Silly, I know. I feel kind of self-conscious about doing it, but what is a journal for? It's a record, right? Some kind of log of everyday events, dreams, memories, hopes. So I'm hoping maybe the 'Net will still be around & I'll have a connection across time w/the new me, whoever I may be. My biggest beef w/dying isn't the death itself, it's the forgetting.
Fer instance, I think something bad happened to me in an old prison. I've been to Alcatraz, I've seen photos & old b/w movies of old prisons, places like Leavenworth & recently there was one in Florida they were showing on the History Channel or CourtTV. To me, all prisons pretty much look the same - institutional, w/bare concrete floors & solid bars. But older prisons creep me out. Looking at that one from Florida on t.v. gave me chills - and it was on the television. And when I was very little...
My dad was an o.t.r. truck driver. He went everywhere. And in the Summers when I was out of school, my mom & I went everywhere w/him. One Summer he had a run to Arizona. Why, I don't know. What he was carrying, I have no clue. But I do remember it was hot. Damn hot. I remember, vaguely, whining about "I'll never be cool again." I remember, also, how in the middle of a desert night, clearest stars anyone could ever hope to see, the sky deepened to a bizarre green & the world's nastiest hail storm commenced to fall on us. Desert weather - you either love it or keep away from deserts. So my dad had a layover in Yuma, AZ for a day or two, & there was the ever-exciting prospect of a historical monument to visit. The AZ State Yuma Prison. Yuma Prison
At first, I was not afraid. Fascinated, maybe a little bored, hot. It felt good just to be out exploring w/my parents. Listening to the tour guide, wandering here & there. But there was a cell. It was basically chipped into the side of the hill, made of solid stone. It was designed for solitary confinement or confinement, & called the 'dark cell'. No lights. In a huge vault in the side of a mountain, a cage w/in a cage was built w/a raised concrete platform in the middle, w/shackles at each corner. The unruly prisoner would be shackled to that slab, all by themselves. Except of course, for the rats. The cockroaches. The scorpions & spiders. Maybe a random rattlesnake looking for food or to escape the elements. At least during the day, because the cell was in the hill, the heat wouldn't be too bad, but the temperature at night can drop to below freezing.
The attraction of that particular day in my life was to stand behind the door of the dark cell, looking out, & getting your picture taken. I was ok all day right up until then. I flipped the hell out. Had a hysterical screaming fit. Because when I walked into the cell & they shut the door, it was so dark. A smell like old sweat & fear & defeat washed over me, a rank, old animal smell, and I could almost hear someone behind me, on that slab, the shuffle of an arm or leg sweeping across it, maybe to flinch away a fly, the rattle of a shackle, and I knew
, even at 4 or 5 years old, that the prisoners were left for days at a time w/out food or water, subsisting on the roaches & fighting off rats. Later that afternoon, getting ready to get back on the road, listening to my mom & dad bicker in the heat, we stopped at a truckstop & I got a barbecued beef sandwich. A couple of bites into it, I found that I couldn't stop thinking about the long-gone prisoner in the dark cell, that odor & the sounds, & I was sick to my stomach. To this day, whenever I smell a certain type of barbecue sauce in food, it still turns my belly. But I can't say exactly why I had those feelings, what set them off, the imagery, the sounds... these are the things one should be able to remember. Why do old prisons bother me so much? Was I actually so traumatized that day in Yuma that I can't shake it off, or did something really bad actually happen to me in a long-ago life?