Prison Stopover – Part 2

In 2016, Colin McGregor changed penitentiaries. After 23 years in medium security he was moved to Laval. Before going to his new prison he was sent to the Regional Reception Centre in St-Anne-des-Plaines, a compulsory waystation for all transferees going down the security scale.

An inmate can spend several weeks at this place, which also serves to evaluate those who have recently been convicted of crimes, to gauge their needs and their security level.  

By Colin McGregor

In his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus, a Nobel prize-winning French author born in Algeria, argues that an absence of hope for the future can make you truly happy.

You live only for the present. The future can never disappoint.

Life never fits the idea we have of it. It never lives up to your expectations. Art, rap, music and education all tell us how life should be. But in the end, the world is just absurd. Accept this and you can begin to live. Refuse to accept it, and you’ll never be truly alive.

In ancient India, the shortest unit of measurement of time was the kshanta, corresponding to a moment of thought, a mind-moment. A snapping of the fingers takes to 64 kshantas.

Each moment is distinct. We imagine they’re linked, from which we get our notion of past and future. But they really aren’t. We’re always in the here and now. That’s what Buddhists believe, which is maybe why they always seem so much less stressed than everyone else.    

It’s okay to live in the present. But if you’re a dynamic prison inmate in your early 20s, full of energy, and you’re contemplating the walls of the Regional Reception Centre thinking this is all you’ll see for a number of years because of one horrible act…

Night falls, and we have access to the outside yard. I get up from my cot and go outside to walk around. Behind the barbed wire sits a well-tilled farmer’s field, growing green and beige crops wet from an afternoon rainfall. Beyond the field, airplanes are taking off at regular intervals.

I hear a faint rumbling. Soon, a triangle of Christmas tree coloured lights climbs slowly into the skies headed away. A light left turn between the Moon and Venus and these planes are off to who knows where. I imagine they are on their way to Europe.

My father was a travel agent, so I know that in the evening, planes leave Montreal for places like Charles-de-Gaulle and Heathrow airports. They get there by morning European time to minimize jet lag. From my prison yard I imagine myself aboard one of those planes, as I have been in my life. Worrying about currency exchange rates and where I’m going to work.

A past full of tiny moments I failed to appreciate at the time. You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.  

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