Wednesday, July 1, 2015

William Myrl; Letters to No One (12)

Dear No One,
Last night there was a concert, this has never happened before. There is a band room off of the gym, it's about the size of an average living room. I have never been inside. They hold signups once a year for bands. A very clique kind of game; you know who you know. I wrote a request to the rec supervisor to sign up for the concert. I knew about it early because I have a buddy in one of the bands. So we went, plastic chairs arranged at a slight angle in the gym, everyone already there, the band already playing. We were called late, as per usual.
There were two bands, rocky. The first group was a tad disorganized, and it had far too many singers, so many that some of them had to wander around stage when it wasn't their turn. They had two vocalists who didn't play instruments, and two who did. The only person who didn't get to sing his own song was the drummer. The acoustics and the people running the electronics, were not great either. The words were swallowed in the mess.
The second group was more professional and they did two original songs that weren’t terrible. There was a man playing the guitar trying to turn it into an actual concert, head banging and keeping his face in a perpetual state orgasm. He put the instrument behind his head at one point. He was surprisingly proficient, though no one joined in with his antics. After returning to the pod I approached Jark and told him we needed to start a band. It’s something we've talked about humorously before. We often harmonize when we draw. Now he said something to me. "Are you serious about this, champ? Because when Jark starts to do something, he does it." This is mostly braggadocio, but it is true that Jark is the most positively motivated inmate I have encountered besides myself. Now all we need is people who play instruments.
The chairs were used again the next morning for graduation rehearsals. It happens every year. The few classes that are offered inevitably have success stories. We dress them in blue gowns and pretend someone cares, the change this year being my own involvement. Ladies and gentlemen, you are in the presence of a proud, certificate bearing master of business software applications. It was roughly the same as the computer applications class I took in high school, by accident. According to our treatment plans, we have to sign up for school. The options are GED, janitor craft, and roofing and siding, and computers. Once you have taken a vocational course you are not allowed to sign up for another for three years. I am in the clear.
Anyway, graduation. We come to the gym in the morning, get handed a gown, get our name taped to the back of said gown, and take a picture in our garb as a single tassel passes from hat to hat for the photo. For nearly two hours we are there and Eor too. He drones on about what I have forgotten, and I am grateful when we can go back to the pods. The gowns have zippers, like loose and long wind breakers. We are expected back in the afternoon. In the later they go over the ceremony and we write our families’ addresses on envelopes for them to mail the tassels when all is said and done. Another band is in the corner, an R&B thing. They sing an uplifting song, or rather one meant to be so. That is all.
The main event, today, this morning, was a hoot. We all line up outside gym at seven thirty. We circle around so we can gear up. And then wait to go in, and then wait to go in. At 9:10, we go in. We are walking in the order that we practiced the day before. Graduation music is playing in the background, you know the sort I mean. We take our seats, and see the visitors on the other side of the gym. Families were allowed to attend. There are a lot of open seats over there. The principal gives a long talk that no one remembers. It contains all the platitudes you can imagine. It is a show that disgusts me not a little. This is the woman who has lost two out of four of her GED teachers, replacing neither. She has lost her second librarian, and shut down the library until further notice because she will not spare the tiny mote of caloric heat it would require of her to keep it running. She is a woman who is playing a part, giving a speech, making a show for the visitors. I’m not annoyed by this at the time. It required several hours to percolate through the hardboiled leather of my cynicism to where I actually feel feelings. How people say things they don't really mean, while still believing that they mean it, is something that is no longer confusing to me. I still do not like it.
The next speaker was some guy, I think. Then it was the woman who had run the W+L college course, a professor with a long line of credentials. She gives a talk about the limits of using economic metrics to value education for prisoners, though those do favor the exchange as well. She talks about human dignity as being something of infinite value, which is sweet but silly. From all that I have heard of her, she seems to genuinely mean what she says. Her smile upon seeing all the graduates enter rang true. The W&L class would never have happened if not for her earnest efforts to make it so. Two graduates also made words happen, sort of a valedictorian arrangement. One of them was ingenuous, nervous, unpolished, and oddly heartfelt. Jark was next. My dear boy. I told him after that it was exactly the speech their golden boy should have made. I couldn't have made myself say those things. My measureless disdain for their worlds and their ways would have, as a terrible light, shone through. Jark is my friend. I would and have gone rather far out of my way for him, would go yet farther, because there is a fire in him, a wanting so absent in others both within and without this ridiculous place. The value of such a thing is not infinite, of course, but it is quite large.
William Myrl (12)

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