The cell door shuts with a bang that echoes throughout my shoe box of a cell. The clanging door feeds my ears an all too familiar sound. With a twist of a key I’m locked in. Yes, I’m in my inmate cage for yet another solitude-filled night. I never know what thoughts will surface when the cell door shuts, but it’s fair to say that nine tines out of ten nothing out of the ordinary pops into a prisoner’s head. It becomes routine, rather familiar. I know I have to be locked in, and often after a long day, I even welcome the closing of the door. In no way do I confuse welcoming the closing of the door with actually liking the cell—absolutely not. It’s merely that while I’m in prison I can’t deny the fact that the cell is my pad. Therefore, after contending with various, sometimes hectic, situations during the day I often welcome the cell, the doors closing.

I’m human, even though I temporarily live in a cage like an animal. (I am not an animal). As a person I need rest and time to unwind from the toil of the day and the madness of the Beast. Out there amongst the prison population, it’s on guard seven days a week, but once inside my cell I do experience a feeling of safety and comfort. Even if my perceived comfort is a self-induced illusion. I know that no one can get in without the key, therefore I realize I’m relatively safe. Of course, a person could walk by my cell and throw a mixture of boiling water, baby oil, and disease ridden urine in my face. Besides this possible happenstance, I know I’m pretty safe in the confines of my cell.

I can express that I hate the cell, and I should, but for now it’s the place where I rest my head. I do my deepest thinking there. Late at night, in the darkness, I cry in the cell where no one can see me. At times, even the most brutal gangster prisoner sheds his macho mask to purge pent up tears. I pray in the cell, and I write my loved ones there. Hey, if I’m going to be honest with myself, my cell is one of my best “buddies” in prison.

I’m going to be logical for a few moments, only to see if I’m on the ball with this cell praising. Or have I lost my mind by actually praising the cell? Absolutely, the cage is small, itsy-bitsy small, for my six feet four inch frame. Yes, it’s no picnic fun sleeping two feet from where I relieve my bowels. Those pillars of crisscrossed iron are not aesthetically pleasing to my eyes either. Also, the swarming troops of roaches are not Thanksgiving Day welcome house guests. In truth, the prisoner can derive a great deal of pleasure and joy from within this tiny enclosure. It’s a place to pseudo escape. Ironically, the cell is a paradox because in reality it’s the very place where I would hope to escape from; yet, while here in prison, the cell becomes the oasis that allows me to temporarily escape. I sleep here, and when I sleep I can dream myself anywhere. Even if I don’t remember my dreams, or if I have a bad dream, my body still reaps the rewards from sleep. Here in the cell I can relax and prepare some food if I choose to. I can enjoy a steamy cup of coffee or tea at my leisure. Look, there’s that book I have been meaning to read. What better time is there for me to be swept away by a book than when I‘m alone in my cell? Don’t look now but I can listen to the radio, too. Should I hear dance music, love songs, classical music, or should I peer into the world of talk radio? On second thought, I think I’ll write a letter to my family or a friend. The cell is called a hellhole, and it is, but it’s also a think tank and entertainment center. Yes, I dare say it, the cell is my castle until I reach home.

It’s quiet now, nighttime has melted onto Sing Sing’s perpetual gray existence. I don’t hear anyone talking. Well, to be more accurate, it’s not exactly quiet, in fact it never truly is quiet here. There is always some noise filling the air and permeating my ears. Silence is a sound I have not heard in years. Yes, silence has a sound, even though the very definition of silence means void of sound. When I hear nothing, that is the sound of silence. The walls seem to hum here, and there is always the reverberating sound of something mechanical in the distance. When compared to tomorrow’s inevitable racket, these sounds are tranquil—a melody of pleasant proportions.

The cell door is now closed, but as the door closed, new doors opened for me in the form of my thoughts and imagination. When the cell door shuts, I’m alone, but being alone means I’m in good company. To the outside observer, a man in a prison cell calls forth an image of gloom, despair, and loneliness. While all these feelings and images are a part of a prisoner’s life, they don’t necessarily latch on to the prisoner like barnacles to a ship. I decide to be gloomy, I ultimately decide to give power to despair. I’ve decided not to play along with these rancid feelings. I’m human, I feel, bleed, cry, and my heart is susceptible to pain and sadness. I also laugh, love, think, and have the power to choose. I truly thank God for blessing me in spite of the wretched conditions of incarceration that have befallen me. What will tomorrow bring for me? I ‘m not sure, and neither is anyone else completely sure of what the new day shall hold. There simply is no guarantee. I expect that the day will somehow unfold and will end with the clang of the cell doorjust as it did the night before. I don’t worry about tomorrow today. Today is here, and I have to deal with the here and now.

Sometimes I feel like a stallion that has been stolen from the meadow and forced into a corral. The stallion peers out of the corral and gazes upon the green pasture in the distance. He longs to return to the pasture, eager to gallop once again—free and unshackled. Freedom is so close for him, yet, so far away.

I’m full of energy and ideas, plans and desires, full of . . . life. It’s painfully sorry for me to be a man full of life, yet held back by restraints, held back by the closing of the door. I fully empathize with the caged animals in the zoo. What was their crime?

Hope is now with me though, hope is my friend, my air, my foodwithout it I would surely die. If I lacked hope, my mind would become cancerous from the loneliness, the breach of loved ones, and the yearning to have dreams fulfilled. Hope is here with me, it’s here with me when the cell door closes, and it finds its way to me when I’m feeling down.

One day the stallion shall gallop again. Soon the scent of country air will find its way back into his life. Once again he will travel on old wholesome familiar trails, and there are still new trails to be forged. He may not gallop as fast as he once did, but that’s okay, because a slower pace will give him more time to drink in the moments he deeply longed for. Though the stallion awaits the joy of future rides, he will not wait for freedom’s gate in order to start living. He’ll run now, where he’s at, in anyway he can. Now is the moment to live. Now is the time to saddle up on the horse of life. Waiting for tomorrow to start living is like having an umbrella on a rainy day, but waiting for the sun to come out to use it. Don’t wait, use it now!

The cell door is closed . . . is closed. To most everyone, I’m out of sight and out of mind. I’m in prison—a living hell—and I must live in the moment as my ever brief life unfolds with the passing of yet another day behind the wall. Despite this, I fully realize that I am a part of the mysterious universe in some way. Go ahead and close the door, I’ll open a few of my own and no one has the keys to lock my imagination’s doors. Even though I’m in prison with the cell door closing night after night, I am still alive with the sacred energy called life. I believe that my life has meaning, and is precious in some way. I will continue to search for that way, whether the cell door is open or closed.