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An old wooden fence in the Arizona desert
Photo by jasony00 on iStock

I feel the chill from the Kingman, Arizona, winter breeze, as it whips stinging, icy lashes across my cheeks. My hands and feet are so cold they feel numb. Above my head, I watch the world paint pictures with the clouds as they dance in the sky. The tranquility it brings me is intoxicating.

When I go outside, all I ever see is what is within the walls of my confinement. Nothing more. I never look beyond the fence line. I never think to. It is as if anything beyond the fence does not exist. As if prison is all there is of my life's boundaries. Like the invisible out-of-bounds in a video game that turns you back around just as you reach it. Or the invisible boundary line that activates a dog’s shock collar as it approaches.

For the next eight years, the world will have nothing to do with me. I'm lost in what can only be described as limbo, a world between worlds. Imprisonment and freedom.

But today, turning away from the clouds, something catches the corner of my eye. A blanket of snow covers the mountain peak in the distance. I've never noticed it before: the mountain, nor the train, nor the wild cow and deer that graze the open lands that surround the complex.

The reality of all my years of incarceration hits me like a ton of bricks. I realize: I never look past the fence line. All that freedom and endless possibilities right in front of me. Why have I never noticed it before? My immaturity. My lack of a vision for the future. Now I can see it, more clearly than ever, and now I have to unlearn all the years of institutionalization, find the strength within myself and believe there is more to life than prison. That there is more to life beyond the fence.

My body is trapped temporarily, but my mind and spirit are forever free. And I've learned that if I want to change the things I look at, first I have to start by changing the way I look at things.

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.

Azhda Enga is a writer incarcerated in Arizona. He is using a pseudonym.