In the summer of 2013, a great opportunity landed in my lap when I was asked to write a memoir for two ex-cons/ex-lawyers.
This is what I did:
- Conducted 22 hours of interview, transcribed the tape, took notes
- Organized hundreds of disparate stories into an overarching plot
- Extensively researched prison culture and history
- Traveled between Springfield and NYC for meetings
I submitted my first draft to them in February 2014. Here is a sample:
What would have been best for me was if she had left me at the beginning of my sentence, not the end. I only had one more year left on my sentence. Looking back on it now I can see it coming at a certain point. Our phone calls had been stilted and stalled for a while. We both had our separate lives and all we could do was talk on the phone once in a while. She visited once a year. I was stuck in suspended animation while she was at home being a single mother. Working full-time, raising our daughter alone, and having to support me too, putting money in my commissary and sending packages.
I could see it coming, but that didn’t make it easy.
One Wednesday night our conversation was particularly… awkward, and finally she gets it out. She says to me, “I’ve been thinking about when you get out. It might be best for you if we get a divorce.”
My world went blank. Everything that I held on to, the happy memories that got me through the day, the plans for the future, all taken away. “Getting out” was the light at the end of the tunnel, but the people I loved were the ones that created that light. That picture of where I was going was beautiful and priceless to me, and then it was gone. I took a deep breath and shrugged the tension out of my shoulders.
“Sure, I can see that coming.” I said. “I told you before I came here that you could get out any time you wanted.” I said. “No one signs up for this.”
But I thought to myself “What’s best for me?! You waited until now?! One year! One year to go!”
I came out from the phones and went down the walkway to my dorm. I felt awful, and I knew I looked bad too. I had that ashen, drawn look that guys sometimes get on their way out of the phones. Frank saw me, “You alright?”
“Yeah, just give me a minute.”
I had held on to memories, I had held on to plans, I had held on to what little comfort might still be there for me when I got out. Now I needed to find a new light at the end of the tunnel and I had to figure out what that picture was going to be. I needed to find something that would create that light for me.