One Safe Place
CHAPTER 1 Prison Blues
“You stole my wife; you took my daughter. So, ol’ friend, I need for you to get my other kids. I don’t care about their mother; I simply need you to get my other kids.” The tone of the voice had the resonance of a public bathroom toilet flushing and sucking the waste away. “You stole my daughter, and raised her as your own, but it’s cool. Go take more of what’s mine, and keep it. I can assume you’ll keep them safe? Until—”
“Take more of yours? Keep it?” Tylowe said. His eyes glanced over at his friend, Psalms Black, who sat looking relaxed, but coiled like a snake ready to strike. Tylowe’s expression seemingly asked, “Did you hear this fool’s belligerence?” Tylowe didn’t expect a response, amazed that his ex-friend, Elliot, was still an arrogant ass despite his circumstances.
Elliot Piste, with the toilet-flushing voice, was an inmate at a correctional facility in British Columbia, Canada. Tylowe Dandridge had married his ex-friend’s wife after he had gone to prison, but first Tylowe had become the principal contributor in putting his former friend in prison. Elliot, the once ultra-handsome black Frenchman originally from Senegal, was Tylowe’s old college classmate. He had a history of treating people whom he should care about ugly, and karma made a bitch out of him from his own ugly ways. Now, years later, Tylowe and Psalms Black, a distant friend of Elliot’s, sat in a visitor’s room across from him.
Tylowe and Psalms had made the trip to Vancouver from Seattle on their motorcycles. Tylowe had a history of crossing the border and having his life changed. It appeared to be no different this time as he sat across from the man he had helped to put in prison.
Elliot and Tylowe were buddy-buddy until Elliot crossed one too many lines. Twice a woman had come between them. The first time, Tylowe had his heart ripped apart after trusting the malicious Elliot. The second time, Tylowe had his heart healed when Elliot ripped a woman’s heart apart. Tylowe saved her, and now she was his wife.
They sat in uncomfortable metal chairs. Elliot sat as if he were sitting in an easy lounger, looking relaxed. He looked at home. He sat sixty-plus pounds heavier than when he had first entered prison. An inactive gut hung low, and man boobs were starting to take over for once-rippling pecs.
In the past, most men were intimidated by his tall, handsome looks. At one time, he looked as though he were wrapped in dark, African silk hide, but now he was cracking like an old alligator shoe. A once-upon-a-time pretty boy now looked pretty ugly.
Tylowe stared at Elliot and thought about Denzel Washington in the movie The Hurricane, the story about an innocent boxer kept in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and being unable to fight as the boxer he was. But, prison never defeated Hurricane’s soul. Elliot had let prison beat him down, and he was unremorseful and polluted with unrepentant bile.
High above any normal ladder height in the visiting room, the windows had rusted. Metal screens crisscrossed, causing filtered dull light to cast dreary sadness. Psalms laughed to himself, and thought, Long prison sentences must equate to slow death of the brain, body, and soul, creeping in like cancer.
When Tylowe and Psalms had first arrived, the sun was shining,
but the clang of metal doors and buzzers must have controlled the weather outside once they were inside. The two men sat across from a cancer and storm.
Elliot tried to hide that Psalms intimidated him as he always had, even in their legendary days of youth. They were always cordial, yet never friends. Psalms reminded him in a voice lower than the lowest piano key.
“So Elliot, Tylowe comes here at your behest, and you mentally masturbate your ego to spew your arrogance in his face? How can you expect this man to do anything for you?”
The tension was so damn thick; a Killer whale would have passed it by even if it tasted like a thousand salmon in one bite. Elliot’s eyes avoided Psalms, keeping Psalms from staring down through his irises and looking for his soul.
Nasty blood had spilled between Psalms and Elliot, and they had kept the story of what happened between the two of them. Tylowe understood something was amiss, but what it was he didn’t know. Elliot was a nasty asshole with no remorse or retention of civility. Tylowe found out that Elliot had slept with one of Tylowe’s girlfriends back in college, and he and Elliot worked it out. Years later though, Elliot crossed the line again and it caused Tylowe a lifetime of hurt.
Elliot had two men sitting in front of him who despised him. He tried to keep a relaxed expression on his face, and spoke directly to Tylowe.
“Look, dude.” Prison vernacular had overtaken his French-American dialect. “You know you’re gonna do it. I can’t blame you for stealing my wife, but you also took my daughter, and she won’t even write me. So go do what you do and play Mr. Hero, and find my other kids.”
Tylowe and Psalms listened to Elliot give the details of the
situation and basic knowledge of the kids he claimed, and about the mother of these kids. The story distressed Tylowe. The thought of his wife and the fact she would find out more about the repulsive life of her ex-husband instigated an internal struggle.
Elliot, the ex-husband! Tylowe felt insecure with the fact he faced for the first time, physically sitting across from Elliot—the man who used to put his manhood between the thighs of Tylowe’s wife. Tylowe twisted in manly pride, and time had not changed the past anxiety when looking at a man who had caused such pain in Tylowe’s life.
Married life. Tylowe was approaching the mid-century age with enough money and plenty of free time and material pleasures. The kids were grown and living their life, no longer in need of his parenting. Did he need this challenge to make him feel manlier? Had a cushy life made him less manly? Most men his age started putting feelers in the water, too often turning to younger women for a sense of danger, hoping a young thang might satisfy a desire. That fulfilled desire kept divorce lawyers in business, as desires make men and women bad liars. Did he need to climb dangerous mountains and risk falling? Tylowe played with the questions of his mind and heart, and it created soul acid burn.
He was an ex-college football and track all-American, but had he gone soft? Looking at the wasteland of a man sitting across from him caused anxiety to bubble under his skin. Why did he bring Psalms, a warrior, along instead of coming alone? Tylowe’s mind skied downhill from Mt. Rainier and right into Lake Washington. He found himself sinking and going nowhere.
Tower of Power’s horn section led the charge to “You’re Still a Young Man” in his motorcycle helmet’s stereo as he traveled to the prison that day. About a year or so ago, he started to question his life as it had become.
His body was fuller, but still toned. He’d lost the six-pack, but he had no hanging belly fat. Salt-and-pepper hairs graced his goatee, but the salt hadn’t taken over yet. Women still made eye contact and pushed an aggressive agenda his way even though most knew he was married.
Meeah, his wife, acted like she loved to love him, but he questioned her true feelings. Why didn’t she look at him like she used to? His mind wavered. He didn’t think he heard sweet, little nothings of endearment anymore. Deep inside he knew she loved him, but to what extent—or was he being simple-minded and self-deluding? Time was messing with his mind.
With the kids grown and gone, were they the perfect married couple, getting up and doing what they did daily out of sheer habit? He sat in his chair with incomplete thoughts, sinking in to mental quicks and concerned about his worth. Elliot had caused disruption and death to Tylowe’s heart before, and now Tylowe wanted to run back across the border.
Now, he sat at odds with why he would want to find Elliot’s kids, the half-brother and half-sister of the stepdaughter he loved as his own, Mia. The two men sat and listened to Elliot talking of saving his kids with a coldness of disconnect mixed with logic and sheer smugness.
Elliot stood and nodded his head toward the exit door. He gave a dismissive motion to leave, and finally looked in Psalms’ direction with a defying stare, as if he felt nothing could happen. Tylowe and Psalms stood.
“Report back to me when you have my kids.” Elliot’s sewer voice flushed more arrogance in Tylowe’s face.
Across the room, a chair leg must have slid on the cement floor with a fair amount of weight in the chair because it made a loud, high-pitched squeal. All heads in the room turned except for
Tylowe’s. Standing directly in front of Elliot, Tylowe punched him in the mouth with such quickness it would resemble Floyd Mayweather knocking out Manny Pacquiao. Elliot started falling in slow motion sideways in Psalms’ direction. Before hitting the ground, Psalms hit him with a left hook in his liver and kidney area. The punch swung like a sword. Elliot crumpled to the floor in a fetal position.
His foot twitched. Vomit drooled from between his bloody lips. He looked dead, but he made snoring sounds. People looked away quickly. The other prisoners told the visiting civilians to mind their own business. The guards came to attention.
“He’ll wake up with a broken jaw, and will piss blood for a while, but he’ll be okay,” Psalms said coolly.
Tylowe slowly slithered a word out of his mouth as if he were writing his name in snow with a long pee. He said a word that no one who’d ever known him would have thought he’d say, “Son-of-a-B-i-t-c-h!”
A female guard walked over. A tough, manly look characterized her face and body. Her body language signaled a fake confidence of being something to behold. Psalms assumed someone had told her that.
Her voice filtered through her nose with some anger. “He must have made an aggressive move, eh, and you two fellows defended yourselves? Eh?” Her questions met with deadpan faces. “Gentlemen, it looks as if your visit is over. Have a lovely day. We’ll make sure your friend here gets back to his cell, after a stop at the infirmary. I understand one of you has a high-ranking U.S. governmental ID. The women prison guards will send you a thank-you card. How about that, eh?”
The guard looked at the two men. She rolled her lips, then pursed
them in an overt attempt to come across as sexy. She failed. She winked. Tylowe and Psalms pierced an analyzing stare at her stupidity. They both turned away and walked toward the exit.
“Popping him in his mouth, that was eight years too late, but still on time,” Tylowe said.
“Whatever the timing, it’s going to be a bitch sitting in prison with his jaw wired shut. Any street cred he had in this place will be challenged, unless he has protection. Oh—and uh—you might wanna brush those pieces of teeth out of your knuckles,” Psalms said, and nodded toward Tylowe’s hand.
Tylowe raised his hand, and saw imbedded teeth in his knuckles. Almost the coolest dude around had lost his suave demeanor by slugging Elliot. His rare burst of anger took over for any pain he should have felt.
“Let’s go get you a tetanus shot,” Psalms said.
After some medical attention to Tylowe’s hand, the two caught the train back across the border, leaving their motorcycles in the basement of a building that used to belong to Elliot, but was now owned by Tylowe.
The headphones over Tylowe’s ears kept the noise of the train out, and song after song played from his favorite band, Incognito. Their groove helped to ease deep thoughts as they glided along the train rails. Near the Canadian-American border, the train crossed over a bridge near an ocean view. It sparkled with sunset reds, causing a trance.
“Deep waters, I’m drowning…deep waters, slowly drowning.”
The song had nothing to do directly with his life, or his current obstacles, but maybe it did. His love, his wife, Meeah, was waiting to pick him up at the train station. She and Tylowe were drifting. He smiled at the blue water with red highlights of sunset and
thought, When love is good it may seem like you’re floating, but when love is struggling, it can be compared to drifting—drifting apart.
He turned the music down on his tablet and used it to write what he still had hope in.
She is not perfect enough in her own mind
She is she, and she is all I want, as she is
But I’m a man with faults and sins
I’m not perfect
Because of what’s inside me, and outside of me and plus things outside my control
I’m too short with this, and I’m too tall with that
I’m too narrow, but on any given day I’m too wide
But when she looks to me, talks to me, and touches me
She makes me all right
Yet I want to give her more
Reason being, she gives understanding that we are in this together to learn and overcome
Her softness is a high that leads me to be better and to do better
To recognize what is in my power and what is not
She holds me up high
Would never tear me down
For that kind of love
I seek ways for her to stay in love, and want to give her reasons to forgive my short comings
Confused at times she may be
Only because at times I can become lost in direction
Her response is soft and guiding, non-judgmental
She is essential to my existence
My soul is in emotional poverty without her
Her faith is challenged at times
Man is always trying to play God
I need her and God to save me
She tells me, I’m all she needs and wants
We are in this world together as one
The train rolled back into Seattle. Tylowe and Psalms agreed to meet in a day or two to devise a plan.
Meeah, Tylowe’s wife—the ex-wife of Elliot Piste—picked them up at the train station. They dropped Psalms off at his property. Tylowe had another issue. She asked about the small bandage on his hand, and he blew it off as nothing, no big deal. He had other problems, yet their marriage—was it in trouble? Problems and their priority was a problem in itself.