When I told the guys I planned on going to bed, probably before they were “allowed”, I did not know, then, I would not only be right but that it would be accomplished by a return trip to “The Hole”. When I arrived, I was taken to my new quarters, after the routine stripping and search, given my orange clothing and bedding, laid down, closed my eyes and settled in for a good night sleep. Actually, I slept well.
The familiar sounds I once knew, came rushing back, as I listened to the wheels of the cart squeaking while stopping at each cell bringing our breakfast and those familiar officer’s faces I’d first meet, were there to greet me again. After eating I sat, for there was not much else to do, remembering the strategies employed previously to make it through the day, part of which was not sleeping during the day so I could sleep through the night. In “The Hole”, I could not control my light, so going to bed was not as easily done as in “Population”.
My main concern was dealing with the same skin affliction I dealt with before. I made it a point of getting the attention of an officer and requesting medications given as well as my soap and shampoo in my personal bag. While my bag was being gone through, I suggested getting some books and my Bible, and he gave me some of my snacks as well. The only unfortunate thing was I would not be able to have my pen, for obvious reasons of their not wanting to be stabbed, so they brought me a pen which consisted of removing the hard plastic outer piece and giving me the flexible, too flexible for holding, innards. I adapted by stripping a few thin strips of my bed sheet and tying the piece of pen to the handle of a spoon. It was not the easiest of writing implements to use, but I was able to get by.
Thankful to have my reading material, I launched into the same routine I followed while in “Population”, but was stopped right after finding the place I left off in a novel I was reading. You see, the major issue was I had three books, although large, was still looking at a few days worth of reading. I had a few more books but realized it would take another attempt at good timing to get an officer to agree and retrieve my bag, take the other books I’d read and swap them for those I hadn’t. However, the Lord had other plans. He suggested, and I heard His preferred way of doing it, was to set aside those novels and pick them up only after dinner and then read to my heart’s content, but He was requiring me to read the Bible and other Christian and self-help literature from the waking hour until dinner, intermixed with prayer. I decided to follow His leading. It explains how I was able to read the Bible five times within one year.
As I read it over and over, I began to see more light in areas I hadn’t considered before. Although reading, I was at the same time studying and by reading larger passages at one sitting there was a sort of continuity not experienced previously. I began making notes for later consideration for research when I would eventually leave. The Book actually came alive. I wasn’t given new light, just clearer illumination and deeper insight. Although I looked forward to dinnertime and restarting the novels, I was also looking forward to receiving what the Holy Spirit was bringing to my awareness. This schedule, I adapted, I would take it with me after I left “The Hole”, seeing how more beneficial to my experience and realizing this was a divine imperative for me to follow. There would come times when I’d pick up a novel and put it down simply because dinnertime had not started and I’d feel guilty. Other times when I was too absorbed in my thinking and did not want to open the Scriptures or any self-help material, yet would not even consider opening a novel until the right time, just laid on the bed either immersed in thought or sleeping. I knew in my heart God had given me His plan and although I did not understand all the reasons why, I knew not to question but follow His leading.
The first day or two God showed me why I was back. After all the benefits I received the first time it was necessary to make a return trip, to see how far I’d grown, and second, to introduce additional lessons He wanted me to begin considering. One was in the area of pride.
I knew most of my life this was a problem in many ways. God wanted me to began considering it more closely because it would have to be dealt with, either now or at a later date and He would just as soon as get it behind me, and I agreed, was to my benefit as well. He showed me how I was right in my standing up to those who were taking advantage of others, no matter what their reasoning, but I needed to examine my motive and actions. Was it necessary for me to share my belief with others? What message were they receiving by my rebellion? Where was my heart? And when challenged to scrape the floor, was my pride hurt at being asked, or was it my pride which kept me from doing it only because I’d told others I would not? I had to examine these areas and could see it was my pride, the major role player here, and not a spirit of humility, and because of what I said set in motion why I ended up here. It could have been dealt with entirely differently than it was. In fact, God warned me in the chapel, when I went there just moments before it happened, to understand why this would occur. Every inmate, whether disgruntled or agreeable was working, except me, and I was the one leading Bible studies, telling and sharing how we should give ourselves over to our leaders, as they were set above us by Divine Order. Yes, I was confused. But it was pride which kept me from using this experience properly and to a better advantage, and God needed to remove me because of other issues, one of which was the Commissary monies I made and began to “covet” the work and money and began keeping accounts of those who did not pay, the “Matthew Syndrome”. I was beginning to be seen as the “Collector”, no one really acknowledging the work I’d done or have a reason to want to collect.
One of the other brothers mentioned before I left, Gerri, believed God wanted me so He could share with me—alone in isolation, as I was giving myself and time to others and really not getting the purpose of why I was here. I later confessed to him he was absolutely correct in his assessment. Later when the chaplain visited “The Hole” and saw me where he first met me three months ago, and asked what I had done, I could only answer it was my pride which brought me here. As a Christian talking to another Christian, it is not necessary to give a long drawn out story to explain situations, when it can be summed in a word or two, and it will be completely understood, since we’re operating on the same wavelength.
I had to deal in another area, that of forgiveness. As I sat in my cell, I could not help but be faced with anger and bad thoughts toward Ms. Garcia, who challenged me and sent me here. As I lay on my bed, my head began to be filled with thoughts of retribution I could carry out upon my leaving, even if it were nothing but to insult her in public. What words would I chose? How could I get her especially if people she was with were around? Could I make fun of her sexuality since there were many rumors suggesting she was a lesbian? I found myself seething with anger and it surprised me to see how vindictive I could be, to the point of wanting even to cause bodily harm to someone!
At some point I recognized God answering another prayer I began recently praying, for Him to show me my heart, and from what I could see, it was not very nice. In fact, very ugly. With regards to this incident, I learned God was dealing with me in four areas: pride, anger, fear and forgiveness. Pride was what brought me back to “The Hole”. Anger was what I felt toward her. Fear, I experienced when my time was finished and I would have to deal with her again and what might occur, and forgiveness is what I learned when God asked me to begin a “Prayer List” and include her name, which I will share later. God began to minister to me in these areas I always knew existed somewhat, but He wanted me to look deeper into them and begin to make choices what I would do with them. I learned, I, as most people, Christians, recognize we have “sin” in our lives, but by generalizing it we lose its true significance and do not see the repulsiveness God sees. I learned how, if not contained and gotten rid of, how it festers and continues to degrade until the very person is consumed. We need, I needed, to be very specific in dealing with my sin and began to see it as God does. It was no longer just sin. It was pride, anger, vengeance and fear. And there was only one way to conquer the last three in particular and that was through forgiveness. How could I have those feelings if I truly have forgiven? You cannot. God does not, nor should we. I also learned forgiveness is a long word and may take a longer time to be completed. We often say we forgive someone and it may take steps for it to fully be accomplished, but at least we’re moving in the right direction.
This incident occurred December 2002 and complete forgiveness was not accomplished regarding her until April 2003.
Pride had to be dealt with in a different manner, for it would come after close examining of my “self” and learning how it is such a part of me. I learned pride is not something attributable to anything we can say we are or have done, for in truth we are nothing and have done nothing of our own. The only thing we can claim is to have come to Christ or not and even the effort of coming to Christ can’t be claimed as something we have done, on our own, for it is the Holy Spirit which draws us to Him to begin with, after that, we’re pretty much left up to the movement of either one we have chosen to guide our lives. What reason could I possible have to be proud of anything? I began to see how pride infiltrated every area of my life, felt in my heart and conveyed through my lips and yet this pride had me at the same place where men with little or no pride live! What was the point of having it if there is no benefit? I began the process of surrendering it. When I say “process”? It is because most of the things we have learned have evolved over time, like a tree having rings to denote years. Like an onion, there are many layers which surround the core, and sin, we have to begin the “process” of peeling away these layers because these things have become who we are, a part of us and in some instances, it will hurt to separate ourselves from ourselves in order to reach the state God would have us. Like a sunburn, the skin sheds after we have been exposed to the S-U-N in too much of an extreme, such occurs when we have been exposed to the S-O-N. We cannot but help the beginning of shedding those s(k)ins which have covered us all of our lives, in order to get to the place we need to be. Yes, there is a balm in Gilead, far better than any sunscreen or ointment you can buy.
God found it necessary to speak to me again about my wife, Mayra. It was one night when I could not sleep, lying down with my eyes open, He came to me in a way I cannot say it was not Him. His words were very clear and I could not question what I heard. They were:
“When your wife asks you for a divorce, you will give it to her with no conditions attached.”
Mayra and I spoke about divorce previously and prior to my coming here. In fact, she had seen an attorney and papers had been drawn, a fee paid, but my stance was I would not agree to anything unless it were in English and the reason could not be adultery because technically, I did not do it. Those papers sat in her attorney’s office for more than a year prior to my arrest. We both just never decided to go ahead and hoped somehow we’d overcome our problems and have a good marriage and relationship.
When God approached me with this thought, I was at peace but inside there was a desire to work out our situation and remain married. All my letters to her contained nuggets of this desire and I only spoke of future times when “we” would do this or that. I could not nor did not think of our being separate, yet, I heard what God told me. It was not “if” she came with the request but “when”. Even if they were written in Greek or with me as the classic adulterer with names, dates and times, not to fight her but give her what she wanted. I agreed, to God, when it should occur, I would do as He asked. This, too would take place at a later time and I will cover it when appropriate.
It appeared this time in “The Hole” was a time of preparation and understanding how much progress was made since the first time. I needed those first weeks here and believed God needed me here, again, to get what I would need for the remainder of my stay here but I hoped it was not too much longer.
My attorney came to visit and surprised to see me dressed in orange—again. I explained to her why and she said she’d call and have it taken care of because they were wrong in having me punished when I was not a “sentenced” inmate. We went over points in the case with my explaining, again, what occurred and how I still was made up in my mind to seek trial and not consider any plea agreements. As I explained my life’s problems regarding sexuality and prior arrests, she asked me a question which threw me. She asked if I had ever been adjudged as “insane”. When I said no and probably with the look on my face she explained why it might be an adequate defense in my case. Someone who has had a history of deviance perhaps due to childhood trauma might be able to have their actions explained due to “mentally diminished capacity” reasoning or the mental insanity defense. She said she would consider it and have a psychologist see me, using one she used in the past.
I was hopeful upon hearing this news. This was an area I never considered before and it went to what I’ve been wanting all my life, an evaluation and explanation of my psycho/sexual problems. Perhaps this was an extension of the exhibitionism and voyeurism I suffered for years and if this were a natural progression, then when and where would it end? Secondly, if it could be determined I was “insane”, it could not be held against me, especially since I never caused any hurt towards anyone because there was never any act of aggression. I looked forward exploring this further.
For over a year I experienced an infection in my mouth causing abscesses to appear along the gum-line, due to my excessive eating of popcorn, the kernels getting pushed under the gum where I cannot reach to remove. Before coming to Puerto Rico, I had the first occurrence of this and a dentist performed what is called “deep-cleaning” requiring local anesthesia. Since then, usually every three months, infection would reappear but not always in the same spot and it is normally quite painful, lasting just under a week, needless to say it causes a bit of displeasure preventing me from enjoying my food. It was happening again while in isolation.
Repeatedly I would put a note on my door to make the physician’s assistant aware I needed attention, and never would anyone see me nor bring me to the office where I could be evaluated. The guards claiming to report the incident and the physician’s assistant eventually showing complete disgust for the system because he would be the one I would see, every morning at 5:00 a.m., when he made his rounds and learning another day had gone by without any relief or visit to the dental office.
During this time, even the Warden came by on one of his walk-throughs, reading my “request for attention” note I pasted onto my door’s window, looked at me and walked away. Unfortunately, later I took down my note and wasn’t prepared when the Inspection group, the reason for the facility being prepped and I refused to participate, visited “The Hole”. An opportunity missed to state my cause.
I remembered a brother at Teen Challenge told me, in his family whenever there was anyone sick, he would lay hands on the member and pray for healing, claiming never to have had the need to visit a doctor. I tried it. I placed my finger on the abscessed area and prayed for the Lord to heal my mouth. Within an hour, although the bump still remained, the pain was gone! Previously, I began having thoughts of either being found laying on the floor, faking unconsciousness when they walked through during their checks or go on a food-strike, since I couldn’t eat anyway. Those ideas later appeared silly and I was glad I hadn’t needed to resort to them. Perhaps tactics such as these could be saved for another day under more aggravating circumstances!
Ironically, when someone from the dental office did manage to see me, the growth had diminished and could not be seen, making me appear to be someone looking for attention. Isn’t that the way it always is? The following day, it was back, just in a different place! Now, I would give the impression as someone just making complaints for attention. Thankfully, a doctor did visit me just a day or two prior to my leaving “The Hole” and examined my mouth seeing the problem in a stage I’d never seen before. Normally it would swell then disappear; however, on this occasion the inflamed and infected sac actually reached a point of bursting and he was able to see it and prescribed a mouthwash, painkillers and antibiotics, which I kept, for when the next episode occurred.
During my stay in isolation, I would have a guest for two days. A gentleman with long dreadlocks, tall, well-spoken and who read the Bible, the evidence of a recent fight with a battered face, closed eye and spewing vengeful thoughts and bad use of language, would go on and on how it took nine guys to beat him down and his Rastafarian brothers did not come to his assistance, from this beating down by the hands of Dominican brothers. He was furious and told me he intended to pay some of them back, even death if necessary. God spoke to my heart and asked me to ask him how could he reconcile reading His Word and yet harbor thoughts of vengeance. That began us talking and sharing our faith. After awhile, he had nothing to say as I spoke about Jesus, and he just listened, way into the night. The following day, I resumed teaching him what I believed the Holy Spirit was giving to me in order to reach his heart. Soon a calming effect was achieved and the hard look on his face dissipated. Later in the evening, they would reassign him another room and I was alone again. I thanked God for the opportunity of sharing and received the message that vengeance was only the Lord’s and I needed to take the same message given to him into my own heart.
It was my intention to strike at a few people upon my eventual leaving. My former employer, for one, who didn’t pay me for my expenses and who shortchanged me with my holiday bonus, and who, at that time, might not have given all of my personal property to Mayra. I intended to call the IRS to expose their accounting practices. I wanted to sue my former landlady because I believed she knew more than she let on and at least give me my money back for the loss rent and security, plus I was going to sue for the loss of my computer. I thought about slashing tires of other residents and even setting fire to their cars! My own issues of vengeance kept me awake at times as I thought about making others pay something for my being here. However, the thought kept driving into my heart,
“Did you not ask Me for help? Can you not accept this as My chosen way of doing it? If someone has taken advantage of you, it’s not like you hadn’t done the same and if so, can you not leave them to Me?”
These were hard truths to swallow and would take more than a year to be realized and settled within my heart. The words for that brother were God’s words for me. I never realized how vindictive I was and to what extent I’d go to get back at someone, even to the point of hurting innocent people! In some ways, I was afraid of myself and what I was capable of doing. I would not have wanted to be friends with someone like me!
I prayed and asked God for help and began to have resolve regarding these issues; however, again, it would take a year to work through. I learned God often introduces us to ourselves through others or circumstances and in time will weed the evil trait from us. It has to be a final letting go instead of a reluctant ending. He’ll take whatever time necessary in order that we can release it freely and no longer desire it back.
A counselor met with me to discuss the incident and it was determined I was in my right and had done nothing to warrant my being placed in “The Hole”, yet, mentioned he would have to sanction me in some way, loss of phone or commissary privileges for a month! I quickly reminded him we just concluded I’d done nothing wrong, so why further sanctions were necessary? I think he realized this inmate listens and questions. He offered to have me placed in his unit, and I again protested since I had done nothing wrong, why I couldn’t be taken back to my original unit? His answer was simply it’s not procedure and you’re given a fresh beginning. Again I stated, we agreed I did nothing wrong, so why any change at all? Had I not suffered enough due to an infected gum and being isolated? In his exasperation he marked the incident as expunged and I was sent back to my cell to await the Captain’s approval prior to leaving “The Hole”.