When a loved one is in prison, it can feel like your own heart is behind bars. You may wonder, “will I ever feel free?”
Through whatever rabbit hole I wandered down online, I came across a post about prison pen pals. Reading through one girl’s experience with her pal threw me back to 2012. I had just returned to Boston to finish off my last two years of undergrad. An uncle of mine, my mother’s brother, had been kind enough to let me stay with him for free so I was traveling about two hours to the university everyday by commuter train. I am a fan of train rides so the distance didn’t bother me as much as it maybe would have bothered other people but some days were harder than others. It was on one of these harder days that I met the guy who became my first “serious” boyfriend.
He was a charismatic and fun loving guy and I came to enjoy his company a lot. We dated for about two months before he went to prison. I was quite sad over it but of course there was nothing I could do. I began dating other people again because, romance, like time, waits for no one. Still, we exchanged letters, spoke on the phone and his dad drove me up to visit with him every couple of weeks. There were elements of “dating” someone in prison that were appealing to me. Other elements were painful and made me appreciative of my own freedom. It all came with the territory and I took these things in stride.
The Value of Love Letters- Letters were the cheapest form of communication between us. Sending love letters reinforces the value of language in a way that text messages and emails simply cannot. We get a light taste of this when we get a birthday card. Holding a handwritten letter from someone who cares about you is a feeling unmatched. The love flows through the ink of the pen. It is a deeply personal thing. 10/10, would recommend. Get some notebook paper and write a letter to a loved one. Needless to say, they don’t need to be in prison. It will likely mean even more that they are not and yet you still took the time to write to them anyway.
Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder- Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder sometimes “out of sight, out of mind.” I have found that love can grow in those times of anticipation, when two people wonder when they will see each other again. Anticipation is an underappreciated part of romance. The wonder is in the waiting.
Privacy is Priceless- I took this for granted before I saw someone else’s privacy stripped away. I had felt that sunken feeling before, years before, when I visited my mother in the DC Jail. Even the boldest of humans prefers privacy for sharing tender moments — have you ever had someone time your hug? Tell you “that’s enough” when you know that it’s not? Force you to cut off an embrace? Privacy is something I don’t take for granted anymore.
A Little Fantasy Goes A Long Way- Sometimes the fantasy is all a person really has. The belief that better days are coming and the thoughts of what you will do when they get here can be the only thing that keeps one going. Even outside of prison walls, reality can be cold and dehumanizing. It can feel like good days will never be ‘round again. I can’t promise you that they will be but you’ll feel better if you indulge in the fantasy for a while.
Captivity Changes People — Quickly- Captivity changes people. It’s not always for the worse, but it can be. We see this when someone lets go of the fantasy. We see this when someone clings to the fantasy to tightly. I don’t know how a person could stop it; this is it’s own unique type of heartbreak.
“Things fall apart, they tend to shatter”. I do not know how to solve that. I only know how to pick up the pieces and walk away.