It started with the beef tips.
That’s right, beef tips.
I was at my mother’s apartment in the senior citizen’s complex, getting ready to head down to dinner. She asked me to look at the menu, and there it was: beef tips. Something clicked in my mind, reading that weekly menu posted on the wall.
When we sat down to eat, the server brought the meal. BEEF TIPS! DAMN! I REMEMBER NOW! THE LAST TIME I ATE BEEF TIPS WAS DECEMBER 25, 2010 IN JAIL!
The menu posted on the wall should have been a reminder. It felt badly, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. But when the beef tips came, I remembered…it was a flashback…another flashback to being in jail. The menu on the wall and the damn beef tips…they smelled like jail.
I know the day we got the beef tips, because it was Christmas. We had awakened to see the walls and wire. The TV reminded us what day it was, as if we didn’t know. We were separated from family and friends. We had kids and grandkids opening presents, taking pictures, having dinner…all without us. So to make us feel “special” on Christmas, the jail had deviated from its normal diet of processed mystery meat to give us beef tips (even that delicacy was courtesy of the meat processing plant that employed the work release guys for pennies an hour).
Flashbacks are a bitch, and we have all had them. Sometimes it’s a sound or sight that stimulates. Sometimes it’s a dream…I have at least once a week, like the one last week where I was sentenced to a conspiracy charge connected to 9/11. But your mind is scarred; the deprivation of liberty, the shouting and confrontations, the CO’s acting out their need for supremacy masking as security…it all comes back.
You try to take steps to distance yourself. For one thing, I never eat Ramen noodles now, and to my friend who gave me a pack as a gag gift a few years back, just be glad I’m a Christian, cause that shit wasn’t funny. There are stores I don’t shop in, companies I don’t patronize, because they were part of the money making schemes complicit in our incarceration. When I go through the security checkpoints at the airport, I thank God that at least I didn’t have to drop, squat and cough. When I took my piss te…sorry, “urinalysis”, to get clearance to teach a class at a local jail, I was glad that at least nobody was looking over my shoulder (BTW, I told the CO who apologized to me for having to watch me pis..uh…urinate in jail that I felt sorry for him, having a job where you have to watch dozens of grown ass men pee). There are just so many reminders.
The only good thing about the memories is that they “keep it green.” Not just to remind me of my new purpose in life, but also to stay woke and help others with their adjustment back home. They remind me to stay woke and go back in the facility tonight to talk to the brothers about being spiritually and emotionally healthy. They remind me to stay woke and work for the dismantling of this corrupt criminal justice system, and seek to implement more just means of dealing with our brothers and sisters. They remind me to stay woke, and turn nightmares to dreams and visions.
And it started with beef tips…