It is interesting how sounds – and smells – can trigger our memories and thoughts. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound of the metal doors clanging shut as we entered our cells. It was a low and ominous sound and grew to have finality in it. No getting out, that’s for sure.
This was at the maximum security prison when everything was new. Out of all the things I don’t remember, that sound is one I definitely do. It echoed in the concrete hallways as it offered little hope, locking me in a concrete box that offered little respite from the aching I was feeling. Not physical nor emotional pain, as the meds took care of those. Just a pervasive sense of loss that would haunt me once those doors clanged shut and the electronic locks click, indicating I was told, that the light on the C.O.’s panel went off for my cell signaling indeed our doors were securely shut and locked. The small, glass-less window in the door covered with metal bars only teased us of what lay outside in the curved hallway of five cells. Each cell also had an outdoor window of extra thick glass that only opened slightly with a crank only the CO’s possessed. It seemed to give us the only natural light we would see once shut inside on those long days and tormented us of the green expanse outside. Most views didn’t extend very far, however, as strategically place mounds or buildings hid most views lest we plan our get-a-ways.
The sound of the click of our doors being unlocked was also I sound I will remember, a welcome sound, sometimes unexpected. We normally would be waiting for the click prior to lining up for the march to meals – chow as they dubbed it. I had refused in my mind and verbiage, after muddling through my drugged stupor, to call it that, reminiscent of the dog food I fed my faithful Golden. It was fine cuisine for him but not something I cared to think about for me to ingest, though some meals appeared to be a close facsimile to it. So I banned the word and encouraged others to do the same.
It also was the welcome sound when unlocking for rec and library times twice a week. Those 45 minutes were such wonderful times even if the gym and library were small. It was less than half a gymnasium and housed an old weight machine and basket with no net which we shared with the handball players. I always tried to cajole some guys to play rather than just shoot around. I never tired of it and it would provide a great escape for that short time and throughout my state enforced time out, a God-send in getting me through my bid – length of my sentence inside, buying me safety and even respect along the way. Praise God for the benefits of movement on the court. ( I may not have at first, but surely did later)
The best times of hearing that door click unlocked were the unexpected ones. “25 out.” I had somehow procured a cell with one of my favorite numbers – I remember moving to it before I was even told to go to it, I just knew it was mine. When that shout came, I was supposed to rush to the bubble for further instructions. (the bubble was the bulletproof glass enclosure that held the CO on watch) I started to vaguely remember how I had done it for med calls when the “meds” call was sounded and all were herded to the dispensary for their dose.
That click sound, when sudden and out of the ordinary, could get an excitement aroused in me. I had no idea what it was for but it meant a few moments of enlarged freedom where I could walk and maybe even catch site of the outdoors, sky and maybe even the sun or moon. Maybe, I would dream, it meant they had made a mistake and I was being pardoned, set free, given another chance and being sent home, maybe ….. Usually it was the psyche lady making sure I was getting “better” whatever that meant in this place with me looking at more years of incarceration. Maybe it was commissary where we were able to buy things every other week. Maybe it was another counselor. Or the priest. I was not Catholic but had enjoyed their Sunday morning service more that the protestant ones, mainly because of Father Domido, a Peruvian priest who “saved” me from thoughts of further self destruction and gave me hope in Jesus Christ which ultimately led me to be born again.
So when I would hear that click and my number called, my heart would begin to race as I never knew the reason. It might be a counselor call out, or maybe, I hoped, it would be Father Domido again, calling me out to visit him for a short chat. It never came from him enough, but just hearing that sound gave me the hope that he started in me, the hope that I would later cultivate form the source of all hope, that of Christ our Lord, our true Father.

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