I opened the door and she stood there with two coronas with the lime already wedged in the neck of the bottle. ”Hi, she said, ”you moving in?” “Uh, no,” I stumbled, as I always do when a pretty woman talks to me. ”I’m helping a friend move in.” Conveniently omitting that my girlfriend is in the other room. I was just 19. This was 1990, she was Julia Roberts hot, but more of a sandy blonde. She had on a white tee and blue jeans. She was 19 or there about. “Oh well here,” she said, handing me one of the coronas. ”l was just going to welcome you to the apartments.” She handed me the beer and turned to leave.
This was about eight months before I went to prison. Of course, this is the type of memory that fuels the fantasies of a prisoner. What if…? What if I was by myself? What if I was moving in there? I’m sure that l don’t have to fill in the rest.
To stay sane in prison, to be able to be willingly locked away, it takes some mind manipulation. Thoughts such as: ”I can leave any time I want; I just don’t want to leave.” Or the constant thought: ”It’s going to be okay; this isn’t so bad.” And the best one: “There’s no place like home.” It didn’t work. But not everything you see in the movies is real.
Over the years, reality sets in — to a degree. Nobody wants to be in prison, away from family, friends, the corona girl, oh yeah, my girlfriend, too. All the ”freedoms” of what we in here call the ”free world”.
As I began to take responsibility for my crimes, and I build empathy and morality, although I don‘t want to be here, I can see its necessity. That razor wire fence is not so much an enemy anymore. It protects society from us criminals until we learn not to abuse trust, abuse others, and to have boundaries and rules.
Meanwhile, I sit in here and see the madness of the world: David Koresh, Columbine, O.J., Oklahoma bombing, Mad Cow disease, Clinton impeachment.
Wars, terrorists, continued wars, Ross and Rachel on a break, bird flu, swine flu, Obamacare, school shootings, Walmart shootings, abortions, gun rights, my mom died while l’m in here, Are we still at war? The wall, election interference, Trump impeachment,
To stay sane in prison, to be able to be willingly locked away, it takes some mind manipulation. Thoughts such as: “It’s only in China;” “It won’t hit the prisons. It’s in the free world;” “They’ll get a cure;” “Prisons are the safest place, I’ll be ok;” “It’s in Rikers but that’s New York.”
“There’s no social distancing in prisons.”
News Alert: “The US. is now the epicenter of the corona pandemic.”
Thoughts such as: “I’m stuck in here;” “It’s coming and I can’t get away;” ”When it gets here, they won’t be able to test or treat us.”
“There is no social distancing in prison.”
Before corona, I began to think that it’s safer in here than in the free world. I was comfy in my denial of reality. That razor wire fence that l had begun to like is now my full-fledged enemy. While it keeps society safe from us, it does nothing to protect us from the free world and the invisible enemy that is for certain coming. We will be locked in a cell. If the world struggles to test and treat people in the free, then we will suffer locked up and alone with no treatment in prison. It’s going to be like being burned alive and there is no relief. This is the thought that persists. In prison it’s impossible to do social distancing. It will be staff that brings it in. Although they are trying, there is nothing that can be done. When it gets here, we will all be exposed. The very ones who guard us will be the ones to give it to us. There is no rhyme or reason. Maybe just poetic justice.
As fears mount and the virus moves from denial to the inevitable, my ”what ifs” about the Corona girl bring no comfort. We can’t get away. We must face reality: It’s coming.
There is no social distancing in prison.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.