I Sleep With One Eye Open
Letters From An Inmate To His Fifth-Grade Teacher (Non-fiction / 73,000 words)
"What if a 5th-grade teacher received a letter from a former Latino student and that student went to prison at age thirteen with 23 felony convictions. The student was in an isolation cell between Sirhan Sirhan and Charlie Manson. What if the teacher and the student played chess for years (the teacher taught the student in fifth-grade) through the mail (one letter = one move) and finally the teacher visited the student in level 4 maximum security in Salinas Valley State Prison. The student was in chains and behind bullet proof glass. They used phones. The student was/is a Norteño gang member. How does a thirteen-year old go to prison? I Sleep With One Eye Open is their account of his life and the teacher’s attempt to help. This is not a story of excuses, but a sobering account of what we as a nation face. (A Latino kid, his teacher, loyalty, gangs, desperation, celebrities, violence, prison, chess, social justice, and hope.)"
Excerpt - page 1
Hey, how you been? How’s the family and the kid doing? I hope everyone is in the best of health and spirits?
Well, Mr. Karrer I’ve been back in prison for about two years! I still got like three more to go! Sorry to be writing to you from here. But, hey you always come to mind especially when I defeat my opponents in chess! Are you still playing? I wanted to play you the last time I was out but to tell you the truth I was caught up with girls, work, bills, girls and parole officers!
I was out for four months or so, got married with this one girl, it turned out to be a mistake! Lasted two months caught her messing around. What a trip girls of today. After that happened I went back to my old ways, quit my job at Walmart and quit with my older brother in his gardening and hauling business. And then I just went back to my old negative habits and thinking, parties, one night stands, clubs, and not responding to my parole officer. I had two of them. Gave me a headache every time I went to the bathroom. Seems I had to call them and ask them to unzip my pants.
So I went on a trip. I had places to stay with different girls and all. I had sold two of my cars. I had put the money in the bank and just got prepared to come back. I knew I wasn’t thinking properly too much of the fast life and fast money. I was smoking weed and drinking which I totally quit for two years."