“When you find yourself in an infinite desert…the only way to survive is to find an oasis…”
I wrote this piece in 2018 when I was at Millhaven maximum security prison. At the time, things were just beginning to turn around only to suddenly fall apart dramatically. And so, I picked up my pen and began to transform my life at the time into a massive metaphor, which helped me get through one of the most difficult periods of my incarceration. This is why I consider this piece to be my masterpiece. (Nour is my actual daughter’s name)
Yesterday, I was part of a virtual meeting led by two professors who invited former prisoners from the United States and Canada to discuss the concept of “Home” from a philosophical perspective.
Some of the prisoners present had spent up to 33 years in prison and were just recently released. My 16 and a 1/2 years felt like baby time in comparison.
At one point, one of the professors asked us to write down 3 adjectives that described our post prison experience. Most of the entries displayed on the screen began with adjectives like “exciting”, “euphoric”, and “magical” but ended with “lonely”, “overwhelming”, and “confidence shattering.”
Anyone listening in to the conversation would have quickly realized that these individuals had done a lot of work on themselves and were now completely transformed human beings. I guess this is precisely why it was so painful to witness how rejected and unseen many of them felt.
It is not difficult to understand why members of society would feel hesitant, afraid, and judgmental of someone who has committed a major crime in the past. And yet this makes it no less tragic for a human being to go through the horrific prison system, redeem themselves despite of it, and finally return home only to realize that the locks are still there, just not physically.
To finally make it home, only to realize, there is no home, for (you).
You see it, in the quick flicker of their eyes, the body adjustment, the change in tone, the step back, even, but that’s okay, because my home has never been of this world.
I am Aladdin, and when I stand on my prayer mat, time collapses, into the illusion that it is; and the distance between heaven and earth, vanishes…