Back when I was in prison I used to go out every day and run on the track. It wasn’t so much a track as a well-worn trail around the rec-yard. So one day, after my run, I was walking around the track waiting for count to clear so I could go in and take a shower. I was alone, minding my own business when this guy comes up and starts walking with me. I had talked to him only once before when I mistook him for someone else. I didn’t even know his name. He was white and bald, but not in a skinhead kind of way. (Most whites shave their heads in prison, it’s easier to maintain and since most of the barbers are black it is hard to get a good haircut.) He was an older guy, older than me anyway, probably in his forties, but he had a sort of childlike ignorance about him. We’ll call him Richard.
So this guy, Richard, just starts walking with me and starts talking. We introduce ourselves, sort of, and keep walking. I really want him to go away, but I don’t want to be rude either. So as we walk he starts doing what few people do, tell why he was locked up. I’m not sure why exactly, but most people don’t like to talk about why they are in prison. Especially since most people automatically think that you are a child molester if you say you don’t want to talk about it. Prison rumor is that 60% to 70% of inmates are sex offenders, but I have never checked on that. Anyway, Richard, who has just met me tells me why he was locked up. Long story short he held a gun to an old ladies head and made her perform oral sex on him. He had never had sex with anyone and for some reason he thought this woman wanted him. Well, they locked him up, and eventually they let him out on parole. So what does he do? He goes and gets a gun and finds the same old lady and makes her do it again. He tells me this!
Now if you have read my bio, you probably have a good idea my attitude towards rapists. I am fuming! I want to rip this guy apart, or at the very least walk away. But I remembered a story. St. Francis hated lepers. They really freaked him out. So one day he going along and passes a leper. He keeps as far from him as he could, and hurries past him as quickly as he could. Then he hears Jesus who says something to the effect of, “why are you avoiding me, that was me you just passed.” St. Francis realizes that God is in everyone, even lepers and turns around and hugs the leper. Well rapists and child molesters are my lepers. So I didn’t hit the guy or leave. Instead I talked to him.
Actually, what happened, now that I think about it, was after he finished his story he asked me what I was in for. Very calmly I said, “I killed a rapist.” Richard squealed in a very pathetic way, “Oh my God!” I said, again very calmly, “No, I’m not going to hurt you, but now you have to listen to my story.” So I very methodically tell him my story. About how my girlfriend at the time was molested and beaten for years by her father, how she went to the police who told her that she was not a credible witness while her father was an upstanding citizen, (they actually said that!) and how she called me one night and told me that he had raped her. I told him about going to pick her up and cleaning her. I told him about that look in her eyes, about the shame I could see, and how it broke my heart. Then I went on to explain how it twisted her. How she was so horrified that she would scream every night in her sleep, and how I couldn’t touch her to wake her, because that only made it worse, but had to turn the lights on and say her name. How she became obsessed with killing him, because she could think of no other way to ever be free of him. Then I told him how he did it again. How I watched her become consumed with fear till the girl I loved was no longer there. Finally I told him how I failed her, my family and friends, and myself when I went to her father’s house with a knife.
When I had finished he stopped and turned to me. He said thank you. He said that he had never heard it from the victims point of view. He said he knew I was highly involved with the Church and asked if we could pray together. So out there on a parched prison rec-yard we stood and prayed together, a rapist and a murder of a rapist.
While we were praying count cleared so after we were done we went our separate ways. We never really talked again, our paths just didn’t cross that often, but I will never forget that day on the Polunsky Unit’s dorm rec-yard.