Letter #37 from UPIII



Recieved 27th Sepetember 2018

JVA Köln, 3rd September 2018

Dear comrades and friends,

I don't even remember when I last sent an open letter, so I thought that maybe I should write one today.

My thought process for the last month has been something like this: 

Todays's tasks - nope.  Tomorrow's tasks - nope. Next week's tasks ah damn. This month? I really need to get on top of things...

I've been trying to keep on top of replying to letters but about a week (maybe it was two, time feels different in prison) ago I accidentally mixed up my "to write to" and "sent reply" piles because I dropped them. It was a mess.

Some of the letters I remember replying to but some I'm not sure if I did or not so. I'm super sorry if you get a letter from me replying to an old letter of yours! I just couldn't remember if I wrote or not. It will probably take a while to reach you anyway, I'm so exhausted lately it often takes a day or two for me to write one letter.

If you haven't got a reply yet I am so sorry!

I love all this letters coming through and I am so thankful for all of them. They mean more to me than I can express, thank you.

Some people asked what is/ isn't getting through so I'll just make a quick list of what I can remember.

Not allowed/ confiscated ("dangerous items"):

Pens, pencils, cress seeds, sash, erasers.

What is allowed/ I can receive:

Books, stickers, zines, origami, sticky notes, pamphlets, glitter sticks, seashells, necklases, flowers, collages, rocks, sand, dirt, exercise books of German lessons, colourful paper and envelopes, photos, pictures, ripped magazines, prisoner information booklets, issues of Slingshot and Bite Back (it seems you can probably get creative with zime content if you feeled inclined to do so), handkerchiefs, hair ties, memory games, card games, leaves, feathers, pop up cards of pirate ships, general glitter bits, letters covered in smelly stuff (garlic oil, pine oil, crusty mud), paintings; pre used postcards, "a sense of freedom and hope", guitar lessons…

I can't even remember what else.

If it hasn't bounced back to you and its not in the "confiscated" list I've probably received it.

Oh, and driftwood. Anyone feel like trying to send me enough sticks to build a tree to occupy? Maybe if someone also feels inclined, I'd be very interested to see, if live plant cuttings could get through.

The biggest issue is they're probably going to take two weeks to get to me (most letters arrive ten to fourteen days after the sent date).

Not to be an ass or anything, but let's see what can get through to me.

Get creative, I love unexpected surprises. Then at least you can all get ready to bombard post control if some other UP's join me. If I can get it, they should be able to as well. I'll write a better list and send it in October.

(We will not be forgotten, we will not be silenced!)

With October looming closer, I've been trying to get together  a rough prison survival guide. Its shitty getting here and not knowing what is going on or what to expect (especially if you can't speak/ understand German). I'll send it as soon as I can.

Not much is new with me. I don't go to Umschluss or Freistunde any more so I spend most days chilling alone in my cell. People here are exhausting. It's easier/ better for me.

I'm going to write about this properly in the hadhazard "welcome to your own personal hell"*guide, (*UPIII's remark on top of the page: if anyone has any questions about prison please send them, I'll answer them as best I can.) but being alone has both good and bad parts:

Good parts (short version)

* I'm very good at dealing with my emotions and have learnt to break bad thought patterns/ habits
* I have a real sense of who I am now
* I feel more at peace with myself than I ever have before.

Bad parts (short version)

* Conversations longer than ten/ fifteen minutes burn me out if I have to talk (I'd rather just listen)
* I've never wanted to hug so badly in my life

If I do some math (my ability to do mental math has improved a lot, but that's probably because I can't just grab a calculator and don't always have a pen or/and some paper), this is how much "alone time" I get per week:

One week (7 days x 24 hours/ day) = 168 hours
German lessons (- 3 hours/ week), visit (-1/2 hour visit, - 1 1/2 hour wait time), showers (- 1 hour/ week), staff visit (- 1 hour/ week).
168 hours - 7 hours (outside cell) = 161 hours (time per week I spend alone in the cell which is the entire day Friday/ Saturday/ Sunday).

Sometimes I think about this, and how prisons (and other places) use isolation as torture tactic. How everyone says to avoid isolation as much as possible, how it is "so damaging to both mental/ physical health" (I'ld love to read some studies about this).

I don't feel like my one hundred and sixty one hours are this image of isolation though.

Sure, I'm on my own, but I have a TV, I read, I learn German, I attempt to reply letters, I reread letters.

It's not true isolation for me. If I didn't have any of these things, it would certainly be far more annoying to be alone (I can't comment on "hard" or "difficult", I haven't been without these things so I don't know how it would feel) but I guess I'd make do. 

I did in Aachen jail. I did yoga and thought up stories. The time is going to pass anyway, I may as well try to enjoy/ make the most of the nothingness.

Obviously it's not always good. I notice I feel up/ down more (but this may be because I am now so aware of what I am feeling), because I can't just talk to someone if something is bothering me. If I read something that interests me, I can't discuss it with anyone. 

Sometimes I just want someone to ask me how I am or what's on my mind.

But no one does, or can, every day.

I only have me.

I have to be there for me, because no one else can be.

I have to be strong enough to put up with and deals with my own shit.

If I have a nightmare, I have to comfort myself.

I can't call anyone, I can't ask someone to sit and listen.

All I have is me.

If I cry, I have to tell myself "it's okay" and try and make myself feel it.

The only hand I can hold is my own.

If I'm sick in the middle of the night I have to help myself. Boil the kettle for a hot water bottle. Press the palms of my hands to my face, try and hold my head together when it feels like it's going to explode. No guard will help me or give me painkillers after the final door lock of the day.

All I can do is cry to myself and hope the pain goes away. Learn the hard way to hoard paracetamol or ibuprofen. So can help myself. All I have is me.

And I don't want to talk about this stuff in visits.

I don't want to say I spent the previous night curled up with chills and a fever which is why I'm so tired. That I had to spend the whole night repeating "it's going to be okay, it'll be morning soon".

Or that I felt so absolutely deprived of human contact that I hugged myself to sleep.

Or that these visits matter so fucking much to me because it is the only physical contact I get each week. Or any number of other things that I must deal with myself because all I have is me.

I don't want to play pass the parcel with these things. I don't want to go to visits and be, in the words of a friend, a sad sack of shit.

I'm not always sad here, it comes and goes, but I am never so aware of how much I miss kind, considerate, relateable and open minded human contact than I am in visits.

To be able to sit next to someone who genuinely wonders how I am and isn't going to shut me down if I say I'm not okay.

To have someone rub my shoulder and say I get it, I understand.

I feel greedy in visits when I reach out to hold a hand or touch an arm.

Just a little more contact, please, I miss just this so fucking much my heart hurts.

I'm sorry I'm being needy, or, at least, I feel needy for doing this, for reaching out. I hope it's not too much.

Sometimes I back off. I feel like I ask too much to just hold a hand. I feel greedy even getting visits, when I know so many people don't. At least people come to see me, that should be enough.

Half an hour is not enough time. Not because I want to talk, but because I want to listen. Are my visitors going okay? Do they feel bad for saying, if the aren't okay? Do they worry about saying they've had a shitty week in front of me? Do they feel they can't talk about what is really on their mind, because there isn't enough time? I wonder and I worry about them. I wish I could help.

Then, the visit  ends. Hug, hug, thank you. See you next week.

Back to the waiting room with the puke coloured walls. Then to the Haus, to the cell, to my desert or my island or my pirate ship or whatever. Usually I curl up on the bed for a while, hold on to the feelings of warmth and care as long as possible. When I feel them slip through my hands like smoke I grab a book and try to get lost in the story. Sometimes we need fantasy to escape reality.

Don't get me wrong, I deal with my issues, but "after visits" aren't an easy time. It's like getting a glimpse of the outside, the real world, and then having it ripped away. Visits are the reminder of the temporary nature of my current existence.

I can explain this best with German words.

Leben = to live, to be alive ("I am alive")
Wohnen = to stay, a place of home ("I stay in a flat")
Bleiben = to exist, to remain ("I exist on the earth")

(So "Hambi bleibt" can be translated as Hambi stays or remains.) Of course, I may be wrong, this is just the difference that was explained to me by a German teacher.

But let me continue with this for my explanation anyway. If I am wrong, please let me know.

Ich wohne in der (sic) Forst = I stay in the forest.
Ich bleibe in Gefängnis (sic) = I exist in prison.
Ich lebe hier, für jetzt = I live here, for now (I hope that's right.)

Prison is an existence. It is not a place to stay, it is not a home. I am spending months of my life in a place that feels neither here or there. I feel outside of time and space. Time passes, but it doesn't feel like time. Simply exist. I am.

It is already September, what happened in August?

There's a book I''m reading that mentions the Ancient Greek perspective of time, that you look to the past as the future creeps up on you. I imagine this as a waterfall. If you stand underneath one, you can watch the present flow past an become the past. You can't see what is coming from above - the future -  but you can make an educated guess based on the past you can see. It's not exactly accurate but it's the best you've got to predict what is about to fall on your head. And, for me, that's another one hundred and six days of all I have is me.

Someone made the assumption that it is harder for me to be here because I don't see the outside world, not really. I disagree with this assumption.

It's harder to miss what I can't see. I barely remember what it is like not to be here now. On the way back from the trial I thought "I really should appreciate what I'm seeing, this is my last view of the real world for the next four months." If I could see the realness of the outside world every day, I think it would be far worse. Very literally watching the world leave me behind. This is easier, better even. My little island outside of time and space.

Despite all the negativity in this letter, I really am okay (most of the time). And if I'm not, I get up and fucking deal with it. Am I going to be okay all the time? Hell no. I wasn't even okay most of  the time when I wasn't in prison. If live was a box of chocolates, most of mine have been chocolate covered Sultanas, which actually weren't chocolate covered Sultanas at all, because someone thought it would be amusing to how I'd react if they were actually rabbit shit.

Prison is just another bit of rabbit shit. Admittedly, it's a lot bigger bit of shit, but whatever. After a while you just get up and keep swinging. When life gives you shit, turn it into compost and plant seeds. Develop an edge, a sharpness, that's harder than the hard. Use it to plough the ground. Even concrete can be broken by weeds and a chisel.

Allow the hardships to grow you. And then, when and if you can catch a break, look back at what you've been through and smile at the things you once thought would break you into pieces. So small you wouldn't know where to start looking for yourself again. You survived. You came out on top. You can to this.

You have survived 100% of your worst days. You have battled, and you have won.

There are battles ahead, fights to come. but just keep swinging and be stronger than the bullshit and the hard.

We are fighting an uphill battle. It's never going to be easy. We have to be strong, to be fighters, and keep swinging and getting up and bouncing back. If we don't keep dreaming, keep believing, keep trying to save our little pockets of the world, who will? The fucking state? The law? The same law that imprisoned me? The falsehood of justice I don't know if we will win all, or any, of our struggles in the end. It's easier to be a pessimist, to detach, to say "well, we always knew this day would come."

But we really don't know. We can only guess what is over the waterfall, and the past doesn't always reflect what will happen in the future.

And that is enough for me to mash up and print my middle fingers at the state. I am being robbed of nine months of my life, this is fuck personal now.

I am harder than the hard.
And I will not be silenced.
Knock me down and I will get up.
Tell me the easy way or the hard way 
And I will give you option three.
Lock me in a shoebox cell 
And I will sharpen my mind like a blade.
I have survived such brutal storms
They make prison feel like light rain.
Yet somehow, the system thinks this will break me?
It ain't going to happen, my beliefs are stronger than the pain, 'cause ...

There are dark times ahead, dear comrades, keep your heads up, hearts soft and spirits BRAVE.

I can't wait to come home, sending love, energy, rage, hugs (if you want them) and see you all again.


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