“Good morning, Beautiful. Merry Christmas.”
I flinched as she said the words. A pang of sadness vibrated through my body. I had been lying awake for a hours, staring at the bottom of my Bunkie’s bed. Depression had coiled around me like a snake this morning, I felt paralyzed.
Christmas had always been my very favorite holiday – but this year -it was a heartbreaking reminder that life as I knew it no longer existed. I closed my eyes and brought myself back to last Christmas. Chuck, my boyfriend at the time, had woken me up with a hot cup of coffee. He was supposed to be on duty, but said he had a surprise for me and couldn’t wait until tonight. He placed a small square box next to my head on the pillow and smiled with satisfaction.
“Open it”, he said, sitting down next to me on the bed. I smiled sleepily and pulled myself up into a seated position. I began to remove the silver wrapping paper and stopped suddenly. “Hang on, let me go pee real quick”, I said pulling the covers off of me and tip toeing to the bathroom.
I had realized that I would have to act excited and grateful for whatever was in that box, which seemed exhausting to me. I ran the faucet and quickly pulled my bag of pills and my syringe from the tampon box underneath the counter.
I would have to do this faster than normal, as he was virtually on the other side of the door waiting for me. I scrambled to get everything ready, careful not to make the spoon ‘clang‘ on the counter as I set it down. “Hurry up babe, I gotta go back to work”, he said after about 2 minutes.
“Coming! I’m brushing my teeth, I don’t want to kiss you with morning breath!” I yelled as I wrapped the belt around my bicep, pulling it tight. I knew I was going to hell for this. I couldn’t even begin interacting with other humans until I shot myself up with drugs. I hated myself and what I had become – but I couldn’t stop. I didn’t know how.
“Hellllllo, earth to Tiffany, I said Merry Christmas.” Nicki said, waving her hand back and forth in front of my face – ripping me from my daydream. “Oh, hey. Yeah I’m sorry. Today is a little weird for me.” I said.
“I bet. Christmas in jail sucks. But there is an upside,” she began, in her usual optimistic way, “the church ladies should be here any minute, and they give us socks and chocolate. So, it’s not a total loss”. She smiled and leaned in to give me a kiss on the cheek. My heart skipped a beat as I felt her lips on my skin.
I had only been in there 30 days; but that is a very long time to go without touching the flesh of another human being. You don’t realize how important something like that is until you don’t have it anymore.
Nicki liked to tell people I was her girlfriend; but I’m not sure I would call it that. I don’t really know what we were. After only 2 days of knowing each other, she kissed me. Smack dab on the lips in the middle of one of my sentences. I was shocked. I didn’t know how to react. But if we are being honest here; I certainly wasn’t upset about it.
I am not a lesbian. I have never been in a relationship with a girl before. I mean, I’ve been attracted to them as women are beautiful beings. I’ve never acted on those feelings before though, they were usually fleeting thoughts while passing someone on the street. When Nicki had kissed me, my stomach did a somersault. My friend Kathy said that I was “gay for the stay” and that it was common for ‘straight’ girls to become interested in other women after being away from the male species for so long. But this felt different, we had a real connection, on a deeper level.
When the doors popped open for free time, I stayed in the room. Nicki had begged me to come out and play cards, but I couldn’t imagine sitting out there and faking it. I was heartbroken. I wondered what my family was doing today.
I had no money on my books so I hadn’t been able to make any calls, I had been closed off completely from the outside world. I am sure my sister would go visit my father today. Our mother had passed 3 years ago and my dad is the only other family we have here in town.
One of the girls in the dayroom began singing ‘Silent Night’. Without warning, the tears began flowing from my eyes, as if someone had left a faucet running. We weren’t allowed to have radios in here, so after a month of no music whatsoever, her voice was the most beautiful, moving sound I had ever heard.
I’d never been this sad in my entire life. I missed my Mom. I missed my sister, and my dad. I missed my childhood and all of the wonderful Christmases we had celebrated as a family of 4; before divorce, and death, and addiction and alcoholism had ravaged us and torn us all apart.
I closed my eyes as the beautifully nostalgic melody carried through the room. I imagined my sister and I waking up together Christmas morning and giggling with sheer ecstasy as we ran down the stairs. We would shout out in disbelief at the beautifully colorful display of gifts that Santa had left for us. I would give anything to go back to that moment. I would have done everything so differently.
My trip down memory lane had been interrupted by the voice of my arch nemesis. “Ay, somebody tell that police ass hoe she got a visitor. It’s probably another cop. He’s here to get the latest report!” Daniels said, as a group of girls erupted in laughter.
Daniels had had it in for me ever since the day they tried to put me in her pod and she stormed out and pushed the button. She had threatened to ‘beat my ass’ on several different occasions; but never did.
“Johnson you’re visitation has already started, you better get in there you only have 20 minutes”, Deputy Flower said into the intercom of my cell.
What the hell? The jail visitation room was on the opposite side of the pod. It consisted of 3 TV’s which linked to a room in a completely separate building where our loved ones had to check in. Visitation has to be scheduled ahead of time. Who the hell was here?
I ran full speed to the visitation room, ignoring the comments from the other girls regarding my ‘weight‘ and ‘the building shaking as I ran’ and swung the door open as I tried to catch my breath. There was a figure on the furthest TV from the door and the moment I registered who it was I placed my hand over my mouth and began sobbing. It was my father. My daddy had come to visit me on Christmas.
My hands were trembling as I picked up the phone and placed it to my ear. “Hi Dad” I said, breaking down into uncontrollable sobs. There are no words to describe how amazing it was to see my fathers face. “Hello my baby”, dad said, his voice cracking as he tried not to cry. He started to say something and stopped himself. His chin began quivering as he held up 1 finger, telling me to hold on.
I wiped the tears from my face and hiccupped as I tried catching my breath while I waited. “My baby girl. It is so……hard….to talk to you through a screen. I am so sorry.” He said, his voice trembling. “No I’m sorry Dad. I’m sorry you have to visit me in jail. I’m sorry I lied to you, to everyone, I’m sorry that I am such a f*** up. I love you so much Dad, I wish more than anything in the world I could hug you right now.” I said, putting my hand up onto the screen.
“Your sister is in the car, she drove me here. She isn’t ready to come in yet.” He said. I nodded. “I understand, please tell her that I love her and pray that one day she can forgive me. Please tell her I said Merry Christmas, Dad”. I said, glancing at the timer. “We only have 10 minutes left Dad. God how is this going by so quickly?”
“Listen baby, there are a few things I want to say before the time runs out, okay?” He said. “Sure”, I said. “Chuck has written a letter to the judge to get your charges reduced,” he began, his voice cracking again. “He doesn’t want you in here. He has been in touch with your sister and gave her all of your belongings, he’s in pretty bad shape.” He said. His words cut through me like a knife. I destroyed him. I took his heart and ripped it to shreds, and all of his co-workers on the force know all of the gory details. That poor man.
“5 Minute Warning”.
“Also I thought you should know that as of today I have 45 days sober.” He said. “What? Oh my God Dad, that’s amazing!”. I was shocked. My dad had been a ‘functioning alcoholic’ all of my life. I can’t believe he stopped drinking. “Well yes, it is a good thing. I feel really good, for the first time in, as long as I can remember. Maybe when you get out of there, we can go to some meetings together.” He said. “Aw, Dad, that would be amazing. I am so, so, proud of you. I’ve been feeling so down Dad, but having you visit has literally changed everything for me. To know that you still love me, despite all of the shit I did, has honestly breathed new life into me today, I really needed this.”
“Babe, there is nothing you could ever do to make me stop loving you. I held you the moment you came into this world and carried you for years afterwards; I will carry you until you are able to walk on your own again and even then I will be holding your hand to make sure you don’t fall.” he said. The tears began flowing from my eyes once again.
“1 Minute Remaining”
“Tiff, before we get disconnected I have to say one more thing. It’s important”. “Okay? What is it?” I asked. “I really hate to give you more bad news while your in there, but you need to know what’s going on. I stopped drinking because the doctor told me I had to. I’ve got cancer Tiff, and it’s spread to my liver and -“
“Time is up. Goodbye.”
His face disappeared from the screen….