Notes from a drowning man:
by Lorenzo Balli #238265GBCI;PO Box 19033;
Green Bay, Wi 54307
What exactly is life?
Lets pause for a second to reflect and ask ourselves this very simple question. To some it will be easy to define; for others it will be complex.
To you, life may be an adventure, an opportunity to experience f all of the beautiful things that the world has to offer. But to me,my view of life is something completely different; the birth of one long tragedy. Life to me is one huge hurdle that I must jump over to escape into the abyss of nothingness, of darkness, of silence. Life is a place of screams for me, of regrets, of abject pain, of humiliation, degredation and abasing bondage. Life to me is torture, loss of identity and self-worth. Life is the epitome of hell. To me life is my nemesis.
But death? Death is a fickle friend, a comforting spirit, a permanent vacation from all of the horrors of life. Death is a cunning evader, a taunter and a seductress whom teases me while I hang suspended with a rope cutting into my neck while being cut down from my vent.
Death taunts me mercilessly while I lay naked on a concrete floor clothed in my own blood, with tears of anger and anguish forming small puddles,mixing with the pools of blood surrounding me.
Life is an adversary, a tormentor of my existence. Life is a reminder of everything that I'll never be able to enjoy. Life is best described in a metaphor, it's as if I am drowning in a sea of filth but can never die. Life to me is a reality of being beaten, gassed, electrocuted, strapped down, denied warmth, denied the voice that you once loved. Life is a realm devoid of all emotions except pain, misery, hatred and sorrow. If you could imagine such an existence, would you honestly be a proponent for the abolishment of the death penalty or the right to live?
My definition of life is utterly incomprehensible, until experienced. My reality will differ from those who can have their cake and eat it too. Could you imagine being an artist but couldn't create the burning visions of your being because you are now blind, or if you were dying of thirst with a pitcher of ice water right in front of you but couldn't reach it because you were immobilized? A poet who couldn't write and was deaf, how would you feel if you were that poet?
This is my definition of life as a United States prisoner confined in Wisconsin's Concentration Camp. To the average person the things that I've stated are unspeakable, incomprehensible and most would be unable to fully grasp. My life is subjected to petty nit-pickers -defined by pointless and overbearing rules. Every grain of hope or pleasure is subject to scrutiny and at the mercy of any whimsical fancy of any 18 year-old kid fresh out of high school abusing the power bestowed upon him by society for his amusement or pleasure.
Count your valuables as I do: 10 pictures in your possession at a time; 4 magazines; 6 books; 2 bars of soap; 1 deodorant; a maximum of 25 letters; 2 pencils; 2 pens; 1 religious book; a thin cot or pallet; 2 woolen five foot blankets; 2 sheets; 1 thin, lumpy pillow; 1 toothbrush and 1 tube of toothpaste. These are my private stock of pleasures. If you are unfortunate, you will not have the pictures, books, deodorant, pencils pens or letters. You're given just enough to subsist, enough to not starve but not enough to satisfy your hunger. You are given just enough heat so that you won't freeze but not enough so that you are not cold.
In this maze I have 10 paces. I count them forward, stop, spin around, 10 paces, stop and turn around. This is my walk in the park. When I'm angry I have 4 paces, stop, turn around.... If you're lucky, you have someone to send you money to purchase hygiene, paper and stamps. If not, you will stink. I know this because the State gives you 2 hotel-sized mini bars of soap per week. No deodorant, shampoo or skin lotion. If you pace, you may sweat and smell sour like onions. I have gotten used to it because I have no choice. You get used to using whatever you can salvage. You salvage and hoard everything and anything. I get 2 showers per week, clean underwear, a shirt and a pair of socks twice a week, and clean sheets and pants once a week.
If you have no money you must beg your fellow prisoners for pens, pencils and paper. These items are not freely given to you. If you have no money to buy food you will stay hungry. Water is free so I drink lots of it in attempts to fool my stomach.... Ten paces forward, stop, turn around, get a drink, 10 paces.
If you're sick you turn to religion; first Christianity, then Islam, then Buddhism. Pretty soon you're either an Atheist or a Devil Worshipper because you have a better chance of the Devil performing a miracle for you than getting any help from medical. If you back pain, try not to move. Don't walk if you have hip pain. Close your eyes if you have a migraine headache. This reminds me of a joke that my father once told me. He said, "A man tells his doctor that whenever he turns his head a certain way he gets blinding pain. The doctor simply told him not " to turn his head that way." this is no longer a joke but a reality.
I seem to wonder, at times, if the joke is real or not. Life is no joking matter when it's full of pain.
Life to me is a world where if you complain too loudly you will go to the hole. If you speak out of place while enroute to the hole you will find yourself face-down on the floor hoping that they don't break your good arm or leg because then you'll really have something to cry about. Life is a place where you are placed naked in a room for 72 hours, "if you're good," and an additional 24 hours if you're not. This can be extended every 24 hours according to the prison's rules outlined in the Wisconsin Administrative Code. Legally they can electrocute you, beat you up and strap you down, all under the guise of necessary use of force. They say, "We are authorized to use force, chemical agents, electrocution 2000 and place you on control status." It's all legal. I'm treated like a bull about to be slaughtered instead of like a human being. At least a butcher has the decency to kill his victims.
Life is a realm where if you finally give up you break the rules and shred a sheet (in violation of prison rule 303.35 - Damage or alteration of state property, - which is punishable with up to 180 days in isolation), then you carefully put the strips through the ventilation holes in the wall, you braid this and make a slip knot. You do this once the guard makes his round or "wellness check." You have exactly one hour to accomplish this. If you're lucky you will be dead within the hour or discovered unconscious, but alive, then the horrors begin anew.
Life is a world where you're placed naked in an observation room with no pallet or blanket. The cold air mocks you as it blows out the vent. The officers and psychologists mock you by saying, "It's the rules; you're being denied a pallet and clothes for your own protection." Your eyes sting, "You should have thought about that before you hung yourself ..." "l did!" you scream. "I'm supposed to be dead!" Now it's unlikely that you'll get anything anytime soon because it's "for your own protection." Eyes fill with stinging, overflowing pain. You stare at your sink. You wonder how much it will hurt if you jump off of it head first onto the concrete floor. You ask yourself, "Would my head bust open and I die instantly? Will I be in agony for hours or, worse yet, paralyzed?" Weighing the pros and cons you think, If I land just right with the right amount of weight, I'm positive I could die instantly." You get up on steady feet. Committed now, you shakily get on your sink. "Don't think," you repeatedly tell yourself but your mind races and calculates all of the possibilities. Settling on the chance of ending this "lifemare," your heart beating rapidly, you bend at the knees, jump and dive head first. "Oh my God!" Pain shoots through your neck. "I landed wrong!" You think your reflexes worked against you by making you unwillingly bow your head. Now your neck and shoulders scream with pain. There is blood trickling down the side of your face and all you feel is pain, hatred and self-loathing. You have to try again. You must hurry before the guards strap you down. Hurry! Your adrenaline is pumping and your heart is racing. Slowly you emerge upright and climb onto the sink. If you're lucky you will die; if not, you will be strapped down. "The straps are biting into my skin!" you protest as they tighten the velcro straps to your wrists, neck, ankles and chest. "They're cutting off my circulation!" you scream. The nurse says, "They're fine.",, "But look; my fingers are blue!" you shoot back. But the nurse just , r stands there looking bored, "it's for your protection," the nurse parrots. Your back aches, you are immobilized. You can't twist, turn or scratch the itch on the side of your ear that's driving you crazy.
You're subjected to being observed naked by male and female guards. You feel humiliated. You need to scream in order to drown out the screams of other prisoners in different states of distress. ......
Life to me is a world full of screams that echo through the catacombs of Hell. The screams overlap each other: "I need to see a nurse!" "where's my property?!" Profanity hurled. Violence spewed at the guards, at each other and then finally at ourselves. Life to me is 10 paces forward, turn around; the tearing of sheets; hoarding toilet paper; kicking on the door for a nurse; screaming at anyone unlucky enough to stumble upon my world; hurling epithets for being awakened out of my sleep. Life-is a vision which burns in my head that no matter how many hours I scrape paint off of the doors with a staple, or burn pencil, wood for charcoal, or paint with ink I will never fully document either on walls, doors or paper in words or depicted images. I can never depict this Inferno which Dantes speaks of.
Life is a world where I will lay down immobile, strapped down thinking of complex compositions, of flow, of lighting, of havoc, of this itch on the side of my ear, of the throbbing pain in my back....
Life is filled with dry tears and harsh curses to God, Yahweh, Buddha, fate, destiny, Allah, Satan until the words spew from my mouth in a blood curdling scream, "I will kill you all!