where’re you goin’?

I don’t really know Mr. Levi.

He’s a correctional officer at the prison where I spent 9 months of my incarcerated journey but he was never assigned to my particular units or zones.  I glimpsed him, once or twice, making the old women in the med lines blush when he complimented their hair.  He seemed nice, but he really wouldn’t be able to tell me from a can of trouble-making paint, so I was only startled — not offended– when he stopped me on a Friday afternoon.

“Hey,” he shouted from more than 20 feet away.

I came to a dead stop.
Your movements are not your own when you’re a prisoner.  You sit when an alarm sounds, you stand when you’re told to stand, and you stop when anyone with a badge calls you.

“Where’re you goin’?” he asked.

I hesitated because I didn’t actually have a pass.  The officer who sent me out of the unit didn’t write one because I never get stopped.  There’s a lot of reasons for this, but I think the biggest is that I always look like I know where I’m going.  Probably because I usually do, and I always make certain it’s a place I should be.  Prison or not.

“To the property room,” I explained cautiously.  I was on my way to pick up a book someone-wonderful sent to me.

“Where’re you coming from?” he asked.

“The honor dorm,” I said, still frozen to the spot.  I didn’t know him well enough to expand the conversation or move without express permission.

That’s how you get a rubber bullet in your back.  At least, that’s the running joke on the yard.

He waved me over and when I was closer, he asked again, “Where’re you goin’?”

I answered.

“Where’re you comin’ from?”

I answered.

Then he asked again.  Something about the tone made me lift my eyes to his and we stared at each other for a few minutes until the twinkle in his eye found its way to mine.

A smile bloomed on my face and I responded to the unstated question, “You could ask me 100 more times and I’d answer.  I’m sort of a Polly Programmer.”

Jacques Louis David could have never foreseen my edits of his artwork.
Jacques Louis David could have never foreseen my edits of his artwork.

He laughed and waved me on.

A week later, I passed him while going to canteen.  “Good morning, Mr. Levi.” I said.

“Where’re you goin’?” He asked.  This time, safe in my knowledge of his disposition, I giggled and waved as I walked away without answering.  I rarely ever saw him, but it had became our inside joke.

One day I spotted him from the other side of a long walkway.  He seemed uncharacteristically frazzled, and a little less-swashbuckling than normal.  So I shouted:

“Hey!”

Lost in thought, he came to a dead stop.  Like a prisoner.  I suppose the dark alleys of our minds can make prisoners of us all.

“Where’re ya goin’?” I questioned.

A myriad of emotions played over his face.  Amusement, thoughtfulness, confusion, exhaustion.  I smiled until he smiled back, lending him his own twinkle, and then walked away.

It made me think of how lucky I was to only be a prisoner in physicality, not in spirit or mind.  And how lucky I was to always know where I was headed.  To always know what comes next.

My husband would often tell people he loved that about me– how it was a trait of mine he aspired for himself.  I always go forward, not backwards or in circles, and I do it without stepping on an ant or getting lost in my own shadow.

Then he died, and everything in my life became past tense.
I always knew where I was going.
I always went forward.
I was loved.

And everything not-true about my life became true, or possible.
I somehow managed to go backwards, stay still, squish ants, and get lost in my own shadow.   All at the same time.

Then a few months later, I was released from prison.

Standing in front of the gate, I waited to parole.  The watchtower guard had to go though all the normal steps for the release of an inmate.  My mom was just outside, maybe 20 feet away, but I wasn’t allowed to look at her so I stared forward and waited.

There was some commotion as they searched for an officer who could be noted on file as the one who officially let me free.   I didn’t turn around until I heard it.

“Where’re you goin’?”

A stream of emotions washed over me.  Fear. Anticipation. Sadness. Loss. Grief. Amusement. Exhaustion.

I shrugged. I smiled.  A twinkly tear washed out of my eye.

“Home.” I said because it was an answer– not because it was true.

Prison killed most of my home.  The rest died with Dave.

I have no idea where I’m going, or if I am strong enough to go anywhere at all, but I am trying.  I am thinking about it, and working on it, and trying to find my way back to present tense.

Right now there’s a big blank space where purpose should be, and my thoughts are caging me in more than state-funded fences ever did, but I tell myself it’s worth the effort.

At the very least, figuring out who I am and what comes next will be useful in case I ever again run into Mr. Levi.

I owe him an honest answer, and he owes me a twinkle.

sohereweare

___________________

This is the question currently driving me, written for The Daily Post’s Weekly Challenge. Where’s your piece? (I’m back, friends, and I expect rampant participation on all things.) As one of my niece’s favorite songs goes, “When a dinosaur stomps, get ready to play!”

STOMP.
Let’s play.

But first, Best Beloveds–
Where are you going?

102 Comments

  1. I’m going wherever the words take me. As always… I have no choice in the matter.
    And, I’m going wherever your words take me too.
    And everyone who comments here.
    Along for the ride and the adventures and tears and everything else.
    It’s going to be a wonderful journey.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I can’t wait to go where the bloggers here take me. That part’ll be fun, even though it is a surprise and I can’t stand those. 🙂
      Either way, I agree…
      It is going to be a wonderful journey. It is, because we will make it so!

      Liked by 6 people

      1. We will make it so. We will, yes.
        I’m with you on surprises too. Not my favorite thing. The Queen agrees as well. Surprises… I feel like you’ve probably hit your quota of surprises for the next ten years.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. It used to be such an easy question for me! Now it’s like “How are you?”… guaranteed to make my mind melt. 🙂 It is AWESOME to see you, Paul. 🙂 I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m glad to be here.

      Like

  2. Rara, I have absolutely no doubt you will soon know exactly where you are going. I don’t think you have been going in circles; I think you are standing still listening to the question “Where are you going?” and thinking about it. Your voice is as strong as ever!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you, Noelle. It’s the question that keeps me up at night so you may be right… not knowing makes me feel… sloppy. Like my living is sloppy instead of purposeful. But everything can be tidied in time. Right?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not a question you have to answer immediately. It’s more of a process, a series of peaks and valleys, some much steeper than others. Easy for me to say on this side of my computer. I guess my point is to take care of yourself and for a bit, it’s good (and necessary) to focus on the immediate needs. The big picture will appear later. Wishing you peace and a soft place to land.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I am lucky to almost always have a soft landing, even though I am unlucky enough to be constantly falling. :). *deep breath* A process. Alright. Time to give time time…

          Like

  3. Something tells me that I’m never again going to be able to read one of your posts without getting a lump in my throat or tearing up. This post was both poignant and beautiful. God bless Mr Levi for his interaction with you, and God bless you, Rara, as you find where your pathway. May there always be a sense of purpose in where you are going, even if the way seems veiled in shadows at times xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can always remember either myself or my brother asking our parents before a trip “Where are we going?” They would always answer “Crazy if we don’t change are way!” I’m not sure where I’m going, but I do know what direction, forward.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. My dear you are going upward and onward! That I know for sure!
    Take the time to go thru your grieving process for Dave and for what you have just gone thru, lord knows you deserve to do that.
    Don’t rush yourself, and know that you will hit some obstacles and some hard times but I know you will do it.
    Some how I know that you will continue to write about your experience before prison, in prison, the death of your husband while you were in prison and you future outside of prison and one day we will see posts that have nothing about your past and just your future and your hopes.
    I know that you will be successful and I feel it will be all about your writing.
    Now about me,,,,I’m just gonna be inspired about you and also just be me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m drifting on the currents, finally old enough to be on the bus. Glad to enjoy whatever lies along the road. I don’t have to wrestle the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands. I can even take a nap and wake up in a brand new place.

    Garry says to remind you that YOU are young. When you are ready (and you will be), the world is full of possibilities. I second that.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. If you need an old dragon, let me know, I’m available. As for me, I’m going forward with my dream of publishing a book. Maybe more than one.

    As for you….you will find your path because it’s written in the stars. Old dragons know these things… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I will never know what you have been through and are currently going through but one thing is certain, I am sitting with positive anticipation of seeing where you go from here and of course, hoping you will share it all with us…otherwise, I’d pretty much be a stalker. 🙂

    Like

  9. Rara, I’m so glad you are free. I sent you another letter, but I guess it came back because maybe you were already gone? I am SO damn sorry about Dave. What I said in my letter, was if you need anything, or ever want to talk about anything, even though we have never met, I would be glad to listen. (And I gave you my secret identity 😉 )

    Much love, Rara. Your spirit is brilliant, and I know you will get through this.

    Like

  10. I don’t know where I’m going..yet. I’m just learning to say it’s okay..to keep moving, and the where isn’t as important as the how…in a manner of speaking.
    It’s good to read your stories, you make me smile…this makes me wanna cry…but crying I’ve heard can be a good thing too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You ARE loved. I fully believe that once love is born and lived-it doesn’t ever end. ❤ I take comfort and courage from what you say. Your spirit was not imprisoned. Your energy was not diminished. Where you were, you brought value and worth to many. We didn't particularly care to be sharing you, but that's just our selfishness (and sense of righteousness) 😉

    Where you're going? I'm going to stay with you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m not going to say all the cliche things I could. Just simply that I’m so sorry you’re in such pain. This should never happen to anyone. Maybe standing still for a moment isn’t such a bad thing. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am reminded of when my father died. I had no idea where I was going for months, and even then I dragged myself forward only because I knew there was no more staying still. I hope you are able to take your time, as much time as you need of not going forward, of not knowing. However prison did, or did or nod not change you, you sure haven’t forgotten how to write!
    Hugs, Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think I will be homeless a lady of the streets unless a miracle intervenes. feel very lost but am not at all sure I want to be found.Good to see you back,missed reading your spirited posts 🙂

    Like

  15. we are all going along on the road to Nowhere. There is no there out there. all of value lies within.
    But while I am here, I plan to write my little heart out and share my truth to all who are called to listen.

    peace, litebeing

    Like

  16. Maybe I’m different from you. I’ve never been a person to set goals and work towards them. My life has been completely happenstance. Most of it has worked out well. There aren’t too many pieces of my life I would go back and change. And even the ones I would change would make the place I am in now different.

    I love that you found Mr. Levi and his twinkle in prison, and I really hope that your question helped him. Because that is your gift, Rara. With little things you make us feel like better people. And you make us all smile.

    You will feel rudderless for a while. Life has dealt you some seriously cruel blows. I imagine you are tired, bone tired, of hearing folks tell you how strong you are, how you can do it. My experience with grief was that sometimes, not always, sometimes I needed to be weak. I needed to accept the grief or I couldn’t be strong. It is a delicate balance. And I know you will find it. You will then be able to know where you’re going. And Mr. Levi will be delighted.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Your niece seems awesome, as are you. I can’t tell you where I’m going because I’d end up in the opposite coordinates. You dear, know where you are going, even if you may not believe it now. I hope to go with you somewhat along the way. Mr. Levi, with the twinkle in his eye, I’m glad you crossed paths.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I think I’ve always thought that people who know where they’re going in the meta are sort of full of it. Life is always full of surprises, falling shrapnel, stumbled over treasure. But you know that, my dear. Wishing you well-deserved treasure after too much shrapnel.
    As for me, I’m trying to wring the most from the now, because that’s the real deal. Xo

    Like

  19. I am capable of walking with purpose, but unless I am entirely confident in my destination, I tend to walk slowly, looking scared. I don’t always know where I’m going and that constantly alarms me. But once I get there I tend to think, “oh, that wasn’t so bad.”
    You don’t have to know where you’re going – to be honest it would be surprising if you did. But you’ll get where you need to be, and then it will get easier. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always trot around at superspeed. :). I’ve never not known what I want before. It’s all so… surreal.

      It’s good to see you, chica… And WONDERFUL to see you smiling. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  20. ‘It made me think of how lucky I was to only be a prisoner in physicality, not in spirit or mind. And how lucky I was to always know where I was headed. To always know what comes next.’ You are lucky in this sense. It’s an eye opener for me. Most of us walk in a daze not knowing where we are going. Simply going with the wind. May I ask what happened to Dave? Your writing always stars a thought process in me.

    Like

  21. I’m late to the party. I hate that.

    Someone has probably already said this (so, apologies). *Was* loved? I truly believe love has no past tense, we carry it with us. You *are* loved – by those with you now, and those you have lost.

    And you are going forward, you don’t always have to know where that is, and that’s OK.

    *hugs*

    Like

  22. I’m most certainly going in the opposite direction of where I was last year: I’ve stared Death in the face and refused to take a walk with him; he went his way and I’ll keep right on going mine – to be with my husband, son and family for a long time yet to come.

    As for you? I’m sure our paths will eventually meet at a point where one of us needs to remind the other od where they’re going and how to get there.

    Much love to you Rara xxx

    Like

  23. I wake up most days and think I know the answer to that question. But as moments pass, I realize that life has a nutty way of changing my plans. I think as long as I’m moving forward I must be doing okay and I have days when that just isn’t possible. I’ll just keep moving and checking and trying to do the next right thing.
    Which is what I suppose you will do, too. In time, you’ll find your bearings and be okay. I believe that.

    Like

  24. I myself never quite know where I’m going…I’m a tea towel in the wind 🙂 wonderful to see your words free to flow cross my screen though. Sounds like your journey has been a difficult one…and you’ve lost a lot along the way…but all we can do is pack some of the memories in our gunny sac, sigh, shed our tears, and walk forward. ♥

    Like

  25. To be honest, I don’t know where I’m going. I exist in routine and beyond that is scary, because the last time I thought was sad thoughts and ending things. So right now, I am going to back to work, and think of painting. I owe you a dinosaur.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Well one thing is clear. Wherever you go you sure have a lot of good people keeping you company! (I feel like reading comments here could restore anyone’s faith in the human spirit!)

    Me? I’m bad at large existential life thoughts. But I can tell you that right now I’m going to put on my pants, take care of my animals and then head to the eye Dr.

    Because, probably, no matter where one goes, pants are a good start.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. That’s a good question, Rara! I have no idea where I’m going. Not exactly sure what to expect but hey, that’s okay. Spontaneous events always show up that change the few plans that I usually have so a lot of times, I just kind of let it lead the way to something new (good or bad) but I’m ready for it (at least most days). Sending you lots of virtual hugs!

    Like

  28. Way back, when people would ask me that, I’d say “to the stars” or “to Mars”

    I never knew why but now it makes sense. That’s just me. The Daydreamer. A star gazer.

    You’ll find your footing. You already have. You just can’t feel it yet. Your feet have been asleep for a while.

    Breathe. Clear your head, rinse, lather, repeat.

    & If you go crazy, just know you have plenty of company.
    (I kid, I kid, seriously, we are all nuts, though.)

    Home is wherever you feel somewhat comfortable & safe. Right now, I know that’s with us, and we’re glad to have you. 😉

    Like

  29. Oh Rara! Your writing always moves me from the inside! It’s wonderful to hear your voice again and to “see” you on your blog. Blessings and peace to you as you find your way. I’m going to the land of granny, waiting for three new arrivals between now and January. Two are far away and will never feel my lap and love while they are little ones, but the other is near and shall be showered with granny love. So right now, I’m not really going anywhere, I’m waiting.

    Like

  30. Where I’m going… has always been wherever the wind takes me. All my employment for the last two decades. All my travel through the world. Pretty much everything that makes me *me* has been dictated by the wind at my back. I am a leaf on the wind, going wherever the breeze takes me.

    One of these days, I’ll make up my mind and choose my own path. One day.

    Like

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