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My Inescapable Past

Raymond Fredericks

My Inescapable Past

The work week concluded as I strolled down the hallway ramp, stopping to say “hi” to the same 30-second friends, continuing past cold concrete walls to my living unit. Thirty hours closer to completing a college computer course, proving what I already know, and a dozen hours helping adult men transition from counting on their fingers to solving quadratic equations to earn their GED. This routine became my new normal a few months back. I get to leave the cacophonous 250-man gymnasium of parking spot-sized rooms. Here, I find direction, logic and future. The staff here don’t have badges or handcuffs. They aren’t wearing all blue. Jeans and blouses replace combat boots and mirrored sunglasses. I am Fredericks here, not offender. I have found daily refuge. 

My 300-foot commute remains indoors. No trees, no sun, nor wind, rain, snow, or humidity. Just a double yellow line and a cop to keep traffic flowing. A left turn into Unit 7 merges in the line for mail call. My highlighted name on the list on the wall means somebody loves me today.

Ten minutes later, through a 4 x 15-inch slot in the wall, three pieces of mail pop out. 1) A note I sent to medical three weeks ago has been answered. 2) My pen pal sent her weekly letter. 3) A letter from I.A. with the name Christian on it. I have no clue what I.A. means but one of the people I hurt to earn my spot here is named Christian. My day, just like hers, those years ago, just collapsed into an emotional disaster. What message took three years to say?

Painting by Gwynne Duncan 

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