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Photo by Barna Bartis on Unsplash

Midway through my haircut one evening in my prison housing unit’s dayroom, I had to stop to make a call. We are permitted one call every other day, so I couldn’t afford to miss one. 

On this night, I called a friend who was released two years earlier after her death sentence was commuted by California’s former governor Jerry Brown. She picked up and told me that she was washing dishes in a kitchen sink with dish soap. 

I reveled in the image of her performing such a mundane and normal task. It felt symbolic of the beauty of normalcy, the beauty of freedom and life. She then proceeded to tell me about playing bingo in the free world and how it was so much different than playing for Top Ramen instant ramen packs in prison. 

I had to hang up early because the next prisoner was in line for his phone call, but the call replenished my spirit as I returned to the dayroom. 

When I got back, I saw the barber near the domino table. He saw and started walking back to the barber table where I was getting my fade done. 

As he made his way back, I noticed another man behind him who looked familiar.

“Hey, are you Jessie Milo?” he asked when he got close. 

“Yeah, what’s up?” I replied. 

“It’s me, PorkyI” he responded. 

I hadn’t seen Porky in 23 years, since we were teenagers, and my mind was having trouble reconciling the image of Porky as a teenager and the man that stood in front of me. It was as if he had stepped through time and aged 20 years in an instant.

He followed me to the table where I continued to get my haircut. He told me he had been in prison for 15 years, and I told him I’d been in for 20 years — two lives spent in incarceration, our youths lost to the system. There are around 30 prisons in California, so we had never bumped into each other.  If only I could go back through time and say something to us so we made better choices. 

Porky sat across from me, his hair graying. 

“Don’t worry, you’ll get there!” he said, noticing me looking at his hair. 

“I’m sure I will, Porky!,” I responded. 

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.

Jessie Milo is a writer, artist and poet incarcerated in California. He is a volunteer for and an advocate for mental health.