The Game – part 1

Only the truth can stop a tragedy.

That’s what the night guard would always say. He was quite the philosopher, that man. Always babbling on and on about inspiring and far away concepts. His eyes were gentle, his hands soft and uncalloused, but if any other prisoner got out of hand he would spring into action like a fierce tiger awaking from his slumber.

The man had always inspired something deep inside me, something that wishes I were elsewhere, something that wishes I could take back what I did. But I knew that couldn’t be taken back. No matter how hard I tried.

Don’t get me wrong, my peace has been said, I’m at one with the world. Now I just need out, need to right the wrongs that I did.

I’m sure you’re all wondering what I did to get in here in the first place. And rightfully so. It’s a considerably interesting story if I do say so myself. But that story must wait. You see, it’s complicated. Too many other things and people took part in it that you must first understand. And I sincerely hope that you do understand. Misunderstanding is what has led us to this situation in the first place. A huge misunderstanding.

But now, back to the night guard. He was my first and most valuable connection I have made at Havensakes Correctional Facility. I say connection because that’s what it was. Not a friendship per say, though if I were to say I had one it would be with him. Our relationship was more of an understanding. He understood what I needed to know, and I understood that he played a bigger part in it all than he let on. I also understood that I needed to understand a lot more before I could help anyone, especially myself.

So I would listen every night from midnight till three. He never liked to talk to me after three. Something about respecting the hour or some superstitious mumbo jumbo. That was fine though. I had to get some sleep sometime.

My days were filled with bartering, obeying, disobeying, lying, stealing, and intimidating. Now you might think that all of those things make me hardcore, but that’s not the case. I have to do all of that just to survive in here. I was not meant for prison, and I still don’t fit in. However, I do manage to do enough to keep my head above water, to not be a complete outcast among these men, and yet not a threat to the guards. The perfect penal balance. I’m not a bad ass, I just know how to play the game.

Playing the game is important here at Havensakes, but not as important a playing the game with the others. Playing the game of life. Now that game out there was fun. It was dangerous. It was rewarding. And I was meant for that game. But that game was also ever changing in a person’s life, and I am severely behind.

A game is what got me here to begin with you could say. Yes, that’s a good place to start my story, by explaining the game. I hope you can try to understand this game without judgment, because as I said before, it’s complicated.

The game requires faith, an open mind, a sense of adventure, talent, and complete secrecy. In order to play this game you must be chosen, no outsiders, no free rides. I honestly didn’t even know I was chosen until I was in too deep to refuse it. That is, saying I would refuse it.

Before Havensakes, before the game, I was a fairly average guy. I lived on my own in a downtown flat of Seattle, Washington. My family lived in a small town in Southern Washington. I left home as soon as I graduated high school, thrilled to get out on my own. I tried college for a while but I really had no goal in mind so I dropped out after my first year. I was smart enough that if I applied myself I could have easily gotten any degree I wanted, I just didn’t feel like college was my niche.

After I dropped out the real world hit me hard. I had been living in the dorms, so the biggest obstacle was finding a place to live. My parents were pissed and they weren’t going to let me come home. That was probably best though, because who wants to be another 20-year-old-living-in-their-parents-basement statistic. That definitely wasn’t my life goal. I stayed with a friend of mine I made in my short lived college career until I could get on my feet. His name was Freddy and he had his own apartment near campus. Real nice guy, but he wasn’t the smartest I had ever met. Until I could start paying him rent I agreed to help tutor him in just about every class he was taking.

But my exciting life story will have to be put on hold, here comes the night guard. He looked different tonight. His peppered grey hair was considerably dishelved and his soft blue eyes were more far away than usual. He walked by fast and passed the usual spot he liked to sit, the bright orange vintage recliner sitting directly in front of my shiny grey barred viewing space. He did manage to at least glance back in my direction and the shocked look on my face must’ve flipped a switch in his head. He back tracked a few steps.

“Sorry kid, no talk tonight, things to do. And remember, only the truth…”

And he was gone. Strange, he hasn’t missed an opportunity to share his knowledge with me in the whole year I’ve been here. Whatever it was, it must’ve been pretty damn important.

So anyways, my rooming situation with Freddy was actually going great. I lived with him for three months worry-free before I realized I should really be looking for a job. I looked around for a while before I found the right one. It was actually pretty perfect for me, and no degree was required. I soon became the freshest voice in nighttime radio hosting for Seattle’s younger crowd.

Music came naturally to me, and really, what young person wouldn’t like choosing the music half the city partied to that night.  I soon earned enough money to move out of Freddy’s collegiate apartment and get my own downtown flat. Life was going great. I had my own place, I had a job I actually looked forward to going to every night, my parents had more than forgiven me for leaving college, and I had met a great group of friends in this whole process. I had even managed to get the girl of my dreams under my arm in that golden year.

All of the happiness and tranquility that in abundance flowed through my life ended, however, on the night of October 2nd. That chilly Thursday night was the second longest night of my life. Just thinking about it gives me the goose bumps.

….to be continued.

 

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