My eyes snap open, same as every day. I never did learn how to sleep in here but last night was harder than usual. Not surprising.
I glance at the clock and as typical, I'm awake long before anyone else. Should I lie here and grieve the loss of friends, familiarity, and relative security that will no longer be available after today? Not on your life. Instead, I choose to relish in the fact that this will be the very last time I awake to a chorus of whistling snores, bathroom shuffles, and forbidden interactions. (It happens-you learn to ignore it.)
My habit of rising early gives me an opportunity to take advantage of one of the few luxuries I've been able to secure for myself: a chance to shower in relative peace. In here, one quickly learns to grab even the smallest pleasure before it vanishes without notice. I gather my supplies and slither away in stealth mode.
I'm well known for my cleanliness propensity. What they don't know is why: Somewhere in my jumbled imagination, I figured if I scrubbed enough, the layers would eventually peel away and my spirit would be free-something my body was not. As the years slowly passed, my rational side realized it wouldn't happen, however, my spirit never surrendered...it never gave up hope.
I really don't belong here. Yeah, I know, everyone says the same thing but what I mean is that I'm really different from most of these people. It has earned me a reputation as "snooty" and "stuck up". I call it survival but it hasn't come without a price. Flying under the radar is a good modus operandi, however, I have suffered consequences despite my best intentions. It's not a good thing to attract any kind of attention around here: negative or otherwise.
Shower completed, I return to my bunk and decide to go to chow. Something else I won't miss. Wonder how long it will be before the putrid smell of institutional-volume cooking will leave my nostrils? Details of Mom's "welcome home" dinner cross my mind, accompanied by stomach growls that echo for all to hear.
Swirling thoughts whip up as I mull over the next few days. Freedom is a foreign concept. The thought of deciding where to go, when to eat, sleeping when I want-or not-kind of boggles the imagination. Of course, schedules are a necessary evil and part of living in civilized society. I have no issue with that, however, it will indeed be nice to make a few decisions for myself.
I puzzle at the fact that I'm not sure I even remember how to make decisions. Could be overwhelming at first. Of course, we learned all about that in our release classes as groundwork to once again become 'law abiding citizens'. Do they really think their paltry instructions are any kind of preparation for what awaits me? Have they even noticed the unemployment rate in this state?
After choking down a few bites of soggy cereal, I grab my coffee and wander, saying soft good-byes, a couple of nods, and a final handshake with staff who have treated me well. Their parting words are all the same: "Don't come back."
At last it is getting close to the appointed time and I meander back to my area to find "gifts" on my bunk. They are unattractive, more than likely ill fitting, and a very welcome sight. This makes it real, official.
Quickly I slide out of my baggy blue outfit and pull on the homely brown pants and shirt. Yes, they are loose, made of ugly material, fashioned by hands of others such as myself. I couldn't care less. At this point, I would dance out naked if I had to but the end result would be an invitation to extend my stay. Not an option.
Only a select few are privileged to display the unattractive outfit as they parade past the envious stares of others that dream of someday making the same walk.
A voice invades my thoughts. "Davis, 023632. You ready?"
"I've never been so ready," comes my strong reply.
It is time for me to return to the real world, paroled after seven years of incarceration.
I'm insecure about my future, scared to death, and uncertainty flows from my very being.
But the walk in brown is mine. Let the journey begin.
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