I haven't told a story in so long.
My thoughts have been bumper pool crazy in my skull of late, and I can't seem to find that calm it takes for me to just ease a paddle into the waters all gentle and smooth. When writing feels good, that's what it is like. It's...well, serenity.
But I thought I'd share a gift I received tonight. It felt more like a care package actually. It was from my brother, Keith, who died unexpectedly a little over a year ago. It was a bundle of letters he had written to me, from Smith County Jail in Texas, as well as some from Huntsville State Penitentiary--a section known as "The Walls."
They are very dear to me, and the only reason they left my possession was because one year, on my brother's birthday, I found myself without a gift to give to him. No money. No chance of getting any either.
He'd mentioned once or twice that he might like to write a book of experiences, so I worked from that, and I gathered all the letters I'd received from him, (one, sometimes two a week) for the three and a half years he was incarcerated. I added photos of him I had kept. There he was playing guitar. In another, at our kitchen table, playing "RISK" with some buddies. There were pictures of the family which I knew he didn't have--my brother was a vagabond and not the photo album type. I put all of this in a box, with a couple of legal pads and one of those great smooth-writing gel pens, and wrote on the first page of the yellow legal pad, "Now WRITE."
But tonight, I called my sister just to say "howdy" and she told me she had found a grocery bag on the front stoop--full of letters from Keith addressed to ME. It seems his former room-mate had found them and kindly deposited them there for us to find. Funny, I searched through piles of notebook scribblings, books, and personal belongs after his death, looking for just this very thing. I was heartbroken when I didn't find them, and I remembered my brother, when I gave him that gift, insisting that I keep them, because he would only lose them.
I told him he'd need them for his book.
He told me it was the best present that anyone had ever given him.
* * *
I had forgotten my glasses tonight, so I sat on the porch, squinting, holding fluttering paper at arm's length, reading, reading, reading. Crying, yes, but I was laughing too, when I'd read the phrasings that were uniquely his, hearing his voice from the pages.
I found a poem he'd written in one letter.
In another? I found character sketches of his cellmates.
Then I found one without a postmark. It had been addressed to me and never sent. He had written across it--"too negative to send". It was seven pages long, front and back, in tight script, with urgent, desperate underlinings--and somethings scratched indeciperable. I had found my brother's lamentation, his "Jeremiad", and funny, but I stopped crying then, while I read. I had simply ceased to be. I was there, with him, in the days of monotony, the humiliation of daily bowel movements and showers and inspections and censored writings...it was synopsis of all the letters from prison anyone has ever read.
It stunned me.
This letter was dated September 17, 1978, and here I was, finally reading the words of his experiences.
The things that happened that forever changed him. The things that bent him into a being who reacted with actions I didn't equate with the person I knew from before those trials. I held in my trembling hands the complete understanding of my brother.
If I may, I'll quote him here, from one of the letters I read tonight:
"Every day is like the day before. I sit here wondering how I got here, and I realized that I was always on the highway, looking for short-cuts. I thought I was bored. Now I know what [expletive] boredom is! So stop all that yawning, you've got the world by the balls.
Let my life be a light to you--better yet, a roadmap. Don't take home for granted, and take care of Mom & Dad. I love them more than they could believe from now."
Then there was,
"I love you, too,
with his signature
"p.s. send Gene's address"
and this made me laugh out loud:
"p.p.s. REGISTER TO VOTE!"
*shaking my head*
I miss him, but this was so fine a present I had to share. Perhaps there will be more, I dunno, but right now, I just kissed his ashes, and told him, "be careful what you wish for brother, I AM registered and you can no longer cancel out my vote!"
* * *
We got on like that, we did.
* * *
I love you my brother and that don't die!
(and I came back to correct the date--I was going to correct the typos and misspells, all the bad syntax, but then I shrugged and thought, "it reads more like a letter from prison with them in.")
Thanks for listening, yet again.
[This message has been edited by serenity blaze (08-20-2004 05:06 AM).]