Life on Death Row
by: Robert Shields

I do not have a clue where I should start, what to say, or how to describe life. Living on the Row means fighting for your life on a daily basis. It is an extremely difficult battle with fear, hopelessness, loneliness, despair, confusion, and anger, especially when you know that there is a powerful machine (Texas), working to kill you.

One of the most difficult things in this tribulation, is not to give in to the incredible pressure and stress that you deal with each day. So much of the Row preys on the mind. They break you down bit by bit, taking everything that makes you a unique individual. They make you nothing more than a number. Then, they degrade and demoralize you until anything seems better. I cannot describe accurately what it is like to give up on life. To keep my sanity, I have keep a tight grip on the world outside these bars. Some people would have you believe that the Death Penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment, but all you have to do is truthfully ask yourself: What would being locked into a 6'x10' cell for years on end, thinking day after day about your own death and how you are going to say goodbye to your loved ones do to you?

That hardcore wall of reality pretty much dictates my attitude now. I doubt I will ever get out of this place. That is not just pessimism. Just look at the statistics on my chance of survival. I hope I am not coming across sounding to negative about my situation because I sincerely do want out of this place. What it boils down to, is that we die their way or our own, that's the only choices we have to make. We know what we are up against and there are no provisions for winning. Either we are led to death like cattle to the slaughter, or we can go down fighting, but there is no option at all left for living!

Everybody has dealt with this rollercoaster we call life, but I am struggling with it right now. I just do not know anymore! I sit here on my bunk and try to sort through the thoughts and emotions that run confusingly through my mind. This is not the first time that I have sat helpless in this cell while someone I have talked with, ate with, argued with, and laughed with, was led off to his death. You would think it gets easier but it does not. You have to learn to adjust to the situation. It is a vital part of surviving adversity (especially this one). Adjusting and taking the necessary steps to stay above the emotional strain. I kind of look at myself as a car. Some people are luxury cars, some sports cars, some family cars, and some are work trucks. Myself, I was a race car. Running at redline and I took a lot of engine damage. You can take dents and dings and even fender benders to be fixed, but sooner or later, you take on so much damage that you just do not run right anymore, or cannot run at all. On days like today, I wonder how much damage I can take before I am totalled out.

I just look at myself and say, "Why did you have to get yourself into such a predicament before you got some sense into that thick skull?" I wish I could get the right angle so that I could kick myself ... HARD!!!