Prison“Me and my friends went,” Cecilia said.

“My friends and I,” my cousin corrected his daughter.

She stared at us with the blank look of a teenager being corrected for something deemed insignificant. Behind her, the Pacific Ocean could be seen through plate glass windows that covered the wall of the restaurant we sat in at the end of Huntington Beach pier. As we ate breakfast, fishermen baited and cast their lines over the railing in hopes of a morning catch.

“What does it matter?” she asked no one in particular, so I answered.

“It matters because people judge you by how you look, how you act, and what comes out of your mouth.”

“They do? Are their judgments right?” she asked me.

“Sometimes yes, sometimes no. When they’re right it can avoid pain and heartache. But when they’re wrong it can allow fear and ignorance to close their mind to meeting new people.”

“That’s horrible,” Cecilia gasped.

“But it happens,” I said. “I’ve judged people and been wrong. One time I was very wrong.”

“When?” she asked.

“He was an ex-convict,” I replied. “A man who had been sent to prison at a young age as a drug addict and thief. I judged him before he even spoke, assuming I knew the person he was. I was wrong.”

“What happened?” she asked.

“Do you really want to know?” I questioned her question.

Cecilia nodded, showing more excitement than she had in days.

“Well,” I said, “it started with a motorcycle trip to Mexico.”

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