An Understanding

April 20, 2010
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Empty cells line the hallway. Empty shelves line the walls inside the cells. Empty, Alcatraz is full of tourists. In a cell, three from the end of the stretching row of cells, sat a young woman. The musty bed creaked as she uncomfortably shifted. She pressed her fist to her cheek while her elbow rested on her right knee. On the back wall of the cell, a barred-shut window blocked out the sunlight. A tiny crack along the edge was the only view to the beautiful ocean that surrounded the building, powerful and imposing.

An intense quiet filled the halls. Although the visitors seemed packed as tightly as a shelf of books, none of them were quite sure how to react to the weight of sorrow filling the entire hall. Another creak came from the same cell. The woman pulled a wrinkled note from her pocket. Carefully, she peeled the note open and began to read.

“Dear Mom,
I should have never let things get this far. I left you alone and when I return, you will know for sure that I am a new man. I’m sorry. I could never ask you to forgive me. I love you.”

A lone tear ran off the edge of the woman’s cheekbone. A bitter sting singed as the droplet passed along the small cuts on her rough face. In a strange way, even with no makeup to run from her eyes, the woman was beautiful. The strength in her eyes contradicted the hurt and pain she undoubtedly possessed.

She concentrated. She paid no mind to the strangers that stared as they passed her. She sat still although no one would ever mistake her for a display in the haunted jail.

She continued to sit. Visitors continued to gaze. Time continued to pass.

As she sat, she listened. People judging. People judging her motives. People judging her appearance. People judging the others around them. Finally, everything began to make sense. Another creak sounded as the young woman began to rise from the bed. The woman was just young enough to have a son arrested and taken to the state jail. In one year, his two year sentence would be complete and she would finally be able to hug her only remaining family member. She remembered, clearly, the day he had left. No one could ever erase such a prominent memory. They had told him a few weeks before that they would be coming. Two knocks shook her heart like a volcano. When she opened the door, a chill ran down her spine. She invited the two ridiculously large men into her home. They brushed the snow off their shoulders, avoiding saying or doing anything to set her watery eyes free. Calmly, the enormous men asked for the woman’s son. She could not believe the situation nor accept it. She blinked once and they were gone. The only thing left in front of her was the empty, cliché welcome mat. “Goodbye,” she whispered before she turned back to her worn loveseat. He was really gone.
Her legs were numb from the long rest she had taken. She reached to the cell bars, covered in rust, to help her regain her balance. With a moment’s pause, she realized she could finally understand. Without a word, the enlightened woman walked down the still silent corridor. She turned a corner and was in a completely different world. This world was full of beauty and hope while the other was of hate and despair. Her trip had accomplished more than enough for her. It had opened her eyes and let her see the world as one of opportunity rather than one of disappointment. She finally understood.





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