Memory, Conversation, and Hope: An Inmate’s intimate Chronicle

by on December 16th, 2005

Piercing the tender tranquility of a surrendered mind, awakening, removing, disrobing sleep from its earnest host, the brew of coffee, the commotion of the kitchen, the alerted words and executive commands of a homemaking mother, the familiar grumblings and lingering eccentrities of a grandfather completing his morning ablutions, the father sipping his pre-commute beverage preparing to yield to the necessary repetition of another day of doctorly deeds, and a young brother, still asleep; I confronted the ritual of realizing that it was indeed, as it ever is, a continuation of a school day.

Changing into ‘work clothes’, with yesterday’s pants’ pockets filled with snippets of insights, ink blots of abandoned deadlines, indefinite assignments: an unassembled catalogue of unfinished business, cramped into 4 by 4 pockets with pens, rotting trident strips, and loose change; I headed out.

The bus ride was short. Too short. The flirty girls at the backseats, the meek immigrant at the corner squeezed between a tolerant football player and a pessimistic goth, the lonely looking cluster of emo kids engaged in the paradox of self-pity; and for the most part of the yellow and black-striped transport’s constituency languored the somber suburbanite faces of apathy lilting and turning in a quaint rhythm with blank expressions, with glued headphones, to the umpteenth repetition of the pop-music industry’s latest feature production.

Streaming out of the bus, spreading out, dispersing, we all went our separate ways throughout the high school precincts. The flirty girls joined each other in a prominent corner of the lobby, giggling, glancing, conspiring.

The emo kids huddled together in another corner, gazing into each other, looking away, saying very little, and sharing their invented pain, listening to mood enhancing music, eying the area for possible recruits.

Next to the emo kids the lonely goth met up with few other ‘club members’: a club whose only admission requirement was the incessant cultivation of a bleak intensity: an unfettered celebration of the purity of negativity, conjuring in the color black, and the various shiny pointy metal contraptions a dark rage, visions of blood, and a narcissistic individuality whose defining attribute was extinctionism.

The football player got off the bus in an understandable rush, a bus too small for his muscular ambitions, the seat too soft, sinking to the weight of his frame: he ran off with his gym bag towards the locker rooms, joining his fellow footballers in the hallway, roaring and rippling, eager participants in a contract of supra-masculine bonhomie.

I did not walk. I was told, I marched. Ignoring the flirty girls, but addressing them. Skimming over the emo kids, “Hey Andy, looking forward to the history test?”, “Whatever dude, I barely studied.” Football player in the hallway, “Yo Roy-diddy, what’s crackin’”, interjected by another footballer, who alleges “You are one crazy motherfucker, haha.”

Ralph Cioffi comes up next with Brad and Ryan. He has been trying to hit on Stephanie, and Brad and Ryan had their eyes set on Jessica and Amy. Ralph greets me. I stop, slap his shoulder and exchange cordialities and complimentary vulgarities. Ralph calls over Stephanie, “Yo, this kid, he sings Opera, Roy sing some Opera dude, Stephanie wants to listen.”

After I demonstrate how to “make out” with the water fountain to a few kids, whose faces were endearing in their familiarity and cluelessness, Isaac comes up. Isaac Li. He says, “How is it going my transcendentalist friend.” It was always my profound impression that Isaac had no idea what

transcendentalism was, but the sheer weight of incomprehension instilled in him a youthful wonder and admiration of it, which he transposed by extension upon me. This annoyed me. This made me angry.

It told me despite the sounds around me, despite the diversity in commotion, I only had my own voice to listen to. A voice I had befriended. A restless friend this voice: a friend of quirks, flaws that both were endearing and repulsive. Compulsions that were both overwhelming but perplexing. My voice was the only friend I could have a conversation with, and I yearned, thirsted, groped for conversations.

This was a voice I had come to find profound, emotional, aggressive, angry, a voice that never stood still: in fact it was not a voice in a tower-of-babel sense. No clear procedural language. The grammar of it was contorted.

It was a mixture of music, analyticism, optimism, carrying in its wavelength an equal perception of immediate reality’s constant attempts to fanatically contradict it, squelch it. My flesh, my senses, my sympathies, my sorrows: all of it was right smack dab in the middle of this protracted pantomime attempting to reconcile and rehabilitate.

Indeed, that was my school experience. Maybe someday I’ll graduate.

I heard in the deserts under the Mediterranean they have a way of putting it. They say “Inchallah!”: That is, ‘God willing’. As a devout follower of Truth, as its obedient scholar and worshipful devotee, maybe someday, in my God, I will find a will, an allowance, something more than a consolation, but a little less than a salvation.

“They have no consciousness of themselves as persons or as members of an oppressed class.” ~ Paulo Freire

“Individuals who were submerged in reality, merely feeling their needs, emerge from reality and perceive the causes of their needs.” ~ Paulo Freire

Alexander Rai