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A Close Friend Committed Suicide Yesterday

January 30, 2008

 

I’m in the saddest of sad moods. Writing even seems a vulgar thing to do, inappropriate because of what happened yesterday. I feel as if a dark cloud of sadness has filled my cell, descended upon my senses. When I breathe I inhale this fog of despair. I can taste it on my tongue, smell its heavy stench. My skin is humid from its moisture. I blink and hold my eyes closed for a second…ten seconds…thirty seconds…a minute—it’s still there…

I thrust my arm sideways in the air, slicing through the cloud, a space opens, it twirls, a sinister ghostly face forms and laughs mockingly in my ear. Since yesterday I’ve been lying to myself, my conscious mind denying it exists, my subconscious twisted, overwhelmed by a deep sadness, fighting this dismal haze, this profound abyss of pain…There are really only two people here who I consider very close personal friends and one of them, Jesus Flores, killed himself yesterday.

He slit his own throat and died in his cell. He died alone in a small, cold cell of steel and concrete on Texas Death Row. 78 cell. F-pod.

I’ve been fighting back tears all yesterday and today, but as I’m writing this I have tears in my eyes. I knew Jesus since the day he got locked up in Harris County jail, about seven years ago. He was arrested, charged, and sentenced for capital murder of a police officer about six months after I got locked up. To understand what type of person Jesus was, it’s necessary to know about his case. Jesus was 18 when he got locked up. The night before his arrest he had an argument with his girlfriend and went out drinking, mixing alcohol with Xanax pills—a very bad combination. I can’t remember all of the details, but something had happened like he came home in the middle of the night and his car was out of gas, so at 5:00 AM he took his sister’s car to go to the store. She woke up and saw her car gone and called the police, thinking it was stolen. A Harris County Deputy Sheriff came and took the police report and then left. As he was going down the street, Jesus was driving back home. He parked in his driveway and the officer stopped his car, pulled out his gun, and ordered Jesus to submit to arrest. Jesus didn’t know what was going on but he got out and put his hands up and asked the officer what the problem was. The deputy approached Jesus and slammed him face-first on the hood of the car. Jesus pulled a gun he had on him and fired one time, hitting the officer in the head. The officer died. Jesus ended up on Death Row.

We talked about his case many times and he always expressed deep remorse for the reactionary, “heat-of-the-moment” murder he committed. He told me he made a stupid mistake, drunk and high off pills. Even though the deputy started slamming him around, Jesus didn’t blame the police officer for what he himself did…

One time, when we were in county jail, I went out to rec early and went to talk to Jesus. You should know that in county jail, rec is a bit different: we’re able to walk right up to other guys’ cells because there’s no rec cage, just rows of cells in a huge room. The doors are electronic and there are two-way speakers inside the cells so the officers can communicate with the prisoners. I was in a cell on the complete opposite side of the room from Jesus, and on this particular day the officers decided to run recs very early, at 6:00 AM. I was the first to go out. Not wanting to wake others up, I slowly opened my door after it was unlocked. I quietly walked out of my cell, down the stairs and over to Jesus’ cell to see if he might be awake.

When I got to his cell door I looked through the small, Plexiglas window.“Jesus, what the hell are you doing?!”Jesus was down on his knees in front of his desk, praying and crying. There was a cross drawn on his wall with the name of the deputy he killed written across it. A newspaper article about the murder including a picture of the deputy was on the desk…

“Jesus, what the hell are you doing?!” At first I didn’t take in the whole scene…

A large percentage, if not the majority, of Mexicans and Mexican Americans are Catholic. For those of you who may not know, a lot of Latino Catholics will make what basically amounts to small little altars to pray in front of. I remember when I was younger, one of my friend’s parents who were Mexican American had a whole wall in their room that was like an altar where the family would pray Catholic prayers. There was a huge portrait of Jesus Christ on the wall surrounded by wooden crosses and other religious iconography. In the center there was a desk with religious candles and statues of the Virgin Mary and things like that. A family member might be sick and someone—or the entire family—would place a picture of them on the desk, light a prayer candle, and pray for them.

Right after I asked Jesus what he was doing, I realized that he was saying a Catholic prayer for the deputy he killed. He had made a homemade altar in his cell. Wiping the tears from his eyes, embarrassed that I saw him in this very private moment, he stood up and come to the door.

“Man, I feel bad about that, you know, about the deputy…”

Jesus and I spent awhile talking about what happened. He told me that he wasn’t some hardcore killer, he had just made a very bad mistake, drunk and high off pills. Even though the officer was slamming him around, he shouldn’t have shot him, that was just his instinctual reaction from being attacked. That’s how he felt…

Jesus was genuinely a good person who just made some bad choices in life, choices that affected him and many others. I’m still trapped in the midst of this dark cloud and it’s hard to write. I just can’t believe Jesus killed himself. I don’t even know what all happened, but I’ll find out more and I’ll write some more soon. One would think that with all the death that has been around me over these years, just one more death—even that of a close friend—wouldn’t bother me all that much. I wish that was the case but it’s not.

From Texas Death Row:

Rob Will

 

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