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The Belly

Marcel McDaniel

The Belly

I felt like I was buried alive or better yet in a coffin. I was in what was called the slammer cell, in Ohio's maximum-security prison in Lucasville.

             The slammer cell was considered the hole inside the hole. It was solitary confinement on steroids. I had been put in this situation for attempting to stab another prisoner through the cell bars and in the midst of my rage, I allegedly spit on a prison guard.

             I was in the third year of a 19-year sentence and being in the slammer cell only accelerated the disconnection from humanity that is a major component of prison life.

             In the slammer cell I had absolutely no human contact. I was left to wrestle with my own thoughts. Thoughts of abandonment, thoughts of regret, and thoughts of grief. I was grieving what felt like my own death. I was at a pivotal point in my prison journey. I was close to succumbing to the toxic environment I lived in. I had decided that once I was released from the hole that I would track down the man that I had attempted to stab and finish the job successfully.

             This is the mental space I was in when I received a piece of mail from my 9-year-old daughter. In the paragraph-long letter she said four words that have the power to move mountains; I love you Daddy. It was at that moment that I decided that I wouldn't succumb to the hell on earth that I was in. I would instead rise above my circumstances and become a father that my daughter could be proud of.

Painting by Gwynne Duncan 

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