TEXAS DEATH ROW NEWS March 24, 2018.
“IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND…”
If you could read my mind right now, what would you see? Would you be surprised? Amazed? Disappointed or maybe find a new perspective on your life and all the blessings in it?
This morning I woke to a dark, quiet and cool cell. At 6am a flurry of activity began which lasted for about 2 hours as the guards escorted guys to and from the shower. About half the pod refused to get up out of bed for shower as there’s no recreation today, and chose to sleep in instead. I’m up early because peace and quiet is bliss to me. I feel like I’d walk a thousand miles to reach it, and that silence is one of the most precious things that I have.
My mind roams far and wide as I do the daily tasks in my little world. It’s springtime, which means there’s an overload of pollen that makes its way into the building and in my cell. Each morning, I clean my floor and wipe down my walls to clean up the dust that’s settled over every surface. The radio is playing in the background and I listen to National Public Radio and hear the creator of Instagram say, “We all get lucky in a big way at least once in life, the key is what you do with it after it happens”.
That resonates within me and causes me to ask myself, “What have I done with my good fortune that’s come my way in life?” Have I made the most of my blessings? Am I doing everything I can to take complete advantage of the fortune-blessings-opportunities that flow my way?
The reality of being locked in a 60 square foot cell and the sound coming from the radio fades away as I examine these questions to see if I believe I measure up to what I would consider success. Because it’s simple for me – it all boils down to success means reaching freedom; and failure equals execution and death. I do not think there is a higher stake to play for the game called life and I’ve been wagering what matters most to me for 20 years now.
Soon enough the daylight begins to flow into my cell and I step onto my metal bunk and stand on the large stack of hardback books and look out the 4 inch x 36 inch window in the back wall of my cell. To my surprise, it’s very cloudy and overcast and the skies hold the threat of rain in them. The radio is playing music now and I listen to an old program airing the top 40 songs from March 21, 1971. I love old music and am feeling the groove as the program plays while I look out the window, watching the world go by. It’s about 10am now and I can see the front parking lot of the prison where both guards and visitors enter this 2000+ man maximum security state prison. The large fields of grass are freshly cut and the bushes that line the concrete sidewalk that leads up to the main prison building inside the prison fence are neatly trimmed by prison work crews. I watched them do that yesterday.
This looking out the window is a new thing I’m doing. In decades I rarely looked out the window because I’d always see great weather, sunny skies, free birds flying around and it made me want to be outside flying free as well. So I never looked out the window.
This past Monday I saw a good friend named Anthony in the visitation room and he asked me what pod I was on. I told him the pod and cell, to which he responded “You can see everything from there!” I laughed and responded, “Yeah, and I don’t look at anything”. Meaning I never look out the window. I thought about that exchange for 2 days and decided I was wasting a blessing. There are only 2 sections on Texas death row that have this “view”. That’s 28 cells, 14 on the ground floor (1-row) and 14 on the second floor (2-row); and I’m on 2-row or about 20 feet in the air when I look out my cell window. It does not get any better than that.
So, I’ve gotten this stack of large books out and they stay on my bunk as a reminder that I need to get up and look out the window and see what’s going on! It’s working, I have been taking time to watch the world go by from my window.
I think the fact that I WILL soon be free helps me with my issue on why I never did this before. I have to find these different strategies in which to motivate myself to do these things. Is that crazy? Has 20 years of solitary confinement driven me past the point of no return? Or like I sometimes say to my friends, “Has Texas death row wigged me out?!”
Today Texas death row will receive visitation beginning at 5:30 pm. I’ll watch out my window to see the people come in. I’m not expecting a visit – I’ve gotten my regular visit for this week. Even so, I’ll witness the event.
I can understand the allure that draws those who spend hours at a time at the window. Paired with music, a soundtrack is created to your day and music has a way of taking you away as the songs that play will take you home, they’ll take you to a specific place and time in your life when you were happy and free and maybe even in love! Even make you feel the pain of losing a lover or a friend all over again, I understand this only too well.
I think of the conversation I had with PG yesterday while in the dayroom. He’s a sharp brother and we always have very good, positive, meaningful conversations and I come away from them having learned something. He told me it never fails, no matter what race the children may be, whenever they come out of the building, and hit the sidewalk they take off running! It’s a straight shot, maybe a city block long so it’s a considerable distance. So I watch for that as I want to see the kids run and be happy and free. It’s said that running is the physical form of freedom and I agree. I think the kids know this intuitively and when they leave the oppressive environment of a prison visitation room, they feel the need to shake those chains loose that have temporarily bound them and fly free again. I can totally dig that!
As I watch for the kids to come out of the main building, I reflect to when I was 10 years old and would travel with my parents to visit my brother who was in prison. When it first began, we lived in West Texas and would have to travel over 10 hours by car to visit. As I think of it now, I really didn’t know my oldest brother because he was sent to prison and now I understand that time we lost we’ll never get back.
Is it like that for these children who come to visit their loved ones? Do they enjoy it? I remember I enjoyed visiting my brother and did not want to leave him in that prison when it was time to leave – I wanted to bring him back home with us. Do these kids struggle with the same kind of feelings? I know from the moment my brother was incarcerated, in my 10 year-old mind, the guards, police, FBI – any kind of cop became the enemy. They held my blood relation and whether his incarceration was just or not, they were to be despised.
How much of this contributed to my delinquent behaviour as a minor and later as a young adult? How is it accepted to lock up men and women and throw away the key when we know it affects the whole family? Because when you have a family member in prison or on Texas death row, the entire family is doing time.
Soon enough I step away from the window. It’s true, I saw two young children come out the building and take off running at full speed down the sidewalk. I smiled and laughed when I saw it. I said to them – run young brother, run and be free!
I now consider what I need to do this week-end. My goal is the same – I need to write a blog post a week and send out several pages of daily journal and letters to answer.
I’ve been wondering about what I would write about and the answer came to me in a song, “If you could read my mind”, by Gordon Lightfoot. His record was #13 in the countdown in March of 1971 and when I heard this title I knew I had my answer. The song expresses love loss and is very beautiful – I like it a lot!
Like the song says… If you could read my mind!
Charles D. Flores #999299
Texas Death Row
March 24, 2018