About me

Watterson, Randy A.

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Transcript

About Me I'm 52 years old and obviously well preserved. I'm bright, funny, classy, easygoing, loyal, faithful, loving, tough, and at times wild. I like REO Speedwagon, Journey, Rolling Stones, Kiss, Ratt, Dio, Motley Crue, R&B, candlelit dinners, and slowed eyed moments. I also like volleyball, skating, softball, nature, animals, people, and I love God. My downside, and for the majority of my crazy and undisciplined life I have been a criminal. I don't know why I chose to steal or to break into things or to use drugs, but back then I liked it. Maybe it was the police always being one step behind me, the thrill of the chase, the chaos, the easy money? Who knows? There's no excuse for being a bad boy and running wild in the streets. But I'll tell ya, it was like high octane gasoline flowing through my veins transforming the quiet, shy, animal loving, humble, cynical, poor country kid into a sophisticated organized professional ruthless blue collar Don. I dated beautiful women build like brick shithouses, I travelled all over the United States from Los Angeles to Houston, New York, Miami, Kansas, Atlanta and I partied with the rich from Key West to Hollywood and I've slummed it in the trailer parks to the projects of Compton to Brooklyn. My life has been like a modern-day pharaoh. I've even had the privilege of wiping my ass with ten-dollar bills and for what? As I look back on my life, I went from 0 to sixty in the blink of an eye afraid to slow down for fear that I'd miss something. From sixteen years old to fifty-two just like that and I have nothing left to show for it but a lot of tears and scars. I even have children who know nothing about me or the pain I've suffered in remembrance of them when the holidays roll around. How I filled up those empty holes in my heart with cocaine, valium, alcohol and hundreds of women to hide my true parental need to feel their love, hugs and kisses. When I wasn't dodging bullets from their mothers' redneck boyfriends I was engaged in a complex racketeering organized retail crime ring dragging in sometimes as much as ten thousand dollars a week from shoplifting electronics from Circuit City and Walmart. My partner Wayne and I were the poster children and pharaohs of organized crime from 1997 to 2006. But in 2006 my life changed forever after my father was killed in a freak accident while cutting trees alongside my little big brother Jeff. That was the turning point of my life and I will never forget at my dad's funeral how I leaned over the casket towards his sunken figure and kissed the cold marble pallor of his sun rough cheek. I almost expected him to sit up because I believe in miracles and in the reality of them and in our need for them. So I held my breath and held fast to my father's hand and waited for a miracle cause this was my father, the most intelligent and strongest man in the world who had all of the answers. "Please God help me I silently begged." I really expected him to breathe in a sudden deep breath and sit up because the pain of losing him after not seeing or talking to him in two years was too fierce to bear, the world unthinkably hard and cold without him, and I could not be expected to endure. I had been blessed with many miracles in my life, all I needed was just one more, I was greedy for one more, just one damn more. I prayed to God fiercely and I begged and bargained with him to no avail. But as I learned, there is grace in the natural order of things that is more important than our desires and needs and at last as the tears struggled down my haggard cheeks, I had to accept the fact that dad has forever passed on to the natural order of things and he is gone. That day as I stood in that cold cruel moment of realization in handcuffs, belly chains and shackles in my prison uniform, I felt my whole body and mind being emptied of the strength and security I had once felt. I only had one hour and a half to spend with my broken and divided family and then I would be transferred back into the loud angry unforgiving bowels of prison and back into my solitary confinement cell to weep alone and without compassion or mercy. I would have to face the stark icy reality of indescribable pain and suffering alone in this concrete hell on earth. Who would have imagined in the larger scheme of things and after this had passed, that I'd have to do this all over again by disrespecting my mother's corpse in prison uniform, leg irons, handcuffs and chains with two armed prison guards in the near future at mom's funeral? So as a tribute to my father, I took off the tie and my blue collar shirt after I got out of prison, threw that life away and went to work with my little big brother Jeff and I became an arborist like him and was for the first time living a normal honest life running my own business. But like most good things in life, it too came to an end after I encountered corrupt police in the Cherryville, N.C. Police Department and turned them in to the State Bureau of Investigation. Instead of investigating my allegations, the SBI dug up a cold case 24 years ago where a known heroin addict accused me of raping her back in 1997. Needless to say I was convicted without any DNA and I was sentenced to 146 years in prison. Ironically, the Chief of Police as well as a third of the Police Department and a Captain in the Gaston County Sheriff's Department and high-ranking city officials were later arrested in 2012 and convicted in 2014 in Federal Court and sentenced to a term of twenty-four months for extortion and embezzlement of over a million and a half dollars. As for me, I think about my brother Jeff, and my sisters Jennipher and Tammie all of the time. Especially of when we were kids running around barefooted and carefree, catching crawdads at Horseshoe Valley and how we use to camp out in the woods under the stars. How we used to build a crackling fire and made what we called hunters stew out of vegetables from the family garden and wild carrots we foraged from the field. In memory, those nights carried weightlessly all of the splendor of celebration, all the rich courses of a feast we considered timeless, and all the love that flowed without effort when the four of us were in one place together. Our perfect extravagant affection for each other. I carried that day with me flawlessly and enthusiastically and I often bring it forth during my years of sadness suffering and pain. I brought it out of darkness with the happy taste of contraband prison wine that I made, and on my tongue and laughter in my eyes. I brought that memory out when Grandmah, Dad, Aunt Ethel and Mom were all gone from the earth and when I fell apart on the inside all alone. I often recall it to memory to hold the pieces of me together when I'm alone in my cell isolated with nothing but pen and paper and time. Though I present false hope to my family to keep them from hurting like I hurt, I don't think of freedom much anymore, but when I do, my own images of freedom are mostly of my childhood since I have spent most of my adult life behind bars. The memories are quite, disconnected, and localized but vivid and unchanging, kinda like short poems. During the last eleven years in maximum security, I have watched men brutally kill one another and I have witnessed the light of life fade out of men's eyes in death in their last moments, and I have watched several of my friends commit suicide. Being in prison is like being kissed by death. There's an air of unspoken violence that runs through the inmates, a vibe not felt by outsiders, but as real and powerful to me as the current running through my blood. There's something about being locked up for so long that reaches out to you and touches you in a mental way, especially when you are in solitary confinement. It's like an ancient evil that crawls up from the fetid rottenness of it and gets into the mind and into the blood. Then there are those days when you just feel drained and like a stranger to yourself like today, for instance. I stuck my face into the noonday trickle of lukewarm water that shoots out of the faucet in my cell like a water fountain with its slow timed flow that turns off in a few seconds after you press the button. I do this often without enthusiasm avoiding looking in the mirror at the new grey hairs sprouting from my chin. The grey bothers me profusely. Time is being stolen from me as I age and it scares me as what youthful complexion I have seeps away. I can ignore other problems like the gangs, the guards, bad food, shaky hands and the dark circles around my eyes. It's the grey that I notice on the rare occasions that I do look in the mirror. It leaches the contrast between skin and hair so that a pale aging stranger stares back at me. This is not how I like to see myself nor how I imagined it would all end for me. I've always looked like my dad, especially my expression, the same slight self-conscious defiance with a stubborn set of the jaw, the thick dark brows. Same sad brown eyes that cannot hide their private vulnerability, eyes that cannot escape their true feelings though the lips try without success to conceal the emotion that's trapped within the soul. I wish I could slip away in my waking hours from all these people and these thoughts that gnaw at me. When I let myself think about it, I am shocked at the ease with which my new routines have been established since I have been condemned to forever in this concrete steely world surrounded by razor wire. In the face of death, pain and continuous oppression I find myself insisting on cobbling together some kind of schedule as I can hold everything together by doing so. Not that I really believe in any schedule anymore or in the value of order. I submit to the forms of procedure because their fragile shell of normalcy is better than no protection against a cruel vacuum that's sucking away all dignity, morality, and humanity. There's been a lot of grief I suppose, especially in those first years behind bars. At first a numbness, an inability to fully comprehend what was happening, periods of furious activity, insomnia, crying and black depression. But as the years have endlessly slipped by I have learned to accept my mortality. It has made me realize that each of us are sand in an hourglass, steadily running out of the upper globe into the stillness of the globe below, and that in my particular hourglass, the neck between the two spheres is wider than in most and the fall of sand faster. This is a harsh truth to have to be realized by one sentenced to death by incarceration, but by realizing this fact, I have cheated death of its terror. Even in the midst of all of the negativity that surrounds me, in all of the ugliness and cruelties. I have learned to cherish what remaining life I still have even though I shall die a lonely and passion-starved death. But what I have learned that matters most is love, courage, loyalty, compassion, mercy, charity, and faith. These will outlast the body. They will live on in the memories of my nieces and nephews, the greatest kids on earth to me. I have a deep and thorough selfish need to want those who have known me to keep me alive in memory. And I am vain enough to want those memories to be cherished, to be full of affection, happiness and laughter. Incarceration has made me understand that I have had to forgo my dreams of the life I thought I would have before my end. I always assumed that I would be in love with a beautiful kind and intelligent woman who would love all of my flaws, past and imperfections, how was I to know my end would entail watching my dreams devolve into a nightmare. Even so, and through the challenging struggles I have faced in prison for the last 11 years and now in solitary confinement where I will remain at least until after January 2020, I have learned impactful lessons on how to overcome the stigma and pain of the false accusations made against me, find clarity in chaos, and how to manage my tough emotions while combatting the cruel obstacles of prison life. If you ask me about the power of perspective and how does being innocent and in prison change my outlook, I would only say that right after my conviction, and even now, I often find myself wishing things were the way they used to be. I won't tell you that I don't miss my freedom and what I lost, but I've learned to focus on what I still have and what's ahead and how many people I can help from my own experiences. You see, experience is not what happens to a man. It's what a man does with what happens to him. If a man removes his bitterness, he becomes human; otherwise he becomes an animal. So some of you reading this might wonder what helped me to make my outlook shift? First, I accepted my predicament, including all of the rotten things the courts, people and prison has done to me and how they went about it and I have forgiven all of the people who had a hand in putting me in prison with God's help. I had to make my new positive perspective last. So I have reframed situations by capturing them in my writings about prison life. I'm now challenging myself to pivot my thinking from how things could be better to how things could be worse: putting those perspective shifts into words, is helping me to see what I have to be thankful for more clearly and it has inspired me in my journey to study social justice and law to change how people are sentenced, convicted, and mistreated and how to stand up against tyranny and bullying in the face of false allegations. But as it turned out, it wasn't just my experience that inspired me, it was my son Josh visiting me and encouraging me to fight harder for the truth, it was our United States Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh who stood his ground in the face of a false accusation with tears in his eyes all those grueling and humiliating weeks before the world, not to mention the words of love, encouragement, empathy, humor, and caring that I received in countless cards from friends and loved ones, and especially from my niece Selina that brought hope to my heart. In fact, I often revisit their words in the letters I have received when I'm struggling and need them the most. One of my friends who visited the American Prison Writing Archive asked me how did I find out about APWA and how am I navigating my writing with the challenges of prison life? Well I said I received a zine from California that advertised a digital platform for prisoner writers to post their thoughts before the world. So I submitted a piece I called "Prisoner 0427985." Not long thereafter, I was notified by the APWA that they were happy to digitize my article. So I started writing because I feel the vicious rhetoric of tough on crime politicians and unforgiving apathetic prosecutors has gone too far and has influenced lawmakers too much on the punitive side. I've read too many stories in prison legal news of innocent men and women being exonerated. I have been mistreated and I've lived in this cold dark underworld where the underprivileged miscreant is treated unfairly and mentally tortured on a daily basis by government officials armed with impunity. So I decided to become the voices of those who can only whisper or are too afraid to speak out. And I am reminded in a personal way that what I do in prison really matters. So for the last 11 years I've studied criminal, civil and constitutional law. I've even begun to study social justice and I spend my time connecting with others and putting my ideas to work. I've forged new meaningful relationships with my family and I try to motivate others with hope and to encourage folks on the outside to see prisoners as humans instead of villains. Since my imprisonment I have I have grown to understand the truly transformative power of justice and honestly in a new way. The cards and letters that I received along my journey are inspiring and have kept me going during my darkest days. Education, rehabilitation, criminal justice reform, and steering the younger men away from crime through my own experiences have become my passion in everything I do. Lastly, the most important thing that people can take away from my story is that not all prisoners behind bars are incorrigible or guilty and that sometimes we do things that we have no explanation as to why we did them. But even so and with a life sentence, you can live the life you've imagined even if the details are quite different from what you'd hoped for. Cling to hope and look for good even in the bad. As for me, I will continue to pray that a kindred spirit will find me and that she will wipe away my tears and loneliness and see me for who I am and not what I have been wrongfully convicted of, and like Lady Justice, she will tip the scales and lead me back home... By Randy A. Watterson [ID] 527 Commerce Dr. Elizabeth City, N.C. 27909

Author: Watterson, Randy A.

Author Location: North Carolina

Date: September 6, 2019

Genre: Essay

Extent: 6 pages

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