I just finished writing a letter to my pen pal. Crazy huh? In this time of advanced technology no one writes letters anymore, but I do.
My pen pal doesn’t have access to a computer. My pen pal doesn’t have access to a lot of things. At this very moment he only has access to a stick of deodorant and writing materials. He won’t even see the sunlight for the next 30 days.
My pen pal is in jail and has been for the past 13 years. The sentence he was given says he will never walk the streets again.
I don’t really remember him at all from when I was little. They called him Pumpkin, I remember that. I also remember being young and watching the news and my Mama saying, “That’s your cousin, he going to jail for a long time.”
When I moved back down to Miami I was at one of my family drunkfests and someone handed me the phone, “That’s your cousin Pumpkin, say Hi.” He had called collect to speak to the family.
“Hi Pumpkin, How are you?” I asked him and cringed.
“I’m good, man. What’s up with you? I heard you graduated college. You got two kids and shit. You doin alright.”
“Yeah, I’m doin alright Pumpkin. I’m glad to be back in Miami round my family. So you and LV (my cousin) keep in touch?”
“Yeah, she writes me sometimes. Not so much anymore. I’m working on getting out. Just a matter of time.”
“Hey, I love to write. I’ll write you if you want.”
“You shittin me?”
“Naw, I really love to write and I will definately write you a few letters.”
“Hold up lemme get something to write your address down.”
I give it to him and less than a week later I get a letter from him.
When we first began writing I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t ask how he was doing, I mean that would sound insensitive. I didn’t wanna brag about how much fun I was having. I didn’t know what to say to him and I wanted to quit writing because it made me uncomfortable. But I didn’t. I didn’t because if for some crazy reason, I was locked up, I would want someone to think of me. I would want to know that someone cared. I would want to be able to taste freedom, even if it is through the eyes of someone else.
So I started sending him stories from my blog. He liked them. I sent him my 101 Things List and asked him to write one of his own. He did- It was great! Something told me to experiment a bit and I started sending him excerpts from other blogs that I thought he would like. I send him stories from Brutha Code and Humanity Critic and he and his “boys” love them and ask for more.
When he writes me, he tells me stories about his children and how he wishes he could be a father to them again. He tells me how a stupid mistake will haunt him for the rest of his life but he is hopeful that he will get out one day.
In his last letter he asked me to send him pictures of women. LOL! Ohhhkayyy! I sent him this pic of Vivica Fox and this pic of Sanaa Lathan and this pic of Alicia Keyes. I don’t know, maybe he was hoping for something different, but I like those three pictures.
The letters I write to him are more difficult to write than anything I’ve ever written. But I won’t let him down. I’ll be there for him, entertaining him with my stories and the crazy stories of others so that maybe, his days will be a little brighter. Maybe he won’t hate himself until the day he dies. I know I can’t do anything to help his situation, but I do know that I can at least send a smile and a little warmth his way.