“I dare you to stop counting and start acting. To stop pleasing and start defying. I dare you to trust what you know. The second wind is beyond data. It is past pain. it is found in the bloodstream and cells of the women and men who purged the poison of their perpetrators, who walked through the cancer, the nightmares. The second wind is coming from your body, it’s in your mouth, it’s in the way you move your hips.” ~ Eve Ensler, In the Body of the World
“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” ~ Chinua Achebe
“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.” ~ bell hooks
After the read around last week, I was excited to get back to our writing group and hear what our writers had to say about their experience. What was their story of the night? Our group’s theme for the night was narrative so it was an easy transition and it also opened the same dialogue we always open: the opportunity for everyone to tell their version of their own story.
What happened surprised me. We had a much smaller group than we usually do right after read arounds and the mood was somber. This happens every now and then – the environment in the prison alters everyone’s feelings and our group experiences some needed quiet. Or the subject matter brings up difficult stories and keeps everyone feeling weighted, their words freighted on the page. I can never tell walking in the door and I can’t touch a majority of their experience.
It turned out that everyone had their reasons for being quiet, for not attending. There is the quiet before the storm, the quiet of contentment, the quiet of exhaustion and, then, there is an entirely different quiet that sometime settles in the group. It is one of a complex exhaustion that combine the stress of recent conflicts, migraines, the grind of the day to day, and all manner of unspoken strains. In the stories below, you’ll read accounts of this in our writer’s words.
THE STORY I’VE TOLD
You see if I had to tell the story my way – I probably couldn’t tell you much. Just when I think I might have a grasp it slips right through my fingers and blows into dust. There has to be more than just dust. I wish that I could say that this story was a happy one…on the contrary unfortunately. A young girl never stands a chance when she doesn’t know how to swim and is forced to walk the plank. The ocean swell will suck you in quicker than you’d think but not fast enough when you’re drowning. After a struggle and a fight for air, a hand might pluck her out or she might just fight and hold on…does she give up? Sink or swim, there will be a fight. Just when her lungs are burning with fire, she begins to float to the surface hanging on to the life that’s left…at this point it’s not much. It never has been but being consumed by this body of water has changed things. Colors appear different, words don’t sound the same. Walking doesn’t come naturally anymore. Everything is pushing against the will of the lost, little girl. No one is there to teach her new life, left to her own devices, the story changes, never stays on track. So many times, it has been rewritten, so many times ripped up, so many times the words read wrong. Now what do you say when the end is near, and the last sentence is waiting to be written?
I begin my days
at the 8 am current events class.
I have started this ritual
for almost 2 years now.
Today the teacher was sharing
a story from his past.
He was going overseas and when his plane landed,
He was very sick, he throat raw, head pounding,
he sought out the pharmacy.
What he knew would help
only only to find out “sudafed,” could not be bought.
He was told by the pharmacist
he needed to put a slip in, go see a doctor
then return in five days.
He thought this ludicrous
but it was not a joke.
It seems “sudafed” was used to make a drug
by those cooking meth.
When I heard this story,
it rang so familiar.
It sounds just like what we have to go
through here at CRCF.
If you have a headache, migraine, sore throat
or feel nauseous.
You go to medical, or I should say
you TRY to go to medical,
only to be stopped and told
you have to put in a slip.
So you suffer through your illness
with no help or compassion from anyone.
If you are lucky, you might get a tylenol
or be told, you have to buy that on commissary.
Commissary can be ordered only once a week.
A package of two pills cost almost $0.30.
We are allowed to purchase five packs only.
Sounds ludicrous, right?
Today, I am on Day three of a migraine.
I submitted so many slips
even before those three excruciating days
because my head began aching
a few days before it turned
into a migraine.
So things are the same for us today
as my teacher experienced
many years ago.
Just think, if you have a headache
you simply take a couple of pills,
that are at your fingertips.
You don’t wait five days or have to
put in a slip to get help.
Also, you probably paid $3.00
for a bottle of 100.
Now figure out how much that
would cost us to buy 100.
I do not believe I have a story worth telling or that my story is one worth listening to. I say this because even though my story differs in names, in places and in time, my story is the same as yours. Since I have been at CRCF, I have heard my story a 100 times from a 100 other inmates. Even though each story offers a personal new and personal facts, the ending is always the same.