Jesus, do you exist?
I sat down in the corridor (all the cells were full) and I wondered how things had reached this point where death became the most appealing of options.
As I brooded, I happened to notice a young man in the cell facing me. He was reading a Bible and there was a look of such peace on his face he looked almost beatific. I found myself envying him, and even more so a moment later when I realized I had never known peace, not one day's peace in the twenty five years gone by. How did this guy manage it? Especially in a place like this which was sheer bedlam. There were three radios blasting three different kinds of music. There were people yelling and fighting with one another. There were people stomping up and down the cell block. But none of it seemed to bother this guy. I went up to him and asked him how he managed it and he smiled and said, "Jesus".
At any other time I probably would have been scornful, but then I was just conscious of this tremendous feeling of sadness. "Jesus," I thought. "Do you even exist? To be able to give people anything, much less peace?"
I didn't believe it any more than I had a day earlier, but hope springs eternal in the human soul and death was too final a solution not to turn to one final possibility of saving myself. And I did.
"Jesus," I whispered. "Help me get out of this mess." I almost imagined I heard someone sigh.
The next time I spoke to my wife, I told her that I was prepared to do whatever it took to keep the family intact, and that included getting back to religion. She didn't quite believe me, which was not surprising given my previous antipathy toward religion, but she seemed prepared to give me a chance. And I was grateful, because despite her skepticism, I meant it and the very first morning after I was released I went for mass.
Next: July 14, 2002