My cell is considered an executive suite for two reasons. The first is that I have a direct TV shot of two out of the four 50 inch flat screens, so should I choose to I could stay up all night watching television that we listen to through our walkmans.
My celli’s love the fact that I don’t watch much TV, so when we lock in at 9:30 pm for the night, they can stack our two blue plastic chairs on top of one another, place the pillow over the backrest for a cushion and sit comfortably watching their shows.
When word spread that I don’t watch TV, offers to buy my cell started coming in. Yes, you read that right, offers to buy a prison cell. It’s one of those things you don’t hear about or see on prison shows like “Lockup,” but cells are sold all throughout the federal system.
I got this current cell the old school way. Once I saw it was empty, first thing in the morning I moved in and made the change with the counselor and that was it. There was a little fuss when those that had their eye’s on the cell woke up later to find me already comfortably moved in, but you snooze you lose, the early bird gets the worm and all that.
I wasn’t trying to hear anything about it and they defiantly didn’t want to argue with me because I was here for only a few weeks at the time and mentally I was still in a penitentiary mode that no one wanted to test.
Currently, the market value of my cell is at a one-time price between $200-$250. The Presidential suites, where you can see all four televisions go for up to $500. But the second more important reason my cell is considered an executive suite is that my 7th floor view where I spend hours gazing out at the New York city skyline has another million dollar view when I look down across the street of the Metropolitan Detention Center and see a huge one-story warehouse that runs the length of the block whose side red brick wall faces our building.
Single parking spaces the line the street, where I see correction officers coming to work, attorney’s on their way to meet with clients, mothers, wives, girlfriends, kids and friends on their way entering the building to bring an hour of freedom for a visit.
On the corner of 29th and 1st street, directly in front of my cell towards the back of the red brick wall, there is a dark burgundy aluminum structure sticking out on the side that was probably used for extra storage or deliveries.
It’s been out of commission for years since there’s no roof and a tree about eighteen feet tall growing in the middle of it, but this aluminum burgundy structure gets plenty of use.
It’s a platform of expression for us that look at it every day seeing signs from a loved one that has turned this aluminum burgundy structure into a memorial of inspirational support.
Fathers day and birthday wishes signs reading how much we’re missed and loved, balloons, flags, blown up photos and pictures drawn by children are all testimonials that help every one of us in this building during these challenging times.
It doesn’t have to be a sign specifically for us, placed by our family members, we all appreciate the effort that’s made and know that it’s our loved ones who are doing the real hard time.
Everyday family members stand across the street looking up at our darken windows waving and blowing kisses, hoping that their incarcerated loved one is looking back. I always take my nail clipper and repeatedly tap on the window acknowledging their presence, letting them know they’ve been seen and efforts are appreciated.
During the last two week lockdown when there were no visits, I saw the same mother come once each week to put up a sign and blow kisses for a full hour towards our building, letting her son know the level of love and devotion she has for him. It reminded me of my mother who’s giving me that same type of support, not only these last 13 years in prison but for each moment of my life.
I had a visit on Tuesday, October 24th, which was considered my birthday visit since I’m turning 45 on Friday the 27th. During the afternoon lock-in prior to the visiting session, I looked out at the wall seeing all the same expressions of love from the day before. An hour later, when they unlocked the doors, I rose up from my bed to prepare to get ready to hear my name called to the visiting room, extra excited to see my mother and daughter Nia.
I glanced out the window again and noticed five blue helium balloons tied up on the corner of the wall and instinctively knew it was my mother and Nia that hung them. They were both beaming with smiles when I walked into the visiting room and said, “I saw the five balloons!” as soon as I hugged them hello.
This morning, I woke up and stared at my balloons. I went and worked out, took my shower, got dressed, fixed my 2nd cup of coffee and enjoyed it sitting on my plastic chair looking down out my window seeing the three dark and two light blue birthday balloons blowing in the wind.
I’ve often written how these years in prison make me grateful for the small things in life. A handwritten letter, a thinking of you card, pictures and taking the time to visit. I’ve been blessed throughout these years to have people in my life that do all these things showing nothing but loving support.
I know in a week or so those five blue birthday balloons will be deflated, hanging by the string, fluttering in the wind against the wall, but the symbol of love that those balloons represent is everlasting and the best birthday gift I’ve ever received!