Pandemic Correspondence

Pandemic Correspondence

A letter from a fellow writer, incarcerated, and reaching out.

“Good morning. Day 31 of our quarantine. They finally asked for volunteers to take the Covid test. Out of 105 inmates, 69 took the test. The results, horrific — 32 people positive.

“Our unit now resembles an abandoned city. We have 42 empty bunks. I have managed to avoid the virus, I would guess from luck than any other reason. I do take every precaution to avoid being exposed, which has helped. Now that most of the sick people have left the unit, I have a good chance of not catching the virus. Although there are still some knuckleheads that are hiding their symptoms. Selfish as they are, putting the remainder of us at risk.

“I can tell you there is a lot of animosity and tension on the unit. I think this prison is not handling this well. We now have the highest numbers of infected inmates in the state. Why they do not ask for volunteers to take the test on all the units is a mystery to me. I think they don’t want to be red-faced at being the least successful institution in the state at containing this thing.

“If all goes well, we will be back at work in ten days. Highly unlikely.

“This entire pandemic and the way it has affected me, has really opened my eyes to how selfish and ignorant people are. I guess I just was as ignorant believing that since I had changed that everyone else would as well. Foolish me.

“I just think, for me at least, that it comes down to caring about every single person. Which, in fact, is a radical change for me. I will also admit that this belief is a difficult challenge for me, when I encounter so many hateful people. However, we can only be responsible for how we act toward our fellow humans.

“As we speak, I am going through another stage of my life. I am feeling this badgering that I can be a better person. I think that I could be closer to God in my spiritual life. I pray and read something from Him each day but still feel like something is missing. I feel like I’m not all in and I need to be.”

And a more recent note: “One of my co-workers, who was removed from the unit last week, has died of the virus.”

— -Tristan


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Neal Lemery

Author of Building Community, Rural Voices for Hope and Change; Mentoring Boys to Men, Climbing Their Own Mountains; Finding My Muse on Main Street.