Jail Bait: swimming in an ocean of bigger, meaner fish looking for a snack

E-mail: hb10h@my.fsu.edu Written By: Hallie Bowns

Jail Bait

I am the shrimp that fishermen catch just to stab a hook through and throws back out into the ocean to catch bigger, meatier fish. I’m not the twelve year old that one would consider to be involved in cradle rocking as in touch me and your a** is grass. I’m not that type of jailbait. Instead, I am the smaller fish swimming in an ocean of bigger, meaner fish looking for a snack. I’m a tease. I swim right under their noses just so they get a good whiff and begin to follow me.

I’m constantly on the hunt for these chiseled, roughly edged, tatted men with that special curve only ex-convicts tend to carry. Those who, once released from their sentence, have that attitude, a specific orb that silently echoes “I got swag and I got a damn good reason to have it. What F****** reason do you have to question it?” That reason, even though they keep it silent, that’s my hook. You simply don’t know the meaning of life or what it means just to be able to have life until that life is taken away from you, but you are still alive and breathing. Once you are put in this place in cells where the people around you look at you like you ain’t worth two damn cents and you are given a numerical sequence to stand in place of a name you may have once went by. Once you live in one room with ninety other gruesome sequences with makeshift knives stashed under mattresses and knuckles that read “Try Me.” Arrogant a**holes ten and fifteen years in, or ten and fifteen to go, and old men living in the only place they will ever have the right to breathe in again lurk around wasting time that could be spent as a life. It’s a matter of survival here, either you do or you don’t. And whatever this reason is that’s got me hooked, their method of survival, is some sort of reputation they built up during their time spent in this place. People leave you alone, guards walk away, and I’m drawn in.

I have a love for their scars, their stab marks and gunshot wounds. I want to feel my way inside that misery that they built themselves from. Whatever it was that they survived, I find life in. I draw energy from their suppressed anger and thrive from it. The longer the time done, the harsher they are, the harder it is to crack them to get inside. The peeling and opening is what gives me my satisfaction and inspiration. The reason to living is suddenly so blatantly thrown out into the open that I find purpose again. Watching these men come out into this world as ex-cons and no means of experience trying to make a living, but failing by all means not only gives me hope for myself, but allows me to see what could be, the possibilities of having your rights yanked from your grasp and suddenly you can no longer help yourself. It’s at this point, when these people are unable to find a location to hire them that they turn back to our government for support. Housing solutions, food stamps, anything to get by. They turn back to the streets, end up back behind bars as A’s, returning inmates. Welcome back kids. Are you a lifer or a short timer this time? Will we see you again in another three years? It’s plausible. But it’s the fact, the motion, the way these people have to go about success that gets my attention. Because, when your rights are ripped from you, your morals, your humanity, and there’s just that much less likeliness of you succeeding and thriving in life, they take that sh**- that degraded point of view of themselves- and turn it around and use it against the world. Suddenly that same man with bullets buried within his side and knuckles grinded with blood and strife creates a passion for life.

You see, when you tell an ex-con he can’t, even if he can’t do so legally, physically, or morally- he will. Somehow, someway, he will. And that’s an inspiration to me. It’s uplifting. And I can feel it, the passion, every time he’s inside of me. It gives me hope. A piece of tragedy to cling to and consume and create from. It gives me life. It gives me knowledge that I would otherwise never have gained on my own. Their bodies, their ink, their swag, their attitude, their language, the way they move and behave- it all tells a story.

So I’m pulled in by everything about these men. I can sense it so naturally. It’s almost like gay-dar. It just kicks into gear every time I inhale their presence. Instantly I am swooned by the mist bubbling off of their swag cloud. I’m so close. I can close my eyes and open them without even realizing I had turned my head in their direction, but they are right there, right in front of me. And I’m gazing with eyes that peel back layers of skin and dig into their muscle mass prying for a deeper closure that’s gotta be somewhere inside of them. I want it. I want more. I want to know. I want the story, the how, the where, the why and what happened. I want it.

One Response to "Jail Bait: swimming in an ocean of bigger, meaner fish looking for a snack"

  1. Katie Pitts   October 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Hallie, I love it!! You’re a fantastic writer!! Keep it up!!

    Reply

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