A Whole New World Part 12 Read Count : 23

Category : Blogs

Sub Category : Motivation
"Shuck! Get your ass up!" 

The deep and thunderous boom of Officer Kemp's voice followed by the bang on the cell door that was loud enough to wake the dead, woke Carl up with a jolt. A quick look at his watch showed 3.30AM. His heart was racing. He was in a blur. What on earth was going on? Why was he waken up so early? Was he in trouble? Thoughts scrambled in his head. In his haze, he tried to think logically. No, if he was in any kind of trouble, Officer Kemp wouldn't have bothered to bang on his door, he would have just stormed in like a bad ass stormtrooper on a mission and drag him out of bed. His mind relaxed at the logic of his thought and his pulse slowed down. And then it hit him..... it was Tuesday morning. He was being transfered today. 

Just a week ago, Miss Patricia; the psychologist from the psychology department had called him in for a talk. For the three years he had spent in solitary confinement under protective custody, Miss Patricia had been the psychologist assigned to handle his case. He liked her and felt comfortable with her because she took the time to really listen and had made a genuine effort to understand him. She knew when and what to say to him that would make him listen and receive openly. He had a lot of respect for the sweet and kind woman who had shown him a lot of patience. She treated him like a real person and not just another number in the system. 

"You've been in solitary long enough, Carl," she said, in her opening line of their talk. "We feel it is time you go back to general population." 

Carl squirmed in his seat at the thought of going back in the compound but he kept silent. She must have noticed or felt his anxiety building up for she quickly explained. "No, I didn't mean here at Union, I wouldn't push that on you. We think you would be better off in a program facility where you will be able to learn some skills." 

Carl was relieved to hear that he wasn't being forced to go back out into the Union jungle. But a program facility? What exactly does she mean? 

"Could you explain to me a bit more about this program facility and what you have in mind?" 

Miss Patricia smiled, pulling out a piece of paper of her neatly written notes from a folder in front of her. He watched her with bated breath as she looked through her notes. 

"There is a program facility in central Florida called Polk Correctional Institution. What that means is, there are vocational and college classes available there where you will get a chance to further your education and learn some skills. On top of that, they also have a factory in the compound that is run by the facility. The skills you learn at the vocational classes can be applied there so there is also job opportunity for you where you will be paid a wage. I think this would be perfect for you." 

Carl thought for a moment. He liked the idea of expanding his education and also the chance to learn new skills. Ever since he got his high school diploma in a place where a bright future seemed like a laughable dream, he knew that anything was possible. He had never considered himself book smart and that was partly the reason why he skipped school in the first place. That, plus almost all the older kids at the trailer park were school dropouts so it became an option for him to join the club. His parents did all they could to encourage and persuade him to stay in school but he was a typical rebellious teenager who thought he knew everything when in actual fact he was nothing but a knucklehead. It was his own choice to cut school to hangout with the older kids at the trailer park. It was his own choice to get drunk on booze and high on drugs with them. Back then he thought it was cool. He thought he was cool, making his own decisions for his life. But after he was forced to attend school in prison to get his GED, he found that studying was not so bad after all. At the very least, it had kept him safe and out of trouble. And after being surrounded by inmates caught up in the hustle of the chain-gang game, he realized he wanted more for himself. He wanted to do better for himself and not end up like the rest of them. Now in that little discussion room with Miss Patricia who seemed to be very invested in his success, in some ways, she reminded him of his parents, the way she continued to push and encourage him to see the potential she believed he could be. He was suddenly motivated. "When do I leave?" He asked with a grin. 

"Time to rock and roll, Shuck!" 

Carl was jolted from his reverie by the sound of Officer Kemp's voice once again. He darted his eyes towards the cell door and there stood the officer with his imposing giant-like form and his impossible to ignore aura. The officer may have an intimidating exterior but he was one of the few officers at the prison who was fair and just. 

Carl scrambled from his bed and gathered his belongings that he had accumulated in three years. Letters from his family, his writings, personal clothes, shoes, radio and books were packed in two laundry bags, while another smaller bag held his toiletries. He grabbed the bags and followed the officer to a small room at the end of the wing. 

"It's gonna be a long day and a long trip, Shuck," Officer Kemp said as he handed Carl a small brown paper bag. "I suggest you eat something now and keep some for the journey. Wait here till someone comes to get you." 

Left alone in the room, Carl opened the bag. Inside, there was a carton of milk, a large oatmeal cookie, a ham and cheese sandwich, and a peanut butter sandwich. His stomach growled at the sight of the grub but at the same time, the tight knot of anxiety in his stomach stopped him from gobbling down the food. Officer Kemp's words rang in his head: "It's gonna be a long day". How long exactly, he had no idea, but he was already cautioned so he knew he had to ration his food to last until he gets to his destination for he was not sure when he would be getting his next meal. With that thought in mind, he took a sip of the milk and decided to line his stomach with the oatmeal cookie. 

After what seemed like forever, Officer Kemp finally came back to the room and instructed Carl to follow him. Carrying the two heavy laundry bags with his right hand, the smaller plastic bag of toiletries and his doggy bag with his left hand, he obediently followed the officer. As soon as they stepped outside the building, a cold shiver ran all over his body. The cold November air hit him right to the bone as his seasoned blue uniform just wasn't built to keep out the biting cold. Struggling with his heavy load, he tried to keep up with Officer Kemp's long strides as they made their way to the Visiting Park. 

He was astonished to see a large group of inmates already assembled at the park along with a number of officers. Due to his Protective Custody status, he was the last inmate brought in to join the party. Nervous anxiety began to creep in as he stood in line with the other inmates. He discreetly scanned around to look at the faces there, hoping none of his predators were among the crowd. He was in luck. His heart hammered in his chest and beads of cold sweat began to form on his forehead. Exposed in an open space with no protective walls to shield him was making him nervous. He realized then that he was still not ready to be in general population despite having spent the past three years in solitary confinement. Yet he knew he needed to suck it up and face whatever was in front of him like a man. With that realization, he straightened his stance and waited patiently for his turn to be processed. 

The "check out" routine was a tedious procedure every inmate had to go through upon transferring to another institution. The process was somewhat similar to a stock check in a warehouse where every piece of item that belongs to the inmate was carefully checked and inspected, right down to paper and envelopes. Items which were not permitted were immediately confiscated. Some of their prison blues (uniform) which were still in good condition was also taken away from them to be handed down to future inmates. After the officers had gone through inspecting all the items in their belongings, the inmates were given handwritten receipts for whatever was left with them to be presented at their next assigned institution. Their personal and medical records were sealed in a box and securely locked in a compartment under the bus. 

Carl stood in line while he waited patiently for his turn, observing the order of the play. A group of officers were stationed where the processing line was formed and once an inmate was done, he would be escorted to a nearby waiting area where another group of officers were stationed. Security was kept tight. After he was processed, an officer escorted him to the waiting area. 
At the waiting area, he saw 50 chairs lined in a neat row facing a wall. He noticed there was only one empty chair left and immediately assumed that empty seat was his. Lugging his belongings, he moved swiftly to take his seat. The vibe at the waiting area felt like a funeral home; there was no talking, no fidgeting or turning around, just statue-like total silence as everyone sat still staring at the wall while they waited for the prison transfer bus to arrive. He stayed focus and alert. This was his first prison transfer so he was quite nervous as he was not sure what to expect. 

Is Polk Correctional going to be another horrific nightmare like Union? 
Is he really going to get the chance to improve himself like what Miss Patricia had suggested a week ago? 
Is there really such an opportunity for an inmate like him to turn his life around in a prison camp that was painted to him with such high possibility? 
Or is it just a bunch of bullshit, a subtle tactic to get rid of him without having a guilty conscience hanging over their head? 

The last thought upset him and he began to beat himself up in his head. 

If only....
If only he had listened to his parents and stayed in school instead of being a dumb ass knucklehead. 
If only he had used his brain instead of following his heart. 
If only he had stopped to think, to look at the bigger picture. 
If only he had been wise enough to have a vision in life. 
If only. 

He knew it was too late for him to think of what could have been because the damage was already done, and he had no one to blame but himself. He was the one who had brought this misery to himself. He was the one who chose to make the choices he made. Bottom line, he fucked up. Plain and simple. 

"Everybody get in line!" 

The loud barking order jolted Carl out of his reverie. He quickly got up from his chair, grabbed his bags and waited for the next order. The officers swarmed around them like hungry bees as the bus pulled up at the end of the fence outside the Visiting Park. At the sight of the bus, his heart began to pound hard in his chest. This was it. The next part of his journey was about to begin. 

Stepping inside the bus, he immediately noticed a steel cage behind the driver and co-driver seats that led all the way to the back of the bus. Two long rows of stainless steel seats lined along the length of the bus. As he made his way inside he noticed the windows as well as the ceiling of the bus had bars on them too. The bus was literally a cage on wheels. As soon as he took his seat, two officers approached him to shackle his feet. It was bad enough that he was locked inside a cage but to be shackled as well.... he felt completely dehumanized. Any shred of dignity that was left in him flew out the window. He felt humiliated. But it was what it was. That situation of being handled like a wild beast was what it had boiled down to and  there was nothing he could do to change the situation. The reality was harsh but it was something he had to accept and deal with. 

As he waited for the rest of the inmates to fill up the bus, he scanned the interior. Bars all around, hard, uncomfortable seats, and at the back of the bus was an open urinal system which offered no form of privacy whatsoever. 

"Great," he thought, "this is gonna be one interesting road trip." 

It was around nine in the morning when they finally departed. Carl couldn't help feeling nervous being around the other inmates but did his best not to show it. He tried to position himself so he could at least look over his shoulder at the view outside the window but sitting shoulder to shoulder with inmates next to him on both sides and with shackled feet, to remain in that position for long was out of the question. He had no idea how long the ride was going to be so it would be best for him to try to get as comfortable possible. 

The first hour of the ride went quite well. Nobody spoke, everyone was well-behaved and seemed to be in their own orbit. But that situation didn't last long. There were no officers in the cage with them, just 50 inmates left on their own to make the most of the ride. It only took one person to start the ball rolling and next thing he knew, the quiet cage turned into some pissing contest with the guys cutting each other with insults, crude remarks and such. It got pretty heated and out of control a few times and he was worried a fight would break out on the bus. But he soon realized the guys were just blowing off steam. Once they got tired of cussing each other, the vibe changed. From a loud show of power play, it switched into a friendly play of barter. Personal items were passed around, exchanging hands and ownership. Carl watch in awe but did not participate. He thought of the hand written receipts they were all given during processing at the Visiting Park. Each item that he had with him in his bags were all accounted for and clearly listed on the receipts. He was still new in this prison game and he was not willing to do anything that could possibly get him in any trouble with the authorities. He still had high hopes that through some miracle he would get the chance to get his freedom someday. As slim a chance as that may be, he was not willing to take the risk to jeopardize that possibility. 

From North Florida they traveled to the Reception Centre in Central Florida. The Reception Centre, located in Orlando, was like a transit checkpoint at an airport. At the centre, all 50 of them were ordered to get off the bus with their belongings. As soon as Carl stepped on the pavement, he noticed a large number of prison buses parked at the parking bay of the Centre. They were marched into the building, straight to the receiving area where they were processed once again. This was where the group of 50 was split up. Out of the 49 inmates that boarded the bus with him that morning at Union, only three remained with him. The rest were put on other transfer buses that would take them to their designated institutions while a new batch of 46 new faces joined his group of four. After the Reception Centre, six other pitstops were made at various institutions to drop off inmates. The last batch of inmates to be dropped off at the last leg of the journey was Carl and the three other guys that boarded with him from Union. 

He was completely drained by the time he arrived at Polk Correctional Institution. It was just after count time when the bus pulled into the compound. All existing inmates at the prison were securely tucked in their respective cells so there wasn't anyone gawking at them when they stepped out of the bus. He was thankful for that. His body was stiff from the long journey so the last thing he needed was to be stared at like some circus freak. With two of his heavier bags tied together with a shoestring, he draped them over his shoulder like a mule and carried his lighter bag in one hand. His packed food was long gone and his knees felt wobbly after sitting for many hours on the bus. The other three inmates looked just as drained and worn out. With no dilly dally, the four of them were marched straight into the administration building to be processed. 

He handed over his receipts of belongings to the officer on duty and immediately his Super 2 radio with external speakers was marked as contraband and confiscated. He was given three new sets of prison blues, a fresh mattress, and the regular package of bed linen, towel, washcloth, pillow cases, blanket, a new set of basic toiletries, and some writing material. Processing done, he was ready to drop his head on his pillow but he still needed to figure out a way on how to carry the mattress, his three bags of personal belongings and the added package to his cell. There was no such thing as a bell boy service or carts available so he draped his two bags over his shoulder again, held his small bag with his mouth, held the added package with his right hand and dragged the mattress all the way to his cell with his left hand. 

When Carl reached his cell, his new cellmate, Charles Wilson was already asleep in his bed and the cell was dark. To his surprise, Charles rolled over and turned on the light for him and went back to sleep. That was something new to him as the lights at Union were all controlled by the officers. And just because Charles showed him that courtesy, he was very careful to keep his movements to a minimum. He set his stuff down, quickly removed his mattress from the plastic cover, laid his sheet on the mattress and tied it down securely. He then threw himself on the bed and was dead to the world within seconds.

Early the next morning, Carl sat patiently on his bed as he waited for the cell door to pop open. His body still ached from yesterday's long journey from Union. If he could have his way, he'd rather spend the day sleeping but unfortunately, that was a luxury he didn't have. He snuck a quick look at the bunk below him which was occupied by his new cellmate, Charles. Like him, Charles was awake and waiting to go to chow hall for their morning meal. He hadn't spoken much to Charles since he arrived last night. They only exchanged very brief introductions. 

The slim black guy, from his observation, was a man with few words. He hadn't shown any interest in getting to know him and the vibe he sent was quite apparent. After his past experience with his old cellmate; Sparky the Snake at Union, Carl was totally fine with Charles's indifference. 

When the door popped open, the drill was the same as it was at Union. All the inmates filed into a line outside the cells and in a single file of quiet order they made their way to the chow hall. Standing in the queue at the chow hall made Carl feel awkward. For the past three years he has had his meals sent to him to his cell through the bean flap of his door in solitary confinement. For three years he had been eating his meals alone in his cell. This was the first time he was having his meal in chow hall surrounded by other inmates of general population in an unfamiliar institution. He tried hard to fight the jitters he felt but he just couldn't seem to shake it off. After building up his food tray he nervously made his way to find a table in the massive chow hall. He hadn't eaten anything after he finished the grub from his doggy bag in the bus yesterday and he was famished. As soon as he sat down, he attacked his food like there was no tomorrow. After he had done eating, he hurriedly made his way back to the dorm to wait for count time. 

Like any newcomers, he was required to report to the administration building after count time. There, they were given the usual breakdown of the rules and regulations of the institution. They were also shown a short video of the institution and what programs were available at the facility. Carl paid close attention during the briefing and made mental notes of the possibilities in which he could pursue in the institution. Watching the video, he realized that Miss Patricia had told him the truth. There were a lot of possibilities for him there and he intended to make the most of the opportunity that was now made available to him. Next, they were shown around the institution as part of the orientation. The guided tour was something he was truly thankful for. Not only he got to learn the layout of the institution, he also got to see firsthand how things were done there. He smiled to himself. Polk Correctional definitely felt like a much better fit for him. Orientation took up most of the day. He had asked a lot of questions during the guided tour and was stoked at the possibility of learning and working in the near future. 

It was 6.30PM when they were dismissed. Fatigued, he walked slowly towards his dorm. He was set to go back to his cell to write down notes of all that he had learned and discovered during the orientation. Deep inside he was still nervous and a little afraid emerging out of solitude, but at the same time he was also hopeful about getting a new start. As he was walking towards his dorm, he noticed a very long line of inmates gathered along the corridor. He slowed down his pace, curious about what was going on. There was literally hundreds of inmates standing in line. He walked by them hoping to learn what they were waiting for but he got nothing. He noticed that the line was leading towards the chapel. His curiosity deepened. He walked over and asked at random, "What's going on here?" 

"Bishop Porter is coming," someone replied. It was said with such a sense of excitement in his voice. 

He backed up a little and looked down the line that snaked from the chapel door all the way down the sidewalk outside the building. He was about to shrug it off and keep moving when the guy continued, "You may want to see this. You won't be disappointed." 

He was intrigued. He walked back from where he came from and stood in place at the end of the line. As soon as he walked into the chapel, he saw a stage full of people dressed in traditional African robes of many colors, with matching headgears. Each of them had such infectious smiles on their faces that he couldn't help but grin himself. The vibe and energy in the chapel was strong and energetic. He had no idea what he was about to see but the clear excitement around him was enough to make him believe he was at the right place to be in that moment. He saw an empty place in the middle of the chapel and quickly made his way there. He was aware that every institution invites guest speakers from time to time, most of them were from various ministries called upon to bring awareness and also to reach out and guide inmates through spiritual path. He had heard about such events while he was at Union but never had the chance to participate until that day. 

It took several minutes for everyone to settle down but as soon as Bishop Porter touched the keyboard, the place turned completely silent. Everyone seemed like they had been hypnotized. All eyes, ears and senses were focused solely on the man in purple African robe on the stage. He had an aura about him that was hard to describe and a smile that was so radiant and pure. Carl watched the man in awe. When he spoke, he spoke in such a melodic way with a tone so gentle that it sounded almost like a lullaby. He had every inmate in the chapel hanging onto his every word. He could whisper on stage and every word he said would be heard all the way to the back of the chapel. Such a powerful command he possessed. 

Carl was riveted right from the start. The soreness of his body, the nerves of his anxiety, the pain of his trauma, they disappeared from his existence at that moment. His attention, his focus, his heart, zeroed in only on that powerful man and his flock of disciples. Everything that mattered was happening in that moment. Carl had never experienced anything like it in his life. When they started to sing, their voices were so soothing to his ears that he was carried away in his spirit. He felt like he was in a whole different dimension, like he was floating on air. He couldn't feel his body but he didn't care. He was sitting on a wooden pew surrounded by hundreds of other inmates but it seemed like his soul was no longer attached to his body. The whole experience was surreal to him, yet, his focus was total and complete. 

"They say sometimes you win some, 
sometimes you lose some, 
and right now, 
right now I'm losing bad. 
I've stood on this stage night after night, 
reminding the broken it'll be alright, 
but right now, 
oh right now I just can't. 
It's easy to sing when there's nothing to bring me down 
but what will I say when I'm held to the flame like I am right now? 
I know You're able 
and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand, 
but even if You can't, 
my hope is You alone. 
They say it only takes a little faith to move a mountain, 
well good thing a little faith is all I have right now, 
but God, 
when You choose to leave mountains unmovable, 
oh give me the strength 
to be able to sing it is well with my soul. 
I know the sorrow and I know the hurt would all go away 
if You'd just say the word, 
but even if You don't, 
my hope is You alone." 

When Bishop Porter and his choir sang that song, the lyrics moved him to his core. He felt every word of the song and in the packed chapel, he cried. It wasn't a silent cry where tears silently rolled down his cheeks, it was a deep cry. A great shoulder heaving, gut sobbing kind of cry. In that moment, he didn't care that he was in a packed room full of people, he didn't care that others were staring at him, he just cried and cried, sobbing openly. All the pent up emotions that had been building up inside him for years, he released them all with that cry. The song Bishop Porter and his choir sang touched him so much because he believed the Bishop. At that moment, he truly believed that the Bishop loves him. That God loves him. Even though he was only one of hundreds in the chapel, he could tell the Bishop meant every word he sang and he felt the Bishop had sang the song specifically for him. Deep in his soul, he felt a shift. Having spent three years in solitary, he had used that time to reconnect himself with God. He had spent many nights and days praying, talking to God, and asking for answers. And that night, in that chapel at Polk Correctional Institution, God had answered his prayers. Bishop Porter was sent by God to heal him. He truly believed that. 

Later, the Bishop recited a dramatic reading of a poem entitled, "Emotion". Once again, he found himself deeply moved. The Bishop had dramatized it in such a powerful way. The picture he painted through his recital was so vivid that he could clearly see and fully understand the mix and weave of feelings pulling him from one extreme to the next. He could feel the incredible struggle the Bishop was conveying. He felt the pain like as if it was his own. And when the Bishop ended the poem with.... "Yet, through it all, he made it through to the other side".... Carl rejoiced. He wanted to jump up and yell "Hallelujah!" but he checked himself. 

After the poem recital, Bishop Porter continued the service with uplifting and motivational talk. His smile, the clear timbre of his voice, his body language and the way he worked the stage got everyone present looking in at their own self. His presentation was captivating and nurturing. Halfway through, he suddenly paused and walked up to the front of the stage. It appeared like he was searching for something or someone in the crowd. The chapel was silent as everybody waited to see what the Bishop was about to do. Carl, being the shorty that he was, craned his neck higher so he could see clearer. The Bishop smiled, lifted his hand and pointed to the crowd. Everyone turned to look at the direction the Bishop was pointing, including him. He looked to his left to see if anyone was responding. No one. He then looked to his right and then fixed his eyes back on the Bishop. At that moment, their eyes locked. The Bishop smiled again and nodded his head. He was surprised. Was the Bishop pointing at him? Just to be sure, he lifted his hand slightly without breaking eye contact with the Bishop and pointed to himself. With a brilliant smile, the Bishop nodded his head and motioned for him to come forward. He was out of the pew like a bolt of lightning. He moved forward as though he was in a dream; floating above the pews towards the stage. When he stood at the bottom of the stage in front of the Bishop, Bishop Porter leaned forward and said. "See me after the service. I want to talk to you." 

He was too stunned to say a word. He nodded his head repeatedly like an idiot then went to stand by the side of the stage. He was trembling with joy. 

"He noticed me! I wasn't just another face in the crowd or another number in the system. He actually noticed me!" Carl's spirit soared. He couldn't help grinning to himself. 

After the service was over and inmates were slowly dispersing, he hung around waiting. His heart was beating fast. Did he imagine it all? Did he hear the Bishop correctly? With thoughts scrambling in his head he didn't notice the Bishop approaching. He only realized he wasn't standing alone when he felt a light touch on his arm. He snapped himself out of his thoughts as he found Bishop Porter standing in front of him. 

"What's your name, son?" 

"Carl. Carl Shuck." 

The Bishop smiled. "Well Carl, I want to tell you something and I want you to listen good," he said, looking Carl directly in the eye. 

Carl tried to speak, but words failed him. He swallowed the big lump in his throat and nodded his head instead. 

"There are no limits to what you can be, even here in prison. Sometimes, you have to use what is around you, in the place you are, in the people you see, to get to where you want to be. Do you understand me?" 

He gulped. "Yes, Sir," was all he could muster. 

"Good. Now you'd better get going. But remember what I said." 

He thanked the Bishop, shook the man's hand and walked out of the chapel, deep in thoughts. He couldn't believe what just happened. He couldn't believe out of hundreds of people in the chapel Bishop Porter had singled him out to impart such a deep and meaningful message. He thought about how amazing it was that one single event could alter the direction of a life. It became very clear to him that Divine Intervention was in play. Yes, God sure works in mysterious ways.

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