Behind bars

I almost thought she was possessed, I knocked on her window and called her by her first name “Mandy”… not Amanda or Miranda… “Mandy”, even her first name was adorable.

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She wasn’t combative at all, not a single time that she needed to be moved did she lash out violently. You could tell she had come from a loving home, she was a pretty girl that somewhere in her stage of growing up she was introduced to drugs and then that was the end for her. Perhaps her life had been way too easy and she didn’t have it in her to say no that first time. So she became addicted. Her face poured pure innocence, a 27 year old mother to a two year old, married and the middle child to two parents whom were teachers at an elementary school. The first month she spent it in an isolation cell, she was naked most of the time, she couldn’t understand to put her clothes on. She rarely showered, we often had to go in and put her under the shower and put a bar of soap in her hand. She wouldn’t flinch and would just stand there staring towards the cell window into nothingness. We had her under 15 minute visuals due to suicide attempts, I doubt she wanted to take her life… she was simply an addict. I believe she didn’t know how to be violent, she would simply scream and cry asking for her meds.. anything to help soothe the fire boiling inside her from the feeling of withdrawal. One time as I conducted a visual on her cell I saw her on her knees, bent backwards, her face towards the door and her mouth wide open. I almost thought she was possessed, I knocked on her window and called her by her first name “Mandy”… not Amanda or Miranda… “Mandy”, even her first name was adorable. I always called them by their first name when they were aggressive or… like this, stoned out of their mind. I knocked about three times and thought about leaving. In the prison this means nothing, not a damn thing… she’s not hurt nor threatening to hurt herself… but Goddammit if she were my sister or girlfriend I’d be going insane. She finally sat up and turned to look at me, her petite pale body twisted and her face so calm and lost at the same time …
-yes ma’am
-Are you ok?
-Yes ma’am, thank you for asking
-….ok then
I walked over to the next cell, this one was here for head lice, it was 3 in the morning and she was snoring like a pig. With that weird rhythm to their snorts like when they eat and they grunt as they pick up food.
I came back about 10 minutes later, this time she was standing with her face right on the window to the cell… she scared the shit out of me

-Mandy are you ok?
-Yes ma’am… I’m just looking ma’am
She had an innocent looking smile. I walked away again over to the next cell, she hadn’t been snoring… she was masturbating.

I had a college degree, I used to be a school counselor. Not in a high school, at an elementary school. It sounds easy but it wasn’t… specially when the children opened up about an older sibling or parent that molested them or they witnessed their other siblings get abused. I didn’t leave for that reason, I left after my husband cheated on me and left me while pregnant to re-marry a woman 12 years older than he. I was 27 and my self-esteem was at it’s lowest. So I gave birth to my daughter, moved back in with my parents and dropped the counselor job to go work at a state prison 3 hours away from home. I’d stay over there the 4 days out of the week that I was scheduled to work and then come back for the other 4. It changed me, I lost my sympathy and all my feminine habits. Now I cursed more and didn’t wear perfume.

The prison was hard work… if you’re not resilient. I wasn’t resilient … there were just other things that bothered me more than lesbians masturbating to me and prison fights over who was going to clean the section that day.

I did my job the best I could, I was hard but a bit considerate, specially to the addicts that came in. There was an inch of pity to see them suffer as they detoxed from the drugs they were used to taking on the outside. They reminded me of me in a way but allowed me to feel less pity for myself. I too would have given anything to numb the pain of enormous failure I felt. Elena was the only good thing about me. Mi Elena de Troya, my Helen of Troy, my baby girl. Elena was my Xanax bar, my spice and my cocaine when the 12 hour shifts were beginning to wear me down. The 3 hour drive home seemed eternal until I could hold her in my arms again.

 

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