I could live with the same assigned cellmate for three years, for example, and with a moment’s notice, he could be replaced by a total stranger. Always difficult.
Still a regimented life, to the extent possible, is essential. So many prisoners give in to the throes of depression by sleeping half the day and ruminating most of the night. Such depression feeds itself and leads to an empty life devoid of meaning. It is tempting to fall into it at times, but it is spiritually toxic.
And so no matter what keeps me awake at night, and that list is sometimes long, I am out of my steel bunk with its two inch thick mattress every morning at 6:30. I do not lay down in that bunk again until 11:00 pm.
I have coffee and cereal with my roommate — the commissary sells only generic instant and cereal with powdered milk. He goes off to his prison job at 7:15 a.m., and I am alone in the cell until 11:00.
At 8:15 I pray Lauds, and sometimes can even celebrate the Eucharist in my cell (another story for another time).
At 9:00 I look out my cell window. If the field door opens, I go to walk for an hour. I can walk four miles in one hour there, and look at trees. Sometimes – and sometimes to my chagrin, an inmate who wants to talk to me will come to the field to find me.
On some days, I am everyone’s sounding board.
From 10 to 11 a.m. I write, or at least start to.
I work in the prison library (for $.50¢ per hour) from 11:00 to 3:00 each day.
Then I resume writing from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. with dinner, the main meal of the day, squeezed in at 3:45. We are given 20 minutes to eat, and sometimes I eat standing up if there are no seats.
From 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., seven days per week, I have an intense workout with a weight machine and calisthenics. My 56-year-old body never wants to do it, but I must. More on that another day.
After a quick shower, I tutor inmates in a G.E.D. program, work with others in various educational programs, or deal with the line at my door each night for everything from crossword puzzle solutions to the solution for deep despair.
From 9:00 to 10:00 my roommate and I talk (I’ll introduce him to you next post!) and work on his college distance learning course.
I then read until 11:00, then Vespers and Night Prayer. Then when it comes, sleep.
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