October 1, 1995

Column 7

I'm back - at least until this ribbon runs out. I couldn't write for a couple of months because my spare typewriter ribbons had disappeared. I traded a book of stamps for a half-full ribbon, so hopefully it will be enough to type this out. Ribbons are hard to get and I don't know how long it will be until I can get some new ones . . . especially since I don't have the money to buy new ones at the moment. I'll write as often as I can, or when I can.

I wanted to talk a little about friendship. When I was in the real world, the concept of friendship tended to be a bit ambiguous to me, except for a few exceptions. There were dozens of people that I considered to be friends, but the people that I considered being close friends, I could count on one hand.

The old adage of not knowing who your friends are until you need them is never more true then when you go to prison, even more so when you are put on Death Row. It was a real eye opener for me after I was arrested, people that I considered my friends seemed like they couldn't distance themselves from me quick enough. Many of them I didn't really expect much from. Others who I had shared special times with and had moments that are special never even bothered to send me a postcard to wish me well and to offer words of support to let me know that they hoped that I would come out of this mess okay. That was a bit painful for me, especially since I had assumed that they would know that I was not the sort of person to do what I was accused of. The fact that I had been there for a few of them when they were going through difficult times made it even more disappointing for me when they gave me the cold shoulder. That was when I first fully understood the American phenomena of the friendship of convenience. That was a real learning experience for me.

On the other hand, I also learned that I am a very fortunate person. Those of my friends that I considered to be close were all there for me except for one of them. The ones that were there tried to help to what extent that they were able. Unfortunately, over a period of more than 10 years a couple of them have cut me loose as well, I consider myself very lucky to still have the friends that have hung in there. It hasn't been easy for them and I know that my situation has caused a lot of pain for them also.

At the risk of sounding maudlin, I don't know what I would have done without these friends. It is rather humbling for me when I think of all that these people have gone though for me. It hasn't been easy for them and I suspect that there isn't a Hallmark card that would express the gratitude and love that I feel for these people.

Late at night, when it is a little quieter here on the Row, I will lie here in the dark and think of my friends. I replay the good times that we have had, over and over in my mind. I wonder what is going on in their lives now, if they are happy, and if they think about me. With the ones that cut me loose when I needed them, I wonder what they would say if I was able to ask them why they turned their backs on me when I needed them most. To the friends that have been there for me, I wonder how I could ever make them understand how sorry I am that they have had to be exposed to this madness and the pain that they've had to endure in the process. How could I ever thank them for their love and support? That is one of the strange things about lying in the dark and wondering about things, you become good at wondering how to come up with a way to express what you feel or think.

Finally, I wonder what I will say to these friends that have stuck by me all this time when and if the time comes for my execution. Once in a while, when I am lying here in the dark, I will try and compose a last letter to these friends of mine. In the letters that I compose to each of them, I try to find words to tell them what is in my heart, things I say that will help them to deal with my death, and how I don't want them hurting because of it. It's not pleasant to think about, but I think that they deserve at least that much after all that they have been through because of this. I am usually an optimist, but I am also a realist and have to look at all of the possibilities. So trying to compose a letter to friends is something that I've got to think about in case the state kills me.

I have also made a few friends since I've been in here. Friends out in the real world, that is. I have met some of them in person, but most of them are strictly friends via the mail. When I meet them, they understand what my fate could be and offer a lot of support. Over the years, the ones that wrote out of curiosity tend to weed themselves out, but the ones that hang in there tend to be above average people as far as emotional and mental strength is concerned. I draw a lot of their strength and it helps me cope with the bullshit when it gets exceptionally bad at times. Ironically, most of the people that stick it out are from overseas. I guess that people in other countries don't have the bloodlust that Americans have. Sometimes it amazes me just how much love and compassion these people have in their hearts, especially for a person that they have never met in person. I explain to them about the American attitudes towards people in prison in general, and on Death Row in particular, and it just blows their minds. Our form of justice is something that is incomprehensible to them and a couple have even suggested that I embellish what I tell them about our courts, cops, and prisons. They don't seem to fully comprehend that there isn't any need for me to embellish what I tell them, the truth is more then adequate.

As for friendships with others on Death Row, I don't have any people that I would consider friends. I tend to keep to myself for one thing, but in the past I have had a couple of guys that I'd consider friends, One of them was stabbed to death by another inmate, the other one I lost contact with. There are guys here that do develop friendships, but I don't have any desire to do so. I do have acquaintances that I like a lot, but I prefer to keep it like that. Somehow, the idea of developing a friendship with someone that may one day be led off to the gas chamber doesn't appeal to me. It's easier to just keep everyone else here on the row at arms length.

Well, I have babbled on for long enough . . . and I didn't run out of ribbon in the process. Hopefully it won't be as long until I can talk to you again.