September’s Gratitude

A new writing accountability partner. Exciting new ideas. :)

My thoughtful friends who keep checking on me throughout this difficult time.

Grateful for the voice memos from some of Lori, Colin, & I story sessions.

Tailgating experience. LSU Suite Football Game. Drunk, hilarious old man on shuttle back to hotel - "I’m auctioning off this crown & coke. First bid?"

Online Real Estate Classes.

When the words pour out of me and I don’t notice time until taking a sip of cold coffee.

The return of Sons of Anarchy- vroom.


Sharing bottles of good wine with good people. A random, much needed, fun night out.

Emotional strength. Perseverance. Opportunities.

For three auditions in one week. “The War of Art” book recommendation from Brad.

Writing that makes me think - damn. (The Goldfinch.)

Face masks & slumber parties with Colin. Our funny conversations - "Well, that’s probably one of the first times I’ve ever seen one of those in Tyler."
"What the hell is that? A taxi?"

For taking the high road in an argument.

Encouragement. Hugs from old friends. For Dani helping me run lines and video for an audition.

"A Woman’s Worth" - Marianne Williamson.

For believing that all the recent hardships I’ve experienced will only make me a stronger person - and one with that much more story to tell.

For the kind compliment from a friend - "You help me remember who I am when I’m too busy being who everyone else wants me to be."

Sunsets. Red wine.

For being 1/3 finished with real estate classes.

Pedis with Dani.

The strength to not accept less than the best. For having such great, supportive friends. For the time to focus on myself, my goals. No more lies and drama. Being on the road to having a healed heart.

Getting back into the gym routine.


Tags: gratitude

Flowerlike Love

At first blossom, that lovely unexpected arrival, an inexplicable bliss radiated.


Love sat. Like the perfectly placed decorative vase, perched for all to awe.

Love tied. Like the ribbon wrapped glass, a pristine presentation worth envy.

Love wilted. Like the faded vibrance, the drooped petals, the darkened stems.

Love lost. Like the broken blooms revived by no amount of sunshine.

Tags: love poem


For a safe road trip home. My pit stop in Albuquerque for lunch and time to see my brother. Also…. very grateful I don’t have to drive that long of a distance for awhile.

Tex Mex with a love. Colin coming to Tyler to chit chat in the “Forest Full of Secrets.” His wit. The beautiful simple pleasures of life. Lake views and the peacefulness.

Late night talks in the hot tub. Long naps.

Texas sunsets. Big, open sky with visible stars. Late night skinny dipping. Beautiful sunrise over the lake.

The lessons learned during trying times.

Sharon Stone’s video clip about positive outlook on death. Having another dream about my dad.

Time to play pool with friends. For not being a sore loser. Bachelor pads that have toilet paper. Late night Ihop runs.

A couple of days to spend with my mom. Seeing my nephews - even if briefly! Meditations with my mom. Giggles and cuddles with her.

Starting fresh. New furniture.

The advice from friends even when I don’t want to hear (or take) it.

Being able to see the bright side of having no internet connection. No internet available in apt = more focused writing time.

A deep tissue - “hurt so good” - massage. Being able to cure my mashed potato craving. A nice glass of red wine.

First, free chiropractic adjustment. For not having my neck broken.

Rainstorms. Starting a new, good book. Books that make me think, damn.

For the blessed 4 1/2 years of time I had with Lori. Her inspiring stories. Her “dash.” Our memories.

Tags: gratitude

Gratitude List - July

A delicious dinner with Lauren for her early birthday present. That she’s turning 21 - no more limitations on fun & adventure!

For Lauren taking me to the airport at 4am. Quick check ins at the airport and breezing through security. Smooth flights. Bear hugs from loved ones at the airport.

The sound of home - crickets. The lightning bugs - and the flashbacks of my childhood they bring. Peacefulness.

Fireworks on the 4th. Classic rock music playing while under the stars in a hot tub. Seeing the sunrise with friends.

For having the strength to drive through my dads old town. Family get togethers.  

Being in town for Nana’s birthday. For when I looked at that photo of dad and me, Lilly said, “Don’t be sad, Kristin.” For the time (and energy) to chase Lilly around in the backyard. Marathon Scattegories sessions with Nana and the fam.

Hugs from my nephews. Dancing with my mom in her living room to the oldies. Driving through my old stomping grounds.

Not having cell phone reception while visiting family and friends. Seeing a shooting star. Laughter and dancing to different decades of music.

That moment when you feel like someone just gets you. Having special people to miss.

Long, beachside walk with Lauren.

A new adventure in a familiar town.

Reading in the grass under the palm trees. For having met someone who makes me smile and my heart flutter. That I have someone to long for. And who makes me laugh.

Live music. Pretty vineyards. Malibu Wines picnic. Those yummy little turkey bacon wrapped dates that Lauren made. Grateful that my veganism was a phase.

Finding quick buyers for my dresser & bicycle. Awesome prospects to replace me on apt lease. Those “lightbulb moments” or when a situation suddenly becomes clear.

Amazing home hair session with Keary. Cleansing my closet, once again! Great eBay sales with fast payments. Smooth USPS process.

Food truck & music night in Santa Monica with Lauren. Those really delicious lobster tacos. All the great people watching.

Grateful for how alive traveling makes me feel. Witty banter. Getting to spend a few days with Courtney in Colorado. My new Rumi read. Accents on airplanes.

Lovely dinner with Courtney and her mom at Castle Pines. Hearing the storm roll in. Standing in the rain. Feeling the rain. For my S’mores lesson with Courtney.

Friendly Colorado walkers. Friendliness, in general. Hiking the Bluffs with Court. A fun baseball game that we only watched one play of - “Oh, there’s baseball at this drinking game?”

A trip to the Red Rocks with Courtney & Taylor. Our $150 photo shoot. A lazy lounge day of recuperation.

Catching a matinee play with Courtney. Froyo trips. Our random karaoke dinner before going to the airport. For having such a great friend in my life.

For a friend allowing me to store some furniture at his place while I wander about in search of clarity, inspiration, adventure. Returning to a life with more simplicity. For the simple things. A renewed determination.

Smooth and safe drive to Texas. Morning meditation. Catching the New Mexico sunrise. Seeing my younger brother, if only for lunch.

Tags: gratitude

I could make an excuse… BUT, truth is I slacked a little on June’s gratitude list. I just found these quotes for a little inspiration! There really is so much in my life to be grateful for - from the simple to the grandiose.


June’s Short & Sweet List:

An awesome workout at Circuit Works. Enthusiastic instructors. For not fainting half way through the workout.

A day of sunshine by the pool. Surprise presents in the mail from a friend from home. Receiving mail in general.

A spiritual experience during a massage that’s almost inexplicable. Feeling connected to my inner child. Sharing an intimate moment with a stranger.

For the casting director who told me not to lose my accent. FaceTime sessions with friends from home. A killer pair of new shoes. A breathtaking sunset.

All of the heartfelt gifts from Lori - made me feel so special. A good review from my instructor after completing the first year of Meisner training.

A ride in the fire truck around the block. To be able to attend an art gallery opening. Making new connections. The little finger foods that I ate a whole tray of.

Inspiration. For the chance to pursue my dreams - write, tell stories, & play pretend. 

For having found an awesome, smaller gym within walking distance from my apartment. Seeing the results quickly. Growing confidence.

Fireside chats with friends and wine. Hearing fun stories from decades before I was born. The idea that Traci and I had to help the homeless.

Funny conversations I overhear while shopping. New Nike kicks to reward myself after a month of all the intense working out.

Making the time to meditate.

Receiving the first rough cut of our short film!!! Feeling pleased with our project thus far. A great creative team.

Long walk with Lauren by the beach. Receiving a thoughtful email for my thank you card. The time to make some goodies for our end of year bash for my classmates.

When it comes to Saturday morning class, I’m so grateful things like messy bun & beachy hair are “in.” Completing a year of training at the JBB studio. A fun day in the sun to celebrate with my classmates.  A break to go home. The people who will welcome me. :)

A day on set for a friend’s web series. To be able to work till the wee hours doing what I love.

Experimenting with poetry. New creative ventures. New blog followers.

A fun night out in West Hollywood. Random Monday night adventures. Finding the neat Hookah lounge at 3am when we weren’t ready to go home. For uber getting us home safely.

Just a few haikus.

commissary king
nineteen year old warrior
longs for warm embrace

letters slowly fade
future more bleak than the past
bars clank shut again

Plain, white everything.
I fear they forget my name.
Solitary tears.

past darkens future
chaplain arrives with message
slow search for solace

under the oak tree
family and mystery
distant memories

sipping vodka crans
drinking all the nerves away
good morning, stranger

gratitude - with photos!

MAY 2014.

The lingering energy from NYC. Making it to class (being disciplined) and giving my all even though I was exhausted from the trip. My mom coming into town for my birthday. :)

All the birthday wishes. Birthday flowers from my soul sister, Courtney. Beach walk with my beautiful mom. Having my younger bro in town for my birthday. Dinner at my favorite neighborhood spot.image

For a short Saturday class while family is in town. Beach stroll with the brother. Relaxing with the fam. Cheers marathons with fam - both drinks and the show. :)

Just having my family around even if we aren’t saying or doing anything. Catching up on missed sleep.

Being able to show them some of the world I’m living in. Beach excursion to Paradise Cove. Tasty cocktails and gelato. Being able to offer advice given to me from our dad to my brother (whether he takes it or not)- “Sometimes, you have to do what makes you happy and quit worrying about making everyone else happy.”

A night out with my mom- "You know, Mom, if you were you and I was me in the 80’s together, I’m sure we would have been friends and had fun together."

Eavesdropping on TEXAS conversations. Financing the short film. Finding an apartment with Lauren.

Two words: grocery delivery. The free coffee bean upgrade from the friendly barista. For being on the other side of the casting schtick.

Getting the official approval from the new apartment. Warm weather. Finding a buyer for my fridge.

My wonderful classmates & all of their diverse personalities. So grateful for new roommate, Lauren.

Meaningful, intelligent conversations.  Goofy, light conversations. Comfortable silence.

The year spent in my cozy little beach studio. A new neighborhood to explore. Saving money on rent.

A killer workout at Circuit Works. Walking back to the new place and finding “Kristin Jackson” etched into the sidewalk. Taking the detail as a good sign since Kristin is my name and Jackson is the main character’s name in my novel.

Great rehearsal with our director. Sushi & sake nights. The bittersweet goodbye to my studio. The smile as I reminisce on all the fond memories. A good sleep with the sound of the ocean crashing in.

A new beginning. MOVERS. The beautiful writing oasis at the new place. For being taken out of the city for a moment when looking at the greenery.

Seeing through all of the stress as shoot approaches. When my flight doesn’t get cancelled. Communication from airlines when a flight does get cancelled.

The sound of birds chirping in the south. The slowness & simplicity. How Alexandria may be the only airport I’ve been to that you can park in the pick up driveway.

Any excuse to wear my cowboy boots. How fashion in the south is cowboy boots & pajama pants. Luke Bryan concert. Abundant laughter.

Production problem solved. Feeling comfortable with a last minute re-cast. The lesson to listen to my intuition sooner.

Meeting new people. Smooth sailing on the short film. Laughter on set. The great crew. The meaningful texts from my close friends from home saying how proud they are of me. (Thank you Amy, Jared, & Kristen for the continuous support and encouragement!)

The whole process of creating - from visualization to actualization. For having such a great partner throughout this entire process - Tahmina!

An AMAZING shoot in Malibu. Spontaneous ideas on set. Spotting the whale and seal in the ocean. On the drive home after we wrapped, I had a longing to tell my dad about this amazing experience… So, I’m grateful for the calm, serene feeling that immediately washed over me as if he already knew and was with me in that moment. image

The Serenade

“Feel free. Let loose. Leave all problems with the checked coats at the door,” her lips mouthed as her eyes scanned the dilapidated sign on the exposed brick wall, the same sign she read every day over the last year.

She descended the steps two at a time until the seedy, underground New York City music joint embraced her. The sexy guitarist welcomed her with a steel string solo, the sound of home.

While her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she followed the faint, familiar scent of sweat and booze to her reserved spot in the back of the grungy venue. She nestled in the corner booth with the company of her favorite libation. Each sip warmed her soul and eased the pain. She glanced at the oversized, hand me down watch and wondered how she’d feel when the moment arrived. Would she remember? Would it ever come?

A beauty tiptoed to the bar in heels like a tipsy little doe learning to walk. She smiled at the doe’s feigned gracefulness and felt the familiarity in her awkwardness. Her scan of the bar crowd slowed when she spotted the passionate kiss that broke the bickering lover’s disagreement, or at least for the night.

An older gentleman sipped on aged scotch before he motioned the awkward little doe to his table. And as she tiptoed over with a giggle to say hello and negotiate business, his left handed ornament slipped into his pocket.

The rhythmic drum beat stirred a memory of an old friend to the surface. Her friend roamed the globe, staying and departing in hearts and cities for as long as they welcomed or for however long she so desired. For every increase of the tempo, the name lingered on her tongue. The name would come to her eventually, she thought, usually happened when no attempts were made to retrieve it from that proverbial tip. Unless… she failed to recall at all during this embarkment on yet another year of age.

She tilted her head in recollection and tapped her fingers on the table in impatience. She jerked to, sat up sharp straight in the booth, and remembered the last time she saw her - the spring before the disease stole daddy. Now, if only she recalled her name.

 “Kate, front and center, girl….” announced the lead singer.

Startled, she placed her head in her hands before sipping on a swig of the whiskey to numb the nerves built from all the eyes gazing in her direction. She eased her way through the crowd to the front of the stage. Kate sighed and crossed her arms before she glanced up to the stage.


“Have a seat, honey,” he said. He gestured to a small circular table before continuing,“Happy Birthday. This one’s for you.”

She fought the tears forming as he sang to her with his own little soulful rendition of a Bruno Mars song. “Oh, you know, you know, you know…. I’d never ask you to change. If perfect’s what you’re searching for, then just stay the same. So don’t even bother asking if you look okay. You know I’ll say…. When I see your face, there’s not a thing that I would change. Cause you’re amazing. Just the way you are.”

And in that blissful moment when he finished the song staring straight into her eyes, he returned the light to them and helped her remember. She knew the name of her friend. She felt it in her core. Happiness.

Living The Grateful Life - April 2014

I absolutely love making the monthly gratitude list. By taking awareness of my life experiences (good, bad, ugly, big, small) and finding the beauty or gratitude for each one has exponentially increased the quality of my life. (And, if you read this, Ruth, thank you so much for inspiring me to do this.) So, here’s April..

Being able to prank at least one of my siblings on April Fools. (Thanks, T!) Having such varied, amazing siblings.

The enthusiastic thank you I received from Courtney, “The flowers made my week.” For how sentimental my mom is - “crying over deleted texts.” A great, long overdue (and much needed) conversation with a (former) love. Vulnerability. Love, in general.

The nicest neighborhood bartender, ever. His stories. His advice. His sexiness.

From reading yesterday’s gratitude thoughts, I’m grateful I don’t have a hangover.

The flashback to my first experience of California living in 2010 while having lunch at Aroma. Grateful for all of the experiences that led me to living here today.

The honest advice to Tahmina and I on for our short film. Just being immersed in a creative project.

Confirmation of mom and brother being with me to celebrate my birthday in May. To be able to share with CT his first California experience.

Setting my alarm to wake up with Lenny Kravitz’s ‘American Woman’ and getting out of bed feeling like a badass.

When people don’t take up seats at the airport with their purses. For when I’m consulted on collaborative projects versus just having decisions made. Flights with no crying babies.

How cowboy hats always take me home. When I overhear kind conversations and people. For the military man who asked me if I was a supermodel on a day when I felt blah and needed a compliment. But, more so, I’m grateful for his military service.

For waking up and wondering if last night was real. Bonding sessionswith friends until the wee hours with no reservations. A fun rendition of “war.” For putting our “boobs on.” “Calling a spade a spade.” For all these little inside jokes that only two other people in the world will understand.

Making it through a year of life without my father. The 24 years I had with him. All the little reminders of him around me. Just…having had him as my father.

Osho insights. “Courage - The Joy of Living Dangerously.” Cute palm reading session. For laughing so much that tears came to my eyes.

Writing accountability partner. Establishing writing schedule. Receiving writing registration documentation. Every Kickstarter donation for our short film. Moms text - “I believe in you.”

Travel. Blues city. Witnessing kind acts such as the young man who helped an older lady stow her carry on luggage. Friendly southerners. The South.

Laughing so hard it hurts. Jay’s witty remarks. Amazing food in Memphis.

Coming out of the food coma. Even though kids can be cute, I’m so grateful when they aren’t sitting behind me on a plane constantly pushing my seat…and patience. Having patience.

Cool, Hollywood industry dinners. An inside peak at some behind the scenes action and conversation. Daydreams of when I’ll be going to Cannes.

After four days of being sick, I’m grateful for my health. Having completed the day’s writing goal by 10am.

Interesting conversation with a stranger on the plane ride. Non-turbulent flights. NYC!!!! The hilarious couple/critics sitting next to Tahmina and I at our first dinner who “whispered” all of our choices. (“They ordered the steak tartare..” “That just didn’t sound appealing to me.” “They ordered the chocolate tart.” “I don’t know, I like desserts to be fruity.”) Finding the tiny blues bar in the village.

Being mistaken for a local. A night of amazing theatre. Seeing Denzel Washington perform in A Raisin in the Sun. Being so moved to the point of tears. Feeling the passion in the performance. Leaving the play inspired and reinvigorated.

Seeing a matinee of the great play, Of Mice and Men. Hilarious comedy show at Comedy Cellar. VILLAGE UNDERGROUND’S LIVE MUSIC. The new found confidence to dance like nobody’s watching when alone on the dance floor and everyone’s watching. Sooo grateful to the house band’s lead singer who serenaded me for my birthday w/ a soulful rendition of “Just The Way You Are.” For feeling comfortable to just be me. A night of pure happiness.

For the people who have shared their life experiences with me - journeys full of unbelievable difficulty that broke my heart. Being humbled by the stories.

Tags: gratitude

I ❤️ NY

I ❤️ NY

Exploring Blues City #memphis #soulfood #blues #travels

Exploring Blues City #memphis #soulfood #blues #travels

And the gratitude continues…

March 2014:

My first table read. For being happy to the point of tears.

Hearty laughs and fun at work with Marry, F*ck, Kill.  Oscar Sunday. The beautiful 12+ year friendship I have with Kristen. (And the many years, experiences, and laughs to come!)

Surviving my first year of living in LA through all of the ups and downs. For strength when faced with adversity. The old songs that remind me of growing up. Lunch with old, familiar friends.

The cool Stone brewery tour in Escondido. Novel progression & light bulb idea moments. Peaceful beach walks.

A surprise Friday night off. Movie date with Tahmina to see the new Wes Anderson flick. My new phone and number. A fresh start.

Longer, sunshine filled days. Skype session with mom. Receiving her flight confirmation for a longer visit in May. My younger brother asking if he can visit when mom is here. (YES!!!)

Gorgeous, sunny days. Fun night out with classmates. Old school karaoke songs. Photo booth fun.

A free week pass for yoga. Yoga class with Tahmina. The humor in our side glances and smiles during some of the difficult poses in class. Surviving the advanced level class.

My great acting teachers. The exciting next step/new information of the Meisner technique. Being able to work with Mariah.

Inspiration. The short film coming together. Being involved in all aspects of the project.

For the earthquake…making me realize how much I’m not in control of.

The peaceful feeling that washed over me as I smelled some honeysuckle on a walk. Yummy tacos and margaritas. A night of dancing and celebrating St. Patty’s Day.

Lunch with Tahmina. Outdoor writing session at the lovely little Beverly Canon Garden. For putting the finishing touches on our short film script. To move into the next phase of the production.

Deciding on a title for the short film. Novel writing class and guidance. Weekly Nashville sessions.

Selfies from my mom. Productivity - days when I feel like I kicked ass. For Tahmina lending me a great play to read. Netflix DVD rentals. (Because lets face it… The movies available to stream aren’t always great.)

Passion projects. Trips to the library. Finding and checking out books I normally wouldn’t have. (Thank you, library card!) How a simple tense change creates a different voice.

A writing session that lasted until the wee morning hours. My sleep eye mask for allowing me to get a few hours past sunrise. “Tuesdays with Morrie.” Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing - bringing out my inner rock goddess. ;)

FaceTime sessions with friends from home. The cute little boutique hotel in Soho. UPCOMING NYC TRIP!

Feeling glamorous, getting dressed up. Amazing dinner at Boa. The amazing view from Soho House. Not falling in my heels on the steep inclines after a couple of cocktails.

Punctuality. Having a chance to relax by a pool in Westwood between classes. Experimenting in classes.

For the 24 hour clinic nearby when I had an allergic reaction. For the steroid pills that made the swelling decrease. For the doctor and me being able to see the humor in my puffy lips - “So many people in LA would pay for this,” she said.

To be able to send flowers to a couple of friends for no reason. For having those special people in my life.

Receiving mail and packages. Random amazon orders - the bright t-shirt, “No one likes a shady beach.” :) ‘Saving the Cat’ screenwriting book. And Tom’s SLS-free toothpaste. Yep, love Amazon Prime.

A night of theatre. Surprise Book of Mormon tickets.

Grom gelato in Malibu. Lovely birthday dinner for Tahmina. Meeting new creative people.

Tags: gratitude

Writing is Rewriting…

    I woke on my last full day in prison and stared at the cemented ceiling, the last day of my programmed routine. While heating water on the hot pot for my first cup of instant coffee for the day, I wasn’t sure how to take it all in. A moment I longed for the past six years was finally actualizing. The vision of me walking beyond the barbed wire was the only one that got me through the painful silence on so many of those lonely nights when I felt as if my life was passing me by. The lights clicked off at night, but my mind raced, daydreaming about the time when I would press the play button on my life again.
     Choosing a Little Debbie package of donuts from my pile of commissary, I chuckled about how the six miniature donuts were so many things over the years. Chocolate birthday cake. Warm, fresh baked pie. Donuts from the little shop I used to visit as a kid. I sat on the lower bunk in my cell and flipped through a photo album. I smiled at the familiar faces in the pages I would soon see again. The memories of the real world came flooding in. I shook my head and told my cellie, “I never want to come back here, bro.”
    “Do right then. That’s the only way,” he said, pausing between pushups.
    I nodded and took off my white muscle shirt to rewet it in the sink. I wrung out the excess water and threw it back on. The coolness allowed for a brief relief from the heat on the scorching Texas day. No air conditioning on the unit, I sure wasn’t going to miss that.
    After opening a worn paperback book to read, I stared at the same page for a few minutes, but quickly closed it because I couldn’t seem to concentrate on the words. The lines kept running together. My mind raced, forming my own stories- the stories I would actually be creating, experiencing, and living in once more. My thoughts overlapped with excitement as I hopped from opportunity to opportunity. I’d be able to dance, kiss, fuck. Fuck again. I jumped up and down in actual excitement. I stopped when I thought of how much time my cellie had left.
     I opened the leather journal that served as my sole solace over the past six years and began to write.
    “A year passed without acquiring any major disciplinary cases, and the Texas Parole Board finally granted my release. Having accumulated thirty-five cases during the first five years of my stretch influenced their perception and allowed them to deem the lack of violence a feat. I stood before a panel of members and demonstrated what they believed to be a changed man. Shit, I remember pleading with my mother, actually thinking she or a connection through my family could release me from this hell. I begged her to get me out of prison following a riot that erupted after only a month at the rockin’ French Robertson Unit. I held no gang affiliations, but I immediately recognized the alliance held within my own race. The adrenaline and fear broke that black man’s jaw. My feet may have pounded his head into the concrete, but I wasn’t only fighting him. I was fighting every man in the unit to prove myself. I converted the scared 19 year old boy to the warrior I deemed necessary for survival. It was as if my internal instincts of fight or flight kicked in, and the flight option was completely removed. The razor wire fences bordering the unit and tower guards with guns ensured that.

     I wrote so hard in that letter home, cramping my hand as it bolded the ink with emphasis. I can still hear the sharpening of their shank in the segregation cell next to me, screaming death threats at me as the blade slid up and down the concrete wall, “White boy. We gon’ get you. Just wait.” I shivered as I imagined all they would do to me.

                    Save me, mama.
     Medical prescribed Depakote after my mother insisted upon psychological testing. Life is an emotional roller coaster. I learned being bipolar was like taking the ride without a seat belt. I noticed an improvement in my moods after I quit tonguing the pills. The meds calmed the outbursts or at least muzzled the rage. With the desire to fight removed from the surface, I found I could monitor my reactions a little easier and bite my tongue despite being disrespected by the guards or other inmates. Drugs got me in, and drugs got me out.”
     Frustrated, I scratched the pen on the notebook until the blue ink became a big blur on the white, lined page. Angry at myself for having put myself in the situation, I tried to remember that even though I couldn’t get back the years in prison, I could move forward.
    “206 top, visit,” said a guard over the intercom system. I closed my journal and hopped down from the bunk. I sauntered through the unit to the visitation area after passing a kite for my cellie down the line. For the first time in six years, I had an energetic charge in my step like I was going somewhere. I didn’t recognize the feeling immediately, but I realized it was what it felt like to be a man instead of penned cattle. After I passed through the strip out, I checked in with Ms. Pike, the female guard at the visitation desk. She was the friendliest guard despite her tough appearance. She proudly wore a bald head after the year’s battle with breast cancer.
     “How are the treatments, Ms. Pike?” I asked.
    “I’m gonna make it, Summers. Until I don’t, which we all don’t. But, I’ll tell ya what, though. I sure am going to miss seeing you around this place. But don’t you dare think about coming back, you hear me?”
    Her weathered face wrinkled up into a stern, grandmotherly look. I smiled as she pointed in the direction of my designated picnic table.
     My mom stood as I reached the table.
     “You little shit,” she said as she hugged my neck.
    “Surprise,” I said with a big grin.
    “I thought you weren’t eligible for contact visits, Jackson,” she continued, holding my hand as if it were the last time, “I thought I was seeing things when that lady wrote 2hrs, C on that little slip of paper. I think my hands even started to shake.”

     “Let’s just say your baby boy has been on his best behavior. There’s something I want to tell you.” She leaned in closer, waiting for my answer with her green, hopeful eyes. They bulged a little as my tease built in the silence. “Well, I had my parole hearing last week and— .”
    Before I answered her, I glanced around the room and nodded a hello to a buddy of mine whose son bounced on his lap. I sighed.
    “Oh, Jackson…”
     I interrupted her, “They decided that I can come home.”
     “Now isn’t the time for humor, babe,” she said.

     “Mom, I’m serious. I get to come home.”
    “Jackson Paul.”
    The tears fell from our eyes as we shared the moment. I didn’t wipe mine away because I didn’t care who saw me being vulnerable anymore. I would break this damn wall I had built up over the years, brick by brick. It would tumble down. I was out of the hell hole and never going back.
    At the dreadful five minute mark of our visit, we said our goodbyes and the pain of the separation began to set in. Not matter how good a visit was, the end always left a cold impression on the soul. I had to remind myself our next reunion would be on the outside and I wouldn’t be alone much longer. I looked to my friend when I heard the awful wailing. My friend’s toddler son cried as his mom carried him to the exit with his little arms stretched out for his father. It could be worse, I thought.


     I drove along Highway 259, guided my car along the s-shaped curves of the road and tried to steer my thoughts in the right direction. The silence beneath the twinkling stars spoke to me, resonated with something deep in my core. The sky, like life on a good day, offered limitless possibilities. Looking up almost seemed to press pause as it brought my world back to balance when it felt off-kilter. My world seemed off-kilter at that moment. I was on the brink of change - college graduation. The idea of a monotonous nine to five bored me, but so did the thought of staying in Tyler, Texas. I wanted to burn rubber leaving the small East Texas town. I was ready for an adventure with the one person I could seem to understand in this world, myself. And hell, sometimes I wasn’t even that clear.
      A dilapidated green sign read Broken Bow, Oklahoma, where I would camp for the night. I passed by the Indian casino with full intentions of real camping, with a tent and bug spray, the whole nine. I traced the winding familiar gravel road up the mountain to my family’s favorite campsite— the same spot where my mother and father honeymooned after their shotgun wedding, the same spot where I was no doubt conceived.

      I parked between the trees where we would normally string line for the wet clothes to dry. I walked to the edge and while overlooking the water, I saw younger versions of my brother and I fishing. 

      “Will you bait it for me, daddy?” I asked.

      CT chased me around with the worm container while I screamed. And while the cute and pesky raccoons found their way into the igloo cooler.

      I laid a tarp across the ground and began placing stakes in the dirt, but quickly changed my mind after exhaling and seeing my breath take shape in the cold air. Nope, too cold. I decided the weather too unbearable. Instead of shivering myself to sleep, I rented a quaint little cabin—one with a fireplace. A perfect writer’s retreat. A perfect escape from Valentine’s Day, the holiday with a surplus of conversation hearts and chocolate bars to remind the single they were indeed, single.

     Hopping in bed, I stretched across to claim every inch for myself. I woke up after a brief nap, still stretched out like a starfish, but with my love who never disappointed lying across my chest, a book. I opened the book, but paused when the liquor and laptop said hello from on top of the desk.
      I always envisioned myself holed up in a cabin typing feverishly, drinking whiskey while a fire crackled. The fire and whiskey warmed me, but the whiskey failed to pull the words out of me. I moved to the wood grained bar and stared at the blinking cursor on my computer screen.
     “Be quiet,” I said, “There’s no need to yell at me.”
     I traced my finger along the indentations in the wood, circling the patterns over and over. I glanced through the guest registry and read their sentiments, “Thanks for a great stay!”
     I stood to do a few jumping jacks before finally leaving the cursed cabin of creativity. Nothing like a good hike to clear my head. I walked along the trail between the pine trees with pepper spray as my best defense against any creature larger than the raccoons. 

      Afterwards, I grabbed a scarf and walked down to the sand bar swimming area at the lake, one of my favorite places in the world. Tossing my shoes to the side, I walked barefoot in the sand and felt the sand between my toes. I paused to embrace the falling sun and enjoy the bliss of the moment. The purples and oranges blended into the horizon. I smiled, remembering the day my father pulled me behind a ski boat. He pushed the throttle down to increase speed, I yelled, “Don’t sliiiiiiing shoooooooot meeeeeee,” while he flung me across the water and my bikini to my knees. I surfaced, blew the snot and water, smiled, and pulled the bottoms up. Ready to go again, I gave him a thumbs up sign.

     After returning to the cabin, I cooked a healthy dinner to stimulate my words, get the brain juices flowing. The wine seduced me into yet another brief nap and after I woke up, I glanced at my phone and saw a missed call and voice mail from my dad. 

      The tone of his voice in his voice mail created anxiety. Nervous, I almost waited to call him the next morning. After a brief conversation about this year’s past super bowl, my dad said, “Well, I, uh, went to the doctor and they found a couple of, um, tumors in my liver.”

      “What does that mean? Is it…Is it cancer?”

      “Well, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.”
      Stunned, the rest of our conversation faded into muffled noise. I immediately wanted to go home to spend time with my dad. I didn’t have the nerve to ask him if the doctors had given him a time frame, but liver cancer didn’t sound good. That just seemed too delicate of a question to ask. I thought back to the previous Thanksgiving, and the dots began to connect. My dad, a typically reserved man, opened up with stories of his childhood and adventures. How long had he known about this?
      The sunset painted the sky with radiant colors as the world kept moving, but I felt colorblind and stagnate.

Write about a noise - or a silence - that won’t go away.

     As I lay hear in my cell, I stare at the cemented ceiling. I think of the noise, or rather, the quiet sound of air escaping her mouth.
      I used to get so angry that she couldn’t make it through an entire movie without falling asleep. Now, it’s the thing I miss the most. Looking down at her blonde hair nestled in my shoulder. Her arm tossed across my chest. But more than anything, I miss the quiet sound of her breath as she slept. 

Tags: prompt writing