I don’t imagine you’ve ever thought about love and prison in the same sentence. If they were atomic elements they’d certainly exist as matter and antimatter when considered together.
Felicia said the things us men don’t dare share because these are emotional subjects. You know, mushy stuff. I admire my women friends; there’s strength in being able to speak about feelings.
I too, long wondered if it was possible to find love while in prison. When I was first incarcerated in 1995 I entered prison with a girlfriend in tow. Deep down I knew that it couldn’t work. For months I clung to the relationship, selfishly protecting myself from the inevitable.
Eventually an old school convict pulled me aside and gave me the best advice possible: “Set your girl free,” he’d said. “Let her go; everything will all work out in the end.” And so I did.
“I’ll always love you,” she’d said to me on our last call. “I’ll always love you, too,” I’d said, and that’s how it ended. That was 25 years ago.
Do I ever wonder what could have been? I used to. I’ve long put her in my past, a life experience that has helped me to grow throughout this journey of incarceration. Have I ever doubted the wise words of some old school convict 2 1/2 decades ago? Yes. It’s so much easier to cling to what’s known than to leap headlong into the unknown. I wondered for the longest time what he meant when he’d said that, “everything” will work out in the end. Now, 25 years wiser, I know.
Like Felicia said, a lot of women there meet men through being pen pals, who are also incarcerated. The same is true here. A lot of men meet women through being pen pals. Talking to someone going through the same situation draws you closer to one another. And she’s right. How else would you meet someone of the opposite sex while incarcerated?
I’ve lived around 1,300 men for 25 years now. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, holidays and regular days; they’re all the same. Yes, Felicia, it’s nice having a stimulating conversation with someone of the opposite sex. More importantly, it’s a connection affirming that you can still connect.
A close friend of mine recently met a woman who’s also in prison. And like Felicia’s friend, they’ve become close and have a lot in common. He has told me many times he’s afraid to commit, because he’s here, she’s there, and their out dates are years apart due to Ohio’s dual sentencing laws.
What about being loved in prison by family and friends? I’ve lost every friend I’ve ever had coming to prison. My crime is the very last thing people remember, and it’s the very first thing they now see when googling me. Yet, I am nothing like the young man I was 25 years ago. To have known me then is to not know me now.
Despite this I am thankful. Thankful I lost every ‘friend’ I once had, thankful for the family members that shunned me for years, thankful for all the pain and personal suffering I’ve quietly endured, because it has molded me into the man I am today: wiser, understanding, more caring. I’ve discovered what matters in life, what true love is, and my relationships both new and rebuilt are stronger than any I once had.
So can you be loved while in prison? Yes, I think so. And to Felicia, I hope you are able to come down from that fence. I know we live in a place that’s full of negativity, hate, and sadness. The one thing we’re all searching for is love and to be loved. You Felicia, are loved.
You need only look and see.
Madison Correctional Institution (OH)