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Going to prison can be tough on relationships. Unconditional love is meant to withstand all the peaks, perils and tribulations that occur in our lives, but can the love of one spouse survive the overwhelming test of time while the other spouse endures the mental agony of prison confinement?

I have spent most of my life on a quest to find “the one.” I have been very fortunate to date incredible men, but I just could not get to the point in the relationship where I could commit to marriage. Over the years, I would meet someone and grow attached to them, but then something like a job opportunity would come along which would sever the relationship. Then, in November 2014, I met Jose. 

When I first met Jose, I thought he was very handsome. I was shy, but not too shy to get his phone number. I did not call him on Thanksgiving, when I invited him to share dinner with me. I did not see him again until my birthday a month later. We even spent Christmas and New Year’s Day together. Our friendship ended in January over an argument about his arrogant and rude attitude. I thought it was the end of our simple friendship. 

During the following spring break, he reached out to me, and we reconciled our differences. We went out to eat, and we realized an attraction to one another that grew into something more. We spent more and more intimate time together. 

I finally found what I was looking for in a partner. I was on top of the world. My career was rising through the corporate ranks. I was making a great salary, and I was in a very serious, phenomenal relationship. I was looking forward to married life. 

Then, on Sept. 11, 2015, my life changed forever. I was arrested, my relationship with Jose ended, and for the next 15 months, I was incarcerated in the Maricopa County Jail and the Arizona Department of Corrections. 

I felt I would never find love like Jose again when I entered the Arizona State Prison Complex Eyman – Cook Unit a year later. 

On my first day, as I entered Building 7, the assigned building where I would live, I bumped into Chad. He was the tallest dude on the yard standing at 6 feet 7 inches.This sandy brown-haired pretty boy had an aggressive attitude to match his ironclad stature. 

“Watch where you’re going!” he said sharply. No matter how hard I tried to steer clear of this dude, I couldn’t seem to avoid him.

I would see him during my workouts with Jeremy, my best friend on the yard. I could not help but observe him as he also worked out — it’s very hard not to notice a mega-giant doing burpees on the recreation field. Although I was unaware at the time, I think it seemed as though I was challenging Chad’s image. Months went by and so did his patience.

I was released the following week, but I was eager to find out what his issue with me was, so I wrote to my friend Jeremy and included a letter to Chad. 

Two weeks later, I received a letter from Chad. He wrote that he never had an issue with me, and we reconciled our differences. 

Over the next year until his release, we must have written almost 50 times to each other. Our friendship grew with every letter. In February 2018, we dated for two weeks before we broke up on Valentine’s Day. I never spoke to him again. Memories of Chad faded. 

I ended up back at prison and returned back to the Cook Unit where Chad and I had met in September, 2020. Mostly everyone I once knew was gone, including my best friend Jeremy. But during a conversation I overheard, my neighbor made a comment about a guy who just left after a fight with two other inmates. His name was Chad.  

I confirmed who they were talking about and it was, in fact, the same person I hoped it would be. 

Unfortunately, he was transferred to solitary confinement in the Hole. I could not contact him. I made every effort to get information to him that I was back at Cook Unit. 

Right before Christmas, I was able to get a Christmas card sent to him and regain our lost friendship. To this day, we continue to write to one another. We hope to continue a solid relationship and see where it will go from there. We take each day and every letter as a blessing. 

I feel like I have been given a second chance at love. Despite every obstacle, we could not be kept apart. If we can work together to keep our relationship strong through adversity and time, I know we will both be victorious in finding true love. 

Chad is also working to help me find Jeremy. One day, I hope we will all be reunited. 

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.

Chastyn “Nova” Hicks is a writer and artist incarcerated in Arizona.