I am in prison. Not the typical bars-on-the-windows-guards-at-every-turn prison. This is more... how can I say this? A prison of the mind. It seems, based on how long I have remained locked up here, that this prison is even more secure than that one prison on an island somewhere in some ocean. I say this because I have been in this prison of the mind for my whole life. My prison is white washed, boring, as most prisons are. But the only guards in this prison are those of my memory, and my uncanny ability to recall the slightest details in almost any scene; even those that happened many years ago, when I was but a child.
The first memories I have are happy ones, complete with a family; a mother, a father, a sister, a brother. The first memories are filled with laughter, smiles, and running. Always running. Running along the pier jutting out into the ocean near our luxurious beach house with my siblings to tell our parents about the dolphins we had seen. Running through the waves, rainbow pinwheel in hand, interrupting the gentle cycle of the waves reaching up to kiss the sand then slowly receding. Running from my father as we played a game of tag. Now, when I replay that scene in my mind, I realize that he wasn't really running, like I thought he was back then. Mostly he just jogged with a huge grin on his face, convincing me that someday I could be in the Olympics since I was so fast. Running haphazardly over the smooth wooden boards of our kitchen, waiting for my mother to finish making the macaroni. I always loved macaroni. Still do.
Running, running, running. Always running. Sometimes I pull out these happy memories when the white washed walls of my self-made cell become too overwhelming, on the days when the sad memories seem to be taking over and staining the innocent white walls of this prison into darkening shades of gray. I have more bad memories than good, you see. More memories of sitting than running. Sitting amongst the wreckage of a bright blue car, sitting and watching blood soak the ground. Sitting in the waiting room of the hospital when I was only 10 years old, waiting for the nurses to make my parents and my siblings better. Sitting still, unable to move, when they told me the news. They were gone. Sitting at the funeral, crying, crying, crying. Sitting in a little orange plastic chair in the church playground afterward, waiting for everyone to leave. And then, running.
Running, running, running. Running one last time. But this time the running wasn't to something, and it wasn’t running for play. This time I was running away. They wanted to find me a new family. A new mom and dad. A new brother and sister. But I couldn't let them. The new family wouldn’t know about the running. They wouldn't understand the memories. So I ran away, and I hid, and I ate whatever I could find. Usually it wasn’t much, but it was just enough to keep me alive. To keep me breathing. To keep my brain remembering. And then, once I stopped running away, I was halfway across the state. Somewhere where no one could find me. No one. Except my prison.
My prison always followed me, its white washed walls reminding me that I was no one. It was easier to keep the prison away when I was little because of all the happy memories. But once my family left, the prison won me over. And then the sitting began again.
Sitting on the street corner, shivering in ice cold sleet, watching cautious cars drive by through hooded eyes. Sitting some years later, my hair and beard both long, my body bruised and battered, clothes tattered, ribs showing through my skin, stupid toothless smile on my face, for I was visiting my happy memories again.
Sitting with a cardboard sign, and really not much else, except for the dirt and the bugs. The sign said "I need more happy memories, please, please help." But the world kept passing me by, just a nobody on the corner. They didn't understand about the memories, they didn't understand that I could've been in the Olympics 'cause I was so fast. They didn't understand about the macaroni, the pinwheels, the dolphins. They didn't understand about the running, or the sitting. I am ignored, but I suppose you always are when you're in prison.
Most days I live in white washed nothingness, the walls slowly closing in like that one army closed in on the other that one time in ancient history. But every once in a while, the walls of the prison change colors and expand a bit, fading back into memories of my childhood, or if I'm unlucky, of the memories after that. You might think I sound crazy, but I'm not. I just live in a prison. Not the typical bars-on-the-windows-guards-at-every-turn prison. Just a prison of the mind.