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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving in Prison Camp: 2011 Journal Entry


Rainy and foggy today -- watching the beacon at the Duluth airport's tower sweep across the bottom of the mist bank before hitting my window ar its regular second-or-so interval. The first count this morning was interesting -- or funny, I guess: once again Frazier was messing with the count. 

Bravo (the faux-hawked bleached-blond lieutenant) and Gunther were doing the count. Just as they came into the building and announced "Count!" Frazier decided to vacuum his rug. He ignored all the shouts at him from up and down the hall until Bravo sent Mush -- my roomie -- to tell him to knock it off. Apparently the Lieutenant and the head of the Education Department (Gunther) suffer from some sort of arithmetical deficiency because they had to count us two more times -- the last round going room to room with the bed book, matching up faces with names -- before they could get their individual counts to coincide and clear the unit.



This had me concerned because Julie and the kids were coming for Thanksgiving. I had expected them before the count, but with the thick fog they hadn't arrived. So I waited on the edge of my bunk until count was cleared and they started calling for visits again. I was among the first called, hustled out of the building and a quarter mile or so through the chill wet mist to the visitor center.

This was my third visit wth them but my first Thanksgiving at FPC Duluth. It was more tense than usual because it was fraught with all sorts of holiday stress. They needed to get back for dinner, were concerned that I was missing the camp holiday meal and were insistent that I eat something with them out of the vending machine to at least have some semblance of a family holiday meal. I, on the other hand, showed up tense and on edge because of my visit-anticipation, the waiting, the lateness and my general malaise about being in prison on a major family holiday. I was overwhelmed and edgy and sad and anxious and didn't want them to spend Thanksgiving in a prison camp visitng room but I didn't want them to leave either. All was well with the kids, but the visit ended in some unsatisfying bickering between Julie and me, of which I was the instigator.

I walked back through the fog, hollow, depressed and lonely. I immediately wrote a letter of apology to Julie, but it did little to assuage my angsty feelings. I arrived at FPC Duluth in September; in October, I received divorce papers -- I'd known they were coming, but after 16 years of marriage and 18 in a relationship, it was still a kick in the nuts; and now I was seeing my soon-to-be-X on my best-loved holiday in a prison camp. It was a triple-stacked shit sandwich and I'd taken a big bite.

That night, as I lay in my bunk -- upper, next to the window -- the fog still hanging over the camp and the airport next door, I caught sight of a green runway beacon in the distance. I'd just finished rereading The Great Gatsby, and my mind immediately seized upon the novel's oft-quoted last lines:

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

It didn't necessarily make me feel better, but as I looked at the light, I felt more at peace. I understood that the past is the past; and that I could not reclaim it, could not sail against the current, that close to the wind. I needed to ease up the sheets and fall off, turning my bow more toward the future. 

After that night, that airport beacon became my "green light" and represented departure, the future and tacit permission to move on, to proceed through the crossroads I'd reached in my life. I still look back over my shoulder more often than not, but now I am moving with the current. And my course is easier for it.