When I was born, my mother was 15, living in the Ghetto in Detroit. Who was my father? Who knows? Take your pick from the gang she ran with. I never really knew her anyway. She died from an overdose or something when I was about 2. I’m not sure what it was. Who really cares? Abuela took care of me…tried to keep me clean and proper. She sent me to school, took me to church. It even worked…for a while. But fate, destiny, or whatever you wanna call it, you can’t ignore it forever. When she got sick, she couldn’t keep me in anymore, and I wanted to see what “real life” was like. I found out. I started running with the gangs.
Sex, drugs, violence…I loved it. I was so grown up. I was 14.
Maybe I would have ended up like my mother if I hadn’t ripped off the wrong DVD at the Wal-Mart. It said it was the Wu-Tang Clan. I liked their music, so I took it in the bathroom, opened it and put the disk in my pants. When I got it home, I stuck it in the DVD player and cranked it up. What the f*** was this? Some kinda kung fu movie? I pulled it out..it DID say it was the Wu-Tang Clan. But this wasn’t the hip hop/rap group. It was something else…but it was sorta cool. I put it back and watched the rest of it. Yeah, that flying around on wires, chopping people up with swords and chop-sockey stuff. That night, I had the dream. I was one of those guys, hacking up my enemies, deflecting bullets with my bare hands.
Nothing changed, but I had the dream occasionally. And I stole some more DVDs. Bruce Lee stuff, other Kung Fu flicks. They were so cool. One time, while we were fighting some other gang, I…well…I didn’t know what happened. I thought maybe it was some kind of drug flashback. Things changed. I was in one of those movies. But I didn’t have the fancy moves. I couldn’t run up walls. It sucked. I snapped out of it when the cops showed up. Most of us got away. I didn’t.
Assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest…all that crap. It wasn’t my first arrest, but it was the first time I was charged as an adult. It didn’t matter much, but the dumb-a** public defender at least got the charges reduced. I got 6 years, out in 4 with “good behavior”. Good behavior-sure.
They say prison changes people. Yeah, well mosta them never changed the way I did. Thinking on it now, I can remember what really happened, but I also remember the way I saw things. I musta fallen asleep on the bus when they were transferring me from the county lockup to the women’s prison, cuz when I woke up we were almost there. I could see the chain fences and brick walls, but that not what I SAW. What I SAW was some kinda temple, high up on a hill. When they took me in, I guess they found some bugs, cuz they shaved my head before they gave me the orange inmates uniform. But the ritual shaving of the head, and the orange robes of the monks…that was what I was expecting, so there wasn’t anything odd about it to me. They showed me to my cell.
When I woke up again, I was still in my cell – my prison cell. I knew where I was and why, but I also remembered what I had seen, and that I DIDN’T know why. Over the next several months, it happened again a few times. I guess I talked and acted weird when this sh*t happened, cuz they sent me to the prison shrink. But she just thought I was making this up, maybe trying for a new trial with a psycho defense or something. They threw me back into general population.
Things inside really weren’t that different than the street. You could still get drugs, the gangs were still there. And so was the violence. I had to beat down one chick for touching my stuff. That got me sent to solitary for 2 weeks. They told me I had “anger management issues”. No sh*t.
When I got out of solitary, they offered me a chance to join an “aggression management program” they had started. I didn’t know what that meant, but day to day is pretty f**king dull in prison so anything to kill time is good. That’s why so many people go to the church services. To kill time. But I’m not THAT big a hypocrite. So I went to their program. Turned out it was some old Chinese guy teaching Tai-Chi and talking about all this philosophy stuff. It wasn’t gonna change me. But it did.
The “episodes” where I though I was in the temple starting coming more frequently after I entered the program. And almost every “class” I would slip into that illusion. I knew the old Chinese guy was watching me, but I didn’t know if he saw me acting weird, or if he was just an old perv looking for a f**k. Maybe both. One day he took me aside and told me he could feel my Chi. I told him to go f**k himself, no one felt my Chi unless I wanted them to. He explained that the Chi was the life force, the energy. Mine was very strong he said. He wanted to teach me other things. Yep, he was a perv. But that’s not what he tried to teach me over the next few months of classes. The prison also had “enrichment” programs for the inmates. Most were so gay no one went to them. But the old Chinese guy taught a couple of them. Things called Calligraphy and Bonsai. I found out that meant drawing Chinese letters and playing with little trees. More and more I would slip into my “illusion” while doing these things, the old guy seeming to be a Shao-lin master.
I was getting pretty good at the Tai-Chi, and the other stuff. But the old guy seemed to be getting impatient, waiting for something. He told me I had the Chi, but not the control. I checked some books out of the prison library about this stuff. I got into a couple fights, and the Tai-Chi moves came in really handy. I slipped into the illusion easily now during the fights...sometimes I would forget who I was. He told me I had to learn to control my anger, not to let it control me. Whatever.
They show movies in prison. Usually they are sh*t, but sometimes we get a good one. They showed us Star Wars. Not the old ones, but the new ones. I never got into that stuff, it was for losers. But something in the movies was familiar. They were just like the Shao-lin. The robes, the Chi…they called it the Force…the cool fighting moves. And the old “masters” trying to tell the new one what to do. When he was BETTER than they were. Why should he listen to them? All those stupid rules. The emperor guy was right. Release your anger, it makes you stronger. The next time I saw the old guy, I told him. I was ready. He told me I would never be ready. I hit him.
Ok, I tried to hit him. He just…wasn’t there when I did. I didn’t know how, but he reached out and I went flying. He wasn’t hurt at all, but it didn’t matter. I went back to solitary. While I sat there, I entered the illusion again. Only this time, I didn’t come out. I was still me, but I remembered another name too...Li Shen-An. I had her memories too, and she would talk to me, telling me things. Sometimes I thought I could see her. Part of me knew I was really crazy. Part of me knew it was real. For days I meditated in my cell, eating and sleeping little. I would show the Master that I was ready to be a Master myself. I would show them all. When my time was up, they released me back into the general population. Shen-An walked beside me. I only saw the other acolytes in their orange robes. I went out into practice area, as the others saw me walking out into the prison yard. I took a breath, focusing the chi and the anger I had been storing for weeks. Then I released it. I waded through the other acolytes, tearing them like tissue. What happened is hard to describe since I remember it both as I saw it then, and as it really happened. Older brothers tried to stop me as I made my way towards the hall of the temple. The COs came at me, clubs and guns drawn as I entered the kitchen facility. I shattered the weapons with my bare hands, and their projectiles flowed around me without harm. With a Kiai, a great shout, I scattered them like leaves. There was the hallway leading to the exit of the monastery. And there was the great iron cauldron filled with glowing coals, the raised emblems of tiger and dragon on its sides. Shen-An told me I had to carry it to the exit. That would mark me as a master.
I wrapped my arms around the 50 gallon vat sitting on the stove, tonight’s soup boiling inside. I didn’t scream as it burned and scarred my arms. I lifted it and walked down the corridor to the steel loading door. It collapsed under the force of a kick and I walked outside. I threw aside the vat and walked to the fence. I climbed it and the flipped over razor wire. The great cauldron lay shattered against the wall of the temple. The brands of Tiger and Dragon burned into my forearms. Shen-An told me that she would be with me from now on, and vanished. So did the temple, leaving me outside the prison walls as the sirens howled.
I wasn’t just a felon now. I was an ESCAPED felon. But I was different too. The pain from the second and third degree burns on my arms was unbearable. I willed it away…and the burns slowly healed as I focused my Chi into them. I knew they were coming after me, but they couldn't catch me now. Internally, I could use my Chi to heal and do other things. But externally, I was a force of nature. Wrapping myself in a cloak of darkness, I slipped away, stole a motorcycle and headed out. Detroit would be too hot for a while to go home, so I stole a motorcycle and headed west. One of my old posse moved to a place called Magid. Maybe Ill give it a try.