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daniel cox

i kept my eyes open
from the zine viagra nation

"life without possibility of parole."
that phrase echoes in my head, over and over again. it booms down at me, like a god calling to the people below, reminding them of the power that's possessed. i stood in the courtroom that day and looked at the judge. he stared at me as he read the verdict. almost like he didn't care. like he's read that sentence, or a variation of it, so many times that he has forgotten the pain and fear that comes with it. his eyes were cold and his voice seemed to take an eternity to read the words that would change every fiber of my life from that point on. as he read each word, with me standing before him, time stood still in my world.

"life." and the image of me riding on my grandpa's tractor with him floated into my head. i think i was three or four then. so young, full of hope, expectations, joy, life.

"without." my mind sped ahead to the time i struck out to end the game in little league. i wasn't a very good player, so it didn't come as much of a surprise. i was the final player that had not entered the game and according to the league rules, all players on a team had to bat. so the team was stuck and so was i, at the plate, bat in hand and scared. i didn't even swing. four pitches. three strikes. i was out. game over. there was no sense in exerting more energy toward the inevitable than necessary.

"possibility." there i was under the cedar tree in the backyard with julie. i was 15 and it was my first kiss. julie was my first love. i knew her on through high school and over that period we drifted apart, like most people do in high school. i still loved her though. i still think about her occasionally. her pretty smile and the way her eyes would kind of twinkle when she looked at me. her innocence. she liked me -i could tell-, but i couldn't ever get her to admit it. i, on the other hand, never hesitated to remind her we would get married after we graduated. i knew i was hopelessly in love and now, years later, love seems more hopeless than ever.

"just kiss me," she exclaimed, half exasperated and scared, but mostly just full of as much desire as a 15 year old can possess. and so i did as she said. i didn't know what i was doing. i kept my eyes open. i forgot how to breathe. i didn't know what to do with my hands. i was an all-out novice. she later pointed out my faults and told me how i was "supposed" to kiss. i knew she had never kissed anyone either. it was those magazines she read. she got all her "knowledge" from them. she seemed to enjoy making me feel inferior in our kissing exchanges, and i thought it was cute, so i let her continue to tell me what to do.

i thought i'd marry her of course. it was perfect, like a fairy tale. storybook romances usually don't work. i think she married a real estate agent she met in the city while at college. he probably treats her well.

"of parole." the two words came out together, drawing the conclusion of the statement and my drift through time. they called out louder than the others, as if a hammer came down bringing the words with them, causing a pillow of dust to billow up, accompanied with a startling "boom". and with that my future was written.

"life without possibility of parole." it doesn't get any easier to say. believe me, i've said it enough, in hopes that it would. my future was placed in the hands of 12 people, probably with fulfilling and satisfying lives, who will never know me and a cold old man who has ended many lives to decide how i would spend the remainder of mine.

"life without possibility of parole." upon completing that phrase i heard a couple of gasps and whimpers crying out behind me in the courtroom. it was like the ones i heard at my grandfather's funeral. the cries of finality. the cries that come at the point when you realize life is changed and the absence of that person is permanent. the cry of fear dealing with such a reality. it's a cry mixed with anger and the deepest and utmost sadness. i shut my eyes and the two officers walked over to me and led me out of the courtroom. my eyes were still closed as i heard the sound of the steel doors closing and the latch on the lock catch. my eyes opened staring at the steel bars before me. i blinked my eyes quickly, as if trying to wake myself up and convince my body that this was a dream. breathing deeply and rhythmically, i drifted back to the cedar tree.