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Snow piles on a chain link fence
Photo by Tim Umphreys on Unsplash

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We didn’t need to see the first snowfall to know it had arrived. An attempt to view the snow through frosted windows would be futile, anyway.

We felt it first: the wind assaulting the sides of the building; a fraction of light entering through barred windows, fading into obscurity, replaced by a veil of darkness; the frigid touch of the concrete beneath our feet; the impotence of our green, withered blankets.

A morning conversation with a corrections officer confirmed our suspicions: It was, in fact, snowing — and in droves. Rarely have I seen the curiosity of so many individuals piqued simultaneously over the same event.

It was snowing for the first time since winter began and, for me, the first time since being incarcerated. Alongside six other inmates, I trudged into the recreation yard. Our “rec yard” is more of a rec room, a 25-by-25-foot concrete enclosure with a single basketball rim (a torn and battered net protruding underneath) and a pull-up bar.

The only outside access comes by walking from a large, garage door-like window located on a wall stationed roughly 8 feet off the ground. When the silver panel lifts, at the officer’s discretion, it reveals an opening in the wall, framing the sky and adjacent street in small metal cross-hatchings.

Through this barred window, we could see the snow cascading from the clouds.

Because of the height of this window, we were forced to stare straight up to catch a glimpse. And we did, with reckless abandon, letting the singular flakes melt into our stripes.

We didn’t care about the cold. We just let snowflakes hit our faces. The wind bellowed its locomotive symphony, the air wisped and shifted, constantly beating against the side of the prison.

Simply knowing that we were experiencing the same snowstorm as our families outside the walls sparked a sense of togetherness, of familiarity. In such a moment, you’re there with them, through the storm, through the clouds. You’re there thinking about what they’re doing under their blankets, wondering if they’re warm enough, if they got dressed to go out, if they’re safe, if they’re making a hot beverage or, luck willing, if they’re wondering the same things about you.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Preston J. is a writer incarcerated in Pennsylvania. He uses a pseudonym.