Sometimes I feel like this place is driving me insane. Some of these people around here are really out of control, let me tell you. Is a little bit of peace and quiet too much to ask for?
My next-door neighbor has just flushed his toilet for the 64th time in the past five minutes. What is he doing over there? A guy a few doors down from me has about eight calendars done on a 242-year bid. Right now he is making some kind of weird noise that sounds almost electronic, like something from one of these old Atari games where you have to defend yourself against hostile Martians. He has been playing his “Space Invaders” game for about 45 minutes now. He shows no sign that the game is nearly over. From the end of the tier comes Tejano music so loud that I wonder if someone has not smuggled in a live Mariachi band. Of course, the young gangster downstairs is attempting to outdo them by banging out beats on his cell door to a song that only he can hear.
Next up, we have Sideshow Bob. I’m not really sure why he has earned this title but he doesn’t seem to mind it any. Ol’ Bob spends a large part of his day yelling at himself in the mirror. I’m unsure about what he and his likeness are arguing about. It is pretty hard to understand them when they get worked up. Whatever it is they are fairly serious about it.
The guy that lives across from me is a cowboy. Periodically, throughout the day and night he will yell “Yeee-haw”, for all he is worth. That is how I know. I’m no expert and I have never actually seen him with any cattle but he seems to be genuinely country. I have no reason to doubt his sincerity. I could go on to tell you about the kid who believes he is Hitler or the shyster from Vegas who gives us all a play-by-play run down of all of the current sporting events as he sees them but you probably get the picture.
So I sit and I breathe and I try to drown it out. I try to ignore it. I try to let it all go. I recall a story that I read a few years ago and while the specifics of it escape me the gist of it was this: Once upon a time, a man (it could have been a woman) had developed a routine meditation schedule that he was proud of and that was sure to bring much merit. One day while he was deep into his meditation he was disturbed by someone seeking his advice. Upset at being bothered by this interruption he hastily got up, flung the door open and shouted at the visitor, “What do you want? Can’t you see that I am meditating on loving kindness?!!!” This is so like me. I become so angry at my own inability to stay focused. I am upset at what I consider an intrusion into my quiet time. I want to get up and go to the door and yell, “Shut the @?#!% up!!! Can’t you see that I am trying to save us all from our miserable cyclic existence?!”
But of course I don’t. I look out the glass and I see people. I see people just like me. Oh, we are different in countless ways but we are still the same. Sideshow Bob isn’t the only one fighting with himself. I scream into the mirror of my own mind daily. Just as the lifer is battling his aliens, I too am at war with my emotions. We all daydream at times of being in a better place and of happier days. Maybe the Cowboy is remembering where he is from. Maybe the Chicano is thinking of where he wants to go in the future. They miss their families, their homes. Maybe even their jobs. They miss walking in the grass, looking up into the sky to see the birds flit about. They miss feeling the sun shine down on them on a warm spring day. They feel lonesome and angry. Love and regret. We are all suffering. Not just from confinement but from ignorance. I turn away from the door with a sense of peace. All is the same but somehow it is different. It is still loud but it doesn’t seem quite so noisy.