Prison saved my life | Teen Ink

Prison saved my life

June 9, 2009
By Veronika Gajer BRONZE, Potomac, Maryland
Veronika Gajer BRONZE, Potomac, Maryland
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

People always ask me how I survived going through that crap I got myself into- the robbery and jail and all. I usually with a replied with “ah, wasn’t that bad” or “well, I got think skin” or something. I got a pretty big reputation, especially around some parts of Harlem. Anyway, I get those questions all the time, I’m used to em, and truthfully, it doesn’t hurt my ego with people being curious and all. But if you really wanna know (and since your prolly not gonna bump into any of my friends, and if you did, you prolly wouldn’t be reading this now) being in that damn jail was one of the damn hardest things of my life. I got a tough shell, especially from how I was raised, but jail, it’s not for me. I just got so frustrated all the time, I felt so messed up and just like not right, yanno? The robbery was nothing though, sure we got caught, but I don’t really feel that wrong for doing it, which must be real messed up after everything I’ve been through. Anyways it wasn’t really even my idea; it was my friend, Scotts.
It all started with his dumb nut plan of driving all the way to L.A. I told him, “Scott, forget it”, and it’s stupid because at the time we barley had enough dough to eat. But no, the man wouldn’t drop it, I don’t know, maybe he wanted to see a girl or something, which once again brings me back to – stupid. But that’s Scott, so what can ya do, anyway me and him share this little apartment on E. 112th Street, so I have to listen to all his crazy ideas all the time. Truthfully, sometimes I don’t feel like Scotts really all there if you know what I mean, I mean he’ll be saying something and next thing you know you’re thinking to yourself if this man should be seeing some professional help. Scotts a pretty deep cat, he has a lot of feelings he needs to work out, sometimes it just gets weird.

Anyway he was talking about this bank down Madison Ave, and like usual I’m not really listening to what he was saying. Actually now that I’m remembering it, I think I was trying to stay low for a while from the cops- yeah, actually that sounds right. They found some candy cane (if you know what that is) in my jacket pocket like two months before the whole crazy bank idea, so yeah, I was trying to stay low from the cops, cause I don’t like to get in trouble with the fed too often, it just doesn’t roll nice when you get yourself in a real bad situation one day. Okay, so Scott was talking about how they opened this new bank on Madison Ave, and how easy it would be to get in, because he met some guy working there that didn’t really have a clue what he was doing and their security system was one he knew how to work around and all. Right now it’s hard to remember exactly what he was saying but after a while he just starting obsessing over it. I’m telling you, Scott was going crazy with the idea, drawing sketches every day and making like twenty strategies for robbing the place. For a week or so I just tried ignoring it, but the temptation just starting to kick in. We were real broke and I was sick of feeling dirty and hungry. I started listening to his ideas and sure enough, he was going somewhere with it. Also, it helped not really have much in my life to mess up and if it failed, I wasn’t gonna lose anything serious.

Anyway, April 5th we did it. We went into the bank followed the plan perfectly, had a gun and the whole deal- we wrecked up the place pretty bad too (now that I think about it, that wasn’t real necessary, but I wasn’t really thinking much then). Sure enough, cops come within three minutes -this is Harlem, after all. You know, for most people being taken by the police, while you still have your robber mask on and everything and standing up against the car with your hands behind your back, and tons of cameras and people yelling at you, would be a stressful situation. But what I remember, at that point, and actually, I don’t think I’ll ever forget, is looking up to the sky and thinking how blue the sky was. I mean obviously I’ve seen how the sky looks before, but this time when I looked up, it was just so damn blue and perfect. All the sirens and people yelling were just not getting to my head for some reason. I just remember thinking how beautiful it was, and then I remember starting to wonder if I’d ever see something beautiful again, and I knew I wouldn’t, and the worst part is, the very worst part about that was, I didn’t really feel that bad about it, I kinda thought I deserved it actually, not for robbing the bank, but just for being me.
Scott on the other hand was not taking the same approach I was. He was cursing and shoving at people, he really thought he could get away. Eventually they got him in the car, we both sat next to each other in the back seat. I remember he said nothing the entire time, and neither did I. I tried looking at him, just to see if he was okay, but he just kept staring out the window. He was like stone, and it didn’t scare me then but now, I think it would. Anyways, when we arrived to the jail place, I expected something totally different. I never got arrested before but a lot of my friends have and I heard a lot about the place. I wasn’t real excited about going but like I said, I didn’t really care about much. The place was deserted and dirty- just a box building on some crap dirt field. What’s funny now is I don’t remember having much of an opinion on the place other than how different I expected it to be.
The second we got there, Scott and I were separated. Which now I know was probably for the better, knowing him he probably tried making some crazy escape plan.
Anyways, I was put with this real big guy named Tony. I wasn’t scared of him exactly, but I definitely didn’t want to get on his bad side. Tony wasn’t as bad as most the other inmates though. He was bald and had like 90% muscle mass (I’m exaggerating, but the guy was huge). He didn’t talk to me for the first month I was there. All he did was lie on his bunk and read this weird book everyday for hours at the time. I never really asked him what it was about, ‘cause I didn’t wanna piss the guy off or nothing. He was a real interesting guy. I mean, I swear one of the hardest things about being there was trying to figure this guy out. Sometimes in the middle of the night he’d just get up off his bed and stare at me or in least I think it was me he looked at. Whatever he was doing scared the s*** out of me.
One day though, he asked my out of nowhere why I was there, in jail and all. I told him. We started to talk and all; he was a real smart guy. Smartest guy I’ve ever met in my life actually. Turned out he had been in the Vietnam War and seen a lotta bad stuff in the world, but the weird thing was how nice the guy was. I curious as hell what he did to get here, as it turned out he committed some war crime, I don’t remember exactly, I just remember not being all that impressed.
In the end Tony and I spent years in prison together, and now, I really do appreciate life. Why? Your probably wondering (you should have seen my parents when they saw the change), because of him, Tony. He taught me more purpose and meaning in life that I would have ever learned without him. He just knew his stuff so well and even with the nothing he had, he just made everything seem so precious. I love the man, and I owe my life to him, literary. I never thought I’d say this, but going jail saved me.

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This article has 1 comment.

MyChey5 said...
on Sep. 13 2009 at 4:28 pm
This touched my heart and i want to show it to my cousin. He is 15 and has been to Juvy like 5 times and now is in a military boot camp for like a year. I ca only hope someone changes his life like in your story. *adding as a favirite*