It was June 16th, 1996, and I was standing outside my cell. It was # 70, building 28, in Dixon Correctional Center. I was an officer in one of the biggest Hispanic street gangs in the world. I had everything I needed, most of what I wanted, and most of all, I had a purpose. I was three days from being released, and I got my pass for B of I (Bureau of Identification): this is the one that everyone with an outdate is waiting for. I am going home, and to be honest, I am sick to death about it. I didn't want to go; I was in a sweet prison, I was home. I was safe, not safe from the elements, but safe from myself. I had a seat at the table, and it felt good; if I am being truthful, the power was intoxicating. I thrived in the dark, but they were going to take that from me again and send me back into the world. I don't belong out there; I'm just another nobody trying to keep the lights on. Being in prison, shit, that was the only time I felt at home!
This would continue for years to come. I would spend my life in more cages and more institutions than I can honestly remember. However, the worst prison I ever spent time in was the one I created. I had locked myself into a world that took all that I was. It wasn't a phase for me like it was for some of the kids in the trailer park I grew up with. This was who I would be for most of my existence. When we moved back to Chicago in 1990, it didn't take me long to realize that the streets were where I would set down roots. I was digging in; I mean, why not? It was good enough for my old man. Out here, I could create an empire, be whoever I wanted to be, and nobody would ever know of the scars that I carried. The scars that I could never outrun. I did everything else I set out to do. I made millions on the streets (shot most of it up). Me and my crew, we changed the boosting game. We were some of the best. If you ask me, I don't think there was anyone better. No matter how much we stole, smoked, or shot up, it was never enough. It was the same thing every day: different stores and cities would change, but the outcome never did. It always led me to be in cuffs, which in turn, gave me the freedom I wanted. I know that sounds backward to most.
However, I was a slave to the streets, the drugs, and trying to escape. I always tell people that the only reason I am alive is because of how much time I have done. When I say that I thrived in the dark, it's because that's where I lived for so long. There's no sunshine inside those prison walls. There's no daylight in the darkness of addiction, and there's a reason it's called the belly of the beast. In the real world, out there amongst the living, I was an outcast. Behind those walls, in those cages, I was at peace. I grew strong, physically and mentally. I educated myself, and not just in the art of prison warfare. I read, I went to school, and I absorbed everything that I could. Somewhere buried deep down, there was this drive like I knew the day would come and I would need it. The day would come when I would no longer be afraid of the light.