Hope: More important than food, water & air

Clardy, MarQui, Sr.

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Hope: More Important Than Food, Water & Air "My clemency petition will be granted! I will be going home next year! I Will be going home next year!" These words are written in large, black letters on the back of an institutional request form taped to the foot of my bunk. Ever since I received my letter from the governor's office a few weeks ago, confirming that my clemency petition has been received and is being reviewed, those words have become my mantra. Throughout my 9 1/2 years of incarceration, I've read countless texts on the power of autosuggestion; repeating something over and over until it burns itself into your subconscious. I'm convinced that if I recite these words enough, I'll speak them into existence. As such, I've gotten into the habit of constantly repeating them to myself throughout the day. They've become my only source of hope that this nightmare will be ending soon. In prison, hope is more important than food, water, and air. So, every morning at 6:30 when I'm startled out of my sleep by the asshole C/Os loudly blowing their whistles, smacking their clipboards against the metal rails, and kicking/banging on the cell doors, I recite those words. When I open my eyes and realize that, despite the previous night's dream of me being free, back at home relaxing with my family and friends, the reality is that I'm still trapped inside the small, 8 x 12 cinderblock dog kennel for the next two decades, I recite those words. When my inconsiderate cellmate wakes up and sparks up his morning blunt (knowing full well that I don't smoke), and I'm forced to duck my head under my blankets to avoid catching a contact high, I recite those words. When I leave the building for breakfast, and I'm immediately overwhelmed by the presence of power-stricken officers everywhere—some pacing back and forth atop the buildings with M-14 rifles slung across their shoulders; some posted along the walkway struggling to hold the Rottweilers and German Shepherds growling, barking, and snapping at us; and the rest aimlessly/senselessly yelling out orders such as, "Let's Go!" "Keep It Moving!" and "Tuck Them Shirts In!'—I recite those words. As I'm sitting in the dining hall sweating profusely down my chest, back, and underarms due to the sweltering heat (the A/C is intentionally kept off to rush inmates out quicker), and unable to enjoy my meal because of the incessant flies that the institution doesn't care enough to do anything about, I recite those words. When it's time for afternoon count and I'm locked down with my celly again, who always uses this time to fire up his second daily blunt, and again I have to duck my head under my blankets to avoid his secondhand smoke, I recite those words. As I'm patiently waiting for hours in the ridiculously long line to use one of the five available telephones in my 80-man housing unit, I recite those words. When I promise my children that I'll call them "later on," but then later on I can't call because the institution has arbitrarily locked us down, claiming they're short staffed, I recite those words. When I'm outside walking laps around the rec yard and I see a group of gang members mercilessly beating the shit out of another inmate while the C/Os posted in the guard towers either watch in amazement or turn a blind eye and pretend not to notice, I recite those words. When I see another inmate suffering a seizure, stroke, heart attack, or some other potentially fatal medical emergency, and the nurses don't show up until 5-10 minutes later with absolutely no sense of urgency (sometimes in a bad mood, as if they're irritated at being bothered), I recite those words. When it's time for evening count, and much to my chagrin, my drug-addicted celly again pollutes the cell with that toxic weed smoke, I recite those words. Finally, at the end of each day as I'm stretched out on my 3-inch, twin-sized mattress, staring up at the ceiling wondering if all the effects I'm taking to better myself, remain infraction-free, continue my education, and show that I've been overall rehabilitated will pay off, I recite those words a final time before drifting off to sleep. By no means should I have such hope that my clemency petition will be granted, or that I'll be leaving all the violence, discomfort, humiliation, oppression, and ubiquitous dangers of prison life behind me next year. All of the disappointments, letdowns and tragedies prisoners experience on a daily basis have a way of cumulatively destroying our hope. We cope by thickening our skin, bottling our emotions, and learning to expect the worst in every situation. That's one of the first prison proverbs I learned upon first entering the system: "Hope for the best, but expect the worst." So as I traipse through each tumultuous day in this hellishly volatile environment, my coping mechanism will continue to be the recitation of my mantra: "My clemency petition Will be granted! I Will be going home next year! My clemency petition Will be granted! I Will be going home next year!" Maybe those words will manifest themselves into reality. Maybe I'm naively deceiving myself, dangling a fairy tale fantasy in front of my own eyes. Regardless, those words give me hope, and like every other prisoner, hope is the only thing keeping me alive. MarQui Clardy, Sr. MarQui Clardy, Sr.

Author: Clardy, MarQui, Sr.

Author Location: Virginia

Date: September 19, 2017

Genre: Essay

Extent: 4 pages

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