Have you read The Prisoner’s Wife by Asha Bandele? Have you heard a Ted Talk by Shaka Senghor or have you seen his interview on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday? When you read that book, or listened to that podcast did you think “she’s crazy” or “he deserves to rot in there.” Be honest, did you think that? Would you have thought that if he was your brother, or your son? What would you have said if Asha Bandele was your sister or your aunt?
Two years ago, I would have agreed, she is crazy and he is a monster. But last year my phone rang, I thought it was a monster. I thought it was some sad, troubled and violent man who I once knew as an all right guy. Not overly educated, liked to party and convicted of manslaughter. I answered the phone because he was a mutual friend, because he had previously written me a letter, because I felt I was doing my part, my community service. I really answered the phone because I liked the attention. I liked the thought he was choosing to use his 50 cents to call me, not his mom or his aunt or his ex, but me. I know how that sounds, but it doesn’t matter now because I answered the phone and I kept answering and I will continue to answer until this nightmare is over.
You see, my fiance is not a monster. He is a beautiful, confident, kind and compassionate man. He is hilarious, insightful, and so so smart. He is also incarcerated, and will be for at least the next three years, and I will wait. I won’t just wait silently though. My wait will be loud, there will be letters and appeals and lawyers and visits and phone calls to the warden. My wait will be supported by friends and frowned on by family. I made this choice and I choose to wait.
A few weeks ago my mother said “Never in a million years would I have guessed my daughter would be dating a prisoner.” This is possibly one of the first statements she’s made about my relationship that I actually agree with. Never in a million years. Unfortunately, like she also says, life is what happens when you make other plans. This certainly was not my plan. I’ve made a new plan now, and the plan consists of this ridiculously handsome six foot five inmate that somehow captured my interest and made me fall in love with him all over a phone call. I am not naive though, life will continue to happen and we will adapt and modify our plan. For now, I like this plan. It’s a plan full of love and present happiness and looking optimistically into the future.
Oh, and if you’re still wondering if this chick is crazy. I’m not, trust me.
“And even though so many people have asked me if I have lost my mind, if I am lonely, or desperate. Even though so many people have wondered if I was having a crisis, or determined that I was just going through a phase, I will continue loving the man I am loving. I will love him even though he’s got an ugly past, skeletons, and sorrow. Even though he doesn’t have a great job or position or power, and even though he’s a prisoner at a maximum-security correctional facility, which my husband, Rashid, is, I will continue loving him.”
– Asha Bandele (The Prisoner’s Wife, 2000)