Hey guys, Noah here.
My sister asked me in an email a while back, as she thought it might be a good topic, how do you feel when an inmate goes home?
It’s a loaded question, and I remember back to when I first came in and a guy that was just finishing up a 15-year sentence was getting ready to go home and he told me, “Man, I have seen so many people leave, hundreds if not thousands and tomorrow is going to finally be my day.”
He assured me that my time will go fast and before I know it, I will be the one going home. He was absolutely right because that conversation didn’t seem all that long ago and now my time is coming to an end and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Anywhere from three to ten people leave each week, I have done well over 300 weeks in here thus far, so I guess you can say I have seen my fair share of people leave as well. Monday through Friday call-out sheets are posted on the bulletin board and there is a section of inmates who are Merry-Go Rounding, which means they are leaving and sometimes it’s hard not to think, “why can’t that be my name?”
I figured this would be a good time to write about this topic because my good friend Chris Warren just recently went home. One thing you always have to prepare yourself for is never talking to them again once they leave. Because people in prison have a tendency to make grandiose plans or promises while they are incarcerated and then fail to follow through with any of them after they leave. Because as soon as they are released they go back to life as it always was and forget about those left behind.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with this and it’s simply something I have grown accustomed to. I guess you could say that I have developed some sort of shield to prevent myself from being hurt or let down. As the years have gone by I have learned to take most prison talk with a grain of salt.
So, it was time for Chris to leave and as most of you know, he was a contributor to the blog and he told me that he planned to continue, so it was time to find out what kind of guy he· was. I wasn’t able to get a hold of my sister for the first couple of days because she was on a business trip but when I finally did, she mentioned she had already been in contact with Chris and it made me smile.
He had told her about his travels, his welcome home party, what it felt like to wear a pair of jeans after eleven years in khakis and basketball shorts and most importantly said he would continue to contribute to the blog. She mentioned that he sent her a picture and my first question was, “What color was his goatee?”
She was confused because she probably hadn’t seen a recent enough picture to know just how gray it had gotten over the last couple years of incarceration but I knew it was one of his top priorities to hair dye it ASAP. I always called him batman because his salt and pepper goatee and temple resembled the latest Hollywood actor who played Batman, Ben Affleck. When I told my sister about this over the phone she agreed and we both had a good laugh. The most important factor in sending someone off is cooking a going away party meal.
Chris was out to cook: nachos, tacos, and burritos were his favorites and his specialty and if you asked him why only Mexican food he would say because my great grandmother was Mexican, so I am 1/8. 🙂
He was always easily manipulated into preparing a meal for six people which usually ended up being more like eight to ten people by the time the meal actually came. His cooking was so good that we didn’t even let him outsource his own going away party, we talked him into making nachos for all of us and even though we offered to help, he persisted he could do it himself. I think he always refused the assistance more due to the fact he didn’t want us handling his food versus wanting to do all the hard work himself.
The reasons I think this is because we wanted to do table nacho, where you simply dump out bags of chips and pour all the fixings right on top and then gather around with your bowls and dig in. He was appalled by the request and went on one of his typical rants when someone says something he greatly disagrees with, he told us, “table nachos are for barbarians, they are utterly disgusting and unsanitary.” He said he would have no part and if we wanted to dump our bowls back out onto a table after he was done making them, then we could go right ahead.
Regardless of the reason we always appreciated his cooking and never passed up an opportunity to put his talents on full display. Thanks for all the good meals Chris! Hopefully, our next meal will be in your neck of the woods at some classy joint, with food prices that would make a small-town boy like me sick and of course you’re paying.
There is something very different between seeing someone you barely know go home and someone you have invested a great deal of time getting to know. Early on in doing prison time I felt jealous and even envious at times of those going home like I deserved to go home more than they did. It was just a feeling or emotion connected to the resentment I had towards myself for putting myself behind bars and over time I got over that.
I learned to be happy for every one that went home and realized that many more will have to go home before it’s my time. I joined in on many celebrations over the years, whether it was a meal, a hug, a conversation to wish them well on their way and I have even offered to perform “Magic Mike” entertainment but that party respectfully declined the offer.
Goodbyes have always been uncomfortable for me, I don’t always know what to say and they are usually filled with awkward silences. When someone is getting ready to leave, like the day before, I will often avoid them because I don’t know what to say about the way I am feeling. Like I am ashamed to tell another man in prison that I am going to miss them. I used to exchange info but now I just tell them to add me on Facebook and when I get out I will accept it. I am sure most of them won’t and that’s probably a good thing. However, I hope some do because I have met a lot of good people in prison, just as my friend said I would on my last night as a free man.
I think about when Nate and Kyle left and the emotions I felt during those times.
Comparable life experiences would be one-sided breakups, the last days of summer before the school year starts back up or finding out your best friend is moving away.
Nate was the first to leave and I had three and a half years left on my sentence, which at that time felt like an eternity. Nate did such a small amount of time in prison and I was skeptical of whether or not I would ever see him again. But after the short period he was here I felt like I had known him for years and was thankful for meeting him and knew I would cherish our time together. I am even more thankful that he is still here for me today whenever I need him; he is always a phone call away.
I can say much of the same for Kyle, who left a couple of years after Nate and I was still about 18 months from the door when he went home. When friends like this go home, you feel almost abandoned but you quickly realize there is nothing you can do about it, it’s just a way of life. The show must go on and you do what you have to do to move forward.
Ivan is the next one to leave: my current Bunkie, who I have mentioned in a previous post. When I wrote that post he was going to be leaving after me but he received a reduction that put him out just before me. When I met Ivan I became the second most important Noah in his life, just barely after his 12-year-old son who is also named Noah. When we have Ivan’ s going away party I will be six short months from going home and that means that my meal will be the next one planned, I can’t wait!
So I guess early on in prison, watching inmates go home sucks, because you aren’t thinking about the positives.
Once you get past that initial mindset you realize it’s an amazing thing and I can only imagine how good it feels when you walk out of those prison doors.
It has to be one of the most liberating experiences imaginable, maybe something everybody should experience just once, or not!
Thanks for listening,