The day MY earth stood still.

Cecil Smead - Lubbock, TX (Taken while I was in California State Prison.)

Cecil Smead - Lubbock, TX (Taken while I was in California State Prison.)

I remember it like it was yesterday.  The sun coming in ever so slightly through the grated windows, showing promises of a nice bright day outside, the light tap at the foot of my bed from the guard on duty.  How I woke up with excitement yet filled with doubt at the same time.  Had something gone wrong?  Was I not going home today?  Hearing him say softly at 5:45 in the morning, “Wake up, it is time to go.”

“Go where?”  I replied with hesitation, just to be sure.

“Today is the day.” Was his answer, spoken in his soft Dominican accent.  I can’t remember his name for the life of me, but he was one of the respectable guards.  Consistent.  Such an important thing.  I never minded if they were nice, or mean, all I cared about was if they were consistent, consistent and honest.  Nothing inspires fear in a man more than a corrupt person in a position of power.  Nothing.  You never know what to expect.

“Today is the day for what?” I replied, needing him to say it.  Needing it more than anything in the world.  Needing him to be specific.  I had to hear it.  It still wasn’t real until he actually said it.  As I asked him, I noticed all around him were other inmates.  My friends, my brother’s in arms, my brother’s in despair.  All who had gotten up early to wish me farewell and send me off with love and hope.  Yet I still didn’t see them, all I saw was the guard, and all I needed to hear was his answer.

“Today you go.  It is time for you to go home.”  He replied.

As he said these words I could feel the anxiety hit my chest like a runaway train.  I still couldn’t believe it was true even though for the last 3 years I had thought about this day and ran this day through my head a million times. Was it really true?  I knew it must be true, but joy is not how prison works.  You lose a bit of faith.  A part of you dies, whether or not you ever really want to admit it.  You begin to lose trust in the everyday things because you learn how fragile and weak the world you live in really is.

“Are you sure?” was my response. 

I needed to hear it again.  It still was not real.  There was a silence like time was at a complete standstill.  There was no movement anywhere in the entire world at this exact moment.  It was like the entire universe was on pause.  All of my friends, and myself as well, just stood there, on the edge of the abyss, our entire being just hanging in the balance.

His reply was spoken softer than you can even imagine, at the lowest level a man can speak.  Not because he wasn’t emphatic, but because he was.  I have rarely ever heard words spoken with such absolute authority, sincerity and tenderness.  “Yes.  You are going home today.  I would never joke about something such as this.”

I took a breath. 

The first breath I had taken in what felt like years.

I was going home.

The dorm erupted in noise as my friends cheered like fans at a concert.  People were slapping backs and giving high fives.  They were yelling and whistling and singing.  Asking me what was the first thing I was going eat.  Telling me to get some pussy for them.  Telling me the first they planned to eat when it was their day.   Telling me about the first pussy they planned on getting. 

I took another breath.

I was going home.

As I was getting out of bed looking at the smiles of my fellow prisoners, the fellow cast offs and forgotten, I realized that me going home was just as important to them as it was to me.  I didn’t really understand it fully until I looked back on it later, but every time someone got released, it was if everyone else got released a bit too.  It reminded them of the real world.  Reminded them that their day was coming too.  That sometime they would be the person on that bunk scared half to death.  It was such a marvelous feeling.

I have told the story more times than I can count, that no matter what my life brings, whether I win the lottery or walk on the moon, I don’t know if anything will ever beat the day I got to go home.  It was a feeling you may never know, and on this occasion I would have to say that is good thing.  It was a marvelous day.