Saturday, October 29, 2011

Freaking Out

It's Saturday.  Yesterday I sent the forms to the prison that will enable me to visit Lloyd Cork.  As I was filling out the forms I felt a little uncomfortable because they needed my social security number, home address, and maiden name.  I called the prison to ask them whether or not these forms might ever end up being viewed by the prisoner.  They woman on the phone said, "He shouldn't be able to see them."

However, she informed me that my application for visitation would become a part of Cork's permanent prison file.

It dawned on me that since I was already headed out to to mail a letter to Mississippi that I may as well write Cork back.  I received his second letter almost a full month ago.  I grabbed the letter and quickly reread it.

Maybe my mind is completely going.  Maybe I have too much on my plate.  But somehow, the first time I read the letter, I'd missed two or maybe three really inappropriate moments in it.  First, he tells me a story of a time before he went to prison when he met a girl who looked old, then she put her hair down revealing that she was quite young, and then the two of them had sex for a really long time.

Later in the letter he mentions that his pen is running out of ink, then he goes back to talking about my letter, and then says that he lent it to a fellow prisoner.  The way his letter reads, it makes it sound as if he lent my note to a prisoner, not the pen.

Then I got to the end of the letter.  He talks about being so excited that he went "off".

I started to write him back, realized I needed more time to process what I'd just read, grabbed the visitation forms and ran out of the house.  My first stop was to the drive-thru post office, I dropped the visitation forms in the mailbox without giving it a second thought.

Now that I'm sitting alone in my house, the address to which is on its way to a building that houses murderers, I am feeling as though this whole thing needed a lot more thought.  Cork has mentioned in both of his letters that he has a stash of money somewhere.  In his first letter the said that he just needed a nice girl to spend it on.  I think it's crystal clear that Cork wants to do more with me than just talk about Booker Wright.

My instincts, my gut instincts in situations when men make unwanted advances, is to shut them down quickly with clarity and assertiveness.  This situation is made even stickier by the fact that Cork's an imprisoned murderer.  Do I give this whole thing extra weight because I'm the granddaughter of the man Cork is in prison for murdering?  In other words, is he even sicker than I thought because he's willing to reach out sexually to Booker Wright's granddaughter?

Everyone says he's crazy.  I heard this from many people in Greenwood, they all said that he'd gone crazy.  He still denies that he murdered my grandfather even though so many people saw him do it.  So, I know that I won't get the "truth" from him.  This whole time I've just wanted to see his reaction to the question, "Did someone hire you to kill my grandfather?"

To be honest, there is a little theater in all of this.  I'm writing a book and making a movie.  Dramatic moments are critical for both.  I'm really trying to search myself to find out if I'm doing this to "punch up" the drama or if I'm really on a search for answers.  It may be a little of both.

After all these years I am never going to know for certain what the truth is about my grandfather's murder.  I am never going to know if he was regularly harassed by cops or if it only happened a few times.  On some level, visiting Cork is almost ceremonial.  It feels like the next logical step in my search, but I'm not sure that it's an authentic choice for me or if it's a wise choice considering that I do have young children to protect.

What do I mean by an authentic choice?  Since I am so convinced that he's not going to tell me anything significant, there is a part of me that's prepared to let the connection with him go cold.  I have a whole lot of other things to do with my time and going to see him may be a waste of it.  Also, he still denies murdering my grandfather.  Something about that really just doesn't sit well with me.  It feels disrespectful.  It frustrates me.

There was a part of me that was burning to meet him, to look him in the eye. Knowing that he's trying to start some sexual letter writing campaign with me makes me want to throw up.  I don't think his last letter mentioned my grandfather even once.

I am so deeply and utterly conflicted.  He's a sicko.  I live a nice, simple, safe life.  Why am I inviting him into it?  Why am I giving an audience to the man who killed my grandfather and is now talking about sex with his victim's granddaughter?  It would seem that not only does he have no remorse, but he also has no dignity either.

The forms are on their way.  I may need to see if I can stop what I've started.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

He Wrote Back Again and Again

Several weeks ago I received a second letter from Lloyd Cork, the man who murdered my grandfather.  I'd been waiting on a response to my second letter for what felt like an eternity.  I'd started to believe that I wouldn't hear from him.  I even wondered if maybe he'd found my blog and decided that he didn't want to be a part of any of this.

After much waiting and worrying I finally received a second letter from him in early October.  Like before, I was initially really excited to get it, I was still standing in the post office when I tore it open.  There wasn't anything groundbreaking in it.  He talked about how he spends his days and asked again for my phone number so that he could call me.

I haven't written back because my life has been fairly nuts and I didn't want to write back again without having set up a way for him to call me.  Getting an untraceable phone and corresponding number is surprisingly simple, but I also have to create an account with the prison so that he can make the calls from his end.  This is a little more time consuming.

Yesterday I checked my P.O. box because I was expecting something from someone else and there inside was another letter from Cork.  This one contained nothing besides the forms that must be filled out by anyone who plans to visit him.  I've been doing a lot of procrastinating when it comes to Cork, but these forms must be returned within 14 days.

I've set something in motion and now it's game time.  Whenever I tell people that I want to sit down with the man who murdered my grandfather their eyes widen and they ask me why I'd want to do that and if I feel afraid.  I always respond as if it's no big deal and I tell them that I just have a few questions to ask him.

Obviously, it is a big deal.  I've been busy, but I could have gotten the whole phone thing set up weeks ago.  On some level I feel fearful for my safety.  I know that we'll be in a secure situation, but he'll see my face, he'll learn more about me.  What if I slip up and give him information that allows an outside contact of his to find my home, my children?

On some level I know that the odds of this are highly unlikely.  I met his mother and he really comes from a deep, seemingly relentless poverty.  The idea that he would have the resources to get to me or my family from prison is kind of silly.  But it's not impossible.

What if I travel all the way there only to find that he's crazy and he doesn't have a thing to tell me?  What if I ask him whether or not he was hired to kill my grandfather and he says yes?

This entire journey has been full of peaks and valleys.  Today it feels like both.  Like always, I am busy.  But there's a deadline on this form.  I can't hem and haw because the window will close.  I can't ignore this chance because it may not come again.

I was in a car accident the last time I was in Mississippi.  I actually hate talking about it because I drove away from it with only minor injuries and the whole thing turned out to be little more than an inconvenience in the big scheme of things. However, the accident itself lasted a long time and it really did leave me feeling quite shook up.

I'm usually a very confident driver, but since the accident I find myself feeling hesitant about driving in inclement weather.  Several years ago I was talking to my aunt Vera about coming to Mississippi in the winter to visit and to conduct some research into Booker Wright's life.  She was more than happy to pick me up at the airport any time during the year except during the winter months.  She told me that sometimes the roads get ice on them when it's really cold and she was afraid to drive too far from home.

Cork's prison is several hours drive from the nearest airport.  Also, if I'm in Mississippi I'll certainly want to travel to Greenwood to visit family and friends.  If, by the time the forms get approved, Mississippi is unusually cold and the roads are too dangerous to drive on, I may be forced to push this off until sometime next year.  If not, I may be getting on a plane as early as next month to sit across from the man who forever altered my family's history with a single shot.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wanting to Know More

When this journey started I wanted to find my grandfather so that I could have some sort of moment or relationship with him.  I know this sounds odd and had I articulated this idea to myself, really written it out, I would've realized that it was a goal that was completely unattainable.  One night in Greenwood I was talking about this with Raymond and he looked up at me and said, "But of course, you know that you can't have a relationship with a dead person." I remember feeling as though someone had just made the lights flicker.  Of course, how silly of me.

Now, I'm here waiting for what's next.  The filmmakers are finishing the movie and I'm working on a book of sorts - I'm writing out what happened.  Sometimes this writing is fun and it reminds me of the laughs and the drama of making the film.  I'm reminded of people I initially didn't trust and then came to adore and people I initially adored only to realize that I needed to be a little less trusting.

I'm writing through the mystery.  I had no idea when this journey started that there were any questions about my grandfather's death.  When I boarded the plan that took me to the making of this film, I had no idea that my grandfather had been beaten so badly by a white cop that he had to be hospitalized.  There was so much that I didn't know before the first Greenwood trip.

Tonight I was thinking about my grandfather and I still feel as though there is so much that I don't know. 

I'm writing the story of my search to find him.  I'm writing about what I learned and when and how I felt when I learned those things.  But the thing that I set out to do years ago, the thing that I always wanted to do, is the thing that I still cannot do.  I cannot write about Booker Wright.  Everyone knew of him but it seems that nobody really knew him.  A white judge, a man who I'm sure my grandfather never hung out with, is the one who told us about the beating.  A man removed from my grandfather's way of life gave us one of the most shocking and critical pieces of data we found on our search.  This information did not come from my family because my family did not know.

As I sit here on the foot of my bed, I feel kind of deflated.  I've dealt with the crazy hope of "meeting" my grandfather's spirit on this journey, but I never dealt with the other hope that went unmet.  I had a hope to learn more about him.  I hoped that people would share conversations they had with him, conversations that would reveal his sense of humor, his quirks, and his worries.

Initially, I searched for him so that I could piece him together and know him like a granddaughter would know a grandfather.  Now I simply wonder about his thoughts.  Did he fear for his life?  It seems the answer would be yes because he had those end of life talks with my mother and my aunt.  But, what specifically did he fear?  Who did he fear?  Did he expect the beating he got after the NBC documentary aired?  Or was he surprised and left shaken?

There are a few more sources who may know the answers.  My family members have asked me not to pursue these leads.  They fear that if these voices make it into the film that they might sully Booker Wright's memory.  Well, the film is almost done.  The Greenwood researchers are off the case.  The resources have all but dried up.  But there are four people who might know more.  They might have pieces that could complete the puzzle.  They might be the ones he confided in.  

I love and respect my family.  During the making of this film I respected their wishes even when they did not respect mine.  But I feel as though Booker Wright has been silent for all these years.  The work we've done with the filmmakers has brought one piece of his story to the masses.  He said in the NBC film that he didn't want his children to go through what he went through.  Was he talking only about being called the "n" word?

I still have so many questions.  Is it wrong for me to want the answers?  I just don't think I'm finished with this.  As much as my family wants him to be the hero and wants his life to be tied up neatly with a little bow, I can't help but wonder if someone out there can tell me what he really thought and felt.  

Did he confide in anyone?