Intelligent Allah 3,005 words
Woodboume Cor. Facility
Woodboume, N.Y. 12788
My Search for Ms. Right by
Since 1994, I’ve been confronting the obstacles that prison trusted into my love life.
Shanna, the high—maintenance honey who became my fist love in 1990, became my first love lost in 1996. My burgeoning relationship with Lisa, a radiology student at Columbia University, was dismantled by her well—intentioned, but untrusting mother who happened to be a policewoman.
Other women like Kamisha and Audry had rode in the passenger seat alongside me until speed bumps like loneliness and financial difficulties caused them to detour before we could cross the finish line. But my longing for the softness of a woman remained. My yearning for the insight of a woman’s intuition endured. My thirst for my natural counterpart to share myself and my experiences with ﬂourished. These desires fashioned my hope for companionship and my yearning for a change from my past relationships.
The time I spent with my father as a child had set the bar for a level of maturity that foreign among my peers in East New York, Brooklyn. My craving for maturity caused me to dress, speak and act beyond my age. I carried this craving behind bars and into the world I struggled to construct within the boundaries of guard towers and concrete walls of hate despair.
Maturity was the seemingly simple prerequisite for love that became the gift and curse in my
Intelligent relationships with the two most significant women I met in prison: Marilyn and Tamia. These are fictitious names chosen to preserve the privacy of two women who have earned my "respect and taught me so much.
It was in January 2001 when 21-year-old Marilyn responded to the personal ad I had placed in Black Romance magazine. The thick brown—skinned Detroit native was an April-born
Aries like me. Marilyn had lived in Baltimore with her daughter and her drug—dealing boyfriend before he was killed. Afterwards, she sent her daughter to stay with her mother in Detroit, while she trekked to Brooklyn with the prospect of starting over. She was, however, unemployed and sitting on a healthy nest egg that was bound to crack underneath the pressure of her penchant for
Alizé, nightclubs and designer clothes.
I grew close to Marilyn during the two months following her first letter. Her sense of humor and wit shinned light on my days that were dimmed by the solemn nature of cold cells and prison grief. Her perfume—laced letters became the sole symbol of femininity to pierce the thick clouds of testosterone hovering within my atmosphere of 680 men convicted of some of the most vicious crimes imaginable. My anticipation of hearing Marilyn’s voice and feeling her tender body in my arms surged with each of her words I read. I read and reread her letters in an attempt to unearth any signs of her inner being which may have been buried beneath the lines and beyond the margins.
If the cliche “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true, then I must have been blinded by the potential for love when Marilyn sent me a picture of her three—year—old daughter clutching a lit cigarette an inch away from her lips. I thought you would get a laugh out of this, was scribbled on the back of the photo. In the most diplomatic, yet forceful way possible, I expressed to my disgust to Marilyn. She claimed that her daughter did not smoke the Newport. In
Intelligent hindsight, the picture of her smoking daughter was the smoking gun pointing to Marilyn’s immaturity. Immaturity was the monkey wrench that I could not afford to get clogged in the gears of growth that propelled me towards redemption and a crime—free life.
As days turned into week and weeks turned into months, letters turned into phone calls and phone calls turned into visits. The day I received Marilyn’s first letter turned into our anniversary, and our anniversary plus my name turned into a tattoo on Marilyn’s ankle. The fancy ink lettering painfully etched into her soft skin was a stark symbol of her love that she had often voiced to me.
Our face—to-face visits were meetings—of—the—minds that never seemed to reach the balance of entertainment and mental stimulation that I seek in relationships. I’m a lover of hip hop, but that love is not strong enough to propel to dedicated my weekly five—hour visits to discussions ranging from Jay—Z's latest single to ‘Lil Kim’s silicone. My near—daily phone conversations with Marilyn usually ranged from jokes, celebrity gossip to our sexual fantasies.
Our talks were superficial chats that destroyed my hopes of substatial discourse that delved beneath the surface of normalcy.
Despite my complaints about Marilyn, she is a woman and I was a man skating on the thin ice separating loneliness from desperation. So I took the good with the bad. I appreciated
Marilyn’s strength, humor and caring nature, but I set out to change her traits that I considered shortcomings. I challenged her to pursue higher education. I urged her to seek an occupation or entrepreneurship, also to budget and invest her money. I stressed that she strengthen her relationship with her daughter by bringing her to New York to live with her. Every chance I had,
I planted seeds in Marilyn’s mind about the importance of planning for the future. My past as a
Intelligent misguided youth who lived for the day had taught me the importance of foresight and preparation.
One night, while on the phone, Marilyn asked, “When we gonna get married?”
“I’m ready now,” I lied.
We had discussed the topic of marriage before, mostly out of our desire to fulfill our lustful tendencies that had been brewing since our first kiss. Marriage was the only way we could participate in conjugal visits. There, we could enjoy privacy in a home—like setting for roughly two consecutive days. My feelings for Marilyn were strong, and although they didn’t cross the threshold of love, I felt they would once I molded her into the woman I wanted and needed. So six months after we met, Marilyn now 22, and me 24, we were planning a lifetime commitment.
Neither my mother nor brother was enthused about my marital decision. They had both spoken to
Marilyn by phone and were turned off by her immaturity.
Instead of our engagement pulling us closer together, situations began punishing us apart.
Arguments erupted over my impatience with Marilyn’s lack of ambition and her drinking that led to hangovers and missed visits. My aggravation culminated when I called Marilyn and overheard her boisterous weed—smoking, beer—drinking buddies in the background. I had previously voiced my frustration about identical situations in the past. Marilyn had agreed to stop transforming her home into a hangout for her get—high homies and homegirls and their raging hormones.
My perception of Marilyn changed the more I envisioned what her home looked like during the times her crew was present. I pondered what type of person she was on a daily basis outside of the restrictions of visiting rooms and my critical eye? Was she the woman who I would be comfortable waking up next to for the rest of my life? Would she tell me what I wanted to‘ hear, or what I needed to hear? Would she be my backbone to help me materialize my
Intelligent dreams? These questions had evaded me when I committed to jump the broom and selfishly assumed that I could change Marilyn.
Our relationship faltered during the following weeks. I phoned Marilyn less. Our visits went from being my oasis in the desolate sands of prison, to rocky terrain incapable of baring anything fruitful. The perpetual gaps of silence in our conversations spoke louder of our true emotions than our empty pronouncements of shared devotion and adoration. Ihad yet to fall in love, and Marilyn was falling out of love.
In July 2001, I was transferred to Elmira—a maximum security prison located a five—and— a—half—hour drive from New York City. In a month, my relationship with Marilyn sunk deeper into the murky waters of dissociation and dissatisfaction. Marilyn did not visit. We rarely wrote each other. So I initiated our departure by phone.
“This ain’t working.”
“What?” she asked. “We still getting married.”
“I wanted you to visit so we could discuss this in person.” I took a deep breath, fighting my fantasies of sexing Marilyn and the thoughts of the companionship she provided me with. “I feel you, but it’s time for us to go our separate ways.”
There was a long pause, and then Marilyn spoke. “That’s what you really want?”
“It’s not about me. It’s about us being real with each other.”
There was another long pause. Finally, Marilyn uttered a goodbye.
Memories of Marilyn swirled through my head. I felt liberated from the shackles of aggravation that crippled 85% of our relationship. But I was heartbroken over the loss of the
15% of our relationship that I cherished. I had gladly, yet painfully, swallowed the last spoon of headaches and happiness from Marilyn’s plate.
My relationship with Marilyn taught me many things. I learned that people change . through their own determination and at their own pace. Also, there is a thin line between helping someone grow and attempting to change them to your liking. I now understand that marriage is a lifetime commitment that should not be based on an overnight decision. The most significant thing my relationship with Marilyn taught me is that it would be a disservice to me and any woman if I embraced a relationship in which the woman does not share my passion for progress.
I learned to be honest about my expectations.
My search for Ms. Right did not stop with Marilyn. As an avid reader, published writer and socially conscious follower of current events, I found myself transcending prison. My motto became, “I’m in prison, but prison is not in me.” The more I outgrew my surroundings, the more
I reached beyond barbwire gates and concrete walls, hungry for the ﬂavor of civil life that once left a bad taste in my mouth. I had a MySpace page designed to showcase my unpublished novel and encourage networking. I posted personal ads on websites like inmateclassified.com and meet—an—inmate.com. I needed not only the intimacy of a relationship with a woman, but friendship and socialization with positive people from the world I planned to return and contribute.
In August 2004, 31-year-old Tamia stumbled one to my personal ads while helping her daughter research the word “intelligent” online. Tamia was intrigued by my written thoughts, so she wrote me in search of a friend to confide in.
I was instantly absorbed in Tamia’s letters. She was a Miami—born soldier who worked at
Fort Lewis’s Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington. The natural beauty mailed me personal pictures of herself and professional shots from her days as a model. We enlightened each other on political issues, social causes, history, health and various other topics that never
Intelligent entered conversations with most women I had talked to. Tamia spoke of her plans to open a sports bar, then a nightcare, where parents could leave their children during evenings. She had a beautiful relationship with her 11-year-old daughter. Many of her family were like friends, but
Tamia was a stickler for privacy who revealed little of her personal life to them. She was in a relationship with a man who cared for her, but fell short in meeting some of her needs.
Within two months, Tamia and I experienced the unique power of written communication between an incarcerated man and a woman in society. Letter writing comes with a comfortability supported by thought—out responses and the courage to express views which may go unspoken when facial expression and body language are detected during face—to—face conversations. For
Tamia, I was a diary in a 6x9 cell hundreds of miles away from the probing eyes and sticky fingers of anyone she knew. For me, Tamia was a law—abiding citizen who was helping me understand myself and my past by bluntly and analytically assessing my actions through her objective eyes.
In the months that followed, Tamia and I spoke by phone. Our letters increased in amount and length. We began occasionally sending each other Volumes of “2l Questions” accumulating hundreds of honest answer on subjects spanning from sex and relationships to regrets and embarrassments.
With a year, we had discussed with each other more private issues about ourselves than we had with anyone. Tamia’s experiences ranged from her stint as a stripper and her one—time lesbian sexcapade, to her being physically and sexually abused. My confessions spanned from being taunted by bullies and teased for sporting secondhand clothes, to my father’s heroine use and my being intimated by the sexual prowess of an older ﬂirtatious woman. We explored the blunders and sound judgments that ordained the failures and victories in our most significant
Intelligent relationships. Our open exchange of good and bad which helped mold us was a therapeutic process that healed ancient wounds and removed impediments to future prosperity. '
Tamia and I developed a platonic love that superseded sexuality and passion. Our phone calls and letters ended with the words, “I love you.” But Tamia’s Scorpio sex drive, my 11 years of sexual deprivation and our ﬂirting ignited a ﬂaming desire that burned uncontrollably between both of our legs. Occasionally, we acknowledged this fire and tried to extinguish it. We agreed that the question of us being “in love” versus us “loving” each other could only be answered by the chemistry of personal interaction.
My mother had taken a liking to Tamia through their phone conversations and the time
Tamia took her daughter to meet my mother. Shortly after ending her relationship with her boyfriend, Tamia moved to Augusta, Georgia to work at Fort Gordon. She made arrangements to fly to New York to meet me.
I ironed my burgundy button—up shirt and broke out my moccasins the night before Tamia was scheduled to visit. Staring into the mirror at my brown skin and freshly trimmed mustache, goatee and sideburns, I brushed my wavy black hair and wrapped it in a doo-rag. Everything had to be perfect for my first face—to—face with Tamia.
The following morning, I stepped into the near—empty visiting room five minutes after nine. I recognized Tamia’s bronze complexion, succulent lips and black hair highlighted by brown streaks. She sported a black business suit and matching—colored heals. She knew that I found corporate attire sexy, so my visit was an opportunity for her to ﬂaunt her classy wardrobe that she had mentioned wearing during her tenure working at Smith Barney. Her chinky eyes lit up as I got closer.
I kissed her on her cheek and we embraced. I savored the soft warmth of her body andthe scent of her perfume. “Damn, girl. You smell good,” I said, before helping Tamia to her seat.
Our conversation streamed with case, from small talk, significant talk to our bodies talking. An officer periodically interrupted our tranquility with demands that we disengage from our affectionate embraces. But authoritive words only suspended our heartfelt actions which resumed each second the officer turned her head or used the restroom.
The following day with Tamia was a replay of our first encounter, but more emotional.
“You don’t belong here,” Tamia whispered, breaking into tears.
I gently kissed away her tears and hugged her in silence. Afterwards, I told her that I needed her to be strong for both of us. I spoke of how I had grown from a reckless teen to a responsible adult and prison had little left to offer me. I had excelled academically and made use of many educational, therapeutic and vocational programs. But I stressed to Tamia that aside from the purpose of a prison sentence being rehabilitation and deterrence, another element was punishment. I had committed a serious crime as a teenager, that as an adult I would wish on no one. And I had accepted the consequences for my actions when I pled guilty in 1995. Some of those consequences were my confinement and Tamia and in being subjected to the boundaries of a visiting room.
Tamia and I began tackling issues about us. It was clear that we had veered off of the course of friendship and parked in Lover’s Lane. So an inquiry lingered: What would come of our relationship? Tamia said she was not ready to answer the question of our chemistry proving in she was in love. The connection that I felt was beyond my expectation. But I was unsure.
Tamia seemed too good to be true.
Our visit ended with the sorrow of unpredictability. We knew not when we would see each other again. We kissed and hugged for what seemed like eternity.
In the coming weeks, I learned that Tamia would stand with me, but only as the friend she had intended to become when reaching out to me through letter. We both understood that she desired a man to hold her each day like I had during our visits. I needed more than a long distance love. Tamia would prove her commitment to our friendship, eventually visiting me again and continuously providing me with the support I needed in a world that challenges my strength daily.
Developing a friendship with Tamia was a learning process. I now know that communication is priceless, and it establishes an understanding between a man and woman that is unparalleled. I learned that relationships in prison are integral to the growth of incarcerated people. One of the most important things I learned is that a fulltime friend is more precious than a part—time lover. Also, people can live within a free society, but be imprisoned by their fear of expressing their experiences and who they truly are. Over five years have passed since our introduction, and Tamia has yet to find a pair of arms to hold her. Our relationship has continued to blossom, but it will never breach the platonic level. So my search for Ms. Right continues.
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