The first letter (by Courtney)

Friday, April 29, 2016

My first letter

   On February 6, 2010, I was 28 years old and living in a sparsely furnished apartment in Carrboro, North Carolina.  I had moved there in December and it was the first time I had signed a lease in five years.  For five years prior to that winter, I had been living a nomadic, adventurous, free-spirited lifestyle all over the world.  That autumn, something in me told me to start to settle a little more and I followed that urge to North Carolina, where I had family roots but had never actually lived.

   During that winter, I was very hermetic.  I had very few possessions, no car, no local friends and a strong urge to get in touch with myself, without the distractions of social interactions.  I found myself watching a lot of movies on Netflix, into the wee hours of the morning, and listening to a lot of spiritual teleseminars.   On the night of February 6, 2010 I was listening to one such teleseminar when I had a “divine inspiration”.  I call it a “divine inspiration” because it literally felt like an angel flew overhead and dropped a seed into my mind.  That seed said, “write a letter to a prisoner.”

   Now, prior to that night, I had never had the thought to write a letter to a prisoner.  And since that day, I have never again had the inclination to write a letter to another prisoner.  But, on that day, the idea to write a letter to a prisoner made complete sense to me.  It was in perfect alignment with a personal realization I had had earlier in the day, so I immediately got online and googled, “write a prisoner.”  That search led me to (who knew?) and when I entered the site I was shown images of the inmates whose profiles had most recently been added. 

Matt first photo_1
The photo that accompanied Matt’s profile on

   I was drawn to the man whose image was in the middle of the top row of those six profiles, so I clicked on his profile and read what he had to say.  His profile was simple and it resonated with me.  It said he was looking for a deeper conversation than what he could find in there, he liked to play guitar and the Innocence Project was working on his case to hopefully achieve “some semblance of justice.”  I noticed some other synchronicities about his birthday (two weeks after mine) and the location of his conviction (in Boulder, CO, where I had gone to university).  To humor myself I checked out some other profiles, but they were so obviously off the mark; I knew that if I was going to write to anyone, I would write to this guy, this Matthew Mirabal.

   Having made that decision, I continued with my teleseminar, figuring I would write to him at some point in the future.  Then I realized that I felt a very strong urge to write to him RIGHT NOW, before the night was over.  I searched around my apartment and realized I had no paper to write on, besides my journal, of which I was not about to tear pages out.  I did have brown paper grocery bags, so I cut one of those up into “pages” and proceeded to lie on the floor of my empty apartment and write an eight-page letter to a prisoner in Buena Vista, Colorado whom I had never met.

   I wrote, and I wrote and I wrote.  I wrote about anything and everything that was on my mind and in my heart at that time.  When I write, I write from the heart, and that’s what this man was going to receive.  The inspiration flowed through me that night.  My conscious mind cannot even remember what I wrote about or how I filled eight pages, but I wrote until my pen stopped, and then I made an envelope out of some pages from a National Geographic magazine.  I must have gone to the post office the next day to buy stamps because I can’t imagine I had any on hand; and then I sent my letter out into the vast unknown.

   I never really worried what Matthew Mirabal would think about me – if he would think I was weird or wouldn’t get me.  And I wasn’t consciously looking for a romantic relationship with this man; I mean, who would actively seek out a man in prison with whom to initiate a romantic relationship?  No, I was following an inspiration based on my love of writing and my desire to connect on a deeper level with someone who was far removed from my daily life.  I didn’t want to feel obligated to write about what I did on any given day, or to catch anyone up on the intricacies of my life.  I wanted to write from the heart and have my heart heard and received.  It was my thought that someone in prison would appreciate corresponding with someone in an authentic way and wouldn’t necessarily care if it was pragmatic or applicable to daily living.  That was the “logic” that accompanied my choice to write to a prisoner. 

   In hindsight, I can now see that not every prisoner would appreciate such a correspondence.  So, while my logic at the time was slightly flawed, it was the perfect logic to guide me to Matthew.

   I received my first letter from Matthew the week after sending off my letter.  Upon reading the first half of the first page I knew there was something special here.  I had nothing to compare it to, I had never written a letter to someone I didn’t know.  But it was one of those things that is so obviously right that it’s only when you step back from it and consider how “wrong” it could potentially be that you realize the “rightness” is significant.  Something was sealed between Matthew and me the moment we each read the other’s first letter, and we’ve been following that thread ever since.

Court signature



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