Jailhouse Waiting Room

Every weekend, for the past 5 months, I have spent a sizable chunk of my time sitting in an uncomfortable chair in the dirty, cramped waiting room of the jail, watching an hour and a half of my life march by so I can spend 30 minutes talking to Gary through smeared, scratched, filthy plexiglass on a phone I swab down with alcohol before placing anywhere near my face. This has given me plenty of time to observe the people in the waiting room, and that is exactly what I do. I watch them. I read them. I alternate between wanting to help them and wanting to slap them.

Every imaginable stereotype parades through the waiting room in technicolor. I have seen a woman beam with barely-contained pride because her three-year-old daughter announced on cue, “My mommy is a hoochie-mommy!” I was the only one who didn’t laugh.

I have seen women show up decked out in dresses and heels, smiling sheepishly and admitting they had to wear the outfit to visit their boyfriend and see if he will let her wear it later that night.

I overheard one woman tell another, “I really want a tattoo, but he won’t let me get one.” They exchanged indulging glances, like “Aww, boys will be boys!”

I heard one woman complain viciously about her boyfriend’s mother, loudly re-enacting the argument (with a decided slant to her own quick comebacks which likely were fabricated on the spot to embellish her story), which spawned because the boyfriend’s mother didn’t want her swearing in front of her 1-year-old son. This mother tossed her head defiantly and declared, “I use the F-word a lot! I’m not going to change who I am because of her.” When someone asked why her boyfriend’s mother was living with her, she said that his mother paid her rent and her utility bills. Well, the sheer audacity to expect a bit less vulgarity in return!

I try so hard to leave my judgments at the door, but damn, they test me. Gary and I have fought to stay positive, to find meaning in all of this, to focus on improving ourselves, our relationship, our lives.

A lot of the women refer to their husband or boyfriend as “that bitch”.

“That bitch hung up on me last night! I don’t know why I’m even here today to see him.”

“Don’t you hate that, when you paid for that bitch to call?”

Some women kill time in the waiting room by comparing jails or sharing their own rap sheet. One fine day two women discovered they both hate the same female inmate, so they heatedly discussed how they could get arrested just long enough to find her, beat her up, and then get released. One of these women felt herself to be an authority on the scheme, as she had served time for assault.

It’s good to have goals, I suppose.

I don’t say much. I keep to myself and read.

There’s a lot of bragging, a lot of excuse-making, a lot of griping, a lot of bravado, in that waiting room. One thing there is none of: support. At least of a healthy variety.

One afternoon I arrived earlier than usual and found the queen bee of the pack lounging on the curb outside, smoking a cigarrette. She struck me as the toughest and most aggressive of the regulars. I nodded politely as I walked by, and she suddenly called out to me, a fluff comment about the weather, a nothing statement that told me silently “wait”. I sat down a respectable, “we’re-not-really-talking” distance away on the curb and just listened.

She watched the parking lot as she talked, and she told me her boyfriend was being transferred to prison. He was going to be there for quite a while. She started crying. I wished for something to tell her, to comfort her, but nothing came. She finally flicked her cigarrette into the parking lot, shrugged back into character, and said, “Let’s go inside before all these ants eat you up.” I laughed because I thought I had been discreet about brushing off the biting ants.

I haven’t seen her for months. I also haven’t seen a girl of about 17 or 18 who told me one day that her mother kicked her out of the house when her boyfriend was arrested, so she had nowhere to go after she visited him.

Every weekend I show up with my book and settle in, trying not to hear any of the words zinging around me, trying not to catch their stories. They either leave me desperately searching for a way to help, or ferociously battling the urge to slap sense into them. For some, that remedy would be one and the same. For others…I simply come up empty-handed.

About TheSmirkingCat

I am endlessly trying to make sense of a world that has completely and unapologetically lost its mind.
This entry was posted in Gary, jail, pain, psychology, stereotypes, women. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Jailhouse Waiting Room

  1. Stephanie says:

    Sounds like you were just what that tougher-than-nails chick needed–someone to let her guard down with for just a minute.You have always struck me as someone who would be the best listener ever, if people would give you the chance to do so. I believe we’re placed in situations like that very one for a reason. You might never know how much it touched her that you sat in the ants while she cried. But maybe you made all the difference to her.Good for you for slowing down long enough to just be there.

  2. Mean Stepmom says:

    Do you think maybe all of this happened for a reason? Maybe you or Gary have helped someone just by being there.

  3. macocha says:

    I agree with both comments above. I cannot believe some of the conversations you have overheard…wow.

  4. Sungold says:

    Wow. This is really touching – partly because the first stories sort of invite the reader (me) to feel detached because I really can’t imagine my life getting *that* messed up. And then that line about the ants just ambushed me.Man, I hope Gary will be home soon. I know you aren’t posting details here, and that’s only right, but I would like to hear if you get an ETA for his trip home.

  5. dragonmctt says:

    Love this post! When BM had DH arrested, luckily it was only for 9 days before everything got sorted out, but I remember thinking each day when I would pull up to the trailer that housed the TV screen I could see DH on, “this is soooo not me.” Never in a million years did I ever think I would be going to visit someone in jail.I remember one time, as I was making my way down the rows of TV monitors to get to the one with DH’s number on it, I passed by a monitor with some poor guy just staring out into emptiness. His visitor was a no-show, and as I was leaving when our time was up, part of me wanted to just sit down and talk to him for a few minutes.Whole different world, isn’t it?

  6. Smirking Cat says:

    Sungold, Gary will be home in November. Dragonmctt, Gary has told me a lot of the men there, no matter how tough they are any other time, look completely lost if their girlfriend or wife does not come to visit. It’s a different world, and a relationship structure I want no part of (name-calling, control issues, etc.). I am still astounded that there is no support group, no venue whatsoever for the families on the “outside” who are doing time right along with the inmates.

  7. furiousBall says:

    i believe what Gary told you. i can’t imagine myself being so hard and tough that i needed no one. i would assume those that need no visitors are probably in a special place of the prison, because that is probably frightening

  8. dragonmctt says:

    What wrecked me too about this man, was that it is quite an ordeal just to set up a visit. Rules about how often you can go, how long the visit is, the long, drawn out process DH had to go through to get to the area that they had for the inmates to utilize the monitors. I couldn’t imagine going through all that to set up the visit, know that DH had to spend the better part of the day just getting transferred to the location, him waiting anxiously just to see a familiar face, and then just not show up. And then thinking about him having to go back to his cell block, after sitting there for the whole visit time staring at no one, wondering what happened, if I was alright and when he would see me again. Nothing short of death would make me miss a visit. The worst was also the limits on how many people could visit at a time. Could you imagine having several kids and telling one of them, sorry, you can’t come this week to see your father, but your brothers/sisters can. Ugh!

  9. Helena S. says:

    I’m sorry, I couldn’t find the answer in your previous posts (don’t have time to read them thoroughly) so is your husband/boyfriend in jail? For what, if I may ask? Very interesting post here.

  10. Smirking Cat says:

    Helena S., yes, he has been in jail since April and will be coming home in November. I go into more detail on my private blog, not here, since unfortunately, not every reader here has Gary’s best interests at heart.

  11. Marmee says:

    I’ve been following your blog for several months now. Your writing is so descriptive. I’d love an invitation to your private blog, but I do understand if it is just for friends/family.Thanks for blogging!

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