I like to say I stand at the intersection of knowledge and action. There were times when I stood in other places...
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-=[ The Prison Chronicles ]=-
To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.
-- Raymond Williams
I stood there in the cold late fall drizzle, my hands and feet shackled. It seemed as if this correction officer liked to march us through the streets to the bowels of
I stood there shackled shivering in the late fall November drizzle as a line of schoolchildren, their faces bright and shiny, passed by, staring at me. They looked at me, as children are wont to do, out of curiosity and fear. I was a bad man. I stood there wishing I could become invisible when I saw her. I hadn’t seen her in more than ten years, but we were lovers for several years. We were in a relationship during the late 70s/ early 80s. And here she was ten years later, long legs and that maddeningly, but oh-so-sexy stride. I tried to avert my eyes, hoping she wouldn’t see me; hoping that she wouldn’t see the spectacle of a man shackled in front of a group of school kids and she walked right past me. I managed to exhale.
But then she stopped...
She saw me, it just took a second for her mind to register.
She turned around and said, “Eddie?”
We locked eyes and she really saw me. I managed a shrug, as if to say, “Yeah, this is me and everything the situation implies.” She dropped her briefcase, ran towards me, and took me in her arms and that’s when the officer yelled.
“Step away from the inmate, ma’am!”
I’ll never forget the look of utter confusion on her face.
“Look, he’s my ex-husband, and I’m an officer of the court, could you just let me talk to him briefly?” It was a lie, I wasn’t her ex-husband, but she was always quick on her feet. We stood there, looking at one another. I just didn’t have anything to say. I mean, what do you say?
“Can I get you anything, Eddie baby?” That’s what she always called me, “Eddie baby,” it was our inside joke for a long time.
I managed to give the patented Eddie-as-rake smile and said, “Sweetie, there’s nothing you can do for me. I’m just sorry you had to see me this way.” That’s when the officer took me away.
That was the day of my sentencing.
My experiences inform my politics. I would like to think that I am an “organic” intellectual in the mold of an Antonio Gramsci or a Raymond Williams. Well, those guys were giants, I’m nowhere near their league, but they serve as my role models in many ways. I come from the poor and working class, the unemployed, the incarcerated, and I see my role as someone challenging any indoctrination they may have adopted from the bougies.
I am a part of their culture and my life experiences have taught me the importance of emphasizing their importance in the political formation of society. I love the fragmented, crazy, often courageous, and outlandish characters of my youth. Many of whom would find their way to my mother’s doorstep. The unfrogiven, as I liked to call them. People whose lives were tortured fragments, pieces of shattered hearts and dreams, sometimes kept together by a boundless spirit. Sometimes not. I have met many broken spirits during my travels.
These people always held high hopes for me, someone they saw as intelligent, so gifted. And on that day, standing there shackled and humiliated, shivering in the drizzle of a late November overcast day, I remembered all those lost souls, who held so much hope for me,
It an apparent attempt to prove the cliché of life being stranger than fiction, the Fates conspired, and I met my old girlfriend again fifteen years later. That day I stood in the sunshine of late spring day as a free man.