My New Years resolutions were always the same:
(1) To stay out of confinement, “The Box.” (2) To count my blessings and be thankful for every moment. (3) To wake up happy.
Only weeks into the new year and I had already violated the first one. I was sitting on my bunk, the top one, feet swinging, looking out the window. It was difficult because the window guard was a steel sheet with hundreds of quarter-inch holes in it. To get a good look outside I had to press my nose against that cold perforated window guard and make sure my pupils were aligned with two of the holes. If done properly a portion of the prison compound would be visible and you’d get to see the sun blanketing the grass, making it a bright green, like it was glowing. I’m sure others looked through those confinement windows trying to spot their friends, get a glimpse of what the “general population” was up to, watch people walk the fence’s perimeter, but for me, that was none of my business, not when the grass was glowing.
Another of my resolutions was to be thankful for every moment, so, as I sat atop that bunk in The Box, I thought about how much worse things could be, happy that they weren’t. I’m confident that on more than one occasion a passing corrections officer overheard me mumbling things like, “Lord God, I thank You that I can hear, speak, taste, touch, walk, run, laugh and see,” and I was never ashamed of being “caught” giving thanks. Countless times throughout my incarcerated years, when people’s words did not match up with their facial expressions, I would notice. To survive in a garden of deception a person needs a degree of perception, intuition and acute vision. It’s what enabled me, that one time, to warn Lello that someone was approaching him from behind. The guy’s face was twisted in anger and his hands were fists. I remembered screaming, “Lello! Watch out!” He spun around, hands started flying and, two minutes later, six guards rushed the day room, broke it up, and hauled both guys off to the box in cuffs.
It was morning. I awoke but did not immediately open my eyes. My head wasn’t far from the window, and I felt the sun on my face. It was warm, the perfect temperature. A slight breeze caressed my cheek, then stopped and returned every 20 seconds or so. It felt good and peaceful, like there was nothing else I should be doing. It was a split second of perfect contentment. I knew things would work out. There was no doubt, the wrinkles in my life would be ironed out, gone. It’s as if the universe greeted me that morning, but it was more than that, like God himself called me into his office, just to tell me I was doing a good job. It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had, and I was 20 years old in a prison cell. I opened my eyes. The sun was still warm. The cell was still quiet and peaceful. I smiled and said, “Thank you Lord God, for another day.”