You can’t shackle my soul.


I’ve mentioned before that I’m a convicted felon. What I haven’t talked much about was the life changing experience of being locked up in the Wake county jail for ninety nine days. It may not have been prison, and it may not have been that long, but I certainly consider it one of the experiences that has most impacted who I am and how I view the world. Please allow me to share with you my memories of the time I spent on the inside.

I committed my crime while blacked out. I had drank eight shots of Jagermeister, approximately, and had a mixed drink, and also drank a little over twenty beers that evening. I am not going to go into the details of my crime, my story for you starts much like it did for me, waking up handcuffed in the back of a police car with the lights flashing, and a full force of other cars and officers milling about in their typical cocky, I’m-the-fucking-shit policeman way. My immediate reaction was one of general panic and confusion. I hate the pigs anyway, and clearly I had had some sort of confrontation with them which I couldn’t get away from. As my eyes cleared, and I blocked out the pounding pain in my head, I began to take further note of my surroundings.

I was chilled and shivering, my jacket nowhere to be found. When I sat up and twisted my arms behind my back I noticed my shoes were also missing. I had no idea where I was, or what had transpired to land me in the back of a police car in the middle of what appeared to be ground zero for some sort of mass murder scene. The sheer amount of law enforcement on site suggested some serious shit had gone down.

When I got to the police station, still drunk out of my mind, they explained to me what I had done. I didn’t really think my crime was that big a deal. Certainly not one that would warrant a force capable of defending the fucking Alamo. And like the cock sure little bastard I am was, I began talking pure shit to the pigs in the station. Although funny as hell, it was quite possibly the worst thing I could have done in that situation. Over the next eight hours as I was processed through the Garner station, I gradually sobered up some and one by one battered my way through every emotion on the spectrum. Things were beginning to sink in, and I could feel a mental cage quickly closing in on me. There was nothing I could say or do that would stop me from getting locked up for a long time. And I cried. I felt sheer fear and helplessness sitting there in cuffs, just waiting to be thrown in a box with the worst criminals my city had to offer. I broke down at that moment, and all my fear and rage and raw emotion came out in one base expression.

By the time I actually made it to the jail house and got processed I was painfully sober, and feeling the full effects of a Guiness world record hangover. Blow in this machine son. I coughed and sputtered on the verge of vomiting. Look at the camera boy. My eyes screamed against the flourescent lights. What were you thinking punk? What does the law allow us to charge him with? Fuck you pig. Fuck you.

I sat in the holding cell for another twelve hours. Who could I call? My family was on vacation in another state. They wouldn’t be back for several days. My room mate never checked the answering machine. The work office never answered at all. And no one I knew would accept a collect call from an inmate. I was alone, and scared. I tried to get some much needed sleep on the bench, but it’s designed to be uncomfortable. My jumpsuit was scratchy and simultaneously restricting and unnecessarily loose. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t rest. The lights never go off. The concrete walls echo every scream from every inmate, every mechanical door slamming itself shut, every time an impatient ass hole beat on his window to get the guards attention. Each thug scum bag would eventually ask me why I was in. “None of your business” was my only response. Time came to a crawl, and I waited, craving a cigarette, occasionally throwing up the water I drank. Slowly, I waited.

And soon enough the next shift came in and rounded us all up. We were shackled at the wrists and ankles and led up to each of our new homes. I got third floor green pod. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. The guard led me in and told me to find a spot to put my mat. Forty some odd pairs of eyes stared at me, none friendly. I scanned the pod to see how the mats were placed and look for an open slot. There was a full house that night. Every cell was full, and every open space between doorways looked to be taken. I just stood there glaring at the room, trying to look strong, but feeling very small.

A large white man with a shaved head hollered at me to come place his mat beside him. Even laying down he was a big fella, and he seemed to be in excellent physical shape. On first glance he appeared to be meaner than than the devil himself, but upon closer inspection his eyes betrayed a genuine kindness that somewhat reassured me he wasn’t too dangerous. He showed me how to tie my sheet around the mat so it would stay in place, and how to roll up my extra clothes and supplies to put under the mat for safekeeping, and to provide a makeshift pillow-like lump.

A voice came from behind the door next to me. The face in the shadows asked what my name was. Well it turns out the mystery man was in fact a dealer named Chuck from Woodland, a semi run down neighborhood inhabited by a notoriously rough criminal crowd. Mostly white trash skater kids who grew up poor and gnarley. I wasn’t close friends with Chuck, but it was still good to see a familiar face, especially among the predominantly dark meat that certainly wasn’t looking like they were going to be easy to get along with. We caught up on old times and played some cards under the door for a while, then went to sleep.

The next morning I was introduced to my first state provided breakfast. Let me assure you, the government does not provide anything near good food, nor do they provide it in large quantities. I believe it was cold grits, one hard boiled egg, a thimble sized helping of some kind of sausage, (the term sausage is being used very liberally in this situation) and some toast.

I’m looking forward to having my current legal troubles over and done with. This has all been going on for so long now that I just want to bring it to an end and deal with whatever they give me. I’m ready to serve time if I have to, but I sure as hell don’t want to. I know I can survive on the inside, but I’d rather not. Until you have been locked away for a few months of your life, you probably don’t appreciate all the freedom you have. Today I get to sleep in a dark room under real blankets. Today I get to choose what I eat, and when I eat it. Today I don’t have to keep one eye on my mat at all time so my personal belongings don’t get stolen. But this afternoon I may not be so lucky.

So I start my day with hope, because that’s really the only thing you always get. There used to be this hawk that roosted somewhere around the jail house. I named him Mo the Hawk, and to me he became my personal symbol of freedom. I would sit at my window and watch him fly around for hours. He was my hope, that one day I could be free like him. No matter what happens to you in life, no one can ever take away your hopes and dreams. The hope that I can be free. The hope that I can educate myself and make a successful life for myself. The hope that somewhere out there is a girl I will fall in love with one day. These are the things that give me the strength to push on through the hard times in my life. In case I don’t talk to any of you for a while, keep hope alive my friends. They might shackle my body, but they can’t chain down my soul.

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19 responses to “You can’t shackle my soul.

  1. Buh! Please don’t go to jail!

  2. oh joooooooosh!!! you cant leave us!!! it wont happen. i get to see the day b4 you do and i say it doesnt happen! 90 days is enough 4 whatever you did.

    if anything does happen stay strong. i’d say be like bridget jones when she got thrown in jail but i doubt you’ve seen that movie.

    im gonna miss you.
    my thoughts are with you and good luck stay strong walk proud.

  3. That was a beautiful piece of writing, and a big reality check for what’s important in life.I look foward to when you come back, and I hope it will be very damn soon!!!

  4. I’m still a free man today. I have court again next week. I know I’m going to serve time, it’s just a matter of when and how long. The lawyer tells me it will probably a few 30 day sentences, so hopefully I can do that no problem. I might lose my job, and start life back over from square one, but I’ve done it before, so I know I can handle it now. I really appreciate everyone out there in internet land being so supportive. It means a lot. So love and good vibrations to all of you. I’m going to do everything I can to turn my life around so it can be something I’m proud of. I have high hopes for my future, and I bet this will just make me a stronger person, and focus my drive and values towards the person I see myself being in the years to come. Keep hope alive everyone, cause even when you’re locked up, life can still be full of beauty and a certain level of happiness and serenity.

    Side note, everyone should look up Pandora radio, cause it’s the shit!
    http://www.pandora.com

  5. I’m a day late but know that I’m thinking of you, Josh and yay for no jail time yet! Seriously, that was beautiful.

  6. JOSH! I just started reading your blog. You better not be gone a long time, damnitt! Keep your head up dude.

  7. Allie: Thank you kindly ma’am. And I agree, yay for no jail, yet.
    Lucky: Hopefully just a few months dude, and thank you.

  8. “30 day sentenceS”??

    Holy Shit!

  9. I’ll send you love notes in jail to make your cell mates jealous! And cookies! Are people even allowed to send cookies? I know cake would probably be a no go, with the files and all. What about pie? I can send Tarte Au Sucre, sugar pie, and then everyone’ll be all ‘ooh, sexy’ and you can be all ‘no, it’s really just pie…see?’ and everyone will love you, because fudge pie is seriously the best shit ever. It’s all about making friends, right? Yeeeeaaaah, fudge pie.

  10. Josh you just made me feel old with the ma’am but I know it’s a Southern thing so I’ll deal with feel old.

    Emerald…. fudge pie? Seriously? Do you have a recipe? Cause I think that sounds amazingly good and want some… right now.

  11. Carolyn: Yes, as in three or four.

    Em: Hey, I’m always down for love notes, but the prison system doesn’t allow any food stuffs to come in. That’s how you smuggle drugs. They won’t even let you send books or anything unless they come straight from the publisher sealed up. That’s how you smuggle blades apparently, and acid. But you keep talking this Tarte au Sucre talk and I might just have to start calling you sugar pie. 😉

  12. Josh…you need an “About Me” or am I blind and don’t see it?

  13. Allie: Yeah, we southern guys are taught to call all women ma’am from the time we’re kids. It’s just a way to show respect to females. I call all girls, younger or older than me ma’am just out of force of habit. And sometimes we’ll call someone darlin, sweetie, little lady, etc, as a more casual form of affection or friendship. I might call a complete stranger sweetie if we were interacting in a friendly way. It isn’t necessarily something you would only say to your girlfriend, although they all can be more personal terms of endearment depending on the context. A lot of non-southern people don’t realize that these names can be used with many meanings in an appropriate way, and misconstrue it as inappropriate flirting when we mean it in a perfectly normal friendly way. It’s one of those complicated cultural things.

  14. What part of the South? I’m in Texas. I call people darlin’ all the time and can tell when I have said it to someone who isn’t Southern. 🙂

    (SEE…where’s the “About Me” love?)

  15. Dude, sugarpie and sugarpants. Done and done.

  16. Ok, so I know you don’t remember, but what the hell did they say you did?
    Jail and fudge pie has all kinds of other connotations for me (sorry).

  17. I’d send you a nude self portrait, but the jail cell might be less depressing without exposing the droopy bits. Here’s something I know for a fact, even though most everybody I love has ended up in disasterous straights: there is always hope. No matter how bleak things look, they will get better. You are better than your circumstances. And you will rise again even if the rest of the South sinks into oblivion. Love and kisses, sweetie darlin. See you soon.

  18. Well written.. interesting to hear it “from the other side”.

  19. Lucky: Sorry when I skip people sometimes. I’ll have a window open at lunch, and come back to finish my comments after work, and then there’s new comments. I don’t know what happened to my about me section. I remember making one, although that may have been back when I was trying out Blogger, before I moved here to WordPress. I’ll get right on that. I live in Garner, which is a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina. But my sister in law is from Texas. And isn’t it funny when you call someone darlin who isn’t from the south? That cracks me up.

    Em: Darlin, you can call me whatever you want and I’d still grin like a love stuck teenager.

    Donna: I don’t really want to get into the specifics of the charges I got back then. It was a really dark time in my past that I don’t really enjoy sharing. Suffice it to say that they took a non violent crime and added “intent to kill” to the end of it because I was being a drunken pain in the ass, and the police have the ability to bend the laws in disturbingly gestapo-esque when they want to be. Funny with the fudge pie, I’ll try not to drop the soap.

    Linda: Thank you for the words of encouragement. I’ll be waiting for that portrait. I dig older chicks. 😉 And I feel, now possibly more than ever, a sence of urgency and purpose behind my life. There’s a fire that’s been lit in me, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that my life is going to get worse before it gets better, but that I will come out the other side stronger than I have ever been, and headed in the right direction. Hopefully this whole fiasco will stay fresh on my mind and continue to change me as it has already into the man I want to become. I have big plans for the future, and I have a certain peace I’ve never had before that I will become someone. Thanks.

    Paul B: Grassy ass amigo. I’ll be coming over to check out your blog soon. I’ve heard good things about you dude.

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