So it’s been a few weeks since my last post, at which time it was already a month since I got Garry’s last letter. I finally grew up and wrote him back today. And it felt weird and unnatural. I don’t know what’s going on with me. Whatever.
So in his last letter he talked about my memoir and how he enjoyed reading it. There was a chapter about an abusive ex boyfriend of mine that he reacted poorly to, but everyone who read that chapter reacted the same way, so it wasn’t alarming or anything. He was quick to move on, which I was grateful for. He was undying support for me and my future, which seems really weird. He doesn’t even know me! We’ve never met. We don’t have a “deep” connection-we’re just two people who write letters to each other once a month. But in an odd way it’s comforting. I have support from my friends and family, sure, but for a more-or-less stranger to believe in me makes me feel like maybe I’m actually worth something. He said in his letter that he had been praying for me to get a job and have the future I deserve. I guess his prayers paid off! I was just given a job offer yesterday!
He also told me about different privileged groups they have in San Quentin: A and B. He’s in B, the shitty one. He’s on death row…. was he expecting to be given many privileges? He has pretty broken English, but I’m used to it by now, especially working where I work part time for so long (50% of the customers hardly speak english). But looking passed the broken english, I was still pretty lost in his explanation. Prisons have such interesting internal, unspoken systems. It’s fascinating to read about. I’m glad he openly tells me about it, as if I’d ever understand what he was going through.
From there, he told me about his work history. He did a lot of physical labor, including being a welder with his father. He said he “was a Baptist, driving his company truck.” I’m not sure if Baptist has another meaning apart from the religion? I always assumed he was Catholic because he is Hispanic and very deeply religious, which i have only ever encountered by devout Catholics. But I guess I was just being stereotypical and unfair. I know he was telling me about his jobs because I had mentioned I was starting to look for one, but I was glad he was open enough to let me into his past even more so.
So I finally wrote him back.
And I didn’t have much to say–which is why I suck as a pen pal. I explained that I had a really busy summer, which I know he will understand without a bad thought, but he shouldn’t. It’s been over a month since he sent his letter and there’s no excuse for being so tardy. It was my own effed up brain getting the best of me after my dad, brother, and fiance mocked me. I guess I was embarrassed and thought I was doing something wrong. Thank god I got over that! I told him I finally got a job and that I’d be a lot more available now to write, but who knows if that will actually be true. I thanked him for his kind wishes and his compliments on my writing, and I told him about this blog-emphasizing, of course, that none of his personal details have been revealed and that anonymity and personal life were kept out. I hope he doesn’t have a bad reaction to it, or think I am exploiting him or anything.
In between my last post and this one, a reader reached out to me from Tumblr to talk about how she and her mom are interested in the program and may want to look into writing to a death row prisoner. I was really excited to hear from her! Even if I only inspire one person in the almost year that I’ve been doing this, It’s pretty cool! if anyone else is interested you can always message/email me to chat and get more info. There’s a lot more that I feel about the experience that I just never put into words, and it’s easier to talk directly with people who are as passionate about something as you are. I honestly don’t even know if/how many people read this. It’s just something I do on the off chance that a person will Google “death row pen pals” and stumble across what it means to me to have one. I know I Googled it before I signed up for the program, so hopefully it gives you a chance to experience what it will be like, what to expect, etc. As corny and cliche as it sounds, it has changed the way I think of things and has been an enormous part of my past year. It’s even been a proven conversation starter! Yay!
Okay-I promise it won’t be another month before my next correspondence both to Garry and to this blog. I’ll try and be a better/worthier pen pal.