Entry 4: December 11, 2013
By far, the hardest part about being locked up is knowing that life for those I love and care about goes on without me. I received an email from Mark telling me that Sheba, our 21-year-old cat, wasn't doing well. Her weight had dropped to four pounds and she had lost her interest in food. We knew the day was coming, and this past Saturday Mark took Sheba to the vet where they assisted her in her transition to her next destination.
Mark tells me that she passed gently in his arms, and for that I am profoundly thankful. But I cannot tell you how much it hurts that I was not there for the two of them. So much so that I am coming apart just writing this. Thank God I have a cell to myself at the moment. I know that Sheba forgives me; animals seem to have an unlimited capacity for forgiveness. It is I who cannot forgive myself. She's gone and I wasn't there to say goodbye, and now my heart aches. I think to myself, what else is coming? Our other two cats are both about 13. Will they live long enough for the happy reunion that I have imagined? Will Mark stay healthy? Will I? Mom is 71 and my grandmother, God bless her, is 95. If I were to lose any of them while on the inside I'm not sure that I could handle the grief. But what choice do I have? I've already made the choices that really mattered and I, more often then not, chose exceedingly poorly. It's times like these that I feel like I am standing in the middle of an enormous bomb crater, looking out at the wreckage of my life. Dear God, what have I done?! How will I ever fix... STOP IT!... hold still... and...breathe...
OK, time for a change of subject. Let me just toss out this softball sized wad of tissue that I've been sobbing into. There, that's better. Yes, so I mentioned Mark. Since he has given me permission to include him in my story, let me fill you in on who he is and what he means to me. Mark and I lived together for the past nine years, up until April 14th, the day the FBI walked me out of our house in handcuffs. Mark and I were lovers for the first few years that we lived together, but we came undone as I started to return to my first love – drugs. But, for better or for worse, we continued to live together and care for one another.
As you can imagine, I did a piss poor job of holding up my end of things. So we're not lovers but we're more than friends, though that did not stop me from putting him through sheer hell for the past few years as I gave myself over to my addiction. It's a 'queer' sort of relationship that I am sure many couples can identify with. Since there isn't a precise word for what he means to me, I will simply refer to him as Mark. Mark is alternately, a bit martyr, and a lot of saint for putting up with me, and after all is said and done, it is my connection with him that keeps me sane in here. In fact, I am thrilled to tell you that I will get to see him this Saturday for the first time since early July. But it's more than that; I will actually get a chance to hug him for the first time since I can't remember. Here you get to greet your visitor with a hug and a kiss and sit together at a table. In Broward's main jail, you can only communicate through a miserable video link, though at the Paul Rion facility you can at least be in one another's presence, but you are still divided by a thick sheet of glass. I'll probably dissolve into a fountain of tears in front of my fellow inmates when I finally see Mark, but it will be worth it. I can't wait for Saturday! Next time: Food, inglorious food! Until then, stay safe everybody.
Christopher Reina is doing a five-year sentence in federal prison. In his writing he shares how he is surviving prison life as a gay inmate. Chris is paying it forward by donating his compensation for this column to a charity.