A loud buzz scraped the morning silence as the heavy door opened outward. Almost as mechanically, Wesley Odom took several steps and entered the day room adjoining his compartment, leaving behind a narrow cell with toilet facilities and a raised concrete slab bed. Five minutes later, the buzz sounded again and the door slammed behind him as if he was an intruder, in his own house, being forced from one room into another Lockdown, it was called, and in the larger cell, a stainless steel toilet sat behind a half wall, the lack of space still restricted his steps. A voice spoke through the speaker near the ceiling, but Wesley didn’t look up into the attentive eye of the camera. He would be pacing soon, and when he stops, the fluorescent light would glare at him within the walls and steel doors as he stretches out on the floor, or sits like a barnacle on the cold, metal bench welded to the concrete floor with mottled images.

“Well, it’s another day and the sun will be casting shadows, marking the hours,” he thought, “but here in this tomb, the passage of time is not marked by that heavenly light; rather, routine is the chronometer of my daily existence.” Medically diagnosed as hypertensive, Wesley had violently displayed his refusal to eat a meal consisting of pork, thus becoming a threat to successful inmate conditioning. He remembered when the men were called convicts and resisted the dehumanizing tactics they believed were encoded in the penal system’s modification programs. At age fifty-six, he had just completed twenty-five years of a thirty-year sentence for two armed robberies.

“I don’t know why I did that,” Wesley often acknowledged over the years, though at the time of the robberies, he’d claimed that the money would save him from a life threatening situation. He could construct no rational explanation of his actions and had accepted complete responsibility for his incarceration. “I didn’t choose to come to this place, but I chose a path that brought me here.” He wept whenever he recalled, that long ago, his mother asked where he expected his choices to take him.

“Of all the places in this world I could be, I’m interned here like a feral bird. But in a few years, when I’m free, I’ll fly—and never fall from flight—to some magnificent, imposing height. Wesley Odom longed for that height and hoped he didn’t have to wait for his physical freedom to find it, or the path, the road, the light—whatever would take him there. “Oh…the Light!” He smiled, pondering the ‘inner self’ he was acquiring knowledge of. He would not lose his sanity, thrashing about in the darkness.

Submitted by: Naimah on 10/03/2016

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