***-Beyond The Wall--***
How do I say it? How do I spit out on paper what I want known to a special someone beyond the wall? Never can simple words, funny little marks on paper, tell of the loneliness, the doubt, the bitterness and frustration; companions of everyone in this gray world; A world away from the world. No one can knew, no one who has not been a blue-clad, faceless, numbered nothing. I can't tell then, but I can try. I can try because when this human meat-grinder spits me back out into the world I'm going to be different from the all-American square-John who has never been to hell. I want someone to understand..., "Understand that if I seem hostile and defensive, it is only because every facet of my gray world is a threat to the mellow soft secret things I keep inside of me."
I cannot spell out gentleness because nothing in prison is gentle. I cannot show kindness because in my world kindness is weakness and to be weak is to invite more hurt. I dare not exhibit love because the wolves of my world would rip it to bloody shreds. I cannot bring forth and demonstrate my loneliness or hunger because they have become a bone-deep ache that even I cannot reach to soothe.
You have to know....., "To know that while other young man my age grew up watching fat babies grow into healthy youngsters, I grew up watching healthy youngsters having their guts and minds twisted and ripped, and being turned into emotional cripples. While the young men of the world were learning their grades, I was listening to the belches and farts of 3000 miserable man in the middle of the night."
Don't pity me; understand me. Understand me and the way I changed when they stripped away my identity and self-respect; changed day by day after being- treated like an idiot child and forced to live with every type of human derelict, from filthy old men to pink-cheeked girl-boys; changed by the indignity of being forced to scurry about like a mindless fool everytime a voice barked or a bell rang. Changed after never being able to escape the uncaring or hostile eyes of my cellmates while living in a human fish bowl where one can't even squat on the toilet without an audience.
Can you begin to see the shell forming, the first of many shell housed layers of rigid resistance that serve as a protection for the human warmth and sensitivity necessary for sanity? Can you begin to see..., "What happened after being stripped naked and having degrading fingers searching, probing, leaving wounds on the pride and dignity that are a leng time healing--and leave ugly scars?"
Can you understand the cold chill of walking by someone's cell and seeing clots and puddles of blood from slashed wrist all over the floor; slashed because he couldn't take it anymore? Can you understand that mark it leaves to see some friend's mind snap under the strain, to watch him become a walking vegetable? And seeing these things, the you that is really you is driven deeper down inside you, seeking refuge. Can you understand this...,"Understand that in the face of constant assault upon your personality and senses you are eventually forced to turn off your emotional faucet, dry up the feelings of pity, compassion, indignation, repugnance, or else lose your mind?" You survive by playing a role, acting out a part for the benefit of indifferent eyes, hiding what you really are from the contamination of your sick world. You become a stiff-legged individual ready to snap and snarl at everybody, prepared to dodge the cold toe of the authority's boot. You become taut, hardened, and cold because your world demands it. Taut, hardened, and cold..., "Until night comes!"
Night comes all too quickly after another gray day, and with it the gut-wrenching loneliness caused by lying in a dark, cold, friendless "8 X 10" cell, hating your world and aching for that special someone beyond the wall. The same moon you see looking out at the night sky and knowing that beyond the wall the same moon is looking down on the living......On a married couple enjoying each other's company after the kids are in bed; or two young lovers walking hand-in-hand, in a magical silence of first love; on that misty-eyed someone who is lonely too! But the bars at the window form a lattice, work to distract the beauty of the moon. You lay there and think with your emotions "Rollercoastering; soaring up with a dream of that special someone by your side, plunging down when your dream is ripped apart by the frustrations of waking to the sounds of slamming gates and jingling keys. Next comes the bitterness,and the doubt. Does she love me? Will she wait? Have I "the right to her?" Can she understand.... "Understand that when we sit together in the visiting room with other desperate souls that my eyes are silently pleading for understanding and comfort: something I cling to during those dammed lonely nights.. Can she understand that I can't speak my feelings because if I tried, all that would come out is a voiceless croak? Can she know that I need and want her more than I knew how to say? But neither of us seem capable of saying the things that really need saying, not in this throat-choking pit of human misery. And when it's time for her to leave me, unsatisfied and still hungry, the frustrations and bitterness have not been abated but only increased. And so the doubt continues, wondering if any woman can really understand a man who has gone through the meat-grinder; if any woman has the heart, patience and spirit to accept me in the way I am, and wait for the time and her love to work their special magic? And when I am finally set free, can she accept the restlessness of a bird newly released from his cage, accept a certain remoteness when I am haunted by ugliness teem my past, accept my blunt honesty when I awkwardly try to reassure her? Can she pay the price... "Pay the price of bittersweet suffering that I pay everyday of my caged life, hoping, wondering, thinking about that special someone beyond the wall; ready to face the adjustment and change when I get out; and wondering if she'll face it with me. Can she really know that I don't hear the drum beat to which most men march their lives; that the soul drummer of my destiny is as old as time and demands of me a more intricate step.
Nor do my eyes rest on the usual goals of men; instead I spell happiness with hand carved letters, ten feet tall, for I am different.
Can she know the kind of man I am inside..."Deep down where the poison air of prison won't penetrate; where all my boyish ways were trapped when the first steel gate slammed shut, separating me from the good, warm, kind and tender; where dreams and honest laughter are born, and stored because they can find no escape, cannot even be shared." Where the back-braking loneliness is housed. Trying to claw its way cut, hoping someone can reach it; where the shutters are always closed so I won't have to see the mindless madness through the windows of my eyes. Where the image of that special someone is jealously guarded against any act of desecration; where the whole and healthy things I keep might pleasantly surprise her..., surprise her to know that even after being burned by the flares of adversity, forged by the blows of hatred and tempered in a world of cold indifference, I am still and shall remain always a man: a lean man, stripped of the fat of foolishness and made the human race, (having seen man at his worst all else must be an improvement); a man who, having survived on literally nothing for so long, can appreciate the good things, the simple things, the things that offer happiness and fulfillment; a man who will not chase a tinsel star when a treasure fills his arms; a man who knows where he is going and who he is going with; a man who has no need for fickled fumbling; a man with great pride, having lived through a nightmare and emerged wrapped in the rags of his tattered dignity; a man of humility, grateful for any breath of human kindness that just happens to blow my way; a man of fierce loyalty, unshakable, irrevocably committed to the support of those who are "his people", acknowledging the bond of his word to be a solemn promise; a man hiding inside a caricature, waiting for the healthy touch..... "The healing touch that can only come from a woman who is all woman....!
A woman whose touch can still the restlessness and soothe the tensions of wounded nerves; a woman whose beauty can wash clean the eyes that have beheld too much ugliness; a woman whose kiss can draw off and dissipate the bitterness in my heart and mind; a woman whose eyes can penetrate my soul to behold the things kept hidden from all others; a woman who can accept simple honesty as tribute, and recognizes the emotional depths from which that honesty wrings; a woman with the strength to heal her man, to stand by him through the awkward agony of becoming human again; a woman who represents all the things so tragically absent within these walls; warmth, tenderness, wet kisses, soft laughter, tender touches, sweet smells, and the ultimate beauty of shared love between a man and a woman! A woman who can, through patient understanding, finally come to realize that in the end..., "In the end, you can never get something for nothing; that the high cost of loving must be paid for, and that waiting, hurting, and loneliness is the price; that the sharing of a tortuous ordeal will only serve to forge a bond too strong to be broken by the puny efforts of man; that clinging to a certainty of purpose destroys doubt, the ravager, and insure a future free from the demons that haunt ordinary love.
Until that day, that glorious day when the iron gates swings open instead of closed, faith can be the only consolation and comfort in the dark hours of night when all reasons demands that I accept defeat. In response. Faith calmly answers "No", and stands fast until the threat has passed. Faith, reaches behind the callused shell and gently, firmly, draws out the inner strength reserved for just such a battle. It isn't easy. Few have the personal convictions, and even fewer the strength. But it must be done, so the faceless numbered man in "blue" can escape the exquisite hurt of longing and unite, reunite, once more, with that special someone beyond the wall!
@ Robert Cannon Jr.
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