By Jeremiah Bourgeois
Life has been far more stressful than I’d realized as I move towards the possibility of parole. After recently having what appear to be several psychosomatic seizures over a three-day period and then being pumped with anti-anxiety medication during an overnight stay in the prison infirmary—I feel great. Better than I can remember having felt in, well, as long as I can remember.
My face felt funny for days after I left the medical floor and I feared the worst. It just didn't feel right. I thought parts of it were numb or droopy. But whenever I rubbed it, sensation was there. And when I looked in the mirror nothing appeared out of the ordinary.
Finally I figured out what was amiss.
My face was less tense.
Apparently, tranquility is so foreign to me that I found it alarming.
As for those seizures, if my suspicions are correct I am in need of some serious therapy. I dare not speculate what it could mean if the cause is something else entirely.
Curiously, memories of things that I've written about in Minutes Before Six (such as my friend being raped following our arrival in the penitentiary, and the weeks during which guards starved me in segregation to satisfy their quest for vengeance) kept coming to me suddenly, and as I tried to stifle my emotional reactions to those long ago events the seizures would strike.
I quickly learned to let some of my emotions out to prevent being overwhelmed at such moments.
Adaptation at its finest. Survival of the fittest. Only the wise endure.
So, I'm now allowing myself to feel the emotions when necessary, painful as it is for me. Nonetheless, I seriously doubt that I'm processing the experiences in a manner that will enable me to put them behind me. Oh well, it's working for now and that's the best outcome I believe can be achieved under the circumstances.
I've spent some time reflecting and recognize that I had built an emotional wall in order to survive a Life Without Parole. My potential freedom is now producing cracks in the psychological barrier that, until recently, has served me so well. I cannot imagine what it will be like to be free and truly feel things.
All these emotions have been muted by a lifetime of confinement.
Anger is the only feeling that I have been able to fully express. Anger is the emotion that has shaped my destiny.
Without it I am nothing.
Without it where would I be?
To run away from home at the age of 13 and be able to survive alone on the streets took plenty of anger, believe me.
To endure after being sentenced to die in prison at the age of 14 took even more anger—trust me.
And no one will convince me that the commission of these crimes foreclosed my right to be angry.
While I was not angered by the punishment imposed by the court—for I was guilty and deserved to be punished—I have long been angered by what imprisonment has dealt me.
I was angered when stories were bandied about that I was gang raped when I arrived in the penitentiary.
I was angered when I heard how amused some people were when they heard those rumors about me being forced into sodomy.
I was angered by the looks of disdain and contempt on the faces of correctional officers when they saw my fifteen-year-old frame in the general population of the penitentiary.
I was angered when people would joke about my supposed virginity as if anything about my situation was funny.
I was angered when administrators would talk down to me—taking advantage of my ignorance and lack of education—and offering nothing to cure my deficiencies.
I was angered when I found how ready prisoners were to try to take advantage of me.
I was angered when I came to perceive the predatory nature of those who surrounded me.
I was angered when I saw terrible things inflicted upon those who were seen as prey because of their vulnerability.
So many reasons to be angry.
It is a powerful emotion.
It can drive you to destroy yourself or others. It led me to do terrible things.
It can also be a force that enables you to achieve what others believed was impossible—for someone like me.
Or anyone trapped in the penitentiary.
There is no doubt in my mind that most people expected me to be nothing but a convict, chasing booty or drugs or caught up in some other sort of prison fuckery.
I proved all those sons-a-bitches wrong. All because I was angry at what they believed would be my destiny.
No longer do administrators attempt to talk down to me. They know full well I am anything but ignorant or uneducated.
But there is still disdain and contempt in their eyes when they look upon me, for the correctional mindset all too often perceives a prisoner’s intellect as arrogance.
It makes me angry.
But this anger fuels me. It motivates me to continue living above the expectations that such people have for those in the penitentiary.
I wish every prisoner in America would become as angry as me.
That they would allow its combustible nature to propel their rehabilitation and forge a new destiny.
|Jeremiah Bourgeois #708897|
Stafford Creek Corrections Center
191 Constantine Way
Aberdeen WA 98520