Under pennant waving canvas tents the three ring circus acts parade spectacular death-defying feats filled with heart-stopping and eye-popping performances.
Yet far from the excitement of the greatest show on earth, another sort of ring rest solemnly in a coastal valley. A single meandering five inch wide milky white pavement stripe races unbroken around a California prison yard guiding inmate traffic.
One by one beneath a gray sky, inmates rapidly exit shoebox-shaped three story housing blocks and trample westbound in single file down like busy ants re-supplying a colony with bread crumbs.
prisoners dare not stray or else! No warning shots will be fired. For that reason, I walk the line heel to toe mimicking a gymnast on a slender wooden balance beam with arams swinging back and forth at my side. Although, mothers behind me falter by choice.
:Walk on the line! No grouping.” squawks the lethally armed tower officer as a pair inmates drastically swerve beyond the thin pavement marking like tacking.
Sailboats during our monotonous stroll to the dining hall for breakfast.
Amazingly, a single belting authoritative voice is just enough to send a pent-up tempers flaring and obscenities flying as if their useless outburst really make any difference.
The white stripes hidden power conjures multiple meanings. To some, it sparks memories when snorting cocaine off a glass table top seemed cool. To others, it is an opportunity to defiantly talk smack. And still for many more inmates, the white ring represents a binding infinite loop of hopelessness embracing a collage of complaints: Lousy food unscheduled lockdowns due to medical redirects and pretty administrative rule violations.
“Keep your head up, A ‘hole!” yells one rowdy inmate to a trailing inmate colliding into him for me, his words contain a much deeper message. When I face and accept the consequences of my actions the final decision made shall determine whether they make life better or worse.
Inmate spirits easily fracture, often leaving them feeling as if nothing is left. I am no different.
This controlling white symbol of humility strips away most everything. Our identity, our opinions and more importantly our freedom. However, no obstacle is insurmountable.
The deceptive tide retreats at the second and inmate refuses to view prison time as a solid block wall but instead a portal to change stepping over the doors threshold forges a road to freedom laced with threads of marketable trade skills, education, self-improvement tools, insight and for some spiritual growth. I’ve found that standing idle only welcomes failure.
Therefore, I choose to untended myself from the endless white stark orbiting the exercise yearn like the imprisoning bands circling Saturn preventing me to dream, create and explore possibilities.
With each deep breath, I castaway another piece of societies charred convict branding and inhale lifers promising rich aroma.
As a man on the path to rehabilitation, this doomed ring of despair surrounding me no longer chokes my resolve to once again sip from freedom cup.
Nonetheless, until the gates of free will swings in my favor, I reluctantly continue to walk the line, head up and eyes forward look on my future.
By Mark A Jarosik