This is the seventh story in Pain of the Prison System, a series proudly presented by Narratively, written by high school students for POPS the Club – a nonprofit dedicated to providing a safe space for high schoolers whose lives have been impacted by incarceration.

I awake on my parents’ bed. I am swept from a deep sleep by a conversation between my mother and father. I crack open my eyes to see my father rushing to pull on his clothes and my mother sitting motionless on the bed, a frantic tone in her voice.


Due to my drowsiness I can’t decipher what they are saying. My father flees the room. My mother remains inert. I stay still, trying to comprehend the situation.

Soon I hear noises coming from outside of our house. I leap from the bed and hurry to the window. When I peek out I see a man dressed in all black pointing an M-16.

I have seen guys like this before on TV, chasing bad guys. But the sight of a pointed weapon just feet away fills me with fear. And it freezes me.

My mother shouts and pulls me away from the window.

I hear the guy with the automatic weapon shout, “Come out with your hands up. We have him in custody.”

I think, “Who’s him?” And, “Who are they talking about?”

My mother holds my sister’s hand and leaves the house. I look over our driveway and I see the person I love so much, the “him in custody,” with a look of sadness and terror on his face.

That image is burned inside my brain. I am unable to erase it, though I’ve tried. That one frozen image carried with it the promise of a massive and inexplicable change that was on the way.

Often I look back and examine that image. That frozen moment in time. And yet it changes as I grow older and mature.

Now, at seventeen, a senior in high school, a good student, a star football player, I ask: Was it all for the good? What if I had chosen the same path, the wrong path my father took? What if the same gangs and drugs that took my father away had taken me to similar places, to a similar fate?

I feel as if I am meant to make a difference. To break the chain. To follow a better path.

Although these thoughts roam freely in my mind, I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to grow up with a father beside me.

* * *

Maynor Galletan is a just-legal adult who’s been acting like one for a long time.

Vinnie Neuberg is Narratively’s Illustrations Editor and an illustrator working in New York.