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 thoughts on “where’re you goin’?

  1. I don’t know where I’m going, but I am young and mistakes are just lesson. You’ll find your way Rara, and even if you don’t, happiness is what matters

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  2. I’d say “Welcome Home” but I can certainly understand why it doesn’t feel home to you right now. You have been through so much, more than it seems a single person should have to endure. So I will simply say that I am so glad you are out of prison and able to write again. I had “met” you through Sreejit’s blog just before you left. He admires you so much and I can see why. I look forward to reading your future posts and getting to know you better.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so glad you are back. Words can not tell you how glad I am that you are back. I think you are “going” just fine considering everything and I am loving seeing your face everywhere again. Thank you for blessing us with YOU! As for where am I “going”? Eventually to North Carolina in 3 1/2 weeks but first a stop for awhile in Alabama. Hugs.

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  4. Sometimes it feels like I’m going round in metaphorical circles. I do know that the next week contains Chapter meetings and the week after is our long retreat, so in some ways I’m going nowhere and in other ways I’m going to the moon and back.

    And Rara, you’re going from this moment to the next moment, and each moment is going to be all right. There will be imperfect moments, and horrible moments, but there will be wonderful and amazing moments filled with sunshine and rainbows and love. So on balance, it’s all going to be all right.

    You are loved, because you love others and inspire them (us) to become better versions of ourselves.

    ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

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    1. I’m trying, Mary, but I’m so used to trampling in one direction that I forget that I’m a little hobbled right now. Baby steps are hard for dinos! 😉

      Thank you for reading.

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  5. I am so very sorry to hear that you have suffered such a loss. I came upon your blog through the B4Peace posts and I hope some of what Kozo was creating there has and will be a support to you: a network of people to help you keep going. Sometimes you might go sideways rather than forward, perhaps – but at least it’s movement. As for me, I am taking baby steps forward, so if you need someone to take a baby step with I’ll be glad of the company.

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  6. Let’s imagine for a moment that they put me in charge of the cosmos. First rule in my new kingdom: no pain, no suffering.
    Very nice writing. Sad, but nice.

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  7. Sometimes I’m going in circles – in circles of worries or in circles of uninspiredness or because I’m simply stuck. Sometimes these circles suddenly transform into cycles and I realise that instead of returning to the same point, I can see things from a different or even higher perspective. Sometimes I’m very determined towards a goal, sometimes I feel goalless and lost. And I sometimes also rethink where I came from and see my past differently. For example, there are feelings which I’m not able to recall for a while or forever, they escape from me. Thus, I try to be contemplative, hopeful and less worried insofar as I’m genetically allowed to do this 🙂

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  8. Tears on the first post. Oh, how I have missed you. I grieve for you and with you, Rara. SO glad you are out and writing again. One step at a time usually works to take you where you are going. We are privileged to get to walk it with you.

    Peace,
    C

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  9. There are so many cliches I could write you right now. Things about gutters, about moving on. You know them, I know it. It’s surprising how in the worst situations you can find great people. I suppose it’s what keeps us going.
    I’m not going anywhere for the time being. I am in a job I don’t like very much, where I’m neither respected nor appreciated. But I decided that it could be worse, and to stick it out for a while. So I’m just going to be the hamster on the wheel for a little bit. Going nowhere but running fast.

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  10. Have you considered a small frame with the words “where are you going” either in your bedroom or bathroom so it is a personal message that can be read every morning before you start the day? I think most of us could use that thought to get us up and at them and on the right track. And, have you sent that correctional officer a note to say thanks for the reminder? He did you the biggest favor but then you shared with all your readers, and it all started with a little comment. 🙂

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  11. Oh I have absolutely NO idea where I’m going. Or what I’m doing, for that matter. Tomorrow is a big ol’ monstah unknown.

    It promises to teach me stuff though. 🙂

    Ps. It doesn’t matter where I’m going. There’s always going to be a hug and a cookie for you in my jar, Rarasaur. ❤

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  12. …I’m a bit speechless. I had to stare at the tram door for a few minutes after reading this. I am going to work and then to the doctor. Uneventful events, yet the monotony of life feels good these days. Sending all my love to you, Rara, and so happy to see your post in my inbox!

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  13. I know where you’re going, sweetie. You’re going forward. Second star to the right, straight on ’til dawn. You’ll make it, I know. And I’ll be rooting for you the entire way. 🙂

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  14. I’m going to be a grandmother… any day now. Waiting in Tel Aviv, with my girl… that’s where I’m going. And you, you, Rara, will gain your strength and write it all out… and what a book it will be. That seems very likely. 😉

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  15. I wish I was going HOME to be with my wife. You and I are part of that special group….you know exactly where home is at and you find yourself whispering in the dead of night “One day closer”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The countdown! You’ll get there. :). I was just explaining to my best friend how anyone who’s lost something intangible knows the worst of prison. I’m sorry you know the worst, but I’m happy to know your story folds into a tale of reuniting.

      Till that day, a wise new-friend just told me..
      Take it slow. Keep writing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I am here because of Deborah, but I am staying because of the raw honesty in your words. I thought as you said you don’t know where you’re going or what your purpose is: how can I, a person who still has her husband and who has never been in prison, feel purposeless? Because my mind keeps me in prison. Change my thinking, change my life. That’s what my old therapist said. And, it’s true. Thank you for reminding me to appreciate what I have (no because of your losses, but because of your inspiring attitude) and break that imprisoning state of mind. I look forward to getting to know you better.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

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  17. I’m going to try to get some job-hopeful focus and clarity back, Rara. I’ve noticed it sliding some lately. I owe it to myself and my loved ones. Thanks for your deep well of twinkling inspiration, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am wishing you buckets of hopeful focus and clarity. If you have a specific goal for me to wish on, too, I’m happy to dedicate some time visualizing the best possible circumstance for you. 😀

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  18. Hmmm…where I’m going is, trying to be here. It’s taking me a long time but I think that’s okay; it’s probably one of those the-point-is-the-journey-not-the-destination things.
    I’m sorry if this is bizarre or insensitive in the context of all that’s happened, but I’m worrying about your cats? You wrote such wondrous things about them and you. x

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  19. I’ve got a mountain or two I’ve been aiming for my whole life. I’m not honestly sure where I’m going today, but I’m aiming for those mountains and I figure there has to be more than one way up to the top.

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  20. Hi, I came across your blog today and am so glad I did. I’ve read a couple of posts already and have enough of your story to say WOW! I haven’t experienced quite the highs and lows as u have though we seem to have some common themes. I absolutely love your writing style and how you work your blog…community, connecting. I am looking forward to reading and learning more.
    Amy💕

    Liked by 1 person

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