Recipes in a Prison Cellbyflightothefalcon©
Psych eval, coffee, hallway, metal detector, commissary. That list could go on for a while. It's a word-association of an experience I wish had not been necessary. An experience borne of someone else's lie, and one that will stay with me, as well as everyone else involved. I will never forget the night I was at a party, went to my car to get my phone, called her back. "They arrested him," she said. I can think of no more fitting analogy than the environment in which I was in when I heard those words. It was cold, I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, the wind was stiff. It was dark out, yet there was a bit of a glow from the full moon and clear atmosphere. I stood in the middle of a gravel driveway, my right hand holding my phone to my ear, my other around my middle. I was hunched over slightly against the wind, and my hair was blowing over my face. Once I heard those words, there wasn't much difference between the cold I felt inside and the physical cold that was all around me.
Sitting on someone's desk is a seventy-seven page document outlining everything that is deemed important. Reports from psychologists, police, statements, events, and legal jargon. Seventy-seven pages all because of one lie. Seventy-seven pages that contain hole-y information. Seventy-seven pages that I, as well as many others, would love to burn if it would help. Seventy-seven pages that have helped to put an innocent man in jail.
Every two weeks I walk down a frightening hallway. It's cold, sterile. The walls and floors are icy white, broken only by a few pale blue tiles and safety-orange collapsible rubber doorstops. It could easily be in a horror movie. Or a nightmare - running down an endless hall. It reminds me of the bathroom in the movie Saw, only cleaner. I'm told, however, that this hallway is nothing compared to the one he walks down. The one hw walks down to meet us on the other side of a Plexiglas window framed by vents that allow our speech to be heard.
The Plexiglas, along with the harsh fluorescent lights highlights lines and deepens shadows, making everyone gaunt and sallow. Which is how we feel; gaunt, sallow. We shouldn't be here. He shouldn't be here. We shouldn't be going through this. Our hugs should not be reduced to pressing our hands to the glass and aligning them, accompanied by strained, humorless smiles.
It is at this window, sitting on a stainless steel stool, leaning on a stainless counter,, where I was told how to make a decent cup of coffee in jail. You take one packet of coffee, a couple hot cocoa packets. Mix 'em together in hot water. Then, add a couple atomic fireballs, and roll them around like the marble in a spray-paint can.
I've also learned, at the window in the room halfway down that horror-movie hallway, that in order to get enough of what you want or need, you have to barter. Prison commissary only allows so much per section. Ten-ish snacks. 20-ish drink mixes per week. Get ten coffee, then you don't have enough hot cocoa to make it decent.
You can barter for more than coffee. Portraits of loved ones, drawn with stubby pencils, eight-by-ten, and from snapshots sent in letters, can be had for a couple of candy bars. Snickers are popular. There are some amazing artists in prison. I've seen a rose made out of toilet paper. It was incredible. Beautiful. Who woulda thunk it?
I hate that I have to visit him through a glass wall. He's lost weight, and he's lost one of two consumable vices. Coffee-vice is allowed, cigarette-vice is not. Bittersweet facts of life. I know who Spoon-Man is, and the names in some of those in the nightly popcorn club.
Every time we leave, I notice that his accent has disappeared. It's still there, I know, but that Plexiglas filters it out. And, when I leave, I notice that I have developed a bit of one, missing his. An accent's strange in a girl who's lived in the Northwest for fifteen years.
As I leave, at the end of the allocated hour, walking down the icy white hallway, fiddling with the admission badge, before I turn the corner, I look down to about the halfway point.
That's where the visiting pod is, and I want to spring back and drag him through the Plexiglas. I see the orange collapsible rubber doorstops, and they echo his orange prison garb. I see the was-white-now-pink-undershirt.
All of this has been a hellish nightmare. Although I wish I'd never had to experience these things, there is one experience that I will relish. I want to be subpoenaed. I want to sit on that stand and contradict the lies, expose them. Then this nightmare will be over. I won't learn about anymore recipes, or anymore customs of the society of prison.