As Breezy walked through the 16-foot-tall mechanical iron gates, he felt the weight of steel bars, razor wire, and 120-year-old bricks fall from his shoulders. In his stomach churned a mix of anxiety, excitement, fear, and elation.

He was finally boarding the state-provided Greyhound bus that would take him home. Over the years, he accepted the fact that this day would probably never happen. Finally, it had.

While walking to his seat and looking at people’s faces on the bus, he realized how happy he was not to be surrounded by those that abide by a code of “keep with your own and always carry a knife.”

As he sat down, he realized that maybe he didn’t agree with Sartyr. Maybe other people weren’t Hell? He thought about the last 18 months that were spent in solitary confinement. How all he wanted was to see his mother’s face, his little brother’s face, the faces of strangers on the street, any face other than the face of the guards he’d become accustomed to seeing. Their faces weren’t human. They were more like automated machines wearing a perpetual scowl of contempt.

They didn’t consider the fact that, if he hadn’t done what he had to do that day on the yard, that one quick act of defense that landed him in the hole for three years, he wouldn’t be here right now riding this bus to a new life. A life where there wasn’t the need to practice The Art of War philosophies or the teachings of The 48 Laws of Power to survive. A life where he could forget the diagrams that taught him where to stick a blade in a man for a quick kill.

He could begin to put in practice the Taoist and Buddhist teachings he’d studied in isolation, where he came to believe that there’s a life force flowing through every organism on the planet. In Taoism, they call it “Chi.” Breezy referred to it as “One,” referencing “one love.” He adopted the deeper meaning to this phrase so that whenever someone said it to him in parting, it would remind him, on a level no one was aware of, that all things were made of and breath the same life force, and that a man could transform himself by being aware of and in tune with it.

He had to remind himself that change was possible. He had to believe that not getting his third strike was possible. He had to believe that he was meant for more than crime, prison, and recidivism’s trap.

As he rode the bus north, staring out the window at rows of cornfields that reminded him of rows of naked men lined up and forced to bend over, spread ‘em, and cough, he couldn’t help but think that his personal age of reason was about to unfold.

He hadn’t given up hope. He didn’t believe that he would be relegated to the life of a career criminal like his father and older brothers. He knew the universe had bigger plans for him; he could feel it.

He had read what Joseph Campbell said about the mythological hero, and it made sense. Just like Odysseus, he’d been sent away from home, forced by fate to fight his way through life or death scenarios, battling his own cyclops, overcoming siren songs, and walking through the land of giants. He had fought the battles and won. He was now coming out the other end, war-torn with scars, but victorious and transformed, a hero.

He was now thirty miles from home and about to embark on the next phase of his transition, one where he could put everything he’d learned into action.

He’d educated himself, first getting his G.E.D. and continuing until he’d obtained his bachelor’s degree. He was able to study for hours uninterrupted in his cell. He even managed to be valedictorian of the college from where his degree was accredited. He maintained a solid 4.0 the entire time he was a student/inmate.

As the bus pulled in to the downtown terminal, he was riding a pink cloud of excitement, buzzing with the renewed energy of a man raised from the dead.

His plan was to get a job counseling at-risk youth. Teach them, before it was too late, not to do the stupid shit he grew up doing. Show them a different formula for living. Help them get off the streets and out of the game. Preach the importance of education and warn them where they would end up if they stayed on the path he was getting off. He wanted to do this in an attempt to right the wrongs of his past.

He stepped off the bus, carrying the paper bag he was given for his belongings—deodorant, toothbrush, notebook, pen, a copy of the I Ching, and a spare set of kicks—everything he had to show after eleven years upstate.

While looking up at the city’s skyscrapers, taking in the traffic and people rushing around him, feeling hopeful for what lay ahead, he heard a voice, “Yo, Breezy!”

When he turned around, before he saw a face, he heard a gun fire three shots and felt the sudden burn of bullets rip through his chest.

He fell to the ground, staring up at blue sky, gasping for air through gargled blood as a man walked up, stood over him and said, “You killed my brother, motherfucker! Think I’d forget?” Then the man spit on him.

Breezy was unsure exactly who this act of vengeance was for; he had ended more than one life. But he didn’t dwell on this. Like a true student of Eastern philosophy and a man filled with dharma, he thought to himself, “Karma keeps chaos in order.”