Photo by Tata Sakharova on Unsplash.

Is it possible for us mortals to touch the purity and serenity of the clouds? 

Imagine a condemned man surrounded by the stench of the living dead, enclosed in concrete bricks, barbed wire, gun towers and sky-high walls. Could this man partake in a bit of ecstasy in the clouds? 

I’m a humble Mexican Guerrero (warrior) who has spent 90% of his adult life in solitary confinement cells. I currently live among more than 450 other living-dead souls. 

Our boxes of relief are 8 feet by 14 feet, with a metal bunk and a shitty toilet and sink. My front door consists of iron bars with metal and chicken-wire mesh, made to look decent with five coats of old paint. The ordinary citizen, after viewing our living conditions, would call it hell. I call it home.

Seeking a few moments of solace is my goal during recreational yard time. I roam on concrete floors. Gray and darker gray were the flavors of the day. The sounds, the monotonous and infuriating clinking and clanking of large trays on metal.

My moment came one gloomy, muggy morning. In the yard, I had just begun my 20-minute jog when it started to rain, giving my purgatory a quick rinse. Five minutes into my run, head to the heavens, I was wishing for wings to fly away, when the first sweet and marvelous drop of rain hit my forehead. 

That drop of rain felt as if it engulfed me. Inside it, I was in total harmony and in sync with myself. Instantly, there were no gunmen. No more living dead. It was just me!

Could it be that I was chosen for ascension? By who? God? Just then, I realized I was tasting nirvana. I was at total peace within and without — with myself. Greedily, I pondered refusing to relinquish my temporary parlay in earthly heaven. 

I felt as if I was in a bubble of cotton. I had that feeling of being totally loved and cared for. There was no noise. Everybody had vanished. I was alone floating across the yard. I did not feel my body. 

It was like a summer morning when you first step out your door and the sun warms your body. All my worries and thoughts seemed to wash away. I could feel no hate, anger or sick intentions. 

I was not condemned prisoner T24667. I was not an outcast. I was an actual human being.

Then the rain continued, washing away that intoxicating, pure aroma, returning me to my purgatorial reality — death row at San Quentin State Prison. 

The saying “Finding inner peace is harder than keeping it” never rang any less true. 

There exists the possibility for mere mortals to float amongst the clouds. The real question is, will your imagination allow you to go there? 

I have reached it while living among the dead.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Juan Villa Ramirez

Juan Villa Ramirez is a Mexicano writer, who is the father of two daughters and a grandfather of five. He is incarcerated on Death Row in California.