“Gautam!” my mother bellowed across her apartment. “I’m calling Troy. Come here.”
I got off my computer and went to the living room, which doubled as her home office. She turned the speakerphone on and left her chair to make dinner.
Gautam: “So when can we visit you again?”
Troy: “Now that the execution has been stayed, you guys can come visit me on November 9th. This visit will be different, though. Just you, your mother, and . . . what did you say your younger sister’s name was again?”
Gautam: “Priya. Martina met Priya a few weeks ago, and mom told her Priya wanted to visit you. Martina said, ‘Just write him a letter and tell him you want to visit him. Trust me, if Troy wants it to happen, it’s gonna happen.’”
Troy: “Right, so you, your mother, and Priya. The visit will be from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, and it’ll just be you three.”
Gautam: “Will there be visitors for other inmates that day?”
Troy: “There might be a few, but I’m actually the only person that has family visiting me every other weekend. They don’t have that. Their families might be uneducated, too old, or just don’t care. Most these guys have been in and out of prison their whole lives, so maybe their families are frustrated with the situation. Most people in prison haven’t ever received love or compassion, so they lose a sense of compassion within themselves. But for those who regain that compassion, who have people who care about them, they strive to be better people. The sad thing is that many families don’t realize the impact they have on their relatives in prison. Those with families who express love, write regularly, and visit often . . . all they think about is how they can help their families. Inmates with family members in their lives become better people. They’re always on their best behavior because they look forward to the next visit. They don’t want to lose their visiting rights. They don’t want to embarrass their family.”
I tried to imagine myself on death row: alone, fighting for survival, condemned to die without even the occasional sight of the ones I loved to console me.
Gautam: “Are they jealous of you?”
Troy: “Within this prison, most of the inmates support me. There are even some guards who secretly support me. What’s really sad is that guards aren’t supposed to express themselves. I can tell that many of the guards are concerned about my situation and believe in my innocence. But they can be fired if they verbally express that.”
Gautam: “Even if they can’t, I’m sure you get many letters from supporters.”
Troy: “I get a flood of letters every day. I read every single one, but it’s hard to not fall behind when there are so many. After we get off the phone I’m going to read my Bible and then open a few more letters. I have between eighty and a hundred letters I haven’t opened yet, but whenever I see your name on a letter, I open it then and there.”