As I sat and talked with my brother here in the Twilight Zone (federal prison) about being broken by the system, someone asked me how I had been locked up so long and withstood being broken by the system. It has been a few days now since i was asked that question.
Sheer obstinacy may have been my greatest weapon. I’m too stubborn and unyielding to believe that because I was in prison that my life has no worth. When the question was asked, I said to them that there was no magic, we must take one day at a time. However, after having time to think, I now go to tell them that the magic lies within each of us, in our will to overcome what ever adversity that is flung our way. We must refuse to accept degradation, to let anyone decline us to a low, destitute, or demoralized state.
Strange One asked, “Why, what is it that puts one person and not another on the streets when times are hard?” My reply was that some people are indeed stronger than others. Not just physically, but mentally stronger. Why? I can’t say for sure. Perhaps they have triumphed over despair in their lives already and come away more confident, willing to fight harder to survive, no matter the odds against them. Facing hardships is how we come away with the calluses of life. That tough mental skin that prepares us for harder times in the future. The Twilight Zone is a place where we must continually develop calluses to survive everyday life. The trick is not allowing those calluses to become ‘callousness.’ We must not allow ourselves to become heartless, inhuman, inhumane, soulless, unfeeling, unsympathetic creatures.
The Twilight Zone has its own built in mechanism that keeps many of us from allowing the calluses built in by our lifestyle to become the callousness that many of those in the free world believe that we have. What happened to Skeeter is one of those times when that mechanism kicks in. At times like that we become family, friends, teachers, and philosophers to each other. We come together as one allowing all of the positive attributes of society to come to the forefront. Often during times of hardship in the Twilight Zone there’s almost a spiritual like comfort that we share. So, I guess what I’m rambling on and on about to answer Strange One’s question about enduring the the Twilight Zone for son long is that I’ve grown calluses, calluses thick enough to protect my mind (heart) from the many difficult situations that come about from being here, that I have no other means to control.
Boogalu asked a question that stung. First let me tell you a little about Boogalu: he is that kid that came to the Twilight Zone with at very best a high school education. he spends 70% of his time in the law library. His strongest motivation, his toughest callous, where the Twilight Zone is concerned is his continuous fight for his freedom. Ask him about any policy or law on the books or pending that has to do with being incarcerated for distribution and he can spit it right of the top of his head. His single-minded focus towards gaining his freedom would be admirable no matter what that focus was placed upon. I’ve seen him stand in front of his locker for hours reading law with a dictionary as his constant companion. He said to me once that that dictionary was his best friend because it told him what people where saying about him when he didn’t understand the language.
Boogalu is special in his own way, but the question he asked threw me for a loop. I never saw him in that light. The intensity in his eyes held me as I listened to his words. He said, “Twilight, if we all mean the things we have been saying where Skeeter is concerned, then how can he die?” The first word that came to my mind was ‘wow.’ How could I answer a question of that magnitude? I wasn’t sure, but I was sure that I must try. After listening to a few of the other guys talk I tried to bring myself into focus so that I could, at the very least, try to answer his question.
I said, “Boogalu, I hear you, and the best answer I can come up with is: as long as Skeeter’s memory resonates in each of our minds, he can’t die. That’s not just for Skeeter, it pertains to all of us. As long as we leave a mark on earth that lives in the memories of those who know us, then, we too, shall live forever. However, it’s the physical absence of our friend that we must now try to endure.”
Usually when overcoming a bad experience we just want to put it behind us and move on. We try our best not to linger over the guilt or pain, with good reason who would want to dwell forever on past mistakes or hurts? However if we refuse to look critically at the experience or the loss, we cannot hope to learn or benefit from it. Our hope should be to discover something of our strength, or conversely, we have been alerted to our fragilities. No matter which, we will have grown. I too, shall miss Skeeter. I also will thank him for allowing us to become stronger because of him.
I leave you in peace,