In the morning I found out that a former cellmate I was close to has returned to the prison. In prison, the bond between cellmates can sometimes become closer than brothers, especially when both men have life sentences and they have turned their lives around. When that's the case, conversations can go really deep because they revolve around healing, setting things right, and growing into the full stature of a man. We spoke about divorces, fractured family relationships, dysfunctional family members, deaths, past mistakes, regrets and remorse, and the pain of being misunderstood, of being associated with prisoner stereotypes. In prison, I've found I can't have those conversations with too many people.
When such a friend transfers out or goes home, you try to keep in touch. And when providence brings that friend back into the same institution with you, it feels like a reunion, even when you haven't seen the guy yet. I was smiling.
In the evening my smile diminished when I heard that Pablo from Panama had been privately dealing with bad news. I see Pablo at least three times a day. We often walk to breakfast and dinner together. He lives two cells away. Over the past five years we've played chess together and talked on countless occasions. We've been in some of the same self-help groups. I see him regularly in church. At Mass he is often called upon to be a reader, which speaks to how well most people in here think of him.
It came as no surprise last summer when the Parole Board found him suitable and set a date for him. But in California, that's not the end of it. The Parole Board still has 120 days to change its mind, and after that the Governor has another 30 days to say "no."
In January the Governor said "no." I see why Pablo didn't feel like talking about it, but I wish he had said something so I could've tried to console him. I found out about Pablo's cross from another brother who goes to church with us. He said Pablo filed an appeal and it's going through the court now. It goes without saying that Pablo is not getting his hopes up. He is cautiously guarding his emotions, because it wasn't too long ago when he had the rug pulled out from under him.