I was reminded the other day how short life could be when I received an email that an old friend, who I did time with at Yankton from 2015-2018, had passed away.
His name was Edwin Alvarez, but to everyone here at FPC Yankton, he was “Flaco.” I was told Flaco meant skinny in Spanish, and it’s a fairly common nickname among Hispanics in the Bureau. As far as his physique, the name worked even though he would have described himself more as muscular, and both were true as you could always find him doing pull-ups out on the track or burpees in some corner over at the gym. He was one of the few individuals whose energy levels were able to rival mine, and that is probably one of the reasons I was drawn to him.
His story was that of a typical trouble youth, as he grew up in L.A. and was drawn to gang life. Eventually, he made his way to Iowa because of the high cost of drugs, and with that comes high profits, much like I did between Minneapolis and North Dakota. As it did for me, those high profits turned into a high sentence; for Flaco, that sentence was 15 years, and he was barely over the age of 20 years old when he came into the system. I believe his son wasn’t even born yet when he was first incarcerated, and as each year went by, so did another year he wasn’t there for him. I know he loved his son dearly and regretted every year that he had to miss and was counting the months until he could be back in his life, and now all that is lost.
Flaco loved working with leather in prison, and that is where he spent most of his time making bags, purses, backpacks, and whatever else you could dream up. He worked out constantly, as I mentioned earlier, and that is because he loved to eat and was always trying to outwork his appetite. I remember some of the times we would be sitting in the basement of Kingsbury sweating gambling tickets, and if the first basket was made by the opposing team, he would always yell out, “we are dead, I can’t watch it,” and he would storm off. Flaco also loved tattoos and I am sure he got plenty more of them after he was transferred down to Texas.
I met him on the tail end of his sentence as he had almost 10 years in and only a few more to go.
I remember thinking what I think whenever I meet someone so young with so many years under their belt, “what a waste of life.” But this wasn’t the case with Flaco.
He never let them get him down, and if he didn’t tell you how long he had been in prison, you would’ve never known.
Flaco didn’t necessarily go looking for trouble, but trouble always had a way of finding him, and I am sure that is what happened in the end.
He eventually got shipped out of here sometime around the end of 2018 for a disciplinary phone shot and was sent somewhere down in Texas. Word always has a way of making it through the system, and now and then I would hear about how he was doing or how close he was to release, and I was always so excited for him. He had already done over 1/3 of his life in prison, and he had a lot of life to live, or so I thought.
When he got released, I would hear through my phone calls with Kyle (a buddy who was incarcerated with us and now free) that it looked like he was doing well, via Facebook observation anyway. Then the other day, Kyle emailed me and gave me the bad news, Flaco was dead.
Single car accident and I immediately started to relate and think about my future.
Flaco wasn’t out more than six months, it was his birthday, he is about my age, and he was just released from the halfway house, and he died at 1 am the following morning of his birthday.
Anyone who is having a hard time right now dealing with his death, maybe a brother, sister, parent or friend, I just want you to know that Edwin’s life was not wasted. Even though he was in prison for so long he touched the lives of every person that was struggling inside these prison walls.
His attitude often lifted mine when I didn’t think possible.
And he always reminded me that life isn’t so bad and our current situations were only temporary.
Even his death will not go without valuable lessons being learned, like how precious life is, or as the rest of us are released and transition back into society that we need to have our priorities straight.
Partying isn’t as important as family, and maybe Edwin forgot that just for one second and got caught up in the moment, but a second is all it takes.
Every time I am walking around the track and my mind starts to wonder about all the potential fun I could have, I think about the consequences that can come from some of those fun times, and not one seems worth it.
Flaco is gone, but his memory and legacy will always live on, especially through me.
RIP Flaco. You will forever be missed, but I’ll see ya on the other side.
Thanks for listening!