Chapter 1- Life’s little worries.
Given the evidence I hereby sentence you to six years in federal prison. Bang, down went the hammer. Six years I thought to myself, what have I done, I never meant it. I wished I could go back to the days where I sat with grandma and pondered on life’s little faults. Little worries as we used to call them. They were little worries. In-fact so little that I cant believe we sat for hours talking about them. When you think life’s at its worse, think again. I wonder what grandma would have to say about this. But grandma is no longer here, grandma is gone. I started to cry, I felt so angry inside. So much rage and no-where for it to go. I looked around the room; it was filled with smug faces glaring over at me. They all sat there thinking there’s another one brought to justice. Hard to think they all had a heart the way there peering over. Ether side of me were two strict looking police officers that couldn’t wait to slam the metal cuffs around my wrists, lock me in a cell and throw away the key. And why shouldn’t they, it’s there job after all. All in a days work. I let them cuff me up and walk me through the room, it felt like the walk of shame. As we exited through the doors I heard sniggering and muffled conversation. Bloody bastards, they didn’t know me, they didn’t know anything. We continued walking down a long narrow corridor, and then outside where they put me in the back of a police van. It was dark, it had metal bars across the windows and there was a small ledge on which to sit on. I sat, I cried and I was scared.
When we got to the prison, I was shaking. I looked around; it was an old Victorian looking building, quite pretty really. Apart from the fact there were bars on every window in sight and security officers at every door. I glanced up at the sky, it was blue with a couple of white clouds, I breathed the fresh air from all around me and I smelt the fresh cut grass from the field behind. I lived for the moment and took in everything I could of my last few seconds of freedom. As I walked through the door of the prison it was like a dull mist hung over me. It smelt stale and it made me feel sick. The officers walked me into a small office and told me to take a seat. So I took a seat, that’s if you can really call it that, it was a metal box, looked more like an upside down dustbin to me. In-front was a desk and in-front of that, a proper chair and a coat stand. I waited patiently in silence glancing over at the paperwork spread over the desk, trying to take a peek at what it said but even with my eyes squinted I couldn’t make anything out. Then the door opened and in walked a woman dressed in a suit, she had brown short hair and I‘d guess about in her mid thirties. She sat down in the proper chair. She handed me a prison guide and gave me an introduction welcome. She explained she was the governor and told me what would happen to me next. She made it sound like some sort of boarding school, I was pretty sure slight name calling wasn’t all I had to look forward to. She said if I had any problems then I was to go see her. Yeah right, I already had a problem; I was in prison for six years.
Chapter 2- What to expect.
After the meeting she took me to the communal area, the walls were white with drug and alcohol posters dotted around. There was graffiti on the walls, on the cell doors and along the stair rails. The lighting was slightly dimmed, and the floor was concrete with chewing gum stuck to it. There where a few tables and chairs over the far end of the room. There were cell doors on the left and right side walls down to the bottom end of the room. They were painted in a dingy yellow, with keyholes, big noticeable keyholes. The stairs were against the far wall they had black metal handrails, with scratched and battered steps leading up to another floor of cells. There was metal gridded pathways along the top right and left side. Through the middle, as I looked straight up I saw the flat top roof filled with odd cob-webs and dirty markings. The woman pointed me through to the second cell on the right. When I pushed open the cell door there where two metal bunk-beds on either side of the room, a toilet and sink to the left in the corner. And at the back there was a window, with brown rusted bars across it. There was dry blood in the sink, stains on the bed sheets and a thick fog of smoke. All I could smell was cigarette fumes and urine. In the room were two other prisoners. Lexi and Zara, my two cell buddies, supposedly. Lexi was a young girl, late teens; she was tall with blond hair and blue eyes. She was a nice girl really, quite insecure and closed off. Zara was about the same age as me, mid twenties. She was an average height with brown hair and green eyes. Zara unlike Lexi was not so nice, I couldn’t make conversation with her, every-time she went to say something it would sound like she was about to bite my head off. She seemed angry all the time, I couldn’t figure her out and I didn’t want to ask. I liked my face the way it was.
That night I sat and read my prison guide, I was really surprised to learn that if I wanted to I could keep a musical instrument, a cd- player, a computer and various other things. There was a page about the canteen and what was on the menu. Another page about the shop, what it sold and how much money we were entitled to. There was a prison library, a laundrette and a shower room. Also an outside recreational area, we could spend up to two hours day outside. Then finally the last page explained the three IEP levels. Basic level- If you are on basic level it means you can have certain things that the law says you can have, like some letters and visits. You will not be allowed anything extra. Standard level- This means you may be allowed more visits and letters. You may be allowed to have a TV in your cell and to spend more of your money. Enhanced level- This means you can have even more extra things. For example, you may be allowed more visits, a TV in your cell, or to spend even more of your money. I was on basic level but maybe prison life wasn’t as bad as everyone made out I thought to myself. But who was I trying to kid, this was a prison not a holiday camp.
Chapter 3- The new girl.
I felt really home sick, I tried to tell myself to get over it, I had six years in this shit hole. But all I could do was think of my grandma and her old cooking. She made the most mouth watering home cooking. I loved her omelettes, they were always perfect, she tired to teach me but I failed every time, they always fell apart on me. You need the knack then you’ll be as good as me she used to say. I forced myself to concentrate on trying to sleep but that night, that first night; I didn’t sleep, not at all.
7am wake up call; the officers came banging on the cell doors. It was loud, there were a lot of voices from other cells and officers were shouting. I asked Lexi what happened now. She explained we go for breakfast and then we do nothing. We are only allowed to the shop, library or outside during certain hours when the officers say so. She then said I bet you’ll have to go for a medical and all that because you’re new. Great, I thought to myself, I don’t want a medical; I don’t need a medical, why do I have to have a medical. We went to breakfast, that’s when I saw every one else. At first it was just a bunch of people but as we walked closer it was more like a bunch of animals. There were the ones that shouted at every one. There were the ones that sat with the back against the walk staring you up and down. There were the ones whispering amongst themselves and eyeing people up. And there were the quite ones sat shaking or crying. I didn’t dare make eye contact with any of them. I felt like I was being watched, like they were plotting against me. I heard one of them say there’s the new girl. I didn’t like being the new girl. New girl means easy target. New meat for them to pick and chew on. I got my food and sat alone. I felt so ruff, I felt weak and helpless. Inside I was screaming with rage, outside I was fragile and scared.
Lexi was right I did have to go for a medical. The nurse was an old arrogant bag. She ordered me around like I was dog. Sit, stay, lie, do this, do that. There was nothing wrong with me; I could have told them that. She gave me my rags as I liked to call them. Orange overalls we had to wear day in and day out. I was sick of the sight after one day. Rules were rules though; I couldn’t afford to disobey them.
Chapter 4- Staying positive.
A few days in the shit hole and I’d fount my feet a bit. The others were generally OK if you didn’t stare at them, if you didn’t enter their personal space and you only spoke when they spoke to you. I visited the library a couple of times and was on my ninth chapter of pride and prejudice. It annoyed me that I couldn’t take it back to my cell to read; you had to be on standard to have that privilege. I was looking forward to my first meeting I had with the prisons counsellor. It was not my usual cup of tea but even an hour of decent conversation sounded good to me. I also put my name down to join the prison chapel, my plan was to get involved and move up to standard quicker. But I was bored, there was nothing to do. That’s when I decided I needed to get a hobby. That was the day I started writing. I wrote about a lot of things but more than anything I loved to write poetry.
Life inside is like life has died,
I count the days going by,
I wipe my tears dry.
I try my best to not get stressed,
I concentrate on the good,
I just want to be understood.
I don’t have a choice,
So I’ll raise my voice,
When I speak my words,
I will be heard.
I won’t be shy,
I’ll learn how to fly,
I’ll set flight and let go,
Be free from head to toe.
Life inside is like life has died,
I will fight to fly to stay alive.
To be free I will strive.
Lord knows I will have tried,
Like a bird I will glide.
I had to stay positive, it was only early days and I didn’t know what else to do. I liked to think I was not alone, that my grandma was right there with me taking care of me. When it’s all you’ve got the go on, that’s what you have to work with. I tired to talk to Lexi and Zara when the opportunities arose. I didn’t want to make enemies, friends sounded far more appealing to me.
It soon came round, my meeting with the counsellor. I was taken to a small room with a table and two chairs ether side of it. In came the counsellor and we sat down. She was a lovely woman, not at all like I expected. I expected a professional looking woman who would be slightly patronising and hard faced like the rest of the staff in this place. But she wasn’t, it was just like talking to an old friend. Like I’d known her for years. She asked me what I was in for and if I wanted to talk about it. I wasn’t sure at all; I’d tried not to think about it. But she was a counsellor and she would understand, wouldn’t she?
Chapter 5- The truth
I sat uneasy in the small enclosed room. I began to explain to her. It all started when I was 16, I enrolled on a course at the local college in Manchester to study literature. Something I wasn’t sure about at the time but I was curious and young so I went a-head and decided to undergo the course. I can remember my first day, walking into the classroom and thinking I hoped it would be different from school. I took a seat next to a girl wearing glasses who had her eyes glued to a book. I asked her if she was nervous about starting, she put down her book and replied yes but also excited, I’m Helena nice to meet you. She didn’t take the normal approach to greet with a handshake instead she turned to me and gave me a hug. I didn’t pull away even though I thought it was a little weird. I’m Jaymie I told her and nice to meet her too. I was pleased with myself; I didn’t know it would be that easy to make a friend, I didn’t know what I was so nervous about. We become good friends, close friends infact. Every day I’d go back to her house or she would come to mine for ‘study time’ as we used to say. It wasn’t study time, we didn’t study. We watched films, and told our parents they were relevant to the course, but they weren’t. We would cosy up on the bed together, bring out the chocolate stash and watch film after film. Horrors, romances, comedies, actions, musicals, crimes, sci-fi’s and animations. You name it, we watched it. We were great friends and I was happy.
A few months into the course we started studying the old mythical classic tale of Iphis and Ianthe. The story was based on a woman who had a baby girl, after the father said he would kill the child if it was born a girl; the woman deceived him by dressing the child as a boy. When the child reached the age of thirteen, the father fount the bride Ianthe who was to marry Iphis. The mother prayed to the god Isis to take pity on the lovers, the goddess turned Ianthe into a boy and they were married. Helena and myself partnered up and were told to make a short film of an updated version. We were excited we had never been asked to make a short film before we usually wrote about everything. I was Iphis and Helena was Ianthe, it was going well, we wrote a script and learnt it word for word, we practised every night after college instead of watching our films. One night while we were half-way through the script Helena suggested we should kiss because our characters were in love. She took me by surprise; I wouldn’t have expected her to suggest it. I gave a slight nod to her, I wanted to try but I couldn’t help but feel awkward about it. But she wasn’t awkward; I just assumed it was because she was more confident than me. Anyway it turns out she wanted to do more than kiss, in-fact the week after she asked me to be her girlfriend. I smiled, I don’t know why I smiled, I was flattered I guess. But there was no way I could. I wasn’t gay. But I answered yes. It confuses me to this day why I said yes, but I did. It wasn’t easy to begin with, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I hadn’t even had a proper boyfriend before. My mother disapproved and threw me out and I moved in with my grandma. People at college weren’t very nice about it either. But Helena and I didn’t care, we had each-other and in our own little world, that’s all that mattered. We passed the course and started at Manchester’s University studying more literature. By that point, although I would have hated to admit it, I was falling for her, badly. She loved me and I loved her that’s the only way we saw it, we didn’t care about anything else. Shortly after starting university, my grandma fell ill and died of a heart attack three weeks later. I was angry at the world for taking my grandma away from me. I blamed everyone around except Helena. I would randomly break down at University and blame it on my other peers for something small they had done or said to me. I moved in with Helena. Helena lived with her mother; she had no father and no other siblings. Her mother was always kind to me, she didn’t seem to mind about Helena and I being together. Things did start to get better, I grieved over my grandma and then one day the pain stopped. Although it wasn’t completely gone it was like I came back to life again overnight. Then when I thought things were getting better, things suddenly went from bad to worse. Helena and her mother were on the way back from Helena’s optician appointment. Her mother speeded up on a main road, from out a downhill side road came a lorry, the lorry tried to brake but something went wrong and the lorry collided into the car. Right into the passenger seat, right into my Helena. I was distraught. I blamed her mother, it wasn’t really her fault. But I hated that woman; I wanted to kill her for killing Helena. The only two people I had were taken from me in the same short space of time. I was angry; I wasn’t thinking straight at all. I took a can of petrol, threw it over the house and then set it a light. It felt good. It felt amazing. Helena’s mother made it out alive with minor burns. Now here I am in prison for arson, I never meant to do it; I didn’t know what I was doing. I guess I’m lucky she wasn’t severely injured.
Chapter 6- Emotions
I’m not sure it entirely helped bringing everything back up to the surface again, but the counsellor seemed to be impressed with my openness. I’m not ashamed of what I did. I know I properly should be. But no-one will ever understand what I was going through. Most people in prison are not here because they committed a crime for the pure sake of it. There are reasons behind and people shouldn’t be so quick to judge. I’ve learnt that everything is not as it seems, when you pass people on the streets you should see a blank canvass. But people fill that canvass with suspicions and personal judgement. We as humans are quick to point the finger when it doesn’t concern us. It’s not always intentional, half the time we don’t realise were doing it, or do we and it’s become such a natural thing. Nobody is perfect and life certainly isn’t perfect. Sometimes I wish for a second chance at life, but then I think of all the good times that I wouldn’t change for the world. Yes I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve learnt from them. If life was given a second chance what’s to say we wouldn’t make mistakes again. Mistakes in there own little way are good, we need to experience things to understand them. Love for example, humans tend to use this word a lot, but then ask them to describe it and they struggle. So why say the word if you don’t understand it? When I was young my mother always used to say to me never use the word hate, hate is a strong word. If hates such a strong word then why do we toss around love likes its nothing?
Mistakes in my opinion shouldn’t be regretted. What’s the point of making mistakes and learning from them to regret them? If no-one made mistakes I fear we would not understand anything. I don’t regret what I’ve done and it’s not a mistake, it’s a lesson to myself. That maybe it was wasn’t the best thing to do, but you did it, I didn’t know what else to do. So if I didn’t do it, what would I have done? Maybe something much worse.
Everyone expresses emotions in different ways and feelings we do not understand are released through another emotion we do understand, its the only way we can free what’s trapped inside. Tears are an emotion the heart cannot explain. As you read this now, ask yourself what you feel? You may be feeling confusion towards the question. But dig further, everyone, whoever you may be will have something hidden. Something will be on your mind because that’s life. Sometimes we can be quite good at keeping everything hidden and maybe it just takes that one word or that one look or that one smell, or that one sound or that one person that can bring it to the surface.
People may never fully understand emotions, but they do learn how to deal with them. Everyone is different but at the end of the day we are all humans, and although our feelings will never be the exact same as one another’s, we know hurt, we know happiness, we know jealousy, we know despair, we know joy in are own little way of experience. And all the emotions you have yet to discover, take them as they come for they will be the making of you. Good or bad, we will learn to become a better person through understanding.
Chapter 7- Progress
It had been two months; I’d become quite good friends with Lexi. She enjoyed reading my writing. And I was glad I had someone to share my stories with. We read together at the library as much as we could. I introduced her to pride and prejudiced, just like me she was really indulged by romance stories. I was thrilled I had somebody with me who I could confide in and share interests with. I don’t know what I’d have done without her.
We had been called into the office together; we thought we had done something wrong. We sat down on the metal boxes. In walked the governor. I felt really nervous I had no idea why we were there. She handed me and Lexi and Open University prospectus with the literature page open. She told us we could study whilst in prison if we wanted to. She asked us to think about it. I didn’t know about Lexi but I didn’t have to think about it, I wanted to do it. Within the next week we had our enrolment form sent off and we were so excited. I knew that Lexi was so grateful to me for helping her to focus on something important for her life. That was also the week I got accepted into the chapel community and my plan had worked.
The week after I was moved up to standard with Lexi. We had our own room with our own desk each so we could study. It felt great to feel like I was achieving something considering where I was. But nothing could have prepared me for the shock that was about to present itself in front of me. I was told I had a phone call from the outside. I was confused. Who the hell could have been calling me? I walked over to the phone, picked it up and held it to my ear and said nervously, hello… It was silent for a couple of seconds. Then I heard the reply, Jaymie? Jaymie? Its mum. I wanted to throw the phone down, run to my cell and slam the door shut. But I didn’t. I was curious as to what she might say. She started to cry as she tried to tell me how she should have been there for me. She said that she had read about everything in the papers and she knew she should have come to me sooner. She said she was going to come and visit me. I was so shocked, but I was really happy at the same time. She may not have been there for me but on the outside she was the only person I had left, so I had to try.
It’s amazing what can happen in two months. I’ve been locked in this place, but I have a good friend, I’m part of the chapel, I’m on standard already, I’m studying an open university course and my mother wants to come and visit. I’ve still along way to go though and I’d be lying if said I was scared. A lot more can happen in 5 years and 10 months.
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