Flash Fiction: When the Teeth Grit

prisonwireBeggars can’t be choosy when you are left with nothing to do, but daydream of maybe getting out.  I came here when I was fifteen and while that might seem young, it wasn’t to me.  I had lived a life that people twice my age will never have lived.  The bad thing is I experienced those things that puts wrinkles on your face for all the wrong reasons. I made bad decisions outside of this place and inside too.  I’m not sure if I can ever be let out again, not where I could function properly.  I’ve become what they call “institutionalized.”  The sad thing is many of these people in here do belong.  Why?  Because they have no issues killing and we all know killing is bad.  If they got out, they’d kill again without losing any sleep.  I wasn’t one of them who killed, but I did enough things for me never to walk the streets of any city again or at least, I thought.

In the beginning it was easier because naivety takes hold of you.  You think you will stay clean on the inside and your hopes are high you will change.  The reality of the situation comes raining down on you when you find your life in jeopardy.  You realize how much people like to make you pay for your sins on both sides of the fence.  When I was told to get off the bench and go somewhere else, I had to do that without delay.  Those who questioned the authority got unnecessary punishment, if not at that time, then later when they least expected it.  After a fair amount of rebellion because I was ready for the challenge, the point came when my sturdy legs weren’t willing to subject themselves to the next level.  Everyone breaks eventually in this place, in some way, and I did that.  My inner resolve to survive became part of me.

I learned there are those who aren’t satisfied, and they are the ones who like to leave marks on your flesh.  They want you to suffer, and hate to lose power.  You grit your teeth every time their fists connect to your ribs.  You reach deep inside to not scream and think about how strong you were when you first entered.  You convince yourself you’re still a good person. You are as strong as them is what you keep telling yourself.  I lost pride along the way, but I was better for it.  I learned to grab the rope when it was offered.  It’s been almost 30 years since I came here, and now I’m leaving today.  I’m not sure how long it will last, but long enough to walk the streets one last time.


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