Boat Junkie Blood Flow
Anthony Ray Valdez
Concrete arteries control footsteps around the prison yard. Yellow faded arrows tell to go this way or another. Clots of cops stare at the congestion of groups shaking hands, passing kites and pleasantries. Their badge shines with authoritative gleam as I shudder with arbitrary guilt -- butt clinch awareness of the inventory within my pockets. I find the path least traveled, noticing as I walk by flowers and bunnies and the two-tone fade of an old-school convict’s pants. The crease created over the years shows one side ironed, the other not. This indicates the five number on this chest, along with the gold chain and boot polish. If I were in a car, I’d lock my doors as I pass by.
I come up on a grey-haired man with a cane, the fearful look in his eyes glues details to his case. Finally, a friendly smile and hello, a staff member from education greets us as we walk in. Through a metal detector -- its beep a tone of consistency that never waivers regardless of the person crossing under. ID check by security stationed here, my middle finger across the front to give my formal hello. First door on the left, I peek in and say hello to a familiar stranger who once told me if not for this environment -- we’d be friends. The pulse of incarcerated humanity tears at my soul with this connection.
I travel further past the head educator monitoring the halls -- making sure we all have a pass. Security of bar hidden books are easier to access than her alphabetized list for who will attend next. I smirk, I know she hates me, her murmur to another person doesn’t need to be heard to validate this. Moving on, I find my destination. It looks to be different, but it’s not. We call it work, but it still is four walls, controlled confinement, with people I do everything with. Eat, sleep, workout, and here -- create. The glass used to monitor our shenanigans reflects back the image of me. Now, who is it I see? My heart beat lessens to see a familiar face.
Painting by Gwynne Duncan