How could I ever wish for this...never to be torn apart. 6 months on a six year sentence.

July 4th, 2013, 12pm

A nudist camp became a Catholic girl’s school and then a privately run prison colony. Point to the center of this state and find it there. The solstice brought a long bus ride to our new home- dilapidated and dirty, CO’s the dregs of the rural county. There was no fence but our boundaries were clear. Marion Adjustment Center.

I grew protective of the sparrows and doves in my windowsill, peeled back the wire screens so they could nest at the head of my bed, and watched as the anxious mothers with shiny black eyes preened feathers and warmed their eggs into needy children who quickly grew feathers of their own. Perched carelessly on concertina wire and took flight.

I stood in endless lines for everything, centering myself as the summer sun crept over the crest of the basin and pressed its stifling fingers into my khakis. Took refuge in the cool subterranean library, where I sifted through the mildewed titles. Dostoevsky, Hofstadter, Kerouak, Sagan, Joyce and many others returned with me, whispering and shouting from their yellowed, cracked pages. In this bubble world sunk below the horizon of the farmland, with so many barely literate, I quietly thanked the gods of the written word for the solace they gave me.

I was an alien in the beginning, separate among the humans who were so plainly at home, resigned to this life. Perceived disrespect and owed Ramen noodles, gambling and bucking line, simple mistakes and elaborate setups all brought violence. A fair fight or a can of chili wrapped in a sock to the back of the head. Tension built and broken. I saw what I saw, surreal and wrapped in a film of sweat.

I wrote long letters in intricately decorated envelopes while my bunkies split up packs of Reds to be sold for $5 a cigarette. Designed birthday cards and helped burn paper, mixing the ashes with baby oil to make tattoo ink. Observed the hustle. Some bleached whites, sowed a stitch. Repaired a fan motor or smuggled Suboxone underneath a stamp. Sold time from prepaid phone accounts or wrapped colored cellophane tightly into startling roses. Time was abundant.

I watched a fox dance fanciful circles around the combine that harvested the neighboring cornfield. Strained to send myself up with the hawks as they swirled, gyring through invisible thermals. Sat shirtless beneath the poplar tree with rain masking my tears as the storm rolled overhead, horizon-wide clouds boiling and soul black. Felt myself falling up into them when a flash raised the hair on my arms and I saw through my surroundings, momentarily, in negative light. Lightning struck nearby, paring tree limbs in a shower of sparks and a thunderclap felt more than heard. That’s when the siren sounded.

I crept through nighttime hallways, permanently lit with sick fluorescence, past circles of smokers. Tobacco and spice twisted up in bible paper. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John curling heavenward. Made my way to a window where I looked out across the courtyard and up to the highest window of the oldest brick building. I saw her there, the apparition in a white gown. Transfixed, rocking slowly to my own heartbeat, I watched her until we both tired of the sight, stepped back and disappeared.

I began to run. Five, seven, ten miles a day. Ran the broken loop, all dried mud, cracked asphalt and gravel, ran in my ancient shoes just as cracked and full of holes as the track they carried me over. I ran through the pain in my ankles and the shin splints, through the longing and the frustration. My skin darkened, my body grew stronger and as the summer air dried my sweat to white shards of salt, my mind and soul crystallized as well, set up and faceted, refracting light. I asked what I needed to do and I was told to keep running. I ran until I became full, spilling over, and found myself there, right where I was and needed to be.

And that’s when it was time to leave.

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