Valentines Day 2/14/21: Love, Covid, Life

 

Today is Valentines Day. It’s one of the few holidays that actually catches my attention, where I drop down from cruising altitude and switch off the autopilot. I’ve always said that the holidays are like every other day, Ground Hog Day to the extreme but this year is different for me.

 

I’ve spent my incarceration not wanting for a woman. I pretty much put them out of sight out of mind, built walls in my mind and intentionally sought refuge in my fortress lest I get entangled in a relationship that could never work. I stopped looking for someone to love 26 years ago.

Why did I stop looking you ask? Because pulling time with a girlfriend or wife in tow is often a recipe for a tortured existence. I’ve watched men wail and thrash at the world day in and day out as they desperately clung to their dying relationships. The cruelty of the long hand of time knows no limits.

I’ve always known that I needed a woman that understands me. Someone who has been where I’ve been, experienced similar childhood abuses, and understands what it’s like to stare at the long hand of time knowing that the future will be nothing like the past we remember.

She’d be a woman who’s suffered great personal loss in her life and knows what it’s like to face grief and to be cut down by its sword. Through these experiences she’ll have grown to see the world for what it really is: neither loving nor hateful, but simply what we choose it to be.

Yes, I’ve always known that I needed that broken soul because her broken piece would complete mine. She would instantly understand me and I her. Nothing else could ever work and I’ve known this for a long time.

This blog has brought me into contact with hundreds of people. For every series I’ve written, I’ve met many new people. There’s the Are You Being Served series; the 7 Days Behind Bars Series; the 1st Times series; but the one series that has impacted me the most is the open ended series I’m writing called The Lives of Women Behind Bars. It’s a series about, well, just that: what life is like for women prisoners. You can find it in the Guest Writings category.

I’ve met many female prisoners in prisons scattered across this vast country, long timers and short timers, each of them with a unique story to tell. I’ve come to understand that these women are in many ways like us men. They have families. They are married or single, have children or none. So often they come from broken backgrounds, have histories of drug abuse, were sexually abused and assaulted as children or survived abusive relationships. All of them dream of a better future.

And, in 2020 I found what I wasn’t looking for, a woman whose broken half completed mine. Someone who understands the pain of a long sentence, and who has endured the same things that I have. Though our shared life experiences we understand one another in ways others could never. And, this is the type of relationship that’s needed to stand the test of incarceration. She’s an amazing woman and I love her.

Amidst this backdrop in my life, time continues to tick into the future. My sentence rambles onwar

d with no definitive end, and prison life imposes its will at every turn. Nowadays my biggest concern is Covid. I was sentenced to serve my time for my actions which I accept. I wasn’t, however, sentenced to death. To die while I’m incarcerated is the worst nightmare of every prisoner, second only to losing a loved one.

So I’m eager to receive the Covid vaccine. Ohio has started immunizing it’s prisoners. First it was the 75 year olds, and recently those who are 65 and older. I hear from prisoners all over the country and by comparison, Ohio is moving very slow.

There is a great distrust amongst male and female prisoners that the Covid vaccine is not safe. This distrust spans every prison across the country. It’s so bad here in Ohio, that the department of corrections is PAYING it’s inmates ten dollars to receive both dos

es of the vaccine. Even I am shocked, both by the idiocy of my peers and at the lengths the state of Ohio is going in an effort to gain control of Covid in it’s facilities. It’s unusual. Somewhere someone calculated that it’s cheaper to pay us to get vaccinated than to ignore us.

We currently have less than a dozen ‘official’ cases of Covid here. It has nothing to do with the success of Covid measures, but everything to do with the fact that nearly every inmate at my facility ‘unofficially’ had Covid months ago. You can read about it in my posts titled  The week the Apocalypse Arrived”    The Week the Apocalypse Arrived and in “I Survived the Apocalypse” .I Survived the Apocalypse

How long does Covid immunity last anyway? From what I can tell, our herd immunity should be waning right about now. I’m ever so vigilant. Was that a cough I just heard?

Anyhow, so this is my life as of this moment in time. Am I afraid? No. I stopped being afraid decades ago. If anything I feel more hopeful now than at any other time in my sentence.

Hopeful for what you ask? Hopeful that the state parole board will see me for the man I am today? Hopeful that my family will still exist when I am released? Hopeful that the future I’ve told myself will exist actually will? Or hopeful because I have someone to call my own? I suppose the answer to all of these questions is: Yes.

I feel battleworn. Time has exacted its toll from me as it does all prisoners, and I know it will continue to do so. 2020 stole a chunk from my soul, but it also gave to me. I lost what I loved, but found what I stopped looking for. This journey I continue to walk, but now with wiser eyes and older legs. And that’s my life behind bars.

Christopher Monihan
Madison Correctional Institution (OH)

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