<My longest relationship was with someone that was an addict, five years older than me, and not a positive force in my life. He took care of me and gave me a safe place to go during my parents' divorce and through the difficult family struggles. It wasn't healthy and we fought bitterly, cheated on each other, yet clung to one another anyway. In the moment that I'm writing this we haven't been together for half a year, but I still remember things he taught me, both good and bad.>
I've checked Facebook, my email, my college homework site, and my Twitter multiple times.
It's 1:30 pm on a Thursday and I'm pacing. Got ready too quickly.
Standing up, I go to my mirror to do last minute make up and hair touch ups and take out all the earrings I possibly can, making sure to limit myself to one ring and a necklace.
Smooth my shirt.
Nope, this one won't work; the material could be considered too thin, the neck too low.
Go to the closet and find my favorite screen t-shirt.
Turn around to inspect the back; pants just tight enough to show my curves, assess my reflection.
Scooping up my keys I go out to my car and slide my sunglasses on, turn the radio up a little.
Left here, straight down until I reach A, take a right, down, down, down, left, another few miles and another right, I have arrived.
I assess the daunting barbwire fence, the guard towers, and the high wall on the left side as I lock my car and walk in the direction a few people are headed.
Suddenly I feel so small and unsure of myself.
Open the door and feel the slightly cool but humid air, I walk down two sets of stairs and head to the front desk.
I've only been here a few times.
You can always spot someone that's new.
The guard at the front desk is a woman in her early thirties, minimal makeup, natural blonde hair in a pony tail.
"Who are you here to see?"
"<first name> <last name>"
"Driver's license please."
I internally panic as I dig around my wallet. No license, no visit. It's hidden behind my debit card.
"Can you take anymore of your piercings out?"
"No, they're secured by a ball. Oh, I have surface piercings on my chest too."
I'm nervous and she can tell. They all have somewhat of a gruff manner initially.
"Don't forget to sign in in the book."
She hands me my locker key, stamps my left wrist with a black light visible stamp, and I stuff my purse inside my numbered locker, keeping my phone to entertain me until the last minute.
First name, last name, where I'm from, who I'm visiting, time signing in.
I take my place in a outdated colored metal and plastic chair and wait for 45 whole minutes. More people come in, some of the kids get candy from the little dispenser.
Finally, the names of the person we're visiting get called.
Shoes off, necklaces and rings off, watches off, belts off, locker key, anything metal.
Through the metal detector you step as your things go through an x-ray machine like in airports.
As my things go through, I'm taken into a little side room where another guard has me stand feet apart and arms straight out.
She pats both my legs down, arms, feels lightly at my chest, close to my neck, remembering my piercings. I have to finish up showing the soles of both my feet. Protocol.
I come out of the little room and put on my shoes, ring, and necklace then take my pass from the other guard behind the desk.
He pushes a button and I open the door, take a left and up some stairs, left at the top of the stairs and I reach a plate glass, metal reinforced door.
The guard in the control room pushes a button and it begins to slowly open. I slide through the beginning crack in the door quickly.
Pushes the button again and the door shuts. I'm in a little square box of glass and metal and I can see across the glass some inmates waiting in a holding area.
Pushes another button and the final door opens.
I quickly walk the short distance of the room to go through the door to the larger room where two guards sit at a plain desk to hand them my pass.
My eyes search the best and most private spot to sit. There are none. I choose the one by the wall.
More people shuffle in and I can feel my tension build.
Finally, the door on the right side of the room opens. I can feel my adrenaline surging!
It's not him. I look down in disappointment. Five more minutes, another inmate comes out.
I watch each happily reunite with their girlfriends, mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, and their children.
As I watch one father hoist his son into the air, both giggling happily, he comes out.
His hair is shorter and he's in the required khaki shirt and pants, shirt tucked in, white tshirt underneath, regulation black boots. He looks more muscular.
He smiles at me, genuinely happy, and walks to the desk to hand the guards his pass then covers the few feet to get to me in mere strides.
All the tension eases, all the worry and aching eases as he embraces me, picking me up in the process, then kisses me.
All we have is 15 seconds. That's the rules.
For three hours we talk and talk. He tells me stories of the inmates he's sort of befriending, the stories of daily life, the job he has to do and how he's only paid cents a day for it, how the food looks like dog food and he has to get more money on his books to buy tuna so he can get protein, how much he misses home, how much he misses me and our dogs.
He asks about my life like we haven't been sending each other one to two letters a week and as I animatedly tell him a story he strokes my hand.
I want so badly to kiss him and I absently put my hand on the back of his chair and stroke his neck.
"I'm sorry ma'am, but you can't do that. Hands only."
My faces flushes red. Newb move.
"One minute left. Everyone wrap it up."
No! It's too fast! My eyes flash to his and begin to well up with tears. His do too. I miss him so much it hurts.
"It will be okay, Eve. You'll be back next week. I need to use my time to call my aunt tonight, but I'll call you tomorrow."
I bravely nod and kiss him, this time an open mouth kiss. I'm always shy on the first one, but no one cares about the shows of affection as long as the guards don't. We're all aching for our loved ones.
"Okay! Time's up."
Our hug fades to a hand hold which fades to blowing a kiss and an I love you. He can't go past the red line.
My heart aches.
Sometimes the kids cry as they leave their fathers and I can see the pained looks on the faces of the men. Every single one, no matter how hardened some look, all struggle keep a poker face and you can feel the hearts that have merged together become pulled apart again.
We line up in the first room and the guard shines a black light over the stamp. I never understood why they did it, but I wondered every time.
The same slow doors open and shut again and we come downstairs to get our things from the lockers and trade the key for our driver's license.
From there I emerge into the fresh air, seeing some of the men behind the fence walking a track or sitting at a table. I turn around and try not to look back.
A year ago I was visiting him, savoring those three hour, two day a week moments. He was only allowed 15 minutes on the phone a day and only at certain times of the day. Some days we could only talk for five minutes so that he could call family. Some days I had him to myself, others it wasn't my turn. Always the same annoying, automated female voice telling us we had one minute remaining. Always squeezing in fifty I love and miss you's. Last minute asking me to tell this family member or that this or that. Phone time cost $50 for however many minutes/hours it was. I spent a lot on phone time and stamps. Another way to rip you off, but I didn't care.
Miss a call and you risked tears. He would have to try again. We would have to plan each day according to schedule when was best to call and I wouldn't miss it for the world. I would check my mailbox every day, sometimes I would be surprised to find a beautifully and intricately drawn picture on my envelope (something he traded another guy that could draw a snack for just to give me a decorated envelope) and every day I would wait.
He must be a terrible person to end up in the state penitentiary for eight months, right?
A lot of people are there that aren't bad people. His cell mate was 19 years old and was there for stealing two blankets from the Salvation Army.
He was set up by an informant that knew he used for cocaine distribution, meaning he knew where to get it for someone.
That period of time before his arrest makes me ache because of how badly he was addicted.
I get so upset just thinking about how our country prosecutes and doesn't care about change. Justice, not an issue we could help.
Whatever you've been told about prisons, addicts, and the like, I can tell you differently.
January 2012-August 2012 my view of the people in prisons, the criminal justice system, and the views society holds changed greatly. No, not all want to change. Not all want to leave. We don't make it easy for someone to start over. We require them to suffer over and over. We tell them to get jobs but we make it so they can't with a felony.
We judge them. We whisper about them as they walk by.
They are human.
I watched a little boy pull at his mother's hand in tears, asking where his father had to go.
"Back to work honey."
I began to tear up.
I've seen grungy people visiting, I've seen wealthy looking people visiting, and everyone in between. I've seen a elderly man come out in prison issue khakis, and I've seen them my age. I've talked with girls my age and with women older.
All have a story. We all went on every day supporting our loved ones.
Some of us cheated while they were gone. Some got married in prison. Some met their children for the first time.
Threads of lives.
It takes me back every time I drive on one of the streets or I hear a song that would play on the radio. I can feel it and recall it like it was yesterday.
I feel the shame of cheating unnecessarily like it was yesterday.
The whole year still feels surreal.
And I'll hold him a little tighter, if for nothing else than to say I'm sorry for betraying a month before his release.
I really do love him dearly and in four and a half years we've seen both spectrums of beauty and ugliness.
A few times I've been in the passenger seat, drunk, as we drive home from a bar, slumped down, and I see the walls of the maximum security side of the prison as we drive by. My eyes will still well up from time to time.
Every time, no matter what state, as long as my friends and I drive by, I become somber.
These are my barb wire memories.