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By Michael “Yasir” Belt
My daughter cried for three straight nights. At least, these are the nights that I know about.
Let´s start as close to the beginning as need be.
I´m down. Incarcerated. Knocked off. Booked solid. And it´s been that way for six years now. Who´s fault is that? It’s all on me. I could blame it on the victim/witness who got on the stand and lied and heavily exaggerated, or on the Judge who was literally the only one in the courtroom who either couldn´t see blatant falsities or just didn´t care, or I could blame it on the inefficient lawyer who refused to fight for me. But in all honesty, it’s my fault for putting myself in harm’s way.
That´s not the point, though. The point is, I had a great chance of coming home, coming from under this sentence of mine. An enormous chance at a victory for myself and the people over the system. I had been granted an Evidentiary Hearing for my Post Conviction Relief Act. (Very briefly, a P.C.R.A. is a petition you put into court basically screaming “Biggie, Biggie, give me one more chance.”) It´s not easy to be granted a hearing. But I got one and went down to another prison on W.R.I.T. (will return in time) to attend my hearing. My time had come.
My twins, a boy and a girl, both 11 years old and identical to their Daddy, though not from the same uterus, continued to ask me when I was coming home. For about three years now I’ve been telling them that I’m waiting to go to court. And I was… until last week when I actually went to court.
I returned to the prison from court that day a defeated man. My head was still high, or at least I’d like to think that it was. But inside, I was dying. I was forced to face the fact that I would be doing at least four more years until I’m able to go home. Four more years until I’m able to go on a date with my daughter, or fulfill a long-standing basketball rivalry with my son. That´s ten years altogether, locked down in the penitentiary, with my oldest and my youngest sons turning their heads at any mention of me.
Now I know that to some people, four more years or even ten years altogether is nothing and especially so to my dudes doing life or life in numbers. Hold ya´ll heads! Ya´ll are some of the best dudes I´ve ever encountered. There´s a whole bunch of crazy and lameness going on out there in them streets and that´s because all of the good dudes, the real, are in jail. So maybe they weren´t so good when they were on the streets before they fell, but time changes a person. And this isn´t about everyone else anyhow. This is about me. This is part of my story.
And so, as soon as I got back onto the block after court, I made my play for the phone. There was only one person that I needed to call in my moment of darkness. I needed to speak to my sunshine. When she´s around, the world is always brighter. So, I called my eleven year old daughter.
The conversation was good. She was happy to hear from her dad, as she is every time I call. I asked her how she would feel if I didn´t call her as much anymore. Sunshine said that she would be sad, thinking I was calling someone else and that they were getting her Daddy time. I had to clarify that that wouldn´t ever be the case. And my baby´s smart. Eleven years old aren´t eleven year olds anymore, and mine is past that in intellectual maturity, as well as other areas. So, she caught on and basically asked me what was going on.
I didn´t tell her that I felt as if I´d let her down. I didn´t tell her that it hurts to only be allowed to call my child; and only when I have the dime to do so. I didn´t tell her that I was about to go into a cocoon and didn´t want to bother with anyone or any stress. I was going to do my bid the hard way, by myself (like I mostly do anyhow). Or, perhaps the most important part, I didn´t tell her that I felt worthless as a father and like I didn’t deserve a child as loving and caring and understanding as her.
What I did tell her was…I explained to her that I could no longer tell her that I´m waiting to go to court. I told her that I went to court and that it hadn´t turned out well. We got to the four more years part. She did the math. “I´ll be sixteen!” she said.
“No, fifteen” I told her
“Wait…Are you sure?”
“I hope so,” I told her, seriously hoping and praying that it isn´t any longer than that.
The conversation went on for a few more minutes, Sunshine being the voice of positivity. I thanked her for cheering me up as always. We said our I love you’s and the automated system disconnected the call. She seemed relatively fine at that point. The next day, though, I see a friend who´s girl is friends with my daughter´s mother. Sunshine had been crying all night.
“I´m not going to see my Daddy for four more years,” she cried. And I, her Daddy, was crushed.
As soon as I was able to, I got to the phone. Sunshine was acting very nonchalant when I asked her if she had had a bad night. My baby is so strong. I know that she was just putting up a front for my sake. Eventually though, I got it out of her. She had been crying because she missed her dad.
“I´m okay now though, Dad,” she tried to reassure me.
I went on to commend her on her strength and to tell her that it was okay to have moments of weakness. I told her that she didn´t have to put up a front for me. And, of course, she said that she was fine. And that´s when I began to tell her how it felt to me to be her Dad and have to be away from her. How the only thing I miss in this world truly, is my Sunshine and her brothers. I told her how much it hurt me to have another man raising her in my absence. I´m highly appreciative and have a lot of love for dude for that, but he´s not her father. (And now, the question in my head is, what kind of father am I?) She just kept saying that she was fine, that she was okay, repeating it as if she were a robot, trying to convince herself that she was telling the truth. But her voice was breaking more and more as she spoke.
Now, my baby was crying while on the phone with me. And I was on the other end dying. Damn! What did I do to my own daughter? How could I ever bring myself to make her suffer as she´s suffering now? How does she even still call me Dad?
My oldest son, thirteen in a couple weeks, hates me. And I can understand why. Not that I really did anything to him, other than abandon him twice already in his young life, this being my second state bid. He goes so far as to say that I´m his little brother´s father, but not his. Could I halfway blame the mother? Halfway. But she didn´t put me here. In fact, if I would´ve stayed my ass by her side where I belonged, then maybe I wouldn´t find myself in this travesty. But that´s another story, a precious story, for another time.
Digressing…Sunshine was sniffling and sobbing and I was freaking out. This was a first for me as a father, my baby girl so vulnerable and in need of me. I wanted so bad to grab her and hold her, lay her head on my chest like I used to when she was a baby and tell her that it would be okay. But I couldn´t. I physically felt myself instinctively trying to, but I couldn´t. Instead, I tried to throw the very few things that I can afford at her.
“Do you want me to write you more?” I more pleaded than asked. “Do you want me to call you more? I can call you more often.”
I asked something else that I can´t recall and then, “What do you want baby? Tell me what to do.”
Through the tears, she said, “Nothing. You´re doing fine, Dad.”
And I´m still screaming to this day, “No, I´m not!”
The next day, I get called for a visit. I had no clue who it was but I kind of figured that it was Sunshine. A visit had been in the talks with her mother. So, I get to the visiting room and wait. Everyone else´s visits come in, I wait. About a half hour later, I ask the Sargent, “What´s up?” He said they had to go to the store; which is understood to be a wardrobe issue. I wait.
I waited for over an hour. Long story into a midget, Sunshine wasn´t on my visiting list. (Hear me out!) I raised a fuss. No way that she wasn´t on my list. The Sargent explained to me that there probably was a mix up between names on my list and one of them didn´t get processed since the names sounded the same. My two daughters, he had said. And I was lost. Had no idea what he was talking about. I only have one daughter. One Sunshine.
Vexed and heated, I returned back to my block without receiving my visit. All because some dimwitted individual somewhere screwed up somehow. If this had been my jail, I´d have gotten my visit. Either they would´ve pulled out the actual paper form that says that Sunshine is actually on my visiting list instead of relying on the now-proven inferior computer, or fixed my list. Man…we complain about how “them white folks in them mountains” treat us…and then we get down here amongst us black folk and want to run for the hills, literally, back into the mountains. More on that in a second though.
Right now…I called Sunshine as soon as I got back on the block. My daughter didn´t answer the phone. At least I didn´t recognize her. The sweet little girl was gone, replaced by glimpses of the soon to be grown woman. Her voice dripped with wry satirical sarcasm as she asked me if I´d heard what had happened. I told her year, for the most part, and asked her if she was okay. “No Dad, but I really don´t have a choice, do I?” She spit with the venom of a dragon. Once one of them bite you, you can run for miles on miles, but the venom will stop you eventually and the dragon is guaranteed to hunt you down and devour you.
How far could I run and what could I actually say to that? This was truly a matter in which we had no control over whatsoever. My daughter had no choice in the matter but to simply deal with it. Me, I did that. I had taken all of the control and decision making out of my hands and given all of the power to The System and its affiliates. And now Daddy´s little girl has to pay the price.
“Flip a coin, Dad,” Sunshine went on with conviction. “That´s what the lady said! Flip a coin. Heads, you get in, tails, you don´t.”
Her mother (Hey Chanel!) took the phone from her and began yelling something incomprehensible. Obviously, she was upset, with all good reasoning. The guards wouldn´t let Sunshine in with whatever she had on for whatever reason, which prompted the shopping trip. Then they sent her mom back and forth to the car. No heels, no underwire bras. The norm, but she doesn´t know because she´s never visited; no blame thrown. Then, after all of the hassle, to top it off, they still won´t let them in. Baby girl´s not on the list, which is something they could´ve said almost two hours ago.
It almost happened. The white lady let them in. They were halfway to me for the first time in six years. Then the black lady saw the names didn´t match up, hit the heads or tails thing, and spun them on their heels. On their way out, the white lady told them that she had known that the two names didn´t match up and that she let them go through hoping they´d make it in.
Seriously, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you, white lady. Thank you for your kindness and attempted compromise. As for you, black lady. You abused your power just because you have it. But, if it weren´t one of our own keeping us down, how would The System function? (That´s too deep to even begin to address at this juncture.)
It then hit me what the sergeant was referring to. My baby sister´s and my daughter´s names both start with the same letter. I had received both minor forms (forms needed to be sent in by a minor´s parent or guardian in order to have said minor put on one´s visiting list) back at the same time. To someone’s eye or brain, even though the names are spelled totally different, they look like they could sound the same (which really doesn´t matter, especially since the birthdates are way different). But this was the only logical explanation to why some idiot processed one form and not the other.
I explained it all to my daughter and her mother. Sunshine was saying how it wasn´t my fault and that it was okay. I told her that it wasn´t and voiced my opinion of those who screwed up my chances of seeing her. Then I went on to iterate the fact that, even though someone else screwed up, it was still my fault. I was the one who gave them the opportunity to put me in this place, which allowed for me to be away from her for so long, which in turn made her cry her way into a visit (girl trick), and then all the rest happened.
We talked for a brief minute afterward about nails, weaves and why I hate them, and my opinion on women who believe they have to falsely beautify themselves to look good in the eyes of others when they should be satisfied with their natural self and no one else´s opinion should matter. Yeah, had that conversation, again, with my eleven year old daughter. Told you, kids aren´t their age anymore. But anyhow, then she started to say how bad her day would really be if her phone died. I got the point and let her go on that note.
The next day I heard that Sunshine cried the entire two and half hour ride home.
Man, I wasn´t prepared for this. Not the time, not what comes along with having to do it, none of it. I was mentally prepared to go home. I was mentally prepared to finally try and be a good father. And, I at least, had thoughts on how to be a productive, positive member of society. If for nothing else, so that I could be there for my kids. It was all planned out. I was mentally checked out of prison, talking heavy to those on the outside and all like I had a guaranteed release day. And I did, until someone decided to throw a freaking pass, instead of running with the ball! And, now, I have no choice but to run the audible. I have to get back to my bid. Better yet, with four more years left, it´s time to change the bid. Change my job, change my studies, change my body, my mind, my jail. About the only thing that I can´t change is the fact that my children have to go four more years without me being able to father them to the extent that I should be.
WAKE UP!?! DAMN!
Society, my society, not high society, rather do-or-die society, remove the pillow marks and slobber from your faces. I´m far from racist, but, black and brown, we are the endangered races. Blacks and browns make up the majority of the incarcerated faces. True story. Numbers don´t lie. Check the almanac. It´s astounding.
Wake up! Can we not see that there really isn´t any “do or die”? There is only die! The old adage is true: dead or in jail. We believe that we are so smart, smarter than those who preceded us, smarter than our uncles, brothers, and fathers, even sometimes mothers. We believe that we can be the one to make it out of the game with the millions in the end. We believe the hood novels, which have a reputations for illogical nonsense. We come back and forth to jail and prison believing that we can change the game on our next run. “One more run,” we always say. The true definition of insanity. We witness the results of other´s misfortunes and simply say that they´ve caught a bad break, believing that it can´t happen to us. Well, guess what, it already has. We´ve already lost. We´ve already killed.
Our children bear our burdens. Some of them see what Daddy was doing and grow up wanting to be just like him or even better than, tougher than him. Others, as well as the former, simply grow up broken, wanting, and will try to fill a void the best way they know how. They act out in school, get into the streets, maybe join a gang, get into drugs, sleep around – be it your son or daughter – because they´re missing that love, or your baby girl is trying to find her father figure within a hundred dicks. Whatever the case, we left or made our children susceptible to it. They are left to bear the burdens of their father´s mistakes.
Have you even questioned why the streets are so crazy, or in a more correct terminology, why our society is so skewed toward wrong? My opinion for you to consider is because there aren´t enough fathers fathering their children. Generation by generation, it gets worse. More and more men and children are killed as a result of The Game (it is NOT a game) and more men come to jail. That leaves our children in the world alone, not knowing or being taught how to be a man or a father, or seeing how a man is supposed to treat a woman or how a woman is to respect and honor herself. Our children are affected by our absences.
People, please, I beg of you, wake up. We didn´t start the woes of society, but we sure as hell don´t seem to be trying to stop them either.
Please, stop the selfishness. Stop idolizing what you hear in a song or see in a movie or T.V. The life isn´t as grand as it´s made out to be. Especially with all of the innocent victims.
Our children bear our burdens. There are impossibly too many ways and examples to even attempt to illuminate. They´re obvious and plain to see to the open eye. And my eyes have been forcefully snatched open.
My precious daughter cried for three days, bearing my burden. Enough is enough.
|Michael Belt KU8088|
P.O. Box 1000
Houtzdale, PA 16698
Michael Belt is a simple man, a lover, a fighter and a full time dreamer – with a realistic sense. He is truthful and loyal to a fault. To quote Henry Thoreau’s Walden, “In an unjust society, the only place for a just man is in prison." And in his own words, “Never let hope die!”
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