Sorry for the protracted absence. I’ve been in a full-court press to finish the book proposal I’m working on. I feel kind of frantic and twitchy when I don’t post something here every few days, all blurry at the edges.
When we were in prison this past Monday night for our weekly greeting-card-making gig, there were a couple of conversational threads that feel worth sharing outside The Big House, mostly for their clarity.
Two of the women at my table started talking about a fight that had happened in their unit. Apparently it was a doozy of a brawl between two other women, one of whom was old enough to be the other’s mother. Some background information: any inmate who gets in a fight gets sent to “the hole” (solitary confinement); any inmate who tries to break up a fight also gets sent to “the hole.” For brevity and clarity, I’ll refer to the two women who were having the conversation as A and B.
A: What were you doing during that fight? I wanted to stop it but I didn’t want to go to the hole, so I was mostly screaming and crying.
B: That was one bad fight, man. I stayed out the way.
A: Can you imagine? Some girl young enough to be your daughter, whuppin’ your ass, right there in front of everybody? Over a woman…
B: …who don’t want either ONE of ’em!
A: Now they both in the hole. No fighting AND no love!
B: You got that right.
A: People think they gonna come to jail and find a relationship. In jail! Like they think any relationship IN JAIL gonna last on the outside. The whole reason they in jail in the first place is from bad relationships! When you come to jail…
B. …you just gotta do your time and get the hell OUT!
Some nights I leave prison with really clear ideas about why those women are in there and I’m not: the luck of where and to whom I was born; a blessed lack of exposure to physical, sexual, and/or substance abuse; life-long access to high quality education, food, and health (and mental health) care. This past Monday night, I left thinking that the razor thin line between the woman I’m calling A, and me, has mostly to do with impulse control.
A: My judge told me they ain’t no way someone stealin’ as much as I did ain’t supportin’ a habit.
B: Oh, you got a habit all right!
A: I said, I don’t do no drugs or alcohol. Flat out.
B: No, but shoppin’ too much is a habit, and you got it!
[This next part that A said sounded so much like a poem, I’m writing it out that way, and I’ll just let it stand on its own.]
I always thought if I gavemy children everythingthey wantthen they’d be happyand I’d be a good mama.I had to come to jailto find out thatthe only thing my children needis me.