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A young man hears a distant sound — music
Their music.
He walks over to the other car
The one with their music,
Puts a gun to the drivers head
The passenger screams
Over her screams he tells the man with the gun to his head
Turn off that shit or I’ll kill you
That they were very clearly enjoying a nice day
Only adding to the young man’s satisfaction
At getting their music off

The young man hears gunshots — the soundtrack of his life.
He dances towards the sound.
My friend was here.
A body on the floor.
Not his friend.
A lady is bleeding.
She’s very clearly pregnant.
The music plays on.

My turn to pick a song — he says to no one.
A man cradles his dead son in a pool of blood.
A toddler screams at the feet of her dead father
A temple in ruins, a priest with no deity.
A woman prays for peace and solace.
A young man promise revenge

Real revenge — the kind that keeps even the sparrows away.
The days of revenge arrive, the memory fades. The body rots.
The young man’s humanity with them.
That revenge does not help widows or feed orphans
Illustrates the impotence of his actions to all.

A friend is offended.
The offended asks for help repaying the offense
Blood must be spilled.
Is there any other way, thinks the young man?

Plans go awry.
Life among the un-humans.
They are all blind. The result of living an eye for an eye is
That he too is un-human is kept from them.

The young man rides a bus.
He volunteers for the spilling of blood.
More of the same.
He takes another bus.
He sits in a bathroom just short of a decade.
He discovers humans exist — He’s not one of them.

He reads.
He meets Africans, Russians, English, French, American, Mexicans
A Nazarene.
Humans, all of them.

Dead but their humanity yet living.
How? He asks no one in particular.
His mother dies. Dead but her humanity yet living.
She traded her life for his sight.
He can see now. She answered his question.
He comes from a human
That shows him the depth of his inhumanity — his rot.

Yet another bus.
More un-humans.
The unhumans here are also un-living.
They unlive and die
All in the space of one fix

The young man is now an old man.
He can see but is not yet human
He has not earned his humanity.
He cannot say first names.
Only humans can do that.
His early interaction with humans
A vivid reminder
That his journey towards humanity may never be complete.

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.

Cesar Suarez is a writer and poet incarcerated in California.