Every Tuesday night from February to April I go to a theater residency hosted here in prison by the Freehold Theatre Group.

I write from prompts using metaphors and obscurities. Week after week I write and it surprises me how much I write about my childhood. I do not have much time to think about what I’m writing either, that is the kicker, it is coming from a place of instinct. What surprises me the most is how angry I am about my childhood. How bitter I am.

If you just asked me how my childhood was I would tell you it was fine. But if you asked me to write about my childhood home, I would tell you I never had one, which one, which state, which town, which school, which part of the country. If you were to ask me what nationality I am, I would say Eastern European, a little of this, a little of that. But if you ask me to write about my roots, I would tell you about car rides to Iowa and vagabond-like family.

I unpack my childhood a few pages at time on Tuesdays. Tuesday is my scream day. The day I get to unleash a torrent of pain, bitterness, and anger. For two and a half hours I get to learn how to unpack and manage emotions I never dealt with.

I have to tell you, at least once a week I lay down and my eyes well up. I will stare out of my cell window at the fence and the tree line beyond and instead of seeing freedom I feel pain. My head splits like glass and my mind races while I sleep. Who do you go to about that? What do you do when you see someones face night after night, or wake up screaming, or be afraid to sleep at all? What do you do when you go weeks without sleeping through the night and when you finally do, it is because you passed out. What then? The part that kills me is not the lack of sleep or the torment of being ravaged by the ghosts of my past each night, no, I earned those. The part that kills me, that really keeps me up at night, is that so many people are okay with it. People tend to believe that prisons should be worse, more violent, more rape, more extortion they want it televised so they can witness the carnage from a safe distance. Watching as slaves are turned into animals, learning to use tools like primates and you feel good about it because they deserve it, because I deserve it, right? Because I deserve to be terrified, to feel horror, to wonder how I will die in here. Maybe someone will melt my face off with boiling urine and Vaseline, or bleed me out, or maybe I will perish from some medical reason. Maybe I will actually go home, with scars or a slashed up face.

And you all will feel good about it, because I deserved it. Maybe I should not have done what I had done. Maybe I will think about my actions from now on.

Well, I will not perform.
I will go home, wherever that is anymore. I will not act like a primate for you, not now, not ever. I will not bow my head like a beaten slave, or show you my tears of submission. You will never deserve them, whoever you are.

All you get is my stories.

With Love
Jeff “Jeffebelle”