Back in the Day: A story in Callaloo
This story is an excerpt from Life Without, a novel about the lives of eleven characters who are incarcerated in two neighboring American prisons. In this story, you meet Monroe, who is so aged and out of touch that although he lives in the shifting moments of his past, he is unable to remember the crime for which he is imprisoned.
Monroe wheels himself into the day room for rec. The C.O.'s give him a little extra time to get where he is going. Maybe they even nod or greet him, if they notice him at all. He's an old-timer, a threat to no one anymore. Those who have been around long enough to hear the stories know about what a fighter he was, the badass nobody would mess with, back in the day, a man who could get respect by the way he entered the room, seeming to rearrange space, owning any territory he chose.
To the young ones he is Pops, too detached and feeble to notice, let alone fear.
He sits by the window looking out, looking back. Watching the young ones from a distance as they braid each other's hair and trade war stories, rocking to that rap music he can make no sense of, talking of bitches and ho's, bragging about their drugs and guns. "In my day," he wants to interrupt and shake them, "we didn't call our women names unless they crossed us, and we knew how to fight. We hid behind no gun." Some of these young ones, like this one in the corner, name of Quake, they say they've never worked a job. He wants to suck his teeth and tell them how things were, but they would only laugh, or worse. Unless Travis was around.
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