28 November, 2020

The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything Is...

Turning forty-two in prison could've been an invitation for depression. Just as likely, it could've simply passed without fanfare, an otherwise unremarkable Monday in a place renowned for fostering undifferentiated days. Something like a conspiracy unfolded, though. The people I love took steps to make my forty-second special. They made not only the day great but the week as well.

Goodness began trickling in last week, with the first of the birthday cards and a bizarre video on my tablet. Those colorful greetings came from all over, from neighboring states and countries on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean alike, all of them wishing me good cheer, good health, and, of course, impending freedom. Each card I opened brought a smile, so very appreciated. In the middle of one night, I awoke to several envelopes slid across the floor by the door. I had gone to sleep assuming that a guard delivered Friday's mail without me noticing. That hadn't been the case. (Like most things here, mail delivery times are wildly inconsistent.) Curious, but not wanting to wake Jeff with the crinkling of paper at 2:30 in the morning, I had to be content with stacking the mail on my footlocker and waiting until closer to sunup before opening my little trove.

Then, on Friday my Amazon wish list shortened with a single visit to the prison's property room. I left work early and crossed the yard, expecting to pick up a book; the officer brought out a small stack instead. I suddenly found myself at my allowed limit. As I've said many times before, this is a nice problem to have.

"Don't make any plans for dinner Saturday," said Luke, apparently eager to add "personal chef" to the descriptors I already have for him – neighbor, work supervisor, Buddhist services facilitator, friend. "I'm making lasagna and garlic bread. Happy early birthday."

He spent hours prepping. Near the end, I watched him carry a stack of bowls full of sausage to the microwave, what must've been six pounds of meat. My friend went all out. He presented me with a casserole-dish-sized Tupperware container full of the end product, plus two garlic-dusted bagels, for Jeff and me to share. Normally I get a food visit from my mother and friends. COVID-19 prevented that this year. But my early-birthday lasagna made for a good-enough substitute. Afterward, stuffed almost to the max, Jeff and I concluded the feast with some Little Debbie Star Crunches.

The mood that I met Monday with was one of quiet pleasure. Contentment. This is forty-two, I thought at my reflection above the sink. Not too shabby.

"I didn't get you anything," Jeff said by way of good morning, "But happy birthday." This sentiment from my cellmate, who usually just frowns on birthday celebrations, was cool. Maybe we can consider it progress.

At work I just loafed. My three coworkers offered me a free day, to let me just sit at my desk and watch whatever I wanted at the computer. I'm now nearly through all of David Lynch's Twin Peaks: The Return. Since I accepted that I'd never get answers after the original run ended, being so close to them now, twenty-five years after I first saw the series, is a uniquely fulfilling gift indeed.

Later, once I came back to the house, I made phone calls, read a bit, and began making thank-yous for the many people who made the day extra special – because what better way to celebrate the anniversary of my birth than by appreciating everyone who contributes to this precious life?

1 comment:

Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.