Once her face came into view, I sharply sucked in the air around me when I realized who she was. The entire time this “Doctor” and I had been speaking, she knew who I was. She knew it was me and didn’t say a word. The last time she saw me I was the bright, bubbly blonde cheerleading coach whom she looked up to as a role model for many years, and now; I was a thin, pale, sweaty junkie cowering in the corner of a jail cell.
She must have noticed the various emotions I was going through, because she gently placed her hand on my knee and smiled. “I know what you are thinking and I want you to know – that the person you are today, in this moment – is not you. I know you, I know the real you. You are the funniest person I have ever met, still to this day. I have always looked up to you, and that hasn’t changed. Your path in life seems to have taken a detour; but I am not here to judge you Tiffany, I am here to help. I just want to talk to you, will you talk to me?” She asked.
Sarah* and I spent the next 2 hours talking about everything. I told her all the things that had happened in my life since I became addicted to drugs and she just sat there quietly and listened. She would occasionally speak up but only to ask questions which caused me to probe deeper into my thoughts, as if she was trying to get me to think of things from a different perspective. In a weird way – for a moment it felt like we were back in high school. This was the first time I had felt human since I had arrived.
I felt free after speaking with her, as if I had been lugging around a giant sack of rocks for a very long time and Sarah* gently took my bag from me, freeing me up to focus on the journey ahead, instead of worrying about how I could possibly make it while toting around this heavy load.
“I am proud of you for being so honest with me. I know you don’t want to die, and I think now you realize it to. I would like to see you a week from today, would that be possible you think?” Sarah* asked. I knew what she was doing, she was trying to hold me accountable, if I had a date set up with her a week from now, I would have to be alive for it – she was ensuring I didn’t off myself in the meantime. “I would love that.” I said, and I meant it.
“I will tell the guards you are ready to go back to general population, okay?” She said standing up from the floor and dusting the back of her skirt off. “Ah shit, yeah okay, it’s definitely better than being in here alone. Thank you, for everything” I said. She walked towards me with her arms outstretched and gave me a tight hug. It felt so good to be embraced, I had been moments away from shattering into a thousand pieces before she entered my cell, and her presence gave me a flicker of hope. She reminded me that I was in fact still human, even though it didn’t feel like it at the moment.
I was standing outside of general population waiting to be let in and my heart was pounding out of my chest. My sweaty hands were trying to keep a firm grip on the sleeping mat I’d been carrying and I was shaking uncontrollably. The guard looked me up and down and the corner of his mouth lifted into a smirk. It was as if he got some sort of enjoyment out of seeing me squirm.
The door clicked loudly and swung open and the sound of hundreds of women’s voices filled the air. “Go on.” The guard said nodding toward the door. As I stepped into the pod the women suddenly got quiet, you could hear a pin drop. I visually located the cell I had been designated and made a beeline for it with my head down. As I entered, a tiny sweet looking blonde girl looked up at me from her note pad. I began to introduce myself but was interrupted by her jumping to her feet and throwing her hands up. “Oh hail naw!” She yelled marching out of the cell. I leaned back to peer outside the door to see where the hell she was going and noticed she was stomping toward “the button” at the entrance.
“The button” was used to contact guards in an emergency, I watched in confusion as she pushed the button twice and crossed her arms, a look of defiance on her little face. “What’s the emergency?” the guard said over the intercom.
“Um yeah, hi, uh so somebody put that suicidal undercover cop in my cell, and I need ya’ll to reassign her somewhere else, cuz I’m gonna end up fighting her, and I don’t want to go to lock. I’m trying to do ya’ll a favor ya knaw sayin? Save you some time.” She said staring me in the face the entire time she spoke.
What….in the actual hell…..was she talking about me?
“Daniels, you know damn well we don’t take requests. This line is for emergencies only, press the button again and you will end up in lock anyway.” The guard said, obviously agitated.
f*** my life, this was going to be awkward. I watched as “Daniels” marched up to a group of girls and angrily began speaking. She was throwing her arms up and occasionally punching her fists while they all took turns glaring at me. Why did this chick want to fight me? I didn’t want to make my bed just yet because I didn’t know what the hell to expect from this little firecracker. I was afraid she might rip my mat off the bunk and beat me with it, so I just carried it out to the dayroom with me and sat at an empty table.
You know that dorky loser kid in movies that has no friends and awkwardly sits at the lunch table by himself? That was me. Except I was surrounded by felons, not high school students.
I felt a hand on the small of my back and I jumped because I thought I was about to be shanked. “Hi, I’m Brandy.” a girl said, sticking her hand out for me to shake. I reluctantly shook it, noting how beautiful she was. “I heard you tried to kill yourself, that sucks I’ve been there. I also heard what that whore said to the guard about you and I’m sorry. I figured you could use a friend, do you want to bunk with me?” She smiled.
My heart almost exploded with gratitude. “Oh my god yes, please.” I said desperately. “Come on, we are over here.” She said cheerfully, taking my hand and leading me to the very last cell in the row. My bed was right next to hers, and we clicked immediately. We spent the rest of the day talking about life, I did most of the talking and she just listened for the most part. She would periodically tell me stories about crazy things she had done, and I think she was trying to make me feel better about some of the choices I had made. She showed me how to order shampoo and shared her dinner with me. I even laughed out loud for the first time in what seemed like years.
When it came time to go to sleep she came over and gave me a hug. “I’m really glad to have met you, sleep with the angels and I’ll see you tomorrow.” she said then skipped back to her bunk.
Brandy was the first friend I made in jail….had I known that she would be dead a week later, I might have hugged her a little tighter that night.