Everybody celebrates in a different way
Enrique Bautista is an incarcerated person at Snake River Correctional Institution in Eastern Oregon. He is a periodic contributor to Street Roots.
Dec. 22. It is the day after my birthday. I am now 35 years old. I am a 35-year-old man. Wow!
It feels like only yesterday I was just another 18-year-old kid with a chip on his shoulder coming into the system. With 20-something years to serve, mad at the world, full of hate and frustration.
Everything was always the same: my days, weeks and months. Everything was always exactly the same. Every birthday felt just like the one before, probably because they were.
No cake, no presents and hundreds of miles away from home. Just another year down, one less to do and many, many more to go. Or, like the old timers used to say back then, “One year older, one year wiser, one year closer to the gate.” Yeah, whatever. That’s what I used to think.
For a while the years would just pass by uneventfully, right in front of me, one melting into the next. And suddenly what do you know? It was that meaningless 24-hour day again. My birthday.
When I first came to prison, I used to feel as if acknowledging my birthday made me weak. That was probably because I wanted to prepare myself to not be disappointed like a lot of people, and because I guess I wanted to avoid negativity at all cost.
I used to see people being themselves one day, and then next day they were completely different. Quiet. Withdrawn, head down, etc. What’s wrong with him? “Oh, it’s his birthday. No one came to visit!” I used to be like, “Wow, really?”
You can’t be weak in a place like this so I trained myself to not care too much about my birthday or birthdays in general. Not only that, what do you do when you’re in the hole by yourself, in a cell the size of a small closet? There’s nothing you can do!
Anyhow, I am blessed to have full support and love of my family. My wife, my daughter and my mother. They always send me greeting cards, money on my account, letters and well wishes. Ha, even the birthday song if we’re talking on the phone.
To read the full essay by Enrique Bautista, click HERE