by Gary Salcedo

I’m a 43-year-old ex-gang member who is sitting in a prison cell, teetering a pen between finger and thumb like an artist’s paintbrush, in deep contemplation of how to begin his masterpiece. I’ve been searching the corners of my mind for the right colors to use and mix, in order to bring to life a desire of mine, a desire that has intimate elements and complex layers; one only the brave ever seem to be successful at accomplishing—vulnerability.

As I began to introduce my pen to paper, thoughts of a story called “Little Boy” came to mind. It’s a story about how an innocent, healthy little boy became blind and deaf from being raised by blind and deaf parents. I could never understand how such a thing would even be possible. However, I welcomed the entertainment as I embarked on a journey of my own.

Little Boy could see and hear, he just had no idea what it was to see and hear. His father was rarely ever home, because he spent most of his life in and out of an old castle by the ocean with hundreds of other fathers. Once, out of the two times that Little Boy and his mother went to visit his father, Little Boy was captivated and intrigued by all the precautions taken and the high level of security that the old castle had in place, just to get in to see his father. Little Boy believed this to be proof that his father was a very important and powerful man. This perception stirred a pride within him; a pride that he did not know at the time was only a distortion of reality.

In the great hall where the family festivities took place, Little Boy stood in awe with his boney little chest pushed forward in arrogant defiance. When his father appeared out of a corner door, he made to stand by his mother’s side, straight and still, holding her hand, and acting as her protector. In reality, he was frozen with excitement and shaking uncontrollably on the inside. As his father began to walk toward them, his mother let go of his hand and went to her husband, leaving Little Boy behind. Little Boy searched his father’s face, desperate to find some sign of approval; just a shred of evidence that his father loved him and was proud of him was all he wanted. With tears threatening, he found nothing. His presence wasn’t enough to earn him a glance. After a long embrace, kisses, and smiles between his parents, his father finally looked down. He asked, “Is this my son?”

Little Boy’s mother laughed and said, “Let’s go sit down.” She turned to Little Boy. “Go play with the other kids.” Feeling rejected, Little Boy was a pathetic little creature with a broken spirit.

Deeming himself unworthy, he found a quiet little corner and sat there alone. This was when he began to grow blind and deaf. The once great hall that was full of laughter and family festivities was now a tomb of muffled pain and hate that emanated from painted faces that masked sharp teeth.

Suddenly, “Count time! Count time!” came booming over the intercom, startling me out of the story and back to the present.

I—the 43-year-old ex-gang member sitting in a prison cell with my pen in hand—stopped writing. I laid down my pen, stared at the paper before me, and realized that, though I’m in college working toward earning a degree in Human Services so that I may enter the helping profession one day, I “was” Little Boy.

As a tear began to form in my eye, a smile gently wiped it away, because at that moment I knew that I successfully trapped some poison on paper, so that it may help someone in some way, some day. Even more importantly, I knew I was no longer blind or deaf. Despite the adversities that will challenge me in life, I now know it could always be worse, and I will challenge them in return.

Republished from “Perspectives from the Cell Block: An Anthology of Prisoner Writings” – edited by Joan Parkin in collaboration with incarcerated people from Mule Creek State Prison.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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