Spring is beautiful, but Autumn was always my season. The crisp Autumn air, cook-outs—even if it was just hot dogs, brats, and football. Many people find the phrase “promise” goes with spring but it always fit autumn in my life. A promise of a season of football, holidays that warm the home with delicious scents. Baseball winds down and soups bubble slowly on stove top with promies of a harvest…yeah that is what autumn is to me.
Being from the rez, spring meant melting snow, trash appearing, and mud.
Until two years ago.
Two years ago in the spring of 2011 I walked out of a federal prison with 98 dollars in my hand. (Don’t believe rumors that they let you go with hundreds to make a new life.) That was my monthly 18 dollar paycheck for working at 12 cents an hour @40 hours a week plus what the country deemed I needed to start a new life.
Just the fact that I had nickels and dimes and quarters and twenties and ones and fives and tens in my hand…in my hand! I felt stupid staring at the money as if I just jumped off a boat at the Statue of Liberty and walked into a new land.
It was an ugly spring day, grey….dreary. The girl I went in with from Sioux Falls onto the con-air flight to the federal transfer center to the con-air flight back towards Minnesota (This government flew me to Kansas City to Oklahoma City for a week to fly me back to a prison that was only three hours away from where they picked me up and threw me shackled on a plane, yo taxpayers) Anyway, I made this journey with a few women and this girl was one that had the same release date as me. So on this ugly spring day while I breathed air that always stunk from the inside, I never smelled air like that, it was freedom. Everything about that day was epic and I was so punked. Everything was beautiful and monumental and my friend was sitting there crying like a bitch for her girlfriend she left on the inside. I felt like slapping her.
We spent money at the gas station where we waited for our bus to take us to our halfway houses. The small towns flew by in my memory. I saw people going on with their everyday life and here I was thinking, we were just locked up in a complex not to far from where you all live. All these emotions, thousands of people inside this fence who miss home and hate your fuckin town. Yet they never seen your town, and here you go bringing homemade fudge home from a bake sale that was at a church probably not far from where all these emotions are fenced in.
I got off the bus to catch a ride to the halfway house. It was a Christian halfway house and it sucked worse than prison and county jail. Young twenty year olds running it and totally disrespecting your humanity because of a few bad apples. I don’t care if you just peed, I need a drug test in five minutes and all you get to drink is a tiny 4 oz cup of water so pee!
Horrible, horrible spring, except-I did everything right. I wasn’t a twenty year old who knew everything. I been around the block a time or two and wanted my freedom. I kept to myself. Lent my shoulder for other twenty year old roommates to cry on. Felt the pain of their lives. Listened.
And I got out.
And I looked over my shoulder all the time. I still do.
It was a beautiful spring of freedom but I think of those I left behind everyday. I think of their stories I listened to. I think of the tears I saw but never looked at. I think of the woman who did 14 years and still cried for wanting to go home, yet her home was no longer there. I think of the roommate who still has 20 years. I think of the tears I cried in the shower because it was the only place I could. I think of people that shouldn’t be there. Like the elderly Native lady whose kids sold drugs and she knew. 18 years because she knew her kids sold drugs.
These memories shackle me to the past so judgment from the outside don’t fuck with my head.
I don’t give a crap what people think of me, I move forward. I regret losing time, but I don’t forget.
The other day, people on the news were harsh because two of the girls in Cleveland didn’t try to escape for their freedom like the one Native girl did.
This country has no empathy.
I only want people to understand, when you do time, it stays with you. You move on in life, do great things for people or yourself but that time taken from you never leaves. I understand why they didn’t run.
It’s why I look over my shoulder everyday.
Spring now represents freedom to me.