Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Cell

By Samuel Hawkins

When I first enter the cell, it is with hatred. This is my enemy, cage and captor. For as long as I remain in this cell, I will be challenged by the walls and bars, cement and steel meant to crush my thoughts, destroy my dreams, and hold me in a submissive choke hold.

I look at each like an opponent entering the ring, the arena. I look with distrust, yet respect. A worthy adversary meant to beat me down like those that came before me, and others who are sure to come after me. How many have outlasted the walls that surround them? Who has tortured and pained the cell?

I take a towel and begin to clean. Forcibly I scour the ceiling, walls, and floor. You are mine, if only for an hour, day, week or month. I rinse the towel over and over again in the toilet, as the water turns brown with dust, dirt, and tears of those who stayed here before me.

I work my way completely around the cell. It is clean. I will not be misled by this. This clean cell still holds me hostage.

I take five easy steps, from front to back. Turn around, return to the door. Back and forth I go. I close my eyes and uneasily take those five steps. I reach out with my hand to ensure that I do not walk into the door. My fingers touch it gently and I turn around. I continue to repeat this as I get to know my habitat.

I look out of the window in the door, and I see a clock on the wall. Tic, tic, tic. I can see the second hand move, it is caged too. Pacing, I count the time. Tic, tic, tic. I feel his pain, his struggle. We are allies. I look around the pod, look out of my window from different angles. How far can I see, what can I see? I get down on the ground and look underneath the door. This allows me to see farther down the tier. I get up again and look out of the window.

I attempt to acclimate myself to the activities in this pod. Right now there is little. Yet I know this will change, during count, chow, and recreation times. The clock will inform me when these times are, and the door will open and close. Feet will pad up and down the steps. The wheels on the food carts will riggle back and forth.

I look back at the clock, and begin to pace again. This is how I will pass the time. Back and forth. One hundred times, eight minutes forty-three seconds. I sit down on the cement block meant to be my bunk. I am still awaiting sheets and blankets. I unfold the mattress and lay down.

Thoughts are my vehicle of travel now as I rest my feet. My mind wanders, avoiding the cold stare of the walls, angered by my intrusion. I am at peace as I rest, as if on an air mattress in a pool somewhere in the Pacific. I drift on and on, as the light of the cell glows through my eyelids like a sun that never sets. Finally, sleep takes over.

I jerk awake, startled by a knock on my door and the slot dropping open with a loud clang. I jump up; my natural response to an unnatural environment. I stride to the door and receive my bedding from the two officers sent to deliver these items; they travel in pairs to ensure one another's safety. With bedding in hand, I return to my bunk.

I make my bed and then cautiously roll up the mattress. This allows me space, keeps the cell clean, and ensures that I do not become soft in this hardened place. I refuse to just lie about all day. I refuse to be taken over by the walls and the doors.

I wash my face in the sink and look into the steel mirror. I can barely see my reflection. The mirror has been too scarred by those that have come before me. It has looked into the eyes of rapists, killers, thieves and even the innocent who were captured and stolen away, like slaves, to this cage.

I press the button for the light overhead and it radiates so brightly that I immediately turn it off. I look out the window at the clock, as the second hand continues to pace. Tic…tic…tic... I do too. Back and forth; over and over. As I walk I look up at the vent that is meant to carry fresh air into the cell; I reach up and feel the light flow of air. What else is transporting into this cell? A message? I hear voices within, and climb up on the sink to listen. I am eavesdropping on someone else's conversation. I stand here for a short time, long enough to ensure that I am not missing any vital information, and I leave before introducing myself.

I hear the food cart, as voices begin to yell back and forth on the tier. I step to the door so as not to be passed by for my meal. I know the games they play. If you are not standing at your door they will pass you buy. You will eat nothing. The slot opens and I reach for my meal. I return to my bunk and set the tray down. I pick through the food. I only eat enough to remain healthy in this unhealthy environment. My enemy cautiously watches me, taking in every breath, every bite, every move that I make. He must remain on guard. I too am a worthy opponent. When I finish I place my tray on the floor in front of the door. You can have the scraps, like the dog you are.

I brush my teeth, attempting to remain civil and humane. After the guards return to pick up the tray I again walk back and forth, back and forth, stepping on my opponent’s back each step of the way. I will continue to inflict pain upon him. I won't just lie down.

This is my routine, day after day. When it is finally time for me to leave months later, I am grateful. I still must be handcuffed before I leave. As the door slides open I look around the cell again, smiling as I back out onto the tier. Never before has it faced an opponent like me. I have won, and I leave the cell more broken down than when I entered.

As I turn and begin to walk away, flanked by the guards, I prepare myself to face my next opponent.

Samuel Hawkins is 40 years old and has been incarcerated since age 19. 
State raised, he will, at age 45, finally be freed.

Samuel Hawkins #706212
Stafford Creek Corrections Center
Unit GA-21U
191 Constantine Way
Aberdeen, WA 98520

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