I have an edge
by Trey Xavier
The other day, on the train headed to university where I’m the oldest student in class, a young woman sat in front of me texting so fast I was mesmerized. I hoped she wouldn’t turn around and catch me staring over her shoulder like some old pervert. Anyhow, her texting performance made me think of David Blanes’ street magic – unbelievable!
This young woman was in her early 20s. I thought to myself, ‘she was practically born with a smartphone in her hand.’ It would take me more time than I have left on this planet to learn to do what she was doing. ‘Wow, what a coincidence,’ I thought when the same young woman came and sat near me in class. Of course, she didn’t recognize this “old pervert” who had been a shoulder length away from her for an entire 30-minute train ride. Why? Because people rarely look up from their cell phones, even when walking through busy intersections during rush hour – the ‘woke’ generation.
On your mark, get ready, set, go! That’s the imaginary cadence heard by the formerly incarcerated on the day of liberation. Let the Hunger Games begin. Decades have passed since some of us played. In my case, there are grandchildren I have yet to meet; nieces and nephews who were not born when I was warehoused. Those same ones have graduated from college or are in high school. All their lives I have been merely a faded photo perched upon a mantle, wearing an outdated suit, hairstyle and a look of innocence. For myself and my POW comrades, our spirits were kept alive by our mothers and sisters. “That’s your Uncle Ray Ray or Auntie Nikki.” What could I possibly have to offer those young nieces and nephews? Besides, I’m too busy out here playing catch up.
My former classmates, youngsters who once looked up to me, now own homes and new cars, and are respected members of their community and church. Some, whom I thought of as lames or squares, have retired from the armed forces and are registered gun owners. At times I feel like Fred Flintstone, a prehistoric caricature in this modern world. When I first touched down, I felt I had something to prove. As time passed, I realized I had nothing to prove and everything to offer. I have an unrecognizable edge.
Of course, I don’t have as many followers or likes as that young woman speed-texting on the train. Nevertheless, I know what it’s like to have real relationships with people who have gone into battle by my side and asked questions later. The only kinship with these comrades was the color of our skin or our geographical region. Some of these relationships were developed over a cold bowl of cereal.
I have an edge in these Hunger Games. My senses are so keen, from a darkened cell I’ve known how to determine a correction officer’s sex by the jingle of their keys as they walk the tier.
I have an edge. Civilians out here loosely use the term ‘woke’ because Wikipedia is a fingertip away. Well, I read the paperback versions of, “The Art of War, ” by Sun Tzu and “The 48 Laws of Power,” by Robert Greene, and I have had to apply them in real life and death circumstances.
I have an edge. How many zealots can say they have read the Holy Quran or Bible from cover-to-cover multiple times and have internalized its meaning? No imam or pastor will have me strapping on a bomb or shooting up an abortion clinic.
I have an edge. I’ve overdosed on CNN, Fox News, PBS, 60-Minutes, Dateline and the Discovery Channel. When I speak on history or cast a ballot it’s from a position of knowledge, wisdom and understanding; I won’t be regurgitating miseducation or voting for some draconian legislation designed to set my people back generations like the three strikes law.
When my nieces, nephews or grandchildren get into a debate about their favorite rappers’ lyrical content or beef, and they say: “Let’s go ask Uncle Ray Ray or G Pop, surely he’s cooler than our parents, he’s done time in prison,” my first mission is to debunk the insane notion that going to prison is cool. It’s cruel, cold and lonely. Secondly, rappers are entertainers, much like the WWF wrestlers; most are made-up characters who have staged conflicts. However, there are no referees who care. The conflicts become real, and people die or go to prison.
Now, that’s what I and those like me have to offer. Meet the civilians in this so-called free world where they are. Playing catch-up is a lost cause. Cars and homes will come. A financial consultant explained that no credit was better than bad credit. Discipline is key On The Streets.
Trey Xavier is a writer, San Francisco State University student, by way of Project Rebound, and aspiring filmmaker, who was recently liberated after serving 27 years in California’s Prisoner of War (POW) system. Trey can be reached at: email@example.com.