A man spends thirteen years of his life in prison. He’s in a few different facilities during those years, but one, he says, has an especially dark spirit, and he is often afraid he won’t make it out alive from that place.
His cell in that dark place has a window, just a small one, and it is his connection to the world outside. Light comes through that window and traces a slow figure eight against the opposite wall. Sounds come in: car engines, a mower in the summer. Smells: grass when it’s cut. He looks out the window at a street beyond the prison yard, across the razor wire, at people walking and running for exercise, and he imagines running on that street himself, on the other side of the fence, on the outside of that place that feels evil.
A year ago he is released and begins living in Asheville. He finds work. He finds love. Just before Christmas he completes his parole, which means he can leave Buncombe County whenever he wants.
He and his girlfriend buy tickets to a monster truck show. He thinks it’s in one city, but turns out it’s in the city where the prison is. They go to the show. They take her kids. Everybody has a great time. Afterwards he tells her there’s a stop he wants to make before they leave town.
“Where?” she asks.
“Some place. You’ll see.”
He drives to the prison and turns down the street he used to see from his slit of a window, the street where people would walk and run. He parks the truck, gets out, and clicks the door shut. He takes a breath and begins to walk. And then he runs. Runs, and feels his heart and lungs and blood and legs and breath and skin.
Halfway down the street he stops and turns to face the prison. “I won!” he yells. “You lost! You didn’t kill me! It’s Stephen! I’M ALIVE!”
And he is, alive, and when he tells me this story, I feel a voice throbbing inside the walls of my own locked heart, telling me I am too.
(shared with permission)