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PRISON AND IT'S TEARS



"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LOOKING AT?" screamed the large man standing at the next urinal.

"Just minding my own business," I said as I turned my head to face the wall directly in front of me.

I was rather surprised to see such a large, mean looking man with tears in his eyes. I mean this was a prison. This was the ‘Big House.’ Everyone knew that shedding a tear was placing you in danger. Tears were a sign of weakness and almost everyone prayed upon weakness. That was the unspoken rule.

"What was it you were looking at?" he asked again as he grabbed me by the shoulder.

"Nothing!"

I jerked away from him.

"It's hard here. It's real hard," said the man as he wiped his eyes with his finger.

"I wouldn't know. I've only been here for two days."

"My family came today. It was the first time I have seen my kids in almost two years. First time my kids ever seen me in prison clothes."

"I don't have to worry about that. I don't have any family," I said.

"Everyone has to have a family."

He placed his foot up on the toilet seat.

"Not everyone," I said as I moved away from the urinal.

"No mother or father?"

"Never knew either one of them. Raised in an orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida for as far back as I can remember," I replied.

"Then it shouldn't be too hard on you here."

"NOPE! These places are just like being home to me. Orphanage, juvenile hall, jail or prison, they are all the same."

"Frank," he said holding out his hand.

"Roger," I said back and reached out to shake his hand.

"Kind of makes me wish that I would have taken a different road," he said with somewhat of a laugh.

"What you in for?" I asked.

"Interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle."

"How much time you get?" I asked.

"Seven years," he responded.

"How much time you got left?"

"Got three under my belt, less my good time; I figure I'll be out of here in another two years."

We stood in the doorway of the bathroom talking and watching for the guard to make his rounds. He talked about his two children and how he felt he had let them down. I watched as once in a while, a tear rolled down his cheek. I wondered if he had thought about his kids when he was out looking for cars to steal.

"If there's one thing that this place has, it's plenty of loneliness," he said wiping his eyes once again.

I found it so strange to see such a large man with muscles like that of Charles Atlas, standing before me with tears rolling down his cheeks. Finally, it was decided we had best head back to our bunks before the guards came around.

Once again I held out my hand. He reached out, took my hand and squeezed it. For just a split second, he rested his head on my shoulder.

"You don't know who I am, do you?" he asked.

"No, sir. I don't."

"What you saw here tonight stays here. You got it?" he ordered.

"Yes, sir."

"You'll never have a problem for as long as you are here," he said.

After that night, we never spoke again. We would nod our heads when we passed in the prison yard. I never did know exactly who he was. However, I knew he was basically a good man, who had a kind heart and loved his children.

I had always heard that the best way to get along in prison was to mind one's own business. You were to see nothing. You were to hear nothing. And if asked, you knew nothing.

I lied in my bed that night thinking of the many times I had cried, because of the beatings I endured in the orphanage. I thought of the tears I shed from being locked in a wire cage at the Duval County Juvenile Shelter. I stared up at the ceiling wondering what it would be like to cry, just one time, because you missed someone or because someone missed you. I had never known such a feeling. Considering I had three and one-half years to serve, maybe it was best that way



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