Writing to My Brother in Prison
The letters we write each other keep both of us going.
The letters come about once a month. The business-sized envelopes have the bland uniformity of mass production. The address of the prison is printed in the upper left-hand corner. Below that, my brother writes his name and his Department Identification Number (DIN), in black pen. My address is scribbled on the front of the envelope in a hasty, light handwriting. In the last few months the forever stamps have had streaks of color and “Celebrate!” on top of a black background as if every letter were a transmission of joy.
My brother has spent more of his adulthood in jail than outside and is currently finishing his second term. His first arrest in New York sent him away for three years, his second for another five, and when he is released he will be on parole for 18 months, with the haunting inevitability that he will be in for life after his third strike.