"Shackles on my feet won't let me dance."
~ RJ's Latest Arrival
A man was lying in a hospital bed. Across the room, another man sat near the door in a uniform. Both men were about the same age and build. They could have been blood brothers. Except they weren't. I know they weren't because one of the men was wearing an officer's uniform and a holster around his waist with the kinds of things that you hope officers have just in case something bad happens. And the other man? He was a patient.
But. He was a prisoner, too.
One ankle was chained to the end of the bed every single time I saw him. Every. Single. Time. And whenever I saw him, he seemed harmless enough but no matter how regular things seemed, the sight of that shackle at his foot and the metaphorical leash of his officer Doppelganger made it clear that none of this was regular. It was not.
And you know? Something about seeing grown men cuffed to beds or walking down halls with that prisoner chain-gang shuffle makes me sad. Very, very sad.
But worse was what that prisoner-patient said to me one morning. I had examined him and told him that I'd see him later. Which is pretty much something I say to everyone.
"I'm not going no where. Where am I gon' go?" he said. Then he pulled his ankle against the chain for emphasis. I tried not to wince.
"I more meant that I'd be back to see about you, okay?" This is what I said. I needed to get away from that last statement and gesture.
"Do you know what it feel like to be chained up like a dog to a stake in the ground?" He asked me this. And that guard looked up when he did but didn't say anything.
"No, sir. I don't." And I said that because I meant it. I don't even like it when Harry is tickle torturing me or the kids and holding my wrists together while horsing around. That's as close as I've gotten. "No." I repeated myself.
He looked at me and said, "I hope you never do."
I just stayed quiet.
"You got kids?"
"Yes, sir. I do."
That guard shot him a warning glance. The prisoner-patient met his eyes and then carefully returned to our conversation. "Well," he said, "here's the problem with being chained up here." He yanked his foot back again to show me what he meant. "You can't help but end up chained up here." He tapped the side of his head.
I got what he meant.
"Make sure your boys don't end up chained up."
I nodded my head.
Then he added, "'Cause at some point you ain't never free no matter how many times they unlock you."
Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .