By David C. Taylor
If you read my post "Straight from the Inside Out," then you know about Alberto and the reason that I am in prison for the crime of conspiracy.
You also know that I want to share my unique perspective. I am four years into my 10-year sentence, but for now, I will just give you a taste of the first 12 months. When you're first arrested by the FBI, they put you in a orange jump suit and lock you up in a maximum security holding facility. This prison is a 23-hours-a-day lock-down. You’re in with every kind of criminal you can imagine: child molesters, killers, violent felons of all types, from all over the world.
The United States Justice Department told me that in my case they’d be asking for 25 years to life. I was angry, outraged, and terrified. At the age of 54, 25 years is basically a life sentence. My whole world now depended on Alberto, and if he was willing to wear a wire for the FBI. He wasn’t. Alberto fled. They locked me up. Suddenly, each day was demoralizing and left me emptier than the last.
There’s no telling how one will react to life in prison, until that cell door slams shut and the locking mechanism hits home, leaving you alone in a 6'x10' steel box.
Here is what I did.
I got down on my knees and begged like a pagan wanting entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven. I summoned every God above: Jesus, God, Allah, Buddha, anyone who’d listen, and pleaded, "Show me the way out!" Give me a miracle, give me...deliverance, give me…SOMETHING!
But nothing immediately came to me.
After a while, I got angry and defiant. Okay, King-Karma lets get this over with. Give me your best shot. You once hit me in the face with a Chevy Van and it didn't kill me. YOU gave me this life, so show me how to live with it.
Still nothing! I got nothing back, but the haunting sound of human suffering from the other 23 cells in that 10,000 square foot fish bowl in which we all dwelled.
As the days crept by, my anxiety increased. Sleepless nights followed. More supplication. More deals: "Lord, I am tired of prison, I am tired of living like some old blues song. Give me deliverance from prison and I promise redemption."
HA! Nice try, mere mortal...
There is a private, internal world inside all of us that has no connection with the world outside.
That’s where I go when I’m scared or feeling alone. At that point, I was cornered, completely on my own, with nowhere to turn. So I went inward. And in that place I found, hiding in a dark corner, a deep desire to write, starting with a book about my exploits smuggling undocumented immigrants into the U.S. There are always at least two sides to every story, and that experience was so multifaceted that it added up to a story that everyone needs to hear…especially in today’s political climate.
Plus, it was back in the 90’s when my life was years of crazy good times and a montage of wild characters. Returning to that time gave me a temporary reprieve from the hellhole I was in.
When I think about it now, I had all the words piled up like a million boulders on the edge of a cliff, with no clue how to let them loose...afraid to even try.
My biggest problem that I faced was doing time. I don't know which is harder: the utter nothingness of prison or the eminent threat of existing forever in that nothingness.
So one night I’m talking to the cosmos in my darkened cell; you know, just to hear a sound, even if it was just my own voice. And this time the cosmos talked back!
King-Karma looked me straight in the eye, stomped his big ol' God boot on the steel floor of my cell and shook loose the boulders. As they came to a stop at the bottom of the proverbial hill, He said to me, "Now son, run down there and arrange those boulders into your story. Listen to me carefully, Dave, deliverance does not mean literal freedom...not for you, my son. Your deliverance goes much deeper."
NEVER QUESTION AN ANSWERED PRAYER!
That night, in my mind, I ran hell-bent for leather down to the bottom of that proverbial hill and started arranging those boulders into piles that resembled chapters of a book that would tell the story I was destined to write.
I awoke the very next morning with a feeling of purpose, supported by a vision of the content and possible ideas. No training how to write, but that didn’t matter. Because now I was delivered from daily abject terror. Deliverance came to me in the form of pencil and paper, and suddenly it didn’t matter where I was on the planet.
In maximum lock-up sixteen hours a day, I used that time to think, read, and sleep. The eight hours I was out of my cell I sat at a plastic table and wrote the story of “The "Jacumba Connection."
Amid killers, cartel drug dealers, and some of the scariest people imaginable, writing delivered me in so many ways I cannot list them all.
You are allowed to mail home only 80 pages at a time. That first 80 pages home was a glorious victory for me. You can take my freedom, Uncle Sam, but you may not touch my redemption. My personal liberation.
This is not the end of the tale, it is just the beginning. At the end of that first 12 months, my mother mailed the raw and ragged manuscript to her friend, Stacy Dymalski, who was in the business of storytelling. Stacy saw the minor miracle of my story in the telling, and we began a journey that has enriched my life beyond imagination, there is so much more to tell you.
And I plan to.
That is why this blog exists, so that I can explain how sharing your story (be it through poetry, music, painting, writing) can bring you deliverance no matter where you are.
Angelica (my muse) must always have the last word.
She says I had the cards the whole time, but always folded and walked away from the table, leaving behind the winning hand. However, now I’m back in the game for the win with four aces: my muse, my mentor, my mom and me.