Thursday, July 26, 2007

Love Letters From Prison

People have imaginary dark sides. They think or imagine things, often terribly cruel and vicious, and are ashamed. They rarely talk about these thoughts and imagine, since no one talks about them, they must be unique. They believe that if others knew what they really thought, could see the "true self", friends would be horrified and turn away.
(Especially common in adolescent males, in my experience.)

It's not true. That you imagine shooting every slow person in a crowded store or immolating tailgaters or dismembering loud children is mild stuff. It is fantasy. The simple fact is that everyone can imagine it, but only a very few can or will actually do it. These fantasies are not your true self.

It works the other way, too. One of the early mild shocks in this job was reading mail that inmates would send to their loved ones. They would ask for help with spelling sometimes. I was amazed, because the letters had the depth and imagery and poetry of the love letters that I had sent to K from Basic Training and AIT. Not having read love letters from people other than myself and those sent to me, I'd thought mine were uniquely deep, soul touching and true.

Now I read almost the same words and surely the same sentiments scrawled in pencil and sent from jail.

Sentimental poetry from people who showed the physicality of their love with fists, boots, cigarette lighters and electric cord. Over the years I've read incestuous rapist wax raphsodic (misspelled cliche) to their victims; listened and read tales and dreams of love from people who have prostituted their own children for crack. Compared the written words to the threats over the phone ('You are my angel in a darkness, baby' versus "Bitch, you put money on my books tomorrow or I'l fucking cut your whore face off!").

It's the same. Dark sides. Light sides. Not quite as dark or as light as we pretend. And what we do is the difference. Not how we speak of love, but how we show it. Not what we imagine going violent for, but what we are willing to fight to protect.

2 comments:

Kai Jones said...

No one thinks of himself as the bad guy.

Man is the rationalizing animal.

Drew said...

Dismembering children only makes them cry louder... voice of experience.