The words didn’t just come to mind. They dropped into my consciousness like an atomic weapon: tangible, black, and crushing. My whole life was coming to a halt, I was going to jail. Worse still, I was going to prison. The realization that my life would not, could not, ever be the same was eclipsed only by the thought of a now unknown future. The ratcheting of handcuffs was louder than I had ever imagined as the cold steel tightened around my wrists, impressing deep grooves into my skin, a lifetime of prison images from news and movies flooded my mind. Isolation, boredom, gang rape in the showers, murder and suicide. Would I be a victim, beaten or stabbed to death with a sharpened toothbrush, while an indifferent prison guard averted his eyes? Or would I have to join a gang and victimize in order to survive? Never again would I feel the physical and emotional love of a woman. Would I become gay to feel love again? Could I?
Now, many years later, I sit here in prison writing this. The news and movies didn’t necessarily have the prison image wrong, but the portrayals are a more condensed version of nefarious and dangerous events. Those past fears have faded, but will forever be alloyed with all my other experiences since that moment, to form the new man that I am today. Imprisonment is comparable to a near death experience. Because essentially you have died. What you were is gone. Only few, if any, aspects of your previous life remain. Most if not all of your friends and family will have abandoned you, as if incarceration is communicable. An extremely foolish young man led me to this life. But prison is a catharsis and I have been reborn. The future is still unknown to me, but I’m no longer a fool.