In the living of the distance, the never ending voice has become my best friend. In the chill of drowning, I would love to confess all the hell she put me through. Deep down, it isn’t about the sentence or the time; every sinner has been damaged long before we’re seen. Pain is an anonymous virus, going through all of us and like a disease, it affects us all differently. Five years into a death by incarceration, I have learned more behind the fence that I ever had in my 20 years of existence. That the worst thing I could’ve done to myself, was be silenced by a five second decision.

“With great freedom comes great responsibility.”

My generation is not raised knowing consequence, we believe respect comes from an external image and status is a pecking order, uninvited. No one could have told me any different; then I woke up to the pound of a gavel and not even my sleep was my own.

From that moment, I made about myself, to inform Generation Millennial and those to come (Z, Alpha); that what you do not appreciate, is the easiest thing to manipulate and the hardest thing you’ll ever lose. For freedom is not free, and the small fine print, it requires the longest contract. That pain, it’s not an excuse to find a loophole. That every decision you make out of pain, will haunt you every day... Vulnerability is blood in the water, every shark can smell it. And when you’re ripped to shreds, there is no one left to blame. All the scars I wish you could see, every let down and damaging memory, was not even the belly of the storm. Years of slipping back to her lies, I chose my poison, and my drug had a name that gives me chills to this day.

You can call me AJ, and today I’m 25; staring down the road of life without parole because I allowed someone to die by the hands of my bitter “high school sweetheart.” There is nothing I can do to go back and attempt to change the circumstances of that day, but if God gave me the chance I would not falter for a second. An innocent life, three young people; we are all gone. We have all lost any life to live.

I cannot tell you much about the victim, only what I was led to believe; but I do know that her and I were venomously in love with the same woman. And for that, I am intensely sorry. I wish that I had never met that woman, I wish she never existed to either of us. I’m sorry that she hurt her enough to fool and use her against me, sorry that I let her take her life.

You see, well I did not fully take that life, I did not choose to save it either. I instead, try to cover for my then, girlfriend. I chose to let it happen…

We both received DBI, for in the Commonwealth it is equal to be involved and to be the killer.

The catacomb that is my new world, my form of community, does it define me forever? Do I live for 95 years, as a threat to mankind? Does one choice add up more than the 20 that an average repeat parole violator makes and walks out of 90 days later? Has the human race really come down to condemning damage children into oblivion?

How will you ever know, if you give up before you try? In the death that is my cell walls, the echo of an empty shadow beneath my slide door, a pulse that slows is my new enemy. In the burn within that bic flame, of my 12 x 10 cage, I would hate to be another silent voice.

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Writing by Ashley "AJ" Barber