Man, that guy looks like Bob Marley, I thought to myself as I stared across the short aisle that divided our cubes and so that’s how I came to think of my prison “neighbor”.
Marley rested on the top bunk of the cube where Mr. Rahmer lives. Rahmer sleeps on the bottom bunk because it is easier for him to transfer from his wheel chair. I observed that Marley kept the same daily schedule. He went to his prison job early, and then upon his return, he would sleep the rest of the day. At night, he was wide awake. Though we live right across the “street” from one another Marley has never really uttered a word. He is stoned faced most days, but occasionally he mumbles a hushed good morning. His voice was soft — so soft in fact it was difficult to decipher, but based on the context I could infer that he was muttering some sort of a greeting. I could tell it was forced and felt obligatory but wasn’t coming from a place of unkindness. I watched Marley for two weeks. He climbed in and out of his rack, always stone faced, with his dreads wrapped up like Marge Simpson. One Saturday morning, Marley sprung out of bed like he was late for a concert.
He stared at his prison gear that was hanging up on a hanger, and reluctantly chose a long sleeve one. I watched as he ironed his gear with the care of a fine craftsman. It dawned on me what he was doing. He was preparing for a visit. It was our weekend for visits, and he was focused.
I was already dressed. I found myself ironing my gear the night before. Originally, I thought it was odd to press a prison uniform; however, I developed an understand that it is one of the few ways an inmate can demonstrate to family and friends that he is doing ok. It also demonstrates strength of spirit. I put old school military creases in my shirt and pants — a skill I learned during my days at The Citadel.
When my name was called, I hurried to the visitation room as not to waste a second of my visit with my beautiful wife and little girl. Moments later, seated in visitation, I noticed Marley sitting with his family. He had two little girls on either side of him, and Marley was smiling from ear to ear. I could see the love he had for his two little heartbeats. The two girls were on each side of Marley. They were busy putting Marley’s dreads into French braids. It was clear Marley’s dreads were a little longer than the real reggae legend because they were really putting in some work. They took the French braids down and did pig tails, and as they played, they giggled and giggled. Marley just sat there smiling. It struck me because it was obvious Marley was at peace with fatherhood, and being the daddy to his little ones not withstanding his current circumstance.
There were a lot of men in the visitation room that day, and no one said a word about Marley’s hair. We were all just enjoying being dada, or granddad, or brother, or son. We were all a long way from prison that day…. #thankful #weloveourfamilies #sadlysomeguyshavenoone #alwaysgratefulforvisits
“Money can’t buy life.”Bob Marley’s final words to son Ziggy.