It happened every year, and I was blessed to see another one regardless of being woken
up by one officer screaming "Count!" and another idiot with his screaching whistle blowing. I stretched my linky legs off the top bunk, and just as I did every morning, I jumped down into my $7.50 commissary shower shoes that had been tattooed with my nickname "$moke" all over them.
It was my birthday! November 28th. Yet another day that my body shivered with the cold reality of being stuck in the one place that nobody ever wants to be...and there is nothing that I or anyone else can do about it. Prison!
I mean, this was prison. Real, adult, barbed wired, electrical fenced, four armed towered, perimeter circling...prison! And because it was my birthday, I still knew that all of my crazy homeboys were going to do everything possible to build some form of illusion that creates "happiness" behind bars. We would plan all day about making a big pizza and watching whomever played on TNT in the dayroom. Everyone knew that a game of Casino or Spades was the unspoken rule. Who knows? Somebody may have even stolen enough sugar from the prison kitchen to brew a stash of "Mash" (read: prison homemade wine). I was 19 years old, and I was forced into contentment.
The one thing that was also certain was that this would begin the season of holidays between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year that is sure to begin handcuffing me to my every-year nightmare. The holiday tri-fecta; doomed to be the most depressing moments of my life. And not because of the sleepless nights and sweaty cinderblock walls either. But because I knew that my mom, my sister, my grandmother...my family - they were all somewhere crying and praying their hearts out for me.
I mean, here I am laughing with the fellas on the prison rec yard, probably either listening to some lie about how this guy was the biggest drug lord in Portsmouth, VA, or me talking about how I'mma be some great business man one day. Fortunately or unfortunately, I'm chilling! And my family is worried to death about me: Are you eating? Are you okay? I'm sorry that you can't be here with us. We miss you. Are you staying out of trouble?
The questions wouldn't end! The concern wouldn't stop! My heart bled with the pain of knowing that I had placed my family in a constant state of fear and agony, and for years. I prayed that God would heal their hearts and comfort them. I promised them that I was okay. I called more often than usual, and even tried to dissuade my mom and my sister from driving 4 hours away to visit me; all for only a few hours in that cold visiting room and then drive 4 hours back home. I tried to stay strong, but I'm sure that my mom could hear the cracking in my voice over that expensive collect call on Christmas Eve. It was literally the hardest part of doing time.
The month dragged by, and finally came Christmas. Shortly after the second screaming "Count!" of the day, the C.O. called my name, "Bullock, you got a visit!", he screamed from the top of the wing. It is only during that single moment, and the time when a C.O. says that you have mail can that feeling of instant joy be replicated in prison. My eyes popped. My heart dropped. My blood got warmer. My cell partner Spida looked at me and grinned. My brain scrambled slightly for a second, and I began to calculate how quickly I could possibly shave my face and take that long walk to the visiting room. That walk was the best walk that anybody behind those bars can take. Its the walk of love. The walk that says that somebody made a sacrifice for me. That walk that makes you feel like you have to give the nod of "Respect me, for I am loved!" to the onlookers around the prison compound. That walk meant everything! It was Christmas, and my family completely reshaped the way that I look at this Season.
Why did I give my all to launch Flikshop and support our families suffering from incarceration when I was released? Maybe it was the walk...