bland mush. Don’t get me wrong. I looked at the clear plastic package on my tray like Midas looked at a solid gold bar. We gathered enough honey from one harvest to last us the whole year. Kelly. My little Marshall turned one year old exactly one month ago today. almost exactly 1 year after we lost our baby. 30 Martinsburg. It was a good partnership. WV A Taste of Honey honey. If he had come 13 minutes earlier. I used to help with the harvesting every autumn. And he is our own personal little miracle. But this event puts it into a whole different light.T R U E S T O R I ES not so little) Marshall Thomas was born the day after Valentine’s Day. My grandfather and father had many honeybee hives.
I thought. Each bite was accompanied by more pleasant memories of time spent in freedom with family and friends. Honey must surely come from Heaven and the bees are fuzzy little angels. The other half I saved for later. I had looked into the eyes of loved ones and heard their gentle voices. I had held my children and swung them in circles in the sunshine. I had been free. For a moment there. I thanked God for a taste of honey. I had roamed the forests and fields of my mountain home. But man cannot live on honey alone. knowing that a cup of hot tea will taste better with this heavenly sweetener. and the wildflowers. but it seemed to last an eternity. A deluge of memories came rushing into my mind: memories of days when life was simpler. I don’t know how long it actually took me to devour my honey and bread. when I was a child growing up on a farm in the western mountains of North Carolina. UT 76 .100+ tasted the honey as if for the first time. the mountain laurel. I had walked through a familiar field to harvest honey with my father one more time. I knelt and prayed that the next few months until I was released would pass quickly. James Burns Gunnison. so I carefully squeezed half of the honey in that small package onto my one slice of bread—careful not to spill a single drop. I had smelled the spruce. When I emerged from my honey-induced trance the guards were opening the doors to retrieve my tray and it was time to start the workday. My taste buds were in pure ecstasy. and also.
T R U E S T O R I ES Smoking Saved His Life y uncle served as a captain in the U. This spark looked like a tiny star that had burst in one of her irises.” Once that spark burst in my mother’s eyes. I 77 I . After years of alcohol abuse. enough to stop it from piercing his heart by mere millimeters. He had a lighter. smoking saved his life. a pack of cigarettes. Ironically. During a skirmish. he got shot in the left side of his chest. but it ultimately killed him. Army during the Vietnam War. Despite this miracle. There was a spark in her eyes. the repercussions of the war were longstanding and were felt decades after it ended. These three items slowed the velocity of the bullet that hit him. Gavai Kona. her actions were terrible and painful. He may have survived the Vietnam War. and a mirror in his left breast pocket.S. it’s what I call the “spark of hate. His doctors surmised that he became infected with hepatitis via a blood transfusion he received in Vietnam when he underwent surgery for the gunshot wound. my uncle was diagnosed with hepatitis and diabetes. HI M Someone Knew My Pain could always tell when my mother was angry.
“You’re not the only one. “Under the bed I put some food wrapped in a piece of paper. he looked at me. and I did. as I put the dress on the hanger. My mother told me to sit down on the floor in front of her. With tears in my eyes. She threw the dress at me and told me to scrub that spot hard. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed until my fingers were red and stiff. Bardo came out. Miriam. I turned to go to my room.” And as more tears formed in my eyes and fell down my cheeks. I returned to ask my mother if I could have something to eat. 41 Bedford Hills. I looked up at her and that’s when I saw that spark bursting in her eyes. when my brother Bardo and I got home.” He also told me that when I finished eating. I tightly hugged him back. I watched my mom make a paste over the stain on the dress. My mother finally told me to take the dress and put it in the hamper. I heard him whisper. That is when I saw the stain. With powdered soap and water. “Good night. Bardo. but she ignored me. the dress ended up on my face. to throw the paper out the bathroom window. One day.” he said. While he was hugging me. NY 78 . Once I finished putting on my raggedy shirt and shorts. and hung up my dress.100+ remember the first time I saw that spark … Every afternoon. we had to get out of our best clothes and hang them up. Miriam McKenzie. my mother called me. reached for an empty hanger.” I said through my tears. “Good night. The next thing I knew. I walked to my closet. and said.
When money arrived. I could wear my own clothes. But in Mexico. cook what I wanted. Each building contained its own separate shantytown. An aisle ran the length of each building. and one telephone for nearly a thousand men. a stereo. so crowded at rec hours one could scarcely move. Everything from 79 M . the “buffaloes” roamed. Should a man’s luck run out—the dreaded medical emergency—there was a small clinic with one nurse. only a cement patio called a loma fronting the cell blocks. I had conjugal visits. No gym. and an ice cooler for the occasional beer we scored from the guards. no track or ball field. and on either side were the plywood and cardboard shacks—“houses” for the “rich”—while in the aisle. incoming calls only. We installed a swamp cooler. built wooden bunks. a pipe with running water for a shower. bought a TV. There was no yard to speak of. an old metal hotel phone with no dial. the down-and-out who paced all day and slept at night wherever they stopped. one hundred ten men in each sweltering building with an eight-inch hole in the cement for a toilet.T R U E S T O R I ES A Change In Outlook y stretch in a Mexican jail was just like the film Midnight Express. move freely throughout the prison without the humiliation of patsearches and strip-outs. There were ancient stone walls and windowless gun towers. my fall-partner and I built a plywood house on stilts. no weight pile. We hired a cook and a laundry man and paid a trustee to run errands between cell houses during lock-up.
much like my thinking. in my head. I reasoned that. and it has. But nothing I could buy could change the loathing I felt. filthy. art supplies. I was out of touch with reality when I joined a gang. the ontological slap in the face. but it was an identity that was poisonous. for anything else.C. there were kids with bikes outside the front gate who would shop at the local mercado or any restaurant in town. J. booze.S. It took this long stretch of psychological deprivation in a U. I arrived at the school cafeteria. CO Being Stabbed Saved Me played the role of a tough guy in my late teens. I wanted out. and even prostitutes. The direction was clear: freedom was in here. if I changed. What a mistake that turned out to be… One day. clothing. and dangerous. for the right price. Mexico showed me the worst: it was crowded. What I had been yearning for all along was not a change in location but a change in outlook. A man could buy food. lumber. drugs. the world would reflect that change. True.100+ tacos to toilet paper was sold at the prison store. I was allowed to keep my identity. appliances. Amberchele Canon City. where the scene was set for a showdown between my best 80 I . prison to provide the ultimate wake-up call.
Jesus had taken a far worse beating and He pardoned His assailants. As I turned to look. As we spoke. When I did not press charges. his father embraced me in the hallway. I had been stabbed. knowing the fate of his son was in my hands.T R U E S T O R I ES friend and a rival gang member. With time. After the trial. though I believe he got probation—a slap on the wrist in comparison to the amount of damage he had caused. FL 81 . I stood by my friend. but I felt like a snitch pointing my finger at him. my assailant approached me and apologized. and those around me pressed my shoulders to close the wound and stop the bleeding. a set of circumstances that allowed me to rectify myself after losing my way down the wrong path. His father attended the hearing. I could have sent him to jail if I wanted. I saw my assailant running away from the scene with a bloody knife in his hand. my membership in the gang became obsolete. it stopped bothering me. But when others got involved. He believed that I had done the right thing by not being vindictive. I flirted with the idea of getting even. Getting over being stabbed took a lot of selfrestraint. It had been an ironic twist of fate. Fernandez Miami. encouraging him during the fight. All of a sudden I felt something pinch me in the back. the judge dismissed the case. however. I yelled for help. In my mind. Enrique M. That made all the difference in the world. After that incident. When I saw my assailant in court. a free-for-all ensued. the atmosphere was tense.
Matters of the Heart .
no matter what answers you receive. Then he met a woman who asked him to come and stay with her. He’s my first Jan Richards. One would think that because I have experienced life. He is smart. 41 Dallas. the good and bad. I never get tired of listening to him. I am 41 years old. and I am in love. But I have to admit it: I was one of the young ones who thought I was in love on at least two occasions. but I still feel like there are many other things about him I still want to know. was I wrong! I admire my first love. my first true love.T R U E S T O R I ES My First at 41 love. I want to know everything he knows. This almost caused me to have a nervous breakdown. I would have been in love before. He is honest. Love is the desire to want to know more and be accepting. Boy. He is strong. I have known my first love for more than a year. This is it! This is my first true love. I could not 85 T . TX Nowhere to Go he most difficult time for me was when my husband asked me for a divorce. I will accept all of him.
Without her. but now I want to leave him. and I lost 20 pounds in 2 weeks. After two years of online chatting and phone calls. She is the most beautiful girl in the world to me and without her. It was then that I started thinking about the love that had finally come after waiting for so long! After that. She offers me emotional support and the strength to go on in spite of my illness (MS). I was browsing . 27 Tehran. I was shocked because it was my first time and hers. 59 Dayton. Mansour. he came back to me. it’s been like heaven. The morning after I arrived. TN An Undeniable Connection Yahoo Chat when I found a girl with a cute Yahoo ID. I hope we will get married one day. my first love. and the connection that we share. and that the connection will endure. too. I feel so alone. Suzy. she kissed me for the first time. I have to stay here because I have nowhere to go. life would be impossible! I’m in love with her and she is in love with me. Although we are divorced. We both respect and value each other very much.100+ eat. I will never forget her. I decided to visit her. IRAN 86 It was the summer of 2005.
slender.” although I couldn’t 87 It was the spring of 1984 and I was four years . If it were up to me. His name was Travis. There was something fascinating about this “older man. I would never have gone out with him. and he was in fifth grade. he got very demanding and wanted everything his way. everything was great. Then within six months. 18 FL They say your first love is supposed to be An Older Man old.T R U E S T O R I ES I Just Want to Forget something meaningful and inspiring. He was a tall. He stripped down my confidence. and I am so jealous. He played with my head. but mine was something I just wanted to forget. and now all I have are insecurities. At first. Sometimes your first love is someone you just want to forget. I couldn’t hang out with my friends because he didn’t trust me. Shurley. I just remember being taken with him as I observed him swinging on a swing set. I worry all the time. brown-haired young man. and it’s taking a lot of hard work to regain my pride and confidence. He was a very sexual person and I wasn’t.
as I found him pleasing to the eye yet didn’t feel sad when he was gone. I have no doubt that he was my first crush. low selfesteem and comes from a poverty-stricken environment.100+ possibly have conceived so advanced an ideology at that young age. anal sex. threesomes. I just remember wanting to be near him. Imagine her being placed in a dangerous. 29 Hilo. Kitty Mayo. all in retrospect. I’ve borne witness to it all: Oral copulation. but what of the seldom spoken of illicit relationships that occur between male offenders and female correctional officers? Imagine for one second a single mother with two or more children. HI The Ultimate Forbidden Fruit relationships are consummated in prison than in any motel. and gangbangs—it all occurs. hotel. Imagine her being able to pick and choose from hundreds of suitors 88 Society would be appalled to realize that more . With women! The topic of homosexuality in prisons has been covered to death. She has little education. wanting him to protect me. Often. sexuallycharged atmosphere for 12 hours a day to supervise thousands of the very same scantily clad bad boys that she’s grown up lusting after most of her life. My reflections of Travis developed years later. or inn in the continental United States.
The passion boils slowly like stewing vegetables. who want to keep her hair and nails done. religion.T R U E S T O R I ES with pretty words and promises. or risks. stealing your heart away and bestowing it upon another before you even become truly aware of where that feeling of euphoria is coming from. Santonio Murff Tennessee Colony. The laughs come fast and free. regulations. You can begin to understand just how prevalent these “sexcapes” are and how often the forbidden fruit is tasted. send her shopping. I can name a few females on this very unit who have been terminated for improprieties and braved embarrassment and dirty looks to return to visit their “friends. finances. Hours seem like minutes. pay her rent. She needs no coercion or con. Sometimes personalities just click. True love can and does blossom between male offenders and female officers. The female is as rebellious as the offender. The attraction is mutual. rules. It’s an amazing thing. I know of quite a few acquaintances who have gotten out and taken up with their once-forbidden fruit. The conversations flow smoothly.” The truth of the matter is: love couldn’t care less about color. take care of her kids. housing. and plan that illustrious happilyever-after with her. TX 89 . It comes like a thief in the night. Love. Only the restraints of the environment and the consequences keep it subdued like a lid on the pot until want turns to need and a window of opportunity opens for the lid to be lifted. I know of a couple secret lovers that have since married.
Two months later.” I have no idea what he means. destined for Minneapolis. my tears will come. I’m tired and I wanna go home—bom bom bom. the tears pouring down her cheeks. and I told her she was strange. and I have my head stuck in Steven Millhauser’s book Edwin Mullhouse. the distance between her school. but I couldn’t stop looking at her. 90 Trying to fit your girlfriend inside a carry-on .M. and if. she told me the same thing. Skidmore College. a drunk sings the lyrics “show me the way to go home—bom bom bom. and yes. Massachusetts.100+ Four A. She’s packing her last suitcase. which overlooks the River Avon and the Bath rugby field. on a tour of Oxford. We are in her attic bedroom. we went out for coffee. suitcase is a difficult feat. I first met her at Heathrow Airport. Do you stuff her in head first? It seems she might suffocate that way.. Outside her window. she brushed her right hand against the small of my back. One month later. but I know I don’t want her to leave. and mine. I told her I loved her. But I’m really thinking about the distance between Minneapolis and my hometown of Amherst.. Boston College. Do you stuff her in feet first? But her head would stick out through the zippers and everyone on the airplane would think you were a crazy person. Three months later. And three months and two weeks later. I wonder when. She told me the upright bass was sexy. I’m not sure she’s my other half. three floors down.
At two a. comes.m. and I had a crush on .m. and I’ve promised to stay up with her all night. needless to say. until four a. My friend put the box of chocolates on his doorstep and 91 I was 16 or 17 years old. so I decided to go the subversive route. I walk her to the bus station. MA Love Advice from a Magazine this guy who didn’t even know I existed. I couldn’t get the nerve up to approach him.” she says. At three a.m. Theoharides. and place it on the hood of his car. after a bottle of wine. And tears stream down my face. I had read an article in Cosmo that a great way to attract your secret crush’s attention would be to buy him a box of expensive chocolates. she falls asleep.. So I went to Godiva Chocolatier and bought him a pricy box of fancy chocolates. At four a. after another bottle of wine. write a love poem. so one of my friends and I followed him home from school one day. I had written the poem already.m. I was afraid someone at school would see me putting the chocolates on his car. I determine there’s no chance she’ll fit inside my carry-on bag.. still two bottles of wine later. “I’ll miss you..T R U E S T O R I ES Her flight departs the next evening. and I have to walk her to a bus station. 22 Amherst. Alexander J.
28 Albuquerque. but because of them. I was 21 years old. NH Love Is for yourself. and I had been flirting with my kickboxing instructor for a few weeks when we finally began dating. desires.100+ I sped away. which eventually led me to appreciate love when I finally found it. NM Love is caring more about someone else than The Prince Who Turned into a Frog way. Love is putting that other person ahead of your wants. 24 Lincoln. Scarlet Rose. needs. Galilea. Love is recognizing that your loved one has faults. I never had the guts to go up to him and tell him how I felt so nothing ever became of my “love” from afar. I had developed a 92 My story is about one of the bumps along the . and well-being. Unfortunately. not despite of their shortcomings. Love is continuing to feel strongly for someone.
and we could not have our first kiss until after I had finished my antibiotics. and the kickboxing instructor took me out to dinner. he leaned over and gave me the most unromantic peck I had ever had in my life. As you can imagine. My love is with my best friend whom I had the chance to get to know first. making our relationship grow stronger. PC. We are the yin and yang for each other. I imagined something romantic. perhaps a scene from one of those chick flicks that could never actually happen in real life. My brain screamed: THAT’S IT?! You’ve been waiting for two weeks and THAT’S IT?! So you see. As I was preparing to get out of the car and walk to the restaurant. no? Saturday came. PUERTO RICO In Love with Another Woman ove is something that is felt between two people. It’s that feeling as if we knew each other in another 93 L . It can be between two men and between two women. the old adage is true: You do have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your Prince Charming. It isn’t just for one man and one woman. I was looking forward to our second date when I knew that we would finally be able to kiss. But a girl can dream. 30 Arecibo.T R U E S T O R I ES bad case of bronchitis.
maybe he was strange. and I became a murderer of my own flesh and blood. I regret it. Life is not supposed to be this way. MI Aphrodite Gone Wrong fell in love for the first time. so I left everything behind: my career. I stopped thinking because my thoughts became knives. A baby was on the way. I came all the way to the USA to start a new life with him. Mare. I stopped dreaming because my dreams became nightmares. and you have always been the one. Michelle. 36 Lennon. Our relationship is 15 years strong. I regret so many things. and so many tears. that heaven was to wake up with the love of my life. an innocent victim of the lost paradise. and I thought I was immortal. but he wasn’t in love with me. and I live there now. the woman that he had been dreaming of. and I tried to fight for my dreams.100+ lifetime. and we are raising a daughter as well. I tried to be perfect. I love you. and my life.” I told myself. Maybe he was too old for me. I hope that soon I can start building a new 94 I . I chose my hell. I felt like a little girl alone in a big country. but he was mine. “I did it for love. my family. so many mistakes.
but I can’t control it. 18 Olmito. we fell in love. but we’re not together anymore. but as for love. but we’ll be living separate lives. I just hope this is only a bad nightmare that will be over soon. TX I I Fantasize about My Teacher fall in love with every guy I feel attracted to even slightly. and it lasted about a year and a half. We are going to graduate soon.T R U E S T O R I ES life. I’ve been falling for one of my teachers. It’s a bad habit. The sad part is that she is not letting me see my daughter. If I were to start my life all over again. Yeyo. We now have a beautiful baby girl. and every tear brings me closer to my paradise. Lately. 95 I . I’d still make the same mistakes because they are my mistakes. I don’t know. 27 Athens. Kikis_fairytale. My ex and I are currently in high school. though. GREECE Living Separate Lives met the most amazing girl.
I shake. I took a little trip to Tennessee with my family. He was a southern gentleman with manners. and a smile that could melt a heart. and I have no control over my actions. We spent my final day together. “I may have a guy at home. In the summer of 2009. my body reacts in a weird way: I can’t breathe. it keeps growing. but things had been slowly going downhill. I don’t want to. I just want to find somebody that gives me all these feelings. We started talking and before long we just clicked. and I fell head over heels for him—I had never fallen that hard in my life. NY My Mississippi Man y boyfriend and I been dating for two years. I gasp for air. Aila Balic. 96 M . It was our last day on vacation when he showed up at the pool. Every time I see him. 18 Brooklyn. It is a scary feeling. I thought to myself. the red-headed cutie at our hotel was about to open my oblivious eyes to the truth. His grin always seemed to catch my eye. Although I didn’t know it at the time. but it just happens. I imagine the two of us together all the time.100+ He is only 24 years old and very attractive. but as much as I try to stop. but I have to learn to live a little!” So I jumped in the pool and hoped for the best. talent. looks. yet doesn’t make me want to die.
for showing me the truth about love. With a hug and a kiss on the cheek. MEXICO 97 My fiancé and I eloped to Mexico. and it took all I had not to cry. I explored my options on the ride home. I couldn’t believe it was over. and no hassle: just us. We eventually plan on having a church wedding so our parents. there are other people with other qualities that I really should meet. no guests. There weren’t any wedding planners. Anonymous KY Cake in Acapulco to get married in a romantic. but now it was time to make a big decision. I turned and left my Mississippi Man on the balcony. Thanks. In life. 26 Acapulco. Guerrero. too? Hayley. Why not have our cake and eat it. and realized Ethan was right: I shouldn’t feel tied to anyone or feel like my relationship is all physical. tropical location and it ended up being the perfect place. Ethan. yet that was all I had been feeling for the last two years. I went to say my goodbyes. family and friends can witness our marital union.T R U E S T O R I ES The next morning. We wanted .
I had not felt that way in years. I guess.100+ Farewell a beautiful blonde with long hair down her back and had the prettiest blue eyes God ever gave a woman. It was a cloudy Saturday in March of 1996 when Louise arrived for our first visit. She changed my 98 Louise was ten years younger than me. I will love her forever and keep her close at heart. but it doesn’t seem as important or exciting as it once did. I was totally crushed and cried for weeks. I actually felt like someone worthy of living. I will go home one day. as well as me. Her baby blue eyes glistened with life when she spoke and her words made me feel important and young inside. 2006. Her death left a void inside me that cannot be filled except with sadness. On May 15. Some letters were erotic. We had exchanged pictures and written wonderful letters before our visit. and made me happy in so many ways. but most were about our past and our dreams for the future. We sat at the table and laughed and talked as if we had known each other for years. Louise had a heart attack and died at home. Louise gave me nine wonderful years of marriage. This story has the makings for a great ending. at age fifty-two. On March 27th. but life is not fair. I will continue to do positive things with my life because she showed me the path. Clearly magic was happening between us. For Louise. She was . was a devoted wife. 1997. the prison chaplain married us and the warden allowed us to have the entire visiting room for the ceremony.
Our experience taught me that weddings are overrated. beautiful flower arrangements.T R U E S T O R I ES life and made me a better man by helping me see the light when I lived in darkness. Farewell. VA A Joining of Two. but for our family members. the stress of planning and carrying out the whole affair was not worth it. We had a nice ceremony. And in the end. in August. I will miss you. George Hughes. She gave me faith and hope for the future and allowed me into her heart and her dreams. She gave me incentive to be good when bad was the norm in my world.000 on our wedding. It would end up being cheaper than a wedding. and I had the fairy-tale wedding gown every girl dreams about. So if you’re thinking about spending your life savings on a wedding. we would celebrate our marriage by inviting only members of our nuclear families on a cruise. Please save 99 M . However. 63 Burkeville. DON’T. Perhaps her purpose in life was to save me from mine: A task well done. I’m not saying that our wedding was a total loss. Not Two Hundred y husband and I married in January of 2001. Louise. My husband and I spend upwards of $10. we realized that we were doing the wedding not for ourselves. but we had our wedding 7 months later. If we had to do it again.
When the time came to walk down the aisle. and burnt with a curling iron while strangers were trying to curl my “too-straight” three year-old hair. “Are you two getting married. On the day of the wedding. the rings were handed over. 29 Lowell. MA When “Going Green” Gets Painful dvice for couples planning a wedding: Treat your flower girl well. too?” he asked. I spent the entire car ride to the church itching in the back seat from my synthetic. 100 A . What matters is that you’ve found your soul mate and that you are going to spend the rest of your lives together. “NO!” I yelled at him.100+ your money because in the end. In the fall of 1987. clad in a miniature tuxedo. This torture was in preparation for some distant cousin’s wedding. I accompanied my cousin carrying the rings. Even at 3. having my head poked with plastic combs covered in garish forest green flowers. When we finally reached the priest. the wedding doesn’t matter. forest green dress. my voice echoing through the church. I sat on a fuzzy pink toilet seat cover in my aunt’s bathroom. and because of some problem involving lack of small children the duty fell on me. Priscilla. I knew it is generally not acceptable to marry your cousin.
and I scratched my shoulder as my dress felt like a thousand ants crawling over my skin. All I wanted to do was rip the combs with their plastic pearls and glue-gunned on flowers out of my hair. nor awaited his phone calls and emails with excited anticipation. The reasons I had married him were no longer there. camera flashes. 23 Somerville. three of them will always be: priests. I no longer felt butterflies in my stomach when he was around. but before I knew it. The emails became short and purposeful. I was blinded by lights. “Just walk through the door when you hear your name. not right away. until amorous love became filial affection. and I started to ignore 101 I .T R U E S T O R I ES At the reception. I had gotten used to him and he to me. and I stayed in the marriage because of familiarity and security. all the emotion and desire I once felt for him had waned. all I remember being told was. Where were my parents? Tears started falling down my face. and forest green. at some point. Finally. I got to go home and ditch the wedding gear. Adelle Brown. not right before my eyes. and I had no idea where to go. slowly and gradually. my cousin.” When the doors opened. On the long list of things I hate. MA Falling Out of Love married for love and that love dissolved.
He was no longer my top priority. but that memory is now alien to me. I am not that unhappy. nor is he. but at times I found myself wishing my parents would divorce. I am not that person anymore. 102 I . and started avoiding him. predictable existence is not the marriage or the life I ever imagined. and let him do the same. or lack thereof. I stopped caring about spending time together. I keep trying to push him away. I honestly don’t know what he’d think or say if he knew my true feelings. For now. for him. just so they would focus less of their attention on me and more on other problems. I am content to just exist. January Paris. FRANCE The Divorce That Never Was know it sounds ludicrously selfish and misguided. I did everything possible to avoid intimacy because it became a prolonged. torturous waste of time. I have grown completely indifferent towards him to the point where I wouldn’t even care if I discovered he was being unfaithful to me. I liked that we worked different shifts because it meant that we would see each other less. This mundane. I remember why I fell in love with him. yet I don’t want to take the initiative of leaving.100+ his calls when engrossed in a TV show or a conversation on the other line.
it would have been more difficult. he would allow me to do whatever I wanted. and if I were allowed to live with my father. They are still together. St. my parents did not divorce. Even if he hadn’t allowed it. Johnsbury. I thought that if they divorced. and I’m glad they are. I would have done so. Donna J.T R U E S T O R I ES I was an only child and often felt overprotected and suffocated. VT 103 . as he worked midnights and I could have easily snuck out of the house while he was working. Had I lived alone with my mother subsequent to their divorce. Alas. which never came.
Despite Diagnosis .
T R U E S T O R I ES Fighting the Ninja rison showers can be scary places. cartwheeling. Take showers in shifts. and leave the stink of the prison sewer behind. to survive it. You are immersed in it. Prison is a sewer. always have a few friends outside smoking cigarettes and standing guard. bide your time. You have to slowly navigate through the rats. Sometimes it’s waistdeep. wash. but if you’re determined you can keep your mouth and nose and eyes above it. Some dive headfirst into the waters 107 P . not because of knives but for their germs. Wait till the “others” get out. then slips away unseen. In prison. carbon steel prison knife made in the furniture factory—and clued me in on watching my back and avoiding homosexuals in the shower. leaving you there to bleed out. and when you get to the other side. and dry yourself. you can cast off your filthy clothes.” the black-clothed assassin that creeps inside and cuts your throat in the night. go in with your homeboys. Fellow standup convicts issued me the requisite razor-sharp shank—a wicked. sometimes it’s neck-deep. clean. you must wade carefully through the sewage. vermin. not let it get inside you. Some don’t. and sometimes it’s over your head. they call HIV and AIDS “the ninja. skidding. leftovers from consensual acts clogging the pipes and floating sudsy sewage out into the hallways. and finally splashing onto their backsides into the mire. and filth swimming and floating along with you. alone. catching those who stroll unaware in flip-flops on a slippery stretch.
Charles P. who told me that the titanium plate on my skull was 108 W .100+ of the prison sewer. become a part of it. The problem was not eradicated. It took many weeks away from home to get back on my feet. Months later. take it all in. a cracked skull. though my vision was still doubled and very much decreased. who sent me to the hospital for a CT scan. I regained some of my physical strength. I told the doctor and he put me on antibiotics. As for me. As the years passed. wondering if I will ever go home. And they die. I stand in front of my shower with my spray bottle filled with bleach. so I went to an optometrist. meningitis. FL A Tumor at 18 hen I was 18. I started having eye trouble. and that I had been in a coma for about a week. I also discovered that I had no movement on the left side of my body. I had no idea what that was! I was rushed to the capital 3 hours away in a taxi and went straight to surgery. Norman. making sure I cover the walls and floor and especially the drains. A neurosurgeon informed me that I had a brain lesion 5 centimeters long. 59 Daytona Beach. they inhale deeply. When I awoke. I found a strange fluid leaking out of the back of my head. and I was sent to the neurosurgeon again. I was told I had a brain tumor.
I have always been fearful of contracting AIDS. I had to endure antibiotics being pumped into me for a number of weeks through a PICC line in my arm and I was on these for many days once I returned home. but I think people need to be more informed about other non-deadly sexually transmitted diseases 109 I . I came out of the operating room only to go back in days later. just to be sure. I spent a few more hours in surgery having the infected area of my skull removed as well as the plate. Pete.T R U E S T O R I ES infected and it had to come out. I’m not saying by any means that AIDS awareness should not be spread. Fueled by the media. After 4 or so weeks. AUSTRALIA You Never Know am a paranoid person by nature. Thoughts of “you never know” always run through my mind. My cerebral fluid was not draining. and all came out negative. our culture has become so scared of AIDS that it has overshadowed all other diseases. so in spite of having protected sex. so I had a temporary tube put in my back to drain the fluid. 21 Devonport. I have had a few AIDS tests in my life. Tasmania. traveling all the way down to my elbows. to drain the fluid and stop me from getting as sick. I was brought back for more surgery to have a permanent tube inserted into my head.
One time. I was constantly in the hospital. The day I turned five. I was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (cancer of the blood). so my body was dying. My mom fell to her knees screaming and crying. but they will make your life extremely difficult and sometimes shameful. but even that wasn’t enough. the chemo backfired and I started vomiting blood. I was in the bathroom watching my mom put on her makeup when the 110 W . 28 Portland. About five nurses would hold me down so they could give me more chemo in my spine or through my portacatheter. Jolene. We all had sad faces.100+ as well. I can remember sitting on the hospital bed. My father was the only one with the same blood type. my mom noticed my skin was yellow. so she took me to the doctor. My white blood cells were destroying my red blood cells instead of destroying bacteria. my father would leave because he couldn’t bear to see me in pain at such a young age. OR The Scar of Life hen I was 13 months old. drawing a picture of me with my mom and dad. Every time a nurse would come in the room. so he donated his blood. herpes and genital warts won’t kill you. Throughout my childhood. For instance.
and very pale. It was the hospital telling her that I was in remission. Maybe it’s not really me. I vomit constantly. nearly bald. and 100% cured. FL Fear am going to Maricopa Medical Center for a mastectomy. the check-in nurse says. but you’re in prison now and you can get in line. This never happened outside. I see myself in the mirror for the first time in more than two months and I don’t recognize myself. fightingsurvivor19. I may have a scar on my chest from the portacatheter but I consider it the scar of life. Three months later. my oncologist was determined 111 I . There is no one to hold my hand or comfort me or pray with me. I’m due for chemotherapy and more surgery. I am back at Estrella Jail. At Perryville. I’m 15 pounds thinner. “Well. the judge can expedite all he wants.” When my chemo starts. that I was cured! She called my dad to tell him the news. and they both cried tears of joy. Maybe it’s a nightmare. the jail has delayed it. There is no kindness. 19 Pembroke Pines. I am sentenced and the judge expedites my move to Perryville Prison because I still have not had any chemo. in college. Five days later. Today I am 19. hoping to get rid of me to save money.T R U E S T O R I ES phone rang.
but does that mean I’m to be mistreated? Chemotherapy is over and radiation begins. and nine months later. An hour later. the doctor comes in. I’m worn out from fighting for proper treatment. the radiologist says the protocol is a visit to the oncologist or radiologist alternating every three months for two years. My chest is a mass of blisters and feels like a tiny fairy is dancing on it with razor blades on the soles of her shoes. He recommends a tumor 112 . Despite the rigid schedule. and then annually. I start the laborious grievance process. Nearly 16 months after my last checkup. then every six months for two years. My life is literally in their hands. I am sent back to my room alone. He answers my questions. burning instead. No more nausea.100+ that my nausea be minimal. The nurse comes with the news that the doctor is too busy to administer the shot to stop the vomiting. and then I dry heave until I cannot lift my head. begging for what I’m missing. there is complete indifference. I have three more chemo sessions. In here. when I’m supposed to be healing. obviously irritated to have to deal with me. I vomit until there is nothing left. I am allowed a teleconference with an oncologist who is completely unfamiliar with my case. and I’ve come to feel that they don’t give a damn. but there is no way for him to examine me and he’s never seen my file. But this protocol is not followed. Eventually. the medication is never ready on time nor is the newly discovered chemo diet. When my treatment is over. He acts like I’m faking and reluctantly administers the shot. I know I’m an inmate. I have to spend my sickest days walking to Medical.
but I’ll try: I’m glad I came to prison with cancer because I’ve experienced something firsthand that most people outside wouldn’t believe. All of this reminds me that there are so many who suffer regardless of where they are. no positive imagery can change my situation. and I am helpless against its inadequate. How do I deal with that? In Pollyanna. it still hasn’t happened. AZ 113 . I will use this experience to help others survive their pain wherever I am… inside or out. mismanaged. I’m glad my hair loss is visible and makes me vulnerable. an enormous octopus whose head cannot control all the thousands of tentacles who unite to form an impenetrable wall of incompetence. Sue Ellen Allen Goodyear.T R U E S T O R I ES marker test. As a result. many women come talk to me about the lump they found or how it felt to lose their mothers to cancer. I can deal with that. incompetent. This isn’t irrational fear about some hostile guard or stupid rule. always look for a reason to be glad. No amount of platitudes and cute sayings. Six months later. That is why I am afraid. No one’s pain is unique—certainly not mine. I will use my fear to strengthen my resolve and use the Glad Game to strengthen my joy and maintain my balance in the midst of chaos. This is about the State. Their stories touch me on so many levels. That’s really hard in here. my life is in the hands of the State. the girl’s father taught her to play the Glad Game—no matter what the circumstances. uncaring power.
one of her relatives told me that she had just been diagnosed with leukemia and the doctors had given her three months to live. a 9-year-old girl sat in front of me at the hospital. With an innocent gleam in her eyes. and I felt helpless all the time. Despite all this. making plans for the future. It has been 7 years since I won my battle with breast cancer. Although she wasn’t able to make her dreams come true. but I still haven’t forgotten that little girl’s face. but when he found out that treatment could last years. he began to distance himself. I hated to look at myself in the mirror. she told me what she wanted to be when she grew up. she gave me the strength to make mine a reality. My boyfriend was very supportive at first. A year into my treatment. I had to quit my part-time job and drop out of college. my grandmother died from pancreatic cancer. I didn’t understand why it had happened to me. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Later. Two months after I started chemotherapy. That little girl helped me gather the strength that I didn’t even know I had in me to fight. 33 Santa Barbara. I felt like I had been given a death sentence and that treatment just delayed the inevitable. CA A 114 . without even knowing it.100+ She Gave Me Hope week before my 26th birthday. she was looking ahead. Dinorah Torres.
He gave up smoking THIRTY YEARS AGO. for an addict’s. It just 115 I . I am so embittered and disconcerted by the news. WA S The Slow and Silent Killer just found out that my grandfather has lung cancer. for a smoker’s lungs. One year she was cancer-free. How sad. She continued smoking cigarettes until the day she passed away. The following year.T R U E S T O R I ES “Lights” Don’t Mean a Longer Life moking light cigarettes does not in any way. 18 Tacoma. The exposure to carcinogens is still there.” What kind of doctor says something like that to a patient? That’s like telling an intravenous drug-user that his/her veins and liver are in good shape. my aunt began chemotherapy and died shortly thereafter. Hayden. She was longdivorced. so she didn’t see any point in prolonging her life. shape. or form diminish the likelihood of getting or delaying cancer. and—to quote the doctor’s prognosis—her “lungs were in good shape. never had any kids. and had lived alone for decades. My aunt smoked light cigarettes throughout her entire adult life and died of lung cancer at age 58.
UK Stopping the Spread of STDs t is criminal negligence. Penzance. A fair estimate would be that 20-50% of the Texas prison population is infected with HIV. This is based on my knowledge of the number of inmates on HIV medication who continue to have sex. Most of those on medication are the effeminate “catchers” who are more likely to be tested because they admit their sexuality. Cornwall. not to recognize the need and implement plans for the containment of STDs in the close confines of prison. Prisoners are only tested if they 116 I .G. Whatever the percentage. his oldest daughter to cigarettes. in addition to the temptation of being around someone who smoked.A. not even decades after giving up smoking. He gave it up for her since the secondhand smoke would have been harmful to her. My grandfather stopped smoking in the late 1970s when my grandmother was diagnosed with emphysema.100+ goes to show you that no one escapes unscathed from cigarettes. on the part of Texas officials. He lost his wife to cigarettes. it’s surely higher than the system admits or wants to know about. and now he could lose his own life because of them. Texas does not test all incoming prisoners for HIV or hepatitis. F.
2. Classify prisoners by age. sentence length. End censorship of letters and magazines with sexual content. I myself may have infected ten or more people—not all through sexual encounters—but I’m not considered promiscuous by prison standards. 5. All prisoners need to be tested and those infected placed in quarantine. With America exporting her views on penology as part of her foreign policy. The time has come to make prisons into civilized places of incarceration where rehabilitation is the goal and prisoners are 117 . 7. 4. and typecrime. A few suggestions: 1. Prison is a violent place and bloody fights are more dangerous than sex. whether here or abroad. Allow prisoners more freedom in the choice of cell partners.T R U E S T O R I ES request it. 9. Make the administration personally responsible for all decisions concerning classification by implementing external policing agencies. Test all prisoners when entering and upon discharge. Separate gang members from non-gang members. 3. Remove all opposite-gender employees from staff. Allow conjugal visits with spouses or other partners. Provide condoms to all prisoners on request. and house them accordingly. You can see how dangerous it is. be as humane as possible. 8. Condoms must be made available to all prisoners to ensure that safe sex practices are possible. it is more important than ever that all prisons operated by Americans. 6.
48 Huntsville.100+ changed for the better while being punished for their crimes. Harris. Daniel H. TX 118 . This could be a start.
The Transience of Permanence .
If I give him that. In plain talk. He desperately seeks some understanding. I’m a state-approved janitor. plans. so he’ll often cram as much conversation as possible into mere minutes. For “free-world” folks. He understands that my time with him is short. lately I have come to smell and taste the death-row building even before I step inside. Most people have the freedom to push life’s most sensitive and controversial issue out of their minds or at least deal with it conventionally and on their own terms: family tradition. discussions. death out there now looks relatively easy. maybe an estate. a last will and testament. Each morning when I arrive at work. which has its effects on me as well as on him. death is merely a passage or rite. Moloch—the ancient god of death and Skull and Bones mascot—calls all the shots. I’m what Texas calls a Support Service Inmate. or SSI. In the penitentiary. It’s not that he’s in a hurry to die. I am the only human a death-row prisoner interacts with. Christopher Best Livingston. From what I’ve seen in here. Some days. All is forgiven. TX I 121 .T R U E S T O R I ES LIVE from Texas Death Row! ’m a Texas prisoner and I work on death row. especially on death row. then the whole world has done the same. some acceptance. I feel the dread on my flesh. even inside me. I swear. he’s in a hurry to live to the fullest.
” And I’m not talking about parole. It’s called “checking out. Shit. today. I’m thinking that everyone knows what I did. I would rather die than serve a life sentence I don’t deserve. I wrap the cut in toilet paper. I thought He wasn’t supposed to give me more than I can handle. I make it down the stairs and across the dayroom to my cell. Fuck them. and run the water for a few more minutes to wash the blood down the drain.” or “moving on to the next phase.” “taking it to the vent. yet relieved that I took action. Very suspicious. Fuck God.T. Carrillo Atascadero/Vacaville. 122 T . I’ll try again later. G. People in the day room are getting suspicious. CA I Check Out Day here’s always a way out of prison. I am feeling very ugly inside. Light-headed. I did not do anything to deserve 39 to life. and it can be done right now.100+ To Die or Not To Live hope I’ve found a vein large enough to keep bleeding as long as I run hot water over the wound. I choose not to spend another day in this place. I am in the psych tank shower at the Central Jail for half an hour. Shit. It isn’t working. Suspicious.
The only thing that remains of him are the memories and 123 I . a neighbor of mine in Folsom. He then stripped the insulation back a few inches on both ends. The prisoner who is confined in extremely isolated conditions soon faces a terribly frightening reality: he no longer exists to the outside world. Mike Rothwell Ione. The vast majority were done in by their own hand.T R U E S T O R I ES Sometimes I think about the guys that were with me when I first came into prison. After that. Ben had studied all the books dealing with electricity he could find. I think the all-time winner for originality would have to be Ben. but didn’t touch the live end so it wouldn’t complete the circuit. He wrapped one half around himself and put a wet washcloth in his mouth. He had rather ingeniously figured out how to wrap himself up in a way that didn’t trip the circuit breaker as he was gradually cooked. CA When I Ceased to Exist have come face to face with man’s greatest fear: the fear of death. He slugged the other half into the wall socket. not in the clinical sense. but a symbolic one. Ben took an ordinary electrical extension cord and cut it in two with toenail clippers. he lay down on his bunk with both exposed ends of the wire in hand and held them together.
matriarch of the family.100+ love of his family. NY Deconstructing Nonna onna passed on… Yes. pearls. We always knew that she wouldn’t live forever. He is tormented by two worlds: the one he lives in and the one he left behind. in essence. caught in a sticky quagmire somewhere between heaven and hell. the son he failed to be. and the person he never grew to become. killed that greater part of himself. 124 N . The day her body is brought to the graveyard. he may as well be dead. In this sense.With his incarceration. Hector Gallegos Otisville. diamonds. Each female member of the family picks from an assortment: cameos. the prisoner has killed the “him” that should have been. It is as if he has died and observes from a reality that only the dead would understand. In the world beyond prison walls. my big fat Italian grandmomma. year after year. the lover he wishes to be. The point is driven home when one realizes how much of his life has passed him by while he sits in the same cell. we return home and open her jewelry boxes. took her last breath 24 hours after delivering a fiery speech on her deathbed. the father he cannot be. sterling silver. one is nothing more than a ghost of his former self. but life—even at 103—seems too short. He has. gold.
Who would believe that a swastika. Mother displays Nonna’s tchotchkes. necklaces. she never wore it. blankets. pre-WWII. Mary Higgins Reading. albums. MA The Final Countdown eath Watch is a section just like any other on the Row. Only pieces and parts of Nonna are left now. It brings fresh tears to my eyes. The following day. and handcrafted dolls. My brother receives a miniature revolver that once belonged to my grandfather. bracelets and even an ankle chain Nonna received on her 80th birthday—no. key chains. dating from the roaring twenties.T R U E S T O R I ES watches. as if no one else is 125 D . spreading them out in the dining and living rooms. all the clothing in my nonna’s wardrobe is folded into garbage bags and given away except for a gorgeous full-length Persian lamb coat that is given to my sister-in-law who wears it so well. My brother also gets the lucky Indian coin. except for a fundamental difference. was considered a good thing? The Native Americans did. along with a collection of antique cigarette lighters. Mother airs out the house to get rid of Nonna’s scent! I’d have always thought one would cherish the smell of one’s dear momma. The first thing one notices is the quiet.
In remembering. although their recall is a razor that cuts both ways. his first girlfriend… The condemned is haunted and pleased by these memories. TX 126 . but the mind rebels. survivors of the victim’s family. and perhaps the condemned’s own family look on—is the final step in the natural order of things. media representatives.100+ there. He tries to trick his mind into believing that being strapped down and smothered to death via a triad of poisons—while dispassionate officials. the fights he had in grade school. Hathorn Livingston. such as his first pet. While the condemned sits in Death Watch and tries to reconcile his mind to the end of his existence. he realizes that all hope is gone. the officials are stoic and judgmental. a foreboding that wraps him in wasted years. making it ominously quieter. calling forth the loudest of his silent screams. Gene W. An ache settles in his belly. there are only four or five people. treating him with the same contempt they have exhibited since his arrival to the Row. Sometimes— depending on how much of a killing mood the State is in—Death Watch is full. Then the denizens of the Watch ease up to their doors to inquire who the new arrival is. wherein a man must sit for weeks or months to review his life and prepare for the end. At other times. It doesn’t bother them that a human being is sitting in the cell thinking of events or people from the past that made him happy. It is like God’s “time-out” room.
I saw no real reason for worry. he had become thin as a rail. and his head was shaved clean. Freddy looked every bit the criminal and convict. Freddy saw half a dozen different prison doctors. 127 E . really took it seriously. Over a period of a year. Once muscular. trying to get someone to do something. he was barely over five feet tall. A liver biopsy in January 2005 confirmed it and also revealed severe cirrhosis of the liver. While his tirades were generally belligerent and his sarcasm almost legendary. including Freddy. The appeal was dismissed and there was still no treatment for Freddy.T R U E S T O R I ES A Requiem for Freddy veryone called Robert Hagenson “Freddy.” Freddy complained to me one day. In October 2004. no one.” “partial. and they all tell you something different. if at all. Time was of the essence.” and “lost” test results. Since Freddy had shared needles his whole life. after a slew of “unreadable. Sleep came with great difficulty.” I forget why. a combination drug therapy. an angry Freddy filed an administrative appeal. Since he always complained. and his memory showed signs of failure. Freddy’s first real attempt to seek medical attention began in mid-2004. He was a genuine character. He was 45 years old when he began serving a sentence of 25 years to life for armed robbery. his body was covered in tattoos. A doctor told him he’d soon be starting a regimen of interferon-ribavirin. he assumed he had the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). “Every doctor has a different opinion.
He vomited blood one morning. He might have deserved to be permanently separated from society for a life of crime. My loving husband and I knelt by the nursery window for hours. They killed me. CA I Lost My Baby Boy ive years ago. they probably could have saved me. “If they got at me 18 months ago. looking through the glass at our little one. They tried giving him formula.” he told me. William was premature and couldn’t drink milk. and now he’s dead. Freddy died alone the night of December 29. Eugene Alexander Dey Susanville. massive gastrointestinal bleeding brought Freddy to death’s door. it was too late. and he was afraid.” There was no anger in his voice. Our son was diagnosed with malrotation. We were left feeling nothing but fear and pain.100+ Months passed. but he didn’t deserve a death sentence administered by neglect. only resignation. but he threw it up. We named him William Kenrick. The only thing that could save Freddy was a liver transplant. a twisting of the intestines caused by malformation in 128 F . Freddy was my friend. I gave birth to a beautiful boy. but no treatment was administered. “By the time they did something. By October. 2005.
T R U E S T O R I ES utero. The most painful part was when I held him in my arms for the first and last time. he was letting me know how much he loved being held by his mom… Time and time again. as soon as I held him. Like a whiff of a perfume it brings back memories. I sang to him “The Nearness of You” as I stroked his head and held his delicate hand and fingers. But I knew something wasn’t right. my first son. But I swear. milky scent is still there. carefully wrapped and kept hidden away. perhaps the pain of losing William will fade.. when I visited him. I still think of him. which was declared a success. He will always be my first baby. if you can still make it. my first child. And the pain becomes so overwhelming that sometimes I feel that I’ll definitely go crazy. just let go. I love him more and more each day. fight for it. And for that. “Baby. Holding him gave me so much comfort I’ve never felt before. Jenelleish. Despite the pain.m. At 3 days old. Someday. I turn numb. NCR. only to realize that he’ll never come back.” And as soon as everybody was there. PHILIPPINES 129 . the smell… His sweet. he went. Then I start crying again and eventually. The next day. he had to undergo an operation. At 1:30 a. only he was already lifeless. I still manage to gather his last set of clothes from the cabinet. I stood beside him as he was being resuscitated. his heart rate slowed. And I knew though he was gone. but it doesn’t mean that I will love him less. And oh. 32 Las Piñas City. and whispered. But if not. a smile formed on his lips.
roller-skating. and listening to music. I dreamed about him every single night. fishing. I miss him deeply. AZ J Accepting He’s Gone married the love of my life at 23. 2008: I awoke today around 5 a.100+ I Miss You. Facing the cell door. His sudden death made me feel angry and betrayed. I gazed at the prison-grey walls. After my dad’s death. yet his passing was significant to me. Then I realized that today is Father’s Day. I didn’t shed one tear. enjoying the early morning light. My dad liked to sing and dance. Malachi Ephraim Florence. He played the guitar and was into everything from the blues to rap music. But after 5 years of marriage. Dad une 15. he died suddenly and tragically. He was also a cigar and cigarette smoker and a heavy drinker. he was really fantastic.. and I thought of my dad who died of lung cancer in 2005. I was close to my father. we spent countless hours together doing fatherand-son stuff: playing catch. But I didn’t cry. from denial to 130 I . as if all I ever wanted had been suddenly taken away from me.m. But as a father. I went through many phases. in a better mood than usual.
I drank to escape and forget. hate to indifference. the final and hardest phase arrived. and for a while I didn’t really care if I lived or died. However. CANADA A Parting Gift n December 2006. her youngest 131 I . Québec. yet it is the one that got me through it: acceptance. As a last minute thought. I realized that what happened was out of my control.T R U E S T O R I ES anger. I run my own business and am truly living the life I was meant to live. as if by playing that song I would be able to feel him beside me like in the movie Ghost. who had just been diagnosed with cancer. I am now 45. I wrote poetry and listened to “Unchained Melody” over and over. 45 Montreal. but that it was up to me to take responsibility for my life. a Christmas card. After a long period of time. from being the eternal idealist at 23 to a cynic at 29. I sent my aunt. Life lost its luster. I never heard from my aunt again because she passed away a few weeks later. had no meaning. I withdrew for long periods of time into my own solitude. I included a poem about my grandmother—her mother—that I thought she might enjoy. Terri Giosia. happily single. How sad that now sounds. with great parents and friends.
He said that his mother called him a few days before she died and read him the poem that I had written. 51 Rosharon. I woke up one morning and walked into the living 132 W . she called every person she knew and read that poem. Not only did she call him. He thanked me for giving his mother a little joy during a time of pain. TX Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining aking up to your cousin’s voice saying. The night before. But after all the miserable hospital visits. Soon after. For two years. many tests were run on her to see why she suddenly had a violent seizure. The doctor gave her three months to live. she grew tired and wanted to stay home and forget about treatment.” is one of the worst ways to wake up. my mom had been taken to the hospital. Dennis Forrest. “They took your mom away in an ambulance. especially when you are only seven years old.100+ son wrote me shortly thereafter. they diagnosed her with a cancerous brain tumor. my mom held strong through all the surgeries and chemotherapy sessions. my poem may mean nothing. he said. To the academic world. but it meant something to a dying woman who relived memories of someone she loved and would soon join in the next world.
where it was warm. My dad softly called me over. Aubrie. This experience has made me stronger. He took care of my mom. and even worked from home so he could be there. It went on and on. but to help them through things the best you can. He gently sat me on his lap and told me that my mom hadn’t made it through the night. but my experience has left me with a positive attitude about life and I thank my mom and dad for it. I blinked back tears as I ran from the room into my closet to cry. I learned about the will to live and the value of life from my mom who wanted to hold on long enough for us to remember her. and I shook my head and turned to leave—no news was better than bad news. My dad taught me not to give up on those you love. “Daddy. too weak to walk to her bedroom. 16 Rexburg. My grandmother’s eyes were misty and I could tell something was wrong. the house. and us. I raced to my parents’ bedroom and climbed into bed with them. why are you coughing so much?” I 133 I . ID Making Amends was sleeping soundly when my father’s coughing woke me.T R U E S T O R I ES room where my mom had been living for four months. My life was changed forever. My father continued hacking.
I knew you and your dad had unfinished business. and that was a good thing. when I first met your family several years ago. We feared lung cancer. like you did. offered me his condolences the best he knew how. I knew he wanted to say something. There were hard feelings between us. An hour later I was calling my brother Dan. Even when he was here last time. He had held out for longer than anyone expected. He was in and out of the hospital for a couple of years. so I stood there. but the last time inexorably approached. healing wounds. Over the past few years. He had a difficult time sharing his feelings. real sick. not speaking. from a prison payphone in the dark. as did my mother. “Are you sick?” “It’s these damned cigarettes. is that I didn’t get that chance with my father. son. You settled your differences. I could tell. with complications from lupus. He looked at my brothers.100+ asked. I wanted to make it up to him. too. Don’t ever smoke them. I said things I’ve always regretted. He said things. exhaled. and he loved you. the reason I’m saying this. closed his eyes. collect. I could see that you loved your father. A prisoner friend. I admire what you did.” He was just twenty-four at the time. so I recognized it in both of you. I had unfinished business with my father. and he was gone. you spent a lot of time talking with your daddy.” 134 . waiting him out: “Charlie. I begged him to quit for years. You see. but emphysema got him first. but nothing could overcome nicotine’s siren song of death. who knew my family well. but he died before I got the chance.
leaned his head on my shoulder. While there. “Spider Man” had slashed both arteries in his wrists and sprayed blood just like the super hero sprays webs.T R U E S T O R I ES Then. His tears soaked into my suit coat. Then he called for the sheriff’s deputies over the intercom. 59 Daytona Beach. 135 I . “Mowgli” was a dead ringer for the jungle boy. “Cuckoo Cosmonaut” was wearing a massive cast that extended from his shoulder to his hand. I asked Cuckoo Cosmonaut why he wanted to kill himself. that big strong man with bulging muscles broke down. I spent the night in a padded safety cell with a grate in the floor for a bathroom. The doctor came to talk to me in the morning then released me to the acute care unit. Norman. I met some interesting characters: “Cut Throat” had earned his name by cutting his throat from ear to ear with a razor blade. I received stitches and a brace to keep the damaged tendons from snapping. Charles P. It was the least I could do. My cellie threw up. I decided to slash my wrist. I patted his shoulder and sobbed with him. He had jumped off the tier headfirst. and cried like the little boy who still lingered inside. FL Slash nstead of going to court.
” The handmade noose around his neck consisted of sloppily braided strips of sheet. I don’t anymore. and mouth curled back in a horrible grimace— the “death mask. His attempts to ease what must have been the ever-tightening grip on his throat had obviously failed. Evidently. but had caused his fingers to get trapped between the makeshift rope and his neck.T. Both elbows stuck out rigidly locked in place and told the story of the losing battle that played out during the last moments of his life. He must have changed his mind about his final life decision that night because both hands were at his neck. and his head was bent at an impossible angle in relation to his shoulders. “Six months. as though he had tried to undo the fix he found himself in while the last vestige of his consciousness ebbed into eternity. he had been hanging for a while because rigor mortis had set in.” It was as quiet in that huge cell block as it ever 136 F . now that I see you and other people here looking at life sentences.100+ “Well. His eyes were half open. Carrillo Atascadero/Vacaville.” G. CA Death Mask or the first time in my life I fully understood the term “death mask.” “What are you facing?” I asked him.
T R U E S T O R I ES was. before he walked away laughing with his buddy. CA 137 . You could almost hear the mice scampering across the cold concrete floors. He had everyone’s complete attention. there was only solemn silence. It was so still. San Quentin’s version of the Hollywood Bowl. Then. to be careful lest one of us ever lands the lead role in this tragedy? The old bull. With a bit of a dramatic flair. carrying the now light Stokes stretcher. Usually there were various types of yelling around the clock: conversations between cells on different tiers. chess games hollered back and forth between cells with moves called out on numbered squares. just one word bellowed out of his mouth. stood there for several seconds. Was he going to say a few kind words about the recently deceased? Maybe warn us about the dangers of unchecked depression? A short lecture. For the first time since I was there. I could actually hear the footsteps of the two old cops echoing through the cavernous cell block as one of them. But not at this moment. “Next!” Mike Rothwell Ione. hung it back up on the wall. who obviously relished his time in the spotlight and milked the silence as well as any award-winning Broadway actor. he turned towards the convicts in their cells. Even the crazy guys had shut up. the proverbial dropped pin would have sounded like a gunshot. It was as though he was on stage facing a giant vertical amphitheater. loud enough for the inhabitants of all 250 cells to hear. slowly scanning the tiers that held his rapt audience. perhaps.
Hidden & Forbidden .
I am not going to be denied… I was arrested and convicted of rape. I want to be with a girl. we can have sex. I’m telling myself that she wants me. For twenty years.” As I say this. a football player. the white system. sentenced to six years in prison. and a ladies’ man. and I’m in college. It opens. racism at its best. Because she was white. but also to pick up girls.” I say. I say. she was white. my fraternity brothers. popular on campus. I was black. When it’s time to leave the club. I told myself over and over that I had not raped anyone. 1982. 141 I . a member of a fraternity. I knock on the door. “I came to see my girl.” I step towards her. angrily. in front of a white jury. barging into her apartment. I only saw what I wanted to see. I am not invited over and I have not called to announce my arrival. I’m thinking. forcing myself in. “You ain’t gonna invite me in? It’s cold out here and I got dropped off. but I haven’t picked up a girl. but it’s not my girlfriend. so I need to make a phone call to get a ride. not only to have fun. and it was my word against hers. I’ve had fun.T R U E S T O R I ES Admitting I Am a Rapist t’s January 7. I’ve gone out clubbing with my boys. that it was a setup. I have my boys drop me off at the apartment complex of a girlfriend of mine. “Your girl is not here. I’ve had enough drinks to support the thoughts I’m entertaining. I want some sex. it’s a habit of ours. it’s her roommate. if no one else is here. I was convicted. she’s home alone.
We men need to understand that NO MEANS NO. CA I Couldn’t Be What They Wanted where it has been are factors in my parents’ continuous disappointment with me. but also how one can be in denial about one’s violence. I had known that I was a disappointment. especially with men. so tragically sank the ship they’d built for me over the years. I had a sense that my sexuality was something of great importance and. I would have to somehow redirect my same-sex attraction to the opposite gender. “I’m gay” was the iceberg that. everyday with the help of “straight” pornography. two kids and a boring life in suburbia. I’m committed to telling and sharing my experience with anyone who will listen. So I tried. for them. and even the “fag” jokes provided by my “peers. and young men and boys need to be taught this early in life. For sixteen years.” 142 The direction in which my life is headed and . was sent flying into the proverbial waters surrounding their safe.100+ Today. a wife. faithfully. I know that not only do men need to be educated about how easy it is to rape. Ricky Quarles Vacaville. pure houseboat. forced attractions to women. if I were to have a place in this world. The fantasy of grandchildren.
I didn’t expect more than 20 of these dowdy. alternating paragraphs with Nicholas. Nicholas arranged for me to give a talk to the Young Conservatives on astrology and. and the burden of hiding was spirited away. When I arrived. my sadness never faltered. At seventeen. and I explained to him a little bit of how astrology worked.. all too well in fact. I was never happy being this amalgam of different philosophies of heterosexuality. And it quickly and easily became the source of hatred and anger toward my own parents. with whom I constantly fought and argued. boring corduroy-wearers. Daryl F. I wrote a script. He talked politics all day long and I talked astrology. I am finally happy. only for who I pretended to be. So I confessed my truths. 19 Hooksett. having been to one or two of their small gatherings. that my parents felt the same. And I knew.T R U E S T O R I ES During those sixteen years. I was dismayed to see a huge hall 143 I . NH My Most Embarrassing Moment worked alongside Nicholas who ran the Young Conservatives in an English city. all of the negativity had passed and I was far too tired to let it ruin my life anymore. One day. I was pissed off that the world would never accept me for who I was.
We started off well until I looked at the first row and this Scorpio guy was miming hysterical laughter. He dated one girl 144 I . I went to my junior and senior proms with the guy. The audience was riveted by his magnetic personality and his cultured accent even when he said the Sun makes a revolution around the Earth every 25. I stood with mouth tightly shut and eyes bulging for the duration of the talk. He was very meticulous about his physical appearance and even suffered from anorexia for a time. it was swallowed hook. His self-confidence saved the day. line. Kent. Knowing very little about astrology. We didn’t date. He had an “affected” tone of voice and LOVED shopping. and sinker.000 years and the sidereal time is due to the Earth’s wobbling motion. one male and one female. he just threw in the astrological terms he remembered and made up a little story about each one. but I always suspected that he was gay. This brought about a case of stage fright. ENGLAND Two Sides to Every Coin have two friends who came out of the closet. Philippa.100+ full of people as far as the eye could see. He made it so fascinating that no matter what he said. carried on like a trooper. Nicholas. 30 Maidstone. I was literally paralyzed. being a noble and resourceful man. especially for clothes.
However. I didn’t really think anything of it. she was always a tomboy. She never had problems getting a date and always had boyfriends. If she had expressed a desire to pursue a romantic relationship with me I wouldn’t have been able to remain friends with her after that. As for my female friend. My friends just did . He came out of the closet after they broke up and she came out not too long after that. Our friendship didn’t change whatsoever. They had a priest and my oldest brother try to talk sense into 145 I came out at a young age. When he told me he was gay.T R U E S T O R I ES his senior year in high school and seemed to really care about her. Waterville. especially since I had always suspected it. Our friendship didn’t change in the slightest because she wasn’t “interested” in me. but I never really suspected she was gay. ME My Struggles not understand what homosexuality was and they disassociated themselves from me. it came as no surprise to me when he told me that he never had a sexual relationship with her. Jayne L. It wasn’t until she started dating a VERY effeminate guy that I thought she might be at least bisexual. My parents said I was not gay and that they were going to send me to an island where nuns and priests would “fix” me.
If I were a man. not me. and my uncle forbade my cousin to associate with me for fear that I would make her gay. We are not giving it to her. who is from Peru. I was also advised by the dean at my junior high school to quit school and get a GED since the “students were not prepared for my lifestyle. So I distanced myself emotionally from my family. A judge has heard our case 3 times but each time.100+ me.” I did. knowing that if she 146 . he’s given us a continuation because we “needed more proof” to prove that in Peru. My parents sent me to live up north with my fanatical brother. They even sent me to a shrink.” so we had to go back to court. but I am a woman and therefore. we are at the mercy of a very homophobic system. the new judge denied the case and ordered her to be deported. We feel the judge was very homophobic. I could marry her and she would become a legal resident in only 3 years. gays and lesbians are persecuted. He did not care that my partner and I appeared in a documentary shown worldwide called “Through Thick and Thin. After three years worth of evidence gathering. He had no concern for my partner’s safety. “Never mind. and the shrink said that they needed therapy. we were given yet another continuance because the INS attorney said that my partner qualified under an old law called “Suspension of Deportation. As if things couldn’t get any worse.” Within 10 days. I fear losing my partner. the INS attorney contacted our lawyer and said. Right now. too.” which is about bi-national couples being forced to split up due to unfair immigration policies aimed at gays.
William Steed Kelley Huntsville. has taught me compassion.T R U E S T O R I ES were deported. TX 147 I . no different than any other heterosexual couple. but we did not lose ourselves. Aileen Diaz. FL The Truth learned the hard way that a recounting of facts doesn’t necessarily equate with the Truth. it has made us stronger and brought us closer. 35 Tampa. I consider my forced removal from this society of wolves and sheep a blessing. Can we afford to delude ourselves when the sands of the hourglass are spilling before our eyes? Pain. the only thing that really matters to me is truth. she would be detained upon walking off the plane for speaking out against the homophobic Peruvian government and their police brutality! We are going through some tough times right now. the Ultimate Truth. especially for those among us who will come and go without catching a glimpse at something far greater than satisfaction of appetites and egos. If anything. We lost everything. These days. We just had a fire at our condo 3 weeks ago and had no insurance. the most effective teacher.
100+ Better Off Not Knowing couple of years ago. I still love and respect him. You have to always be 148 C . I feel like an idiot. I used to look up to my father and even praise him for never having been unfaithful to my mother. and I would never throw it in his face. gnawing at me: the revelation that he’s not the man of integrity I thought he was. My father doesn’t know that I know what he did. The fact that the indiscretion occurred with a prostitute and was not a full-fledged affair doesn’t really make it any better. On the one hand. But on the other hand. Eloise Lebreton. I probably would have been better off not knowing. but there is a lingering feeling in the back of my mind. Now. Don’t say it couldn’t happen to you. but I will never be able to look at him the same way again. I’m glad my mother told me because I don’t like being in the dark about anything or anyone. MI A Keeping the Demons at Bay linical depression is what could give the Reaper the key to your cell. my mother told me that my father had cheated on her with a prostitute. 30 Detroit. better not to tempt fate.
They help. It’s always going to be there. After church. But if someone’s determined to “check out.T R U E S T O R I ES on guard against succumbing to conditions that can spawn a state of mind so foul it can cause a young man in the prime of life to want to leave this realm. CA For Love or Religion t ages 4 and 5. My parents attended a wacko fundamentalist church where child abuse was the norm. The cops are supposed to patrol the tiers a little more often during the Yuletide season because people do get more down than usual. Make no mistake about it: months and years in this environment can twist anyone’s mind to some degree. 149 A . I think it’s more a matter of never letting your guard down. so you better learn to keep it at bay. I don’t think it’s a matter of just staying strong. No matter how upbeat you may feel. there’s always a part of you that’s miserable. I lived in Shreveport. Louisiana.” then there’s not much they can do about it. One way is to keep doing those pushups. Mike Rothwell Ione. I have told few people of an incident that has caused me to despise myself for being a coward as well as Christianity and all its hypocrisy. I was allowed to play with a friend.
Christian Missionary Alliance. and I did not report it to my parents who were just as bad. I have been an atheist ever since. Christians have a warped sense of love and justice that all too often results in child rape. molestation. you should see what torments await thieves in the fiery hell where you will be heading if you don’t repent! I’m doing you a favor by doing this. was too much to handle. She dragged my friend to the kitchen. lit the gas stove. and held his right hand over the flame until it burned to a crisp. at my tender age. NC 150 . She barged into the room screaming. Yurshta. and abuse. I was a victim of molestation myself—the perpetrator was a Sunday School teacher at a different church.100+ One day my friend’s mother searched his clothing to find some candy that he had shoplifted. 47 Old Fort. It is all out of love!” Seeing something like that in person. especially my mother. I still shudder at the memory of the stench of burning flesh. another ultrafundamentalist sect. He screamed in agony. she looked more like a demon from hell than what you’d imagine a Christian is supposed to look like. “You think this hurts motherf’er. I just stood there while all this happened and did nothing. My friend’s mother yelled. her face contorted in rage.
whether physical or emotional. and offensive words can After a Decade n the first 10 years of marriage. Many aggressors feel the only way they can achieve this is by toppling the self-esteem of others. at times I honestly would have preferred to be hit than verbally barraged. 26 Essen. but I have been a victim of emotional and psychological abuse. My husband was a fun-loving man until the 11th year. Some men like to manipulate women and make them feel inferior because they have low self-esteem and need to build themselves up. I have never been physically beaten.T R U E S T O R I ES Words Speak Louder pack just as much of a “punch” and can hurt just as much as a physical blow. not even after he started drinking every night and fighting 151 I . I had nine miscarriages. demeaning. NETHERLANDS Harsh. Any kind of abuse. I did not get angry with him. I swear. Sometimes psychological abuse can be considered worse than physical abuse. he became selfish and told me to cooperate with his other wife. Gaby Hermann. and their wives or girlfriends are usually the easiest ones to pick on. should not be tolerated.
Delhi.100+ with me. INDIA 152 . I was forced to call the cops. 36 New Delhi. He is now angry with me and wants a divorce. What has my life come to? I still love him and I don’t want to ruin his life. Then one day. Sonia. We’ll just have to wait and see what God has planned for us. so I’m planning to grant him a divorce.
Eerie Encounters .
my 155 I . I don’t need to see to believe. NH I Drowning t must be about 4 a. I can see Fisherman’s Grotto. I can see the people. Why would we want to be? Clarette. although I’ve never seen one. Aquatic Park. I keep swimming.T R U E S T O R I ES Who Wants to Be Alone? believe that extraterrestrials must exist. 28 Salem. just a quarter of a mile farther. until I realize it’s the tide in the bay splashing over the rocks some 200 yards beyond the cell block. I am swimming for San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The universe we live in is far too vast for us to be the only ones who inhabit it. We cannot be alone. Nightmare echoes of drowning wash over me as flashes of my dream flit about in my head. In my nightmare. I listen for a moment to a strange. I sit up in bed and listen to the peaceful quiet that only descends upon this place in these wee hours. slight. but I’m getting tired. swishing sound. They are looking beyond me.m. Even our Milky Way Galaxy doesn’t amount to a grain of sand in the immensity of the universe. Only human arrogance and delusion would conclude that we must be unique and special. even Ghirardelli’s.
I awake. And about a week after that. watching myself fight the water as I sink into the unforgiving depths of the bay. out beyond the breakers. 24 Lawrence. My best guess is that these dreams were about my failing liver. I dreamt I was a tadpole swimming in a dirty river. The waves crash. I’m only treading water. when I notice that I am looking down at myself. Foster. When I was 18. It’s all I can do to stay afloat—getting cold. The walls murmur. to the deep water. MA 156 T . CA Dreams Reflect Reality hey say that dreaming about water has deep significance on one’s health. I am silently alone. I disconnectedly watch as tendrils of darkness seize my struggling body from below. And then. About 5 years later. I dreamt about rowing across clear blue tropical waters. I hear something in the distance calling me. summoning me. Am I going crazy? Frank E.100+ arms are getting heavy. I dreamt that I was led through a burned out house where I encountered a dead rotting fish on a platter. beginning to feel numb. 45 Delano. I frantically look to see if I’m still paddling with my hands. Will Ferrara.
In the following days. He started massaging my gum and I felt a kind of energy entering my mouth. while still aboard. While alive. I had two dreams in which my late father told me that I would have an extraordinary odyssey. My mother told me that my uncle had cancer. I think that he presented himself in our dreams to apologize for his behavior. So I left the “Orient Sun” and flew to Europe. One night. showing us that we were right. Almost twenty days later. I boarded the “Orient Sun” and set sail for Singapore. In October. From that moment on. too. ITALY 157 I . at my uncle’s funeral. I felt sick and went to sleep. I saw blood dripping from my mouth and my father saying that he would cure me with the help of an Indian doctor.T R U E S T O R I ES The Warnings n March 1991. In the dreams. my mother told me that my father appeared to her in a dream. and we had no choice but to drink it. Elisabetta Errani Emaldi. Shocked. 56 Alfonsine. He didn’t believe them and thought we were nuts. I immediately called home. I dreamt that I was in Italy. my father got very angry with my mother and me when we talked about premonitory dreams. I dreamt of a handsome Indian prince wearing a wonderful colored turban. a strange heat enveloped my body. I noticed blood dripping from my mouth. my mouth stopped bleeding. Ravenna. On our way to the hospital. potable water and seawater mixed due to a broken pipe. Not long after.
IRELAND I I’ve Been Here Before the islands of the Caribbean. I remember shaking like a leaf. I could 158 The natives known as Tainos had inhabited . 19 Monaghan. The object I was staring at began to shuffle closer. It was pitch black. staring straight ahead. It was excruciating! Tears fell from my eyes as I let go of the pole and was pulled forward. I grabbed a light pole and tried to stop my legs. not drenched in sweat or having wet the bed. its feet dragging along the ground. The tall buildings lining the street cast shadows on the cobbled ground. I stood up and looked at its face. everything around me began to spin as if it were being sucked into a dark hole. I landed at the feet of the creature. I felt as though I were traveling backwards in time. I was squinting. but late for work! Paddy J. but they continued moving and stretched me out. as whatever I was looking at was far away. It was my dad! At that moment.. but my legs were moving forward towards the thing. And there I stood amidst the terrain on which the Tainos once roamed.100+ The Monster in My Dreams stood in the middle of the main street. It was then that I woke up.
When I turned to look. FL No Grim Reaper hen I was about 11 years old. As nighttime fell. the silhouette of a Taino appeared on the surface. the vision of a tall.T R U E S T O R I ES picture myself dwelling in their midst as they went about their daily lives. I was in the bathroom. it had disappeared. I told my friends about my adventure and about the ghost I had seen. I got goose bumps for the terrain looked so familiar. I was going through a very traumatic time in my life. It was at this moment that I saw. Going to middle school was daily torture for me. I saw what seemed to be an apparition. When I returned home. I was constantly taunted for the way I talked and the clothes I wore.” someone who knew the area told me. echoes from long ago. thinking about nothing. my mind completely blank. seemingly projected in the white tiles of the bathroom wall. As I placed my canteen in the water. “That place is haunted. “I’ve been here before. Enrique M. One evening. That left me speechless. Hiking along the trail. for I had heard rumors that the island of Cuba has bad karma due to the fate of the natives.” I thought. 159 W . thin man. I heard cries of anguish and agony howling in the wind. Fernandez Miami.
I remembered being there before. standing in that same spot. hooded. The flame then gradually disappeared into the white background of the bathroom tiles. and the vision was gone. I have no idea what the vision meant. I entered the Great Pyramid in Egypt. However. Bronwyn von Fuller Plymouth. He walked towards me. I have not had any such vision since. but somehow I knew that he was bearded. Abruptly this vision metamorphosed into a close-up of just the man’s head. I felt an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu. still completely covered by the hood. Then. Devon. when I entered the King’s Chamber. The man appeared to be Jesus but with the physical characteristics of the Grim Reaper. carrying an old-fashioned candlestick with a looped handle. UK Between Time and Space n 1980. And on the candlestick was a single lit candle. His face was shrouded in darkness.100+ He was wearing a long. My mind froze in shock and I felt the full force of realization: “I” 160 I . All I know is that it came during the most emotionally tumultuous period of my childhood. the same flame of the candle the man had been holding. grey cloak that covered his entire body. his head slowly transformed into a single flame.
” Now. This ensured my “timeline” wasn’t broken. and activated it. Misty. I am able to communicate with my former self by telepathy. AK. NEW ZEALAND I Saw It Happen hen I was 14 years of age.T R U E S T O R I ES was still in the chamber. and don’t believe time is always linear. I woke up one morning from a night of terrible nightmares. My former Atlantean self shone a bright crystal light on my head. 54 Auckland. but reconnecting from ancient Atlantis. Then my former self stood in my body. During this moment of déjà vu. My ancestors became visible as their faces lined up chronologically above me. leaving the center in which I stood untouched. my present “reality” seemed to “freeze frame. transferred his intelligence into my brain. I perceived my body standing in a science lab with dials along the walls. the kind of dream that even in 161 W .” Lasers embedded in the four corners of the room sliced across and cut out four sections. the kind that hang on from the time you open your eyes to the time you get to school. There were a few Atlantean scientists standing and watching as well. I came back to my present “reality. moving the ancestors he didn’t want out of my brain and putting in the ones he chose.
Over the years I’ve started to “fly” on more than one occasion. but I’ve stopped myself because I’ve always associated it with something bad. slamming into and amongst what now were dead bodies. In my dream. 162 I . facing myself. MA Back to My Body had an out-of-body experience when I was 4 years old. I stood among men in uniforms whose shouts of urgency finally turned into screams of desperation. I’m willing to see where it takes me. 59 West Roxbury. a little more aware. and a little less afraid. I remember lying in bed and suddenly finding myself suspended above my body. I’m 59 now. I didn’t raise my hand to tell him. Huge pieces of orange insulation broke free from their casings and hung in the water. I had “flown” over land then blue water that turned cold and black. More and more debris ruptured from every direction. Lonn. D. I woke up taking short gulps of air. but I didn’t. Water burst from overhead pipes with such force that it threw them from their feet. They knew what was about to happen. a little more settled.B. drifting like seaweed.100+ broad daylight seemed real. trying to breathe… It wasn’t until one of my teachers started discussing the sinking of the submarine USS Thresher that I realized what I’d seen.
Since I was only 4 years old. It was a car accident in Texas in 1995 that was the pivotal moment in my pursuit of the inexplicable.T R U E S T O R I ES floating in the air. but with a different outlook on life–and death. Later. “I need to get back. Waterville. which struck a barrier. I learned the term years later. After that. I need to get back!” And then I suddenly returned to my body with a great suctioning sound and woke up. The driver lost control of the vehicle. It was the scariest thing being pulled away from my body. I survived the accident with no major injuries. Jayne L. I had no concept of what an out-ofbody experience was. I began flailing and screaming in my mind. I had no fear at all that I was going to die. I reached out to academics that believe in and study the possibility of paranormal activities. I was always interested in the possible existence of ghosts and other paranormal phenomena. and quickly drifting away. Those harrowing moments felt like an eternity yet. I started to read a lot of books. as I had in Spain. I watched shows on television. ME A Different Level rowing up in Spain. and then was finally able to label my experience. when I moved 163 G . completely powerless to stop it. and we started to spin really quickly.
A year later. just one year before meeting Gabriele. The group has introduced me to new friends of varied personal and professional backgrounds with this shared interest. it’s one of my many pastimes. But for me. at my friend Viola’s insistence. My personal opinion is that there is no such as thing as death. There is only going to a different level. Pilar Gonzalez-Caro. I knelt down on a pew. a few steps from the altar. 37 Madrid. I tried to understand the meaning of this dream for almost a week. One night. I dreamt that I was entering a church where the Pope waited for me. Smiling kindly. astonished and surprised to have the honor of being received by the Pope. he said. facing him. “I must warn you that there is a young man who will ask to marry you!” Four days later. SPAIN The Mournful Guitar his story begins in December 1989. There is a general embarrassment in people who believe in this kind of thing. I found the Boston Paranormal Investigators online and contacted them. I got slowly closer. I dreamt of a guitar sound transmitting such strong sadness and pain that it woke me. I went dancing with her at the Stork Club and I met 164 T .100+ to Massachusetts. but with no success.
I told him not to joke. But I already knew this bad news thanks to my dreams. Through telepathy. I dreamt again of the mournful guitar. but he had terrible secrets. He told me that he had played his guitar and thought about me all night long. To be sure. While I stared at him.T R U E S T O R I ES Gabriele. Elisabetta Errani Emaldi. struck by his suffering. I met Gabriele at the Stork Club a few days later. His girlfriend had recently left him and his face showed his pain. but he replied that he was amazed by what was happening! From that moment on. striking me like a storm. I felt all his fear and pain. so I left. in January 1991. we became involved. 56 Alfonsine. but that he had just forgotten her thanks to our meeting. I knew that Gabriele was playing his guitar and that his pain was so strong that I could feel it through telepathy. he had sent me all his pain accompanied by the sound of his guitar. But he continued smoking and drinking too much. he told me that he had spent four days and nights without sleep. playing his guitar and thinking about his girlfriend. Ravenna. ITALY 165 . Then one night. He finally confessed to me that he took drugs and that he was afraid that I would leave him because he hadn’t told me that his previous girlfriend had died of AIDS. and I tried to help him. He vowed to marry me. Through telepathy.
Now I have learned to tune them out so I won’t see them. During the five trips I made out there. where she claimed that UFOs appeared regularly.100+ I See Spirits spirit. Anonymous LA I was just six years old when I saw my first UFO Hunt a strong interest in the numerous UFO reports and the story of Betty and Barney Hill’s abduction experience during that period. I developed . I invited her to be a guest on my TV series on Channel 68 in Boston. NH. we became friends and she invited me to accompany her on a UFO hunt in East Kingston. Soon after. we would watch lights appear over 166 Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. On some nights. I witnessed some amazing displays that I can’t explain to this day. I was in my room crying by my door ‘cause I had just gotten in trouble. Determined to find a way to get to know Betty. a man the same height as me came up through the floor as if he were walking up some steps. Then all of a sudden. He tipped his hat and smiled. I thought I had imagined it ‘til I started to see them all the time.
On one of my last visits. a state psychologist friend of mine. On one occasion. I saw small strobe lights among the trees. I remained a friend of Betty’s until her death in 2004. Later.T R U E S T O R I ES the horizon. it was the mother ship transmitting messages to the satellite ships we had seen earlier. fly to some central point. Tom “Wolf” Elliott. I decided to walk down the tracks to the next crossing. and meet. but then. a huge pyramid of smoky plexiglass lights turning on and off in different sequences appeared. MA 167 . and into the sky. who was also an amateur photographer. I saw a large backlit red disk go rolling across the tracks. about 50 yards down the tracks. we’d see “headlights” of various hues sitting way down the train tracks. We saw the usual lights in the sky. strobe for 30 seconds. Other times. It remained on the tracks for well over an hour as we circled around the block. up a tree. “Look at that!” I turned to see a string of huge backlit lights rise above the tall pines. 70 Waltham. she suddenly pointed and yelled. First. As I returned to where Betty was parked. then they turned off. and then disappear. accompanied me.
At Home & Abroad .
or Puerto Rican dialect. not financial statements. Russian caviar. I originally went there to spend Christmas with my mother. as proof of dignity. and my first husband introduced me to the States and Paris. My grandfather used to tell us how he enlisted in the Spanish Army and emigrated to Colombia. and great America. We married and had a daughter. I arrived in Puerto Rico as a widow at the tender age of 24. with a 3-year-old son. so in our house we either speak English or Spanish in the Cuban. but eventually we divorced.” My father used to talk of Hungary. where all were welcome and. My current husband is a Cuban political refugee. My home still reflects much of Spanish culture with a touch of Colombia and a hint of Cuba. my only adorable sister Translated by: “El Cuban” Morales and Nicholas Lockheimer always considered myself a “citizen of the world. German perfume. Lately. but life had a different destination in mind for me. Colombian.T R U E S T O R I ES Creating Our Own Melting Pot To: Angelita Ferreira. had to show the INS hard-working hands. I myself studied drawing and art appraisal in Venezuela. I love all kinds of music and my husband is an American music lover. We try to teach our children and grandchildren about what we consider valuable to our culture. and completely broken by life. I once had plans to live in London. but fell in love with the INS agent who waited on me at Customs. we have also become interested in Greek culture since my granddaughter’s family on her father’s side is from 171 I .
Morales. We love Lucille Ball and Ricky Ricardo. Danny Rivera and Lucesita as well as Claudia de Colombia. He had never been out of Mexico and he didn’t have a visa to 172 I . while others are trying to cheat the system. MA Do It the Legal Way what the immigration issue is really about. 54 Leominster.S. the Dolphins. 36 Lennon. MI There seems to be a misunderstanding about Patience is a Virtue immigrated “backwards” (to Mexico from the United States) to be with my husband. Nidia F. Mare. I believe that there are a lot of hard-working people that are trying to do the right thing by busting their butt to get into the U. on the contrary. We all suffer when this happens. We don’t feel less American because of that. it reminds us that this country is great. we love Bach..100+ Greece.
it would have been too dangerous.T R U E S T O R I ES enter my country. 27 Washington. D. cars. we stayed in Livingston. illegally because. and migrant camps. we would return to California in time to harvest grapes and almonds. We lived in tents. my husband received his highly anticipated Green Card and we came to the U. my .S. so I decided to move to his. Even though I was the American citizen and my husband was the immigrant. a small farming town and our home for eight months out of the year. apart from being unconscionable.S. Then during the fall and winter months.C. Many times. In Limbo family migrated north from California into Oregon and Washington. There is no feeling comparable to that of getting the Green Card in the mail. and I spoke the language so it wasn’t very difficult for me to adapt to life south of the border. we lived with two or three other families in a small house or apartment owned by the local farmer. Later in the summer. I think that I was even more excited about finally having it in my hands than he was! Fernanda Aleman. while my 173 Every year from June until September. After a little over 2 years of residing in Mexico. harvesting crops. It didn’t even occur to me to ask him to enter the U. I had family there. My father is Mexican.
Spanish. However. In grammar school. I was embarrassed by the clothes I wore. In fact.” If these incidents were meant to discourage me. I realized that I was out of place in school. Not only were the white students 174 . I put in extra effort to correct the problems I had with English. halfway through my junior year. Anglo children would make fun of my accent and name. and write in English.100+ father worked for a local farmer. School was a struggle from the beginning. However. they had the opposite effect. In high school. Because of school.” “wet. we took our baths in a big washtub. clothes passed down to me from my older brother. I was held back in kindergarten.” or “spic. Early on.” “greaser. My baggy clothes and my brown skin embarrassed me. There were times when I was embarrassed because of my family’s way of life—we lived in a house with no running water. my language shifted from primarily Spanish to mostly English. I practiced speaking and reading out loud to lose the accent—I read whatever I could get my hands on—and practiced writing and spelling. I was embarrassed by the foods that we ate. read. I struggled to learn to speak. I was embarrassed by my first language. The student population was comprised of mostly white or recent Mexican immigrants as there had been a resurgence of migrants from Mexico. My friends went from primarily Mexican to mostly Anglo. This is where I went to school. mostly beans and tortillas. they didn’t work. I practiced English as much as I could whenever I could. this was not a quick or easy transition. our bathroom was an outhouse. I got into fights because students would call me “wetback.
” he chuckles and jots my name in his notebook. but on the inside I acted like a white person. “Now don’t run away on me. To white students. My private class is in La Rinconada. I was born and raised in the U. The man at the blue kiosk greets me with a smile and steps in my direction. I wasn’t Mexican. “One hundred soles tonight. and my only hope is a private class at a rich guy’s house.T R U E S T O R I ES looking at me suspiciously. but now so were the recent immigrants from Mexico. to the Mexican students. I didn’t seem to fit in. Although I was of Mexican descent. but tomorrow I’ll pay?” He hesitates a moment but then he looks at his customer. a gringo wearing a tie. tonight—“in theory” because one takes the word “pay” with some reservation when living in Peru. Raul Ybarra. in theory. MA You’re Not Peruvian look again as if a second look will change reality: six soles. you know. They will pay. “Could I get a couple of cigarettes. I wasn’t white.. a five sol coin and two half sol coins. an enclave 175 I . the usual. So I was called a “coconut” by many of them—I was brown on the outside.S. not even two dollars. and I had lost most of my Spanish.” I remind myself. 50 Boston.
I have classes with her kids. never mind 176 . Señora Tagle told me to enter and wait for her. “She’s not here. you are not Peruvian. are washing dishes in the sink. Peruvian tamales are so yummy and big. Two maids. dressed in blue uniforms with their white aprons.100+ of well-off Peruvians outside Lima. “You’re the Tagles’ English teacher?” asks the guard at the gate. They will not associate my asking for food with begging. I eye the tamal on the counter. It’s ají amarillo. with chicken bulging from its sides. I am cheered by the recognition. Remember. Matt. and shoot furtive glances at the gringo flipping through his books. It is not good manners to ask for something in Peru—anything.” “I know she’s not here. They don’t speak to me or to each other. she told me to come inside and wait. No way.” “That’s okay. They’ll pass it off as an American informality. I sit at the kitchen table. I spot the intercom speaker in the dim light and press the black round button.” “The señora is not here. A broke American is beyond their comprehension. I wonder if the maid will realize that I am broke if I ask for some.” I say. “¿Quién?” “It’s the English teacher. as big as a sandwich. then a visa to the States becomes a viable option. even your own paycheck.” I know the maid will ultimately be blamed for letting me in. If these families don’t find happiness here. Poverty rots within Lima’s downtown and La Rinconada offers both peace and status. I hear the buzzer and push open the door.
“What time are they going to pay today?” I asked again. They looked at each other to see who would answer. 40 Amesbury. No way am I going home empty-handed. Mrs.T R U E S T O R I ES food or drink from a stranger. The room grew eerily silent. I was told to come. Wipe any sign of need from your face. Tagle honks again before the girl’s hand can turn the key. The principal called the teachers into her office one by one. Some received their checks. and we were all waiting for our first check.” the history teacher finally muttered to shut me up. “That’s what we all hope. It was the end of the month. 177 . Matt Wirzburger. Let’s see: one sol home and four soles for food tomorrow. An hour later. That is the hard part: hiding the need. and springs out the door to the entrance. and I came. others were given a song and dance. Chin up. A maid jumps for the keys hanging over the counter. “Are we getting paid today?” I asked aloud once again. payday. MA My Nibble Out of The Big Apple I was wearing an almost-designer-brand business suit I arrived at Penn Station with admirable resolve. “When do we get paid?” I blurted out in the teachers’ room at the school where I teach during the day. I hear three honks. I keep telling myself not to feel bad for staying.
After the much-anticipated grilling session. It was then. I wasn’t alone. As dusk turned to darkness. I was amazed and delighted to see various people stopping dead in their tracks and taking photos without embarrassment. With briefcase in hand. A few blocks seemed all the further with my high heels already torturing me and the nerves regarding the pending interrogation nagging at the nucleus of my psyche. yet spaced widely apart. Something compelled me towards those lights like a magnet. It was well worth it. As I again made my way down the grid streets. I had finally taken a nibble out of The Big Apple. It was then that I realized that it was a city to only be truly enjoyed at night. I spent over 2 hours in various lines waiting patiently to ascend to the observation deck of the Empire State Building.” It would not so much as occur to the natives that I was not actually from there. I was in the city “on business. Karen Manhattan. I happened to look to my right and observe a magnificent panel of lights. the city awoke and came to life.100+ with my hair up in a tight bun. that I could even be classified as a loathed tourist once my job interview was over. NY 178 . the whole city was there.” I was in Times Square: a place that up until then had been tangible only in my dreams. I plowed down Fashion Ave to the lights. I forgot my aching feet that were now causing me to limp. I felt that I had “made it there. The streets were numbered. and only then.
7) Humour is subtle. and stout. 14) Their most famous bands abroad aren’t necessarily their most famous or popular domestically (i. Scottish. 5) Drinking and going to nightclubs during the week is acceptable. 13) The fact that your great-great-great grandparent was English.” or “Yankland”.S. real ale.” “The States. 2) They invented “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. but the British cracked the Enigma code and won the Battle of the Atlantic.” and countless other TV programmes that we Yanks stole. dry.” “Pop Idol.”.A. 11) The Yanks didn’t single-handedly win World War II. 4) Beer drinking is an art. 12) It’s not the “U.S. 3) We copied baseball (rounders/cricket) and American football (a variation on rugby) from them. and sophisticated. French. 8) Formula One is “real” car racing. and you must learn the difference between lager. 6) Footy (soccer to Americans) is a religion. etc. they helped a great deal. 10) The English. we don’t. (“They just go round in circles!”) 9) They drive “properly”.” or “U. sarcastic. it’s “America. bitter. Indy 500/Nascar is too easy. does not give you the right to proclaim yourself to be of that nationality..e. Irish. The 179 . Welsh.T R U E S T O R I ES What I Learned from the British 1) Petrol stations are found at supermarkets and adverts before films. and Irish are different “races” and never compare them or lump them into the same “Celtic” category.
Canadian. 21) Avoid seeming rude or offensive at all costs (except whilst pissed). apologise profusely for it.m.. 19) They still practise common courtesy and hold the door open for you. Rolling Stones. 20) Women are on a social par with men (especially when it comes to pissing it up). South African. 23 Jacksonville. 22) There are 14 pounds in a stone. 23) American coins don’t have their values on them (How would any foreigner know that a nickel is worth 5 cents and dime worth 10? It doesn’t say!). Gavin S. they’ll take the non-Yank. 27) 50ºF is ideal weather for wearing shorts. FL 180 . 26) Given the choice between a Yank or an Australian. 16) Nobody says bobbies or wimpies. and body weight is stated in stones. it means “dinner time” and is not necessarily served at 4:00 p. not pounds. 17) Red Indians and Darkies are terms accepted by the media. Pink Floyd). If caught being rude. 15) The food is great actually (you just have to know how to cook it). 24) Tea time does not mean “time for drinking tea”. 18) There is no scene too sexually graphic or swear word too taboo for regular telly—as long as it’s after 9 p. or any other English-speaking foreigner.100+ Beatles.m. 25) You stay in hospital and do things at the weekends.
T R U E S T O R I ES Return to Paradise the Honolulu International Airport after a 5-hour flight from Seattle. We discovered Diamond Head. My nose recollects the many encounters it had with the unpleasant smell of the sulfur steaming out of the ground. I vividly remember the flavor of the taro root chips as if it were yesterday. I remember being hit on my upper back with a 181 In August 1990. It was nighttime and my parents and I watched the lava flow and set fire to the sand from the safety of our rental car no more than a few miles away across the inlet. We trekked and climbed over “Pele’s Hair. covering vast stretches of highway as a reminder to us that the Big Island is still young and growing and remains the aforementioned goddess’s domain. We witnessed the destruction of Black Sand Beach at Kaimu Bay on the island of Hawaii. the rainbow that was so large I had to take three separate photos in order to capture it in its entirety. I remember being awed by the enormous rainbow that spanned across the island one day. I can still taste the ohelo berry parfaits we ate at the Volcano House hotel. and Waikiki Beach. Although decades have passed. there is nothing in the world that is comparable to these luscious. Native and unique to Hawaii. my parents and I arrived at . crimson berries. Pearl Harbor. We took off from the claustrophobic.” which spans in black swirls over the island. tropical island of Oahu and landed in the rustic lava field of the Kona airport.
orange object and thinking that someone had thrown it at me. I traveled up through the heart of Germany on the bullet train from Munich to Lübeck. I turned around and perceived 2 tourists giggling.” I was pleasantly surprised and 182 First thing to consider when making a trip to . Estado de México.100+ large. which unfortunately did nothing to facilitate my understanding. B. but I appreciated the effort nonetheless.” Despite my pitiful German. I was able to ascertain the meaning of most signs and maneuver the streets and “honor system” subway of Munich. 29 Tultitlán. the only thing German and English have remotely in common is the phonetic similarity of the greetings “Guten Morgen” and “Good Morning. Gutierrez. only to realize that I had inadvertently stood under a gigantic mango tree. MEXICO The Other Emerald “Isle” Germany: although English is a “Germanic” language. ovular. If Ireland is the “Emerald Isle” then Germany is the “Emerald Landlocked Country. and those who didn’t speak English would speak slowly in German. I remember wanting to return… H. Those who observed the confused look on my face upon addressing me in German would immediately rephrase in English.
For the first time since the early eighties. To them. I imagined civilians screaming. Standing in St. I had never pondered “being on the other side”. 21 Lübeck. eerie feeling. and running in all directions. but never forgotten. I even felt a bit guilty. Gisela. Marien’s church in Lübeck. crying. GERMANY Taking It All In Ford Escort and headed out West. we were the enemy. destruction everywhere. I knew it was war. I took my time on a trip and decided to take everything in. However. I packed up my leased . looking at the cracked brass bell lying partially embedded on the floor. however unfounded that emotion may be. Schleswig-Holstein. the “Allies” were now the “Axis” and I was seeing my homeland through the eyes of a WWII-era German citizen: bombs falling overhead. checked 183 In late October 1998. I experienced an unexpected. I got off the interstate to travel on historic Route 66. I left with the feeling that all is forgiven. that it was them or us. green hills and plains. this knowledge did not diminish my empathy towards those who were innocent of the crimes of their government.T R U E S T O R I ES impressed to find a country of rolling. Along the road.
Documenting the lonely yet enjoyable drive in pictures. The small artist community is full of beautiful galleries.100+ into small motels. I arrived in Taos five days later and felt like I had finally arrived at a place of total serenity. and visited various museums. There is always a scent of sage in the air. TN 184 . and it is easy to understand why an artist like Georgia O’Keeffe would move out there to produce some of her most remarkable paintings. I spent days at the Pueblo. and the spirituality of the place can only be described as refreshing. admiring Indian art and taking photographs. Brigitte Pauli Memphis. delightful little restaurants. the sun paints the high desert in colors no brush can emulate.
The Toughest Job in the World .
My due date of June 19th came and went.” This is absolutely the truth than when it comes to childbirth. but my water broke the night before and it ended up being a natural delivery. I advised him to call 911 and the woman on the phone told him to pull over and help me. For our first child. For child number two. 35 NY 187 It’s been said that “the best laid plans of mice . Needless to say. Although having the baby in the car was not how I would have planned it. my husband and I went to the doctor’s. we did not make it to the hospital. I woke up my husband and we proceeded to the hospital. I knew what to expect. I was awakened abruptly by contractions. So we planned (funny how that word has a habit of popping up) to go to the hospital the next morning. We were about 5 minutes away when I yelled to my husband from the back seat that the baby was coming out. even while a bum and other obnoxious drunk people approached him.T R U E S T O R I ES The Best Laid Plans and men can often go astray.m. At 3:30 a.. he did just that. Krista. so on the 20th. after being able to share this special bond. He is very squeamish and I was amazed at how very calmly he did what he had to do. I don’t think my husband would have planned it any other way. We were told that I could be induced at this point. So. I planned a Caesarean. which is about 45 minutes away.
Daddy would get out. spread them open on the wood floor. take out the Sunday comics. The Texarkana Gazette. bacon. Friday evenings were always a thrill. car payments. Not every week. and eggs would be emanating from the kitchen. and Tarzan of the Apes. and we’d both laugh at Mutt and Jeff. My . Joe Palooka. waiting for Daddy to come home from work. a strange car would slow down on the highway and turn in at our house. and my mother would call us for breakfast. or the impending job market crash as the Korean War was shutting down. I had no concept of rent. causing the heavily defense-oriented industries of East Texas to lay off thousands of workers. grocery bills. wondering what kind of car Daddy would be driving this time. I’d lie beside him in the same pose. By then. not working as he was the rest of the week. prop himself up on his elbows. I had no idea how complicated life could be for a struggling young married couple with a child. lie down. All was good in the world. and I’d run to 188 Sunday mornings were a special time. Alley Oop. Dan and Tom). and read each one aloud. then I’d beg him to read them just once more. and two more on the way (my brothers. but fairly frequently. The car would stop. It was just the three of us. He’d take off the rubber band. the smells of biscuits. It would scarcely be daylight when he’d bring in the Sunday newspaper.100+ Through the Eyes of a Child father was home. He’d slowly read the comics to me. my finger pointing to each comic pane as he read it.
T R U E S T O R I ES him. I saw him for the first time 3 days after he was born. and he’d have to go to another used car dealer to get another car on a weekly payment plan. Sebastian. and he’d let me sit in his lap and steer. tubes.) My mother would be standing in the doorway holding the baby. Norman. Finally. I felt desperate. and his weight. I didn’t know until years later that when my dad couldn’t make the weekly payment. due to pregnancy complications at 29 weeks. I was recovering from an emergency C-section. 1. Charles P. I cried. and lights. but I never realized it. I went to a place filled with noise. Theresa’s prayer and a sticker stating his name. a frown on her face. My family visited him and held back their tears when they came to visit me. begging him for a ride in the new car.220 grams. 189 The first time I saw my son. He was smaller than my forearm and covered in tiny tubes and wires. My son’s clear plastic incubator had a card with St. (On Friday evenings. Not with . 59 Daytona Beach. but because I thought I had failed. FL I Thought I Had Failed overwhelming joy. They said he was beautiful. Daddy would take me for a ride to the store for an ice cream in his new car. the used car lot would repossess the car he had. or at least pretend to. Times were hard.
wanting to 190 I . I’m fearful of the pain of watching my child grow up. patience. Sebastian exceeded all expectations. I sang to him. he was bundled in his car seat ready to go home.100+ His skin was transparent and wrinkled. I began to sob. I gained knowledge. the hospital planted tulips and daffodils and the days grew longer. He was so fragile and exposed. I’m too afraid of screwing up. Over time. and mourning. and hope flooded me. and confidence. fear. leaving my baby behind. Relief. I spent numerous hours holding him in my arms pretending he was still in my womb. MA Afraid to Be a Mom ’m not a mom yet. I ached to still be pregnant. He needed my protection and I could not give it to him. Each week. besieged by guilt. 36 North Andover. Outside. I became determined to care for him. a new milestone was reached and tubes were gradually removed. pride. He needed to be inside me where it was calm and warm. I thought I had failed at the first stage of motherhood. and I don’t think I’ll ever want to be. I was discharged. After a week. and I prayed. I was entering the next stage of motherhood and I was happy. The trees went from grey to a fusion of greens. At long last. Lisa. I cried. I forgave myself for having a sickness beyond my control. I talked to him.
my father and I were in his truck. 25 SC The Hunt t was 1977. Tonight we were killing deer without firing a shot. or getting involved with the wrong girl or guy. It was a fenced-off section with machines loaded with pellets for feeding the deer. or having trouble with the police. driving to our new “hunting spot.” a theme park that featured a deer sanctuary. or getting into drinking. we weren’t there to look at. At about 3 a. I remember what I was like as a teenager and I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle my wouldbe children when they become teenagers. I don’t want kids because of the way I was when I was younger. Right now.m. But tonight. drugs. I don’t want to relive my childhood through their eyes. Maybe they’d be better behaved than I was… Maybe they’d be a lot worse. Suzanne. Tonight we were there to get meat for the house.. pet. or feed the deer. I don’t want to worry about him or her getting hurt. I don’t have any desire to find out. or gangs. which would walk up and eat right out of your hand. and I was twelve years old. I had worked weekends and summers with my father since I was nine. and I 191 I . Though I was only twelve.T R U E S T O R I ES push me away. and not wanting me to be a part of his or her life.
100+ was a master with the sledgehammer. I snuck up to the fence line. The story was a big hit with all my friends and my dad’s friends. with the click of a camera. a second of your life. It took us about thirty minutes and we had three deer to eat without even firing a shot. Steven Small. and then drove up the fence line with his lights off. You can take a picture and freeze time. We drank beer on the way home. checked for traffic. forever 192 A picture is a memory forever frozen in time. . My father hopped out and helped me load the deer into the back of his truck. 43 Jessup. and I didn’t get smacked around for at least a week or better. I took my spot and waited. I had already pulled the spike over the fence and smashed another doe. Pretty soon a doe stuck her head through the fence to eat. Smash! I laid her out! I turned around and there was a small spike buck at the other hole. Smash! I got him too! My father loaded the cane poles. GA Moments Frozen in Time a second of life captured in a photograph. Your children and their children can have this memory that was once yours. It was one of the closest moments my father and I ever had. they were already there. By the time he got there. I didn’t even have to call the deer.
Part of me wanted to pull her away. 30 Martinsburg. Kelly. My memories are brought to life every time I look at one. My photographs hold a special place in my heart. so that she wouldn’t get wet and dirty. Life goes on. Sitting on a stool at the counter. I 193 M . just living in the moment? When my daughter saw the ocean. moments are forgotten. WV Shame ama always took me with her to pick up her paycheck at the café on Wednesday afternoons. without a care in the world. like when my daughter was splashing in a fountain on a hot summer day. New moments are constantly being created. It is so wonderful to discover the world all over again through a child’s eyes. My husband bought me a fancy camera to help me document our babies’ lives. a single moment that no longer exists is now yours to keep.T R U E S T O R I ES captured in a picture. I didn’t expect much. but those moments stay behind. sipping a chocolate shake. But the bigger part of me noticed what a precious moment it was. she was so excited that she leapt for joy. Don’t we all wish we could be this free. and sadly. I cherish every moment captured. but something was unleashed in me.
after the breakfast and lunch shifts were done. “Those aren’t for spending. Dorothy. “Your Mama works for tips. Someday they’ll put you through college. Three dollars went to Aunt Tilley for babysitting. Everyday. Her brown uniform and white apron were clean. he left. crisp. Her red hair was tied back in a ponytail. collectables.” she’d declare with her chin uplifted. I couldn’t take it anymore. She seemed like the ultimate success to me. John. “Why didn’t you finish school so you could get a good job? Are you always gonna work in a café?” It all traced back to Daddy. It was in seventh grade. the afternoon waitress. Mama would return home with an apron pocket full of change. I was proud to be her son. and well fitting. and a few coins went into my piggybank. He had promised to take care of us.” “Your Mama ain’t got no education. would give my stool a spin and laugh almost as hard as I did. I do my best. without any explanation. Most of her money came from customers’ pockets. Mama was beautiful. Her green eyes sparkled. Mama’s check didn’t amount to much. One day.” One day. Some streetwise kids set me straight. I rushed home with some questions for Mama. Those are old coins. She quit school to marry him.” “Your Mama spends all day slapping men’s hands off her butt. my first year in middle school.” she said with tears 194 .100+ was as happy as a three-year-old boy could be. when I found out what a dismal failure my Mama was. “I did my best.
Told her ‘Nam was safer than Dallas on Saturday night.. Something with angels on it. not love. I didn’t go to college after high school. Mama sent cookies. Respect. There was just nothing I could respect about her. shame for having no Daddy. Something that says that the woman buried in this grave was loved and respected by her family. Mama’s friend at the café. you couldn’t help but love Mama—everyone said that. I wouldn’t need it. I wrote back.. “Buy the nicest headstone you can find. She’d died of breast cancer. Mama asked if I needed anything. I handed the money back to Dorothy.” John Yarbrough Rosharon. All my love turned into shame. Dorothy came up and handed me a wad of money. TX 195 . I joined the Army and was sent to Vietnam. One day. Mama had asked her to sell the old coins and give me the money. They let me go home for the funeral. that’s what it was. shame for having a waitress for a Mama.T R U E S T O R I ES running down her cheeks. Mama wrote every day. Oh sure. She hadn’t told me because she knew I had enough to worry about. VA benefits would pay for my college tuition after my enlistment was up. After it was over. But something was missing from my letters. shame for being poor. Before she died. Mama was gone. a letter came from Dorothy. My middle-school friends had seen to that.
“An abortion. I pulled out all the papers. we got into the boiling car. put them in my lap. we’re out of gas!” 196 There were women with children in every . and devoured them one by one. sit back down. map. Pieces of a puzzle I had to solve. but her face wore the same void expression. Finally. no books. a letter thanking her for outstanding work taking the census. I opened the glove compartment. She would fill out some papers. It was obvious that we were waiting for something. In the front. When outside. a man or woman would call out a number. I looked at the gas gauge and said. and wait to be called into another room. “Last case for today. There were several overdue bills sent to old addresses. but there were no magazines. Occasionally. but she didn’t say anything until I asked. a lady came out and said. “Mom.” I acted as though I was reading the rest of the papers and even unfolded and tried to re-fold a U. what’s ‘dilation and curettage’ mean?” Without turning her head. and headed back to my mom’s apartment.” My mom stood up and walked to the window. but I really wanted to shut that glove compartment quickly and forever.100+ The Glove Compartment corner of the room. My mom looked better dressed than the other moms. She must have known that I would see it. and one of the moms would get up and herd her children to the counter.S. “Mom. no television. and an overdue bill from Cincinnati General Hospital. she answered. and no nice couches like at the doctor’s office. When I did.
for me. It wasn’t even the accumulation of years of my dad telling me that my mom was a high-functioning paranoid schizophrenic that finally made it clear. “Why the hell do you think you sat in the welfare office all day? You know.” I had seen her before and thought she was the prettiest 197 O . IA Standing Up for Me and Ma ne day.T R U E S T O R I ES My mom stopped the car in middle of an intersection. lack of food. or the bills. sat down beside me and said “Hello.” It wasn’t the words she said because they made perfect sense to me in the way that what isn’t sane often does. when I was ten. 37 Mitchellville. she yelled. She looked as if she wasn’t seeing me. it was the look in her eyes as she raged at me. everybody in the world. When she turned to look at me. Yvette Louisell. No. you’re just like Auntie Doll. Or maybe she looked at me like I was everybody. The look said I was not her own daughter to whom she had given birth. I was sitting outside on the front steps. Maybe she was seeing my dad or my grandma or the people who wouldn’t hire her to teach anymore. always wanting people to bury themselves in the backyard when they’re still living. It wasn’t the welfare office. A little redheaded girl who lived down the block. but someone else.
got a damp washcloth. She kept kissing and I kept bringing Ma’s jewelry to her until there wasn’t any left! When Ma came home from work.100+ girl in the world. When I gave the note to her father he got angry. I have to take Ma’s jewelry back!” I insisted. “No. She looked at Big John who had turned red with anger. and he punched me in the mouth and bloodied my lip. white shutters!” Now it was Big John’s turn to fly out the door in rage. it didn’t take detective Columbo to figure out her jewelry was gone. After twenty minutes. She said love makes you do crazy things. She wrote a note to get her jewelry back. Needless to say. When I told Ma and her boyfriend. “You’re not getting it back! Now go home!” he screamed. the front door burst open and Ma’s lip was bleeding. both became angry. Again she scooted closer and I stayed put. Big John wanted to go down there. but Ma said she would handle it herself. I took Ma’s hand. She got a damp washcloth and placed it gently on my lip until it stopped bleeding. and put it softly on her lip until the bleeding stopped. “Green house. she kissed my forehead and flew out the front door. she up and kissed me right on the mouth. I ran in the house and came back with a pair of Ma’s best earrings and gave them to her. and I carried it to the little redhead’s house. what had happened.” she said. Ma smiled and hugged me. That little girl was no fool. I got home empty-handed. Then. She scooted closer to me and I scooted away. The next thing I knew. She 198 . I told Ma what happened and that I was in love. “Down the block. Big John.
“My God.” Big John’s huge hand went into the bag. are you all right?” He nodded. and left. Meanwhile. I promise!” Big John pulled the father to his feet. I gave him a couple bloody lips to let him know he made a big mistake by hitting my woman and my kid. George Hughes. “You like to beat up on women and kids. stood by the refrigerator. but we laughed and laughed like never before. we got a smile. “And retrieved your… carrots?” He had grabbed the wrong bag from the counter! Oh. Then the little redhead’s mother ran from the kitchen. Then he walked over to the counter. Ma ran to him.T R U E S T O R I ES looked at me through tear-stained eyes and pulled me into her arms and held me for quite a while. “Take it! It’s all there. do ya?” Pow! He fired a fist into the man’s face. warning him not to touch us again. snatched the bag. we got the jewelry back. “You didn’t… He’s not…?” “Dead? No. and every time we saw a carrot in the grocery store. 66 Burkeville. When Big John walked in with blood on his Tshirt. His wife. Big John kicked in the front door of the green house with the white shutters and caught the little redhead’s father in the kitchen. who had been putting away groceries. screaming. returning with a brown paper bag that she sat on the counter. VA 199 .
“Don’t look to your folks for help. because he had in his hand one of those foot-long cooking forks used for turning meat. you made him cry. look what you did. he leaned over me. you scared the poor boy. With the fork in one hand. saying. All I really remember was staring at the end of that fork as he waved it around. “Now run on home. “Have you not got anything to say?” I began to cry as I stood up and looked at my folks just sitting there on our porch. my friend Michael and I were playing in his backyard.” Michael’s mom said in a kind but condescending way. She gently pointed me towards my house and gave me a little shove to get me started. accentuating each and every word like a conductor leading an orchestra. My mom and dad were sitting on our porch and could see and hear everything. I looked over.” 200 O . Michael’s father sprung from a chair and pushed me off his baby. My mother had gotten to her feet. more surprised than hurt. and look. you little sissy. Michael’s father then growled at me through clenched teeth. Michael tossed a ball to me and I ran backwards to catch it. but my dad sat her back down. screaming.” the man screamed at me. one of Michael’s many siblings. “Oh it’s all right. Apologize to my wife for scaring her to death. saying.100+ No More with the Neighbors ne bright summer day. I inadvertently bowled over a toddler. I guess Michael’s dad had been barbecuing. I hit the ground again.
my little lipschkin. I ran to my room. She almost whispered. “No more with the neighbors. “What you doing here in this dark place?” she asked. new shoes every fall.” Not wanting my dad to see me cry. Grandma Berg appeared with a sandwich and glass of milk. just thinking. as I stared out the window from the top bunk of my bunk bed. you’re just going to learn to stand on your own two feet. help Grandma eat this. Later. Very calmly. I looked at her then at my father. I think. who just sat there and grinned at me like it all was some sort of joke. 201 . but sternly.” and she passed me half of the giant roast beef sandwich. he spoke from the head of our dinner table: “My job is not to save you every time you’re in trouble.” I’ll ever forget what he said. You’re not some little girl who needs saving or coddling. “You didn’t do anything when Mr. at the dinner table. “Thinking.” I answered. Grandma Berg was inside.” she said as she dried my tears. My job is to make sure you have food to eat.T R U E S T O R I ES When I got to the porch of my house. trying not to look at me. “My little wunderkind. I said. You are not going to be able to run home every time you get into some trouble. dry house to live in. Dad asked me why I was frowning and just picking at my food. Peck was yelling at me. I can’t be there to save you. my mother continued snapping string beans into a bowl. More mad than sad. One of these days. clothes to wear. cleaned my hands and face with her ever-present rag. Hours later. and offered me cookies. I won’t tolerate that kind of behavior from my son. and a warm.
In casual and cruel black and white print. I received a devastating student update. no more you thinking. quietly humming some old forgotten German lullaby. Too much thinking for one so young. unchanged . He got to me like no other student that year. My memory linked a face to the name of a murder victim. I don’t get to see what they become or how they live as adults. Sun coming soon. Thomas Michael Fox. songs. chores to doing. he had the ability to enrage me one minute and drive me to hysterical laughter the next. They were my life for 180 school days and then they were gone. He also loved conflict. he is a hard man but he loves his little wobkin. Dream the dreams boys dream. Grandma is old woman. tomorrow is better day. and intelligence. As I scanned the newspaper. but Grandma knows things. Your father. I begged him to 202 So many of them flit into my dreams. a name leapt at me. He was full of jokes.100+ “What you thinking? You always thinking. 51 Corcoran. In the classroom. Quiet now. CA The Sand Dollar by time. as the elementary students they were. Grandma stood there until I fell asleep. You must be sleeping now. They remain frozen in my subconscious.” She took the small plate and helped me under the covers.
T R U E S T O R I ES use his intellect and leadership skills to his advantage. 36 Wakefield. So much wasted. He could always make people smile. But even now. I stormed down the beach. Now one found me. smile broadly. a bunch of kids had shown up at the church that day. no one got to me like him. MA If Not Me. He would nod. Stacey Curran Conway. Then the ocean placed a perfect. it ended on a blood-covered sidewalk riddled with bullets. Reading the article through blurred eyes. an 11-year-old in leather. Then Who? ometimes I go back and look at my original cover letter for job applications and wonder what happened to the person who wrote “I have a vision 203 S . I’ll be sure to thank him if he ever dances into a dream. I knew his story now. I smashed my heels in the sand. I saw I hadn’t. unbroken sand dollar at my feet. picturing him in one of my wedding photos. His name wouldn’t be on any college rosters or corporate paychecks. He wasn’t my first lost boy. cursing him. I was mad. I always wondered if I got through to him. and dance away. I hadn’t found one for years. just a headstone. so much lost. I chose to believe it was a gift from him. but he was the star.
and kept students in line. who trusted what would later come to fruition. I have mourned the untimely passing of more than one student. sworn at. I have stood on the shoulders of those who believed in me when I was still uncertain. I’ve been insulted. pooh-poohed. I have stood in line. Surprisingly.” Back then. I’ve scrambled to make lessons meet the needs of a new population and been left hanging with little insight into expectations. RIF’d. I sit 204 . of the students who might never make it to college without help. I have held other teachers as they cried in frustration or despair. however. I have come to the end of myself. toed the line (once or twice crossed a line). living wages. and have leaned on them as they returned the favor. the places with the roughest exteriors have sometimes provided the most supportive homes for me to pursue my dream. But my energy has been diverted by worries over school funding. I think. and rehired. I have helped a teenager learn how to read. college teaching was appealing because I envisioned strolling down tree-lined walks with adoring undergraduates hanging on my every word. and administrators with agendas.100+ of what my students can become. students with social problems. and have shaken my fist at the injustice of a world in which young men are buried in their prom tuxedos. I have rejoiced in the success of interdisciplinary projects. Finally. Today I wonder if college teaching is the biggest mistake I have ever made. I have discovered that what looks good from afar often falls short when viewed close-up. In some pretty tough school districts.
Not only did I have to put up with insults bordering on sexual harassment. Zora. much less trusting. Unruly students aside. I remember having to call up a mother after her son made a comment to the class about having me perform oral sex on him. Spanish was seen as an elective. MA Unsung Heroes profession. Unfortunately. I would be mortified. Students knew that they could fail my course and still be promoted to the next grade. 7th. for a new vision. nursing my wounds and nurturing the tiny mustard seed of hope within me. The mother’s response: “I’ll talk to him. My first job fresh out of college was teaching Spanish to 6th. what made me decide not to continue teaching was the lack of support from the administration. I applaud 205 Teaching is the most underrated and underpaid . more wary. why would the students? Although I am no longer teaching. but also many parents didn’t seem to care about their children’s behavior. 34 Framingham.” If I ever received a phone call like that from my son’s teacher.T R U E S T O R I ES on the crest of the hill and wait. and 8th graders. If the administration did not care to give the course the importance it deserved. not a real course. at the school where I taught.
206 I thought it would be all about learning and . 29 Norwich. especially teenagers who don’t always want to be taught. Ted continued to wander about. and schoolwork were not his hobbies. but I soon realized I was naively optimistic. CT The Taming of Cerberus inspiration. Most were sensible enough to sit. and I was ill-prepared for such beasts. His eyes were constantly glazed over. Ted appeared of a normal disposition but had no normal tendencies. Attempting to gain control. If I could survive this class. I attempted to get all the minions seated while they walked around throwing markers. I threatened detentions for students not in seats. Julia Perez. remnants of a continuous high. It takes a special kind of person to teach children. This was Hades and he was Cerberus.100+ those who do. At the start of a usual class. all teachers are able to receive the recognition (and salaries) that they deserve. Even Dante would have struggled in this room. They were the most hellish group ever assembled. the vicious three-headed hellhound. Sitting. he had a grade of 20% in a class passable by any student who completed the work. I could survive the duration of this profession. I hope that someday. silence.
” Ted opted for the unmentioned third choice and continued to yell and throw objects. regardless of how many college classes on classroom management I took. After five years I am still teaching and the punk didn’t graduate. you can either sit down or go to the principal’s office. I had stunned the high right out of him. His bark was mighty. I had called his bluff and had the last laugh.” What he said next I could not possibly have been prepared for.” I didn’t blink or flinch waiting for his move. I have to call the principal to come get you. Wait. “I’m gonna kick you in the balls.T R U E S T O R I ES “Ted. I think you need a high-school diploma for that job. Norton Loomer Saint Louis. I decided on the only rational thing. Slowly I spread my legs until I was defenseless. Enjoy guarding hell. “Okay Ted. “Take your best shot.” the child said confidently. dejectedly back to his seat with his three heads low to the ground. MO 207 . Now the class waited for Cerberus’s move. but how was his bite? Move he did. As the class waited for my reaction.
172 Allen. G. 19.T.Author Index AK. 122. 45 Brame. 22 Aubrie. 130 . Lance. 37.. 111 Amberchele. D. 60 Aleman. 75 Carrillo. 155 Corson. 61 Clarette. 127 Diaz. José. Cynthia... 51. 145 Donna J. Adelle. 44 Anonymous. 166 Ephraim. 202 Daryl F. 32 Brown. Robert Hal. James. 53 Curran Conway. 79 Anonymous . 142 Dey. 121 Boner. 95 Barchard. 102 Elliott. 135 Christie. J. 33. 166 Antzes. Matthew.. Tom “Wolf ”. Aila. Eugene Alexander. Malachi.C. Aileen. Christopher. Sue Ellen. 100 Burns. 96 Anonymous. 132 Babb. Stacey.. 70 Best. 47 Balic. Fernanda.
Elisabetta.. William Steed.Errani Emaldi. 156 fightingsurvivor19 . 181 Harris.. 200 Galilea. 30. 115 Hayley. George. 110 Forrest. 53.G. 92 Gallegos. Hector. 45. 162 Jenelleish. 116 Hathorn. 177 Kelley. 59. 157. Will. Pilar. 179 Giosia. 74.. 151 Higgins. 115 Fernandez. 77 Gavin S. 28.A. 17. 144. Dennis. 80. 124 Hughes. Daniel H. Terri. 125 Hayden. 192 Kikis_fairytale. 128 Jolene.. 155 Fox. 197 Jackson. 94 .. Enrique M. 40 January. 131 Foster. 130 Gisela. 109 Karen. Frank E. Spoon. 98. 164 F. Mary. 163 Gutierrez. 147 Kelly. Gaby. 182 Gonzalez-Caro. Gene W. 62... 101 Jayne L. H.B. 158 Ferrara. 123 Gavai. Thomas Michael.. 97 Hermann. 36.
Scarlet.Krista. 148 Salinas.. Yvette. Santonio. 122. 88 Norman. Byron. Prashant Devan. 93. 99 Quarles. 196 Mansour. 32. Jan. Charles P. 87 McKenna.. 67 Misty. 141 Redfearne. 161 Loomer. 77 McLean. 25 McKenzie. 71 Richards. 23 . D. 69. Michael. Miriam. 59 Morales. 73 Lebreton. Brigitte. 148 Lisa. 85 Rose. Mike. 92 Perez.. Kitty. 107. 20. 91 Rothwell. 183 PC. Julia.. 187 Kumar. 158 Pauli. Nidia F.B. Norton. 133. 188 Paddy J. 108 Philippa.. 206 Louisell. Ricky. 171 Murff. 189 Lonn. 160 Momo. Zachary. 21 LeBeau. 172 Mayo. Mark D. Gary. 143 Priscilla. 136. 86 Mare. Eloise. 205 Pete.
151 Suzanne. 95 Yochum. Raul. 193 Ybarra. 50 Theoharides. 87 Small. 90 Torres. 42 Windoftheclyde. 190 Suzy.. 159 Wantz.. 149 Zephyr. 55 von Fuller. Dinorah.E. Matt. 41 Shelly. 173 Yeyo. 15. 191 Sonia. 175 Yarbrough. 203 . 34 Zora. 16 Shurley. 63 Wirzburger. Idris. J. Agatha. 39 Yurshta. Steven. Bronwyn. Alexander J. 114 Vogt.Samuel. 85 Tedesco. Kurt. Adela. John. Melvin William Joseph.
U. 2009. 60 Island Street Lawrence.S.A.100 Plus True Stories. MA 01840 . Inc. Inc. Anthology Published by Cambridge BrickHouse. Any commentary or permissions requests regarding this book may be sent to: English Department Cambridge BrickHouse. Massachusetts.
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” “. Upon being published. illustrate life’s many.I will never be able to look at him the same way again. Now you are invited to do the same. What’s yours? Memoirs Collection “I survived the accident with no major injuries.100plusts..com $19. but with a different outlook on life–and death.” “A week before my 26th birthday. What’s your story? ISBN 978-1-59835-109-5 51999 Visit www. Nicola experienced déjà vu in Egypt. floating in the air.” This book is the result of an ambitious project in which stories were submitted via the web site www. These firsthand accounts. This innovative experiment was successful in attracting people from all over the world. who were eager to share their experiences.. no more than a few miles away across the inlet. or confessions.. you will be able to keep and cherish this book and share it with your family and friends.” “I remember lying in my bed and suddenly finding myself suspended above my body.100plusts..com. Norton tamed a “Cerberus”… These candid narratives make us laugh. reflect. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Tell your story in your own words and from your point of view. facing myself.The authors of this book decided to share their personal experiences with others by visiting the following web site: www. cry. written as memoirs. Cynthia survived a car crash without a single scratch. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. varied aspects: Melvin was homeless at nine.100plusts. The best stories were selected for this book. don’t keep your emotions bottled up inside: this is your chance to be heard. Many people are telling their true stories.com.99 9 781598 351095 .. These are true stories told by people like you.. Dinorah survived cancer in her 20s. and remember. anecdotes.” “I watched the lava flow and set fire to the sand.
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