I scanned the dayroom, paying particular attention to people’s hands, looking for weapons, and to eyes and faces to see attitudes and signs of nervousness.
Incarcerated: 27 years
Housed: Correctional Training Facility, Soledad, CA
Prison is a very dangerous place, especially in the crowded dayroom where we have to wait until the guards unlock our cell doors. So when my five foot, one inch, hundred and ten pound buddy, Cuba suddenly stopped talking and his sight appeared to see through me, I got a bit nervous. We had been talking for about five minutes and everything was fine. He was telling me about a funny incident that had happened at his job in the kitchen, and we were both laughing. I call him Mr. Magoo, he is a naturally funny guy. His strong Cuban accent and bubbly personality made his conversations extremely funny. That day, he made me laugh so hard I impulsively gave him a slight hug for a second or two, before backing up to continue laughing. That’s when I noticed something odd, “What’s wrong, is there a fight behind me?” I asked him. I quickly turned and scanned the people behind me. Everything seemed normal. The place was packed with inmates waiting for the cell to unlock but no fight or signs of any unusual tension. Cuba simply answered, “Nothing.” I still had some laughter to unleash. However, my little friend was still frozen and staring through me. I looked back again. This time searching more intensely just in case the possible danger was aimed at me. I scanned the dayroom, paying particular attention to people’s hands, looking for weapons, and to eyes and faces to see attitudes and signs of nervousness. Still, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, “What’s wrong Cuba?” I asked again. “You’re making me nervous.” “Nothing” he answered, but he would not look at me. He was still staring straight toward the wall. I moved to his left side trying to see what he was seeing. He was in his 60’s, so I wondered if maybe he was having a stroke. I’ve seen people having strokes, and they just freeze and stay silent. So, I asked him, “Are you okay Cuba? Do you feel okay?” He nodded yes, but remained a statue. “Cuba, please! I’m concerned. You’re getting me nervous. Please tell me what’s wrong?” After a few seconds, he looked at me, and in a very soft and broken tone of voice, he said: “Biktor, I’ve been locked-up for over 23 years and this is the first time someone has ever hugged me.” This time, I was the one frozen and speechless. From that day, and until the day he went home a year later, I hugged him every time I saw him.