I sat there staring at the blank screen in disbelief for what seemed like an eternity. He had probably gathered up his belongings and was headed through the parking lot by now. I pictured his walk, his face, the joke he was going to make when he got into the car with my sister to ease whatever tension she may have been experiencing.
His words replayed over and over as I continued to stare at the screen with the phone still held up to my ear. “I have cancer, it has spread to my liver and…” Like a C.D. skipping it played again and again. I was afraid to hang up the phone; because hanging up the phone meant I had to get up, and walk out, and carry on as if I hadn’t just received the most earth shattering news.
Cancer had taken 3 of my 4 grandparents. I’d lost my mother to cancer 3 years back; now this f***ing disease had circled back around to snuff out the life of my father. The man who held me in his arms and rocked me to sleep at night. Who put our mattresses against the walls so we could use them as a slide. The man who carried my sister and I down the stairs each morning on his back and plopped us in front of a Disney movie while he brushed our hair and got us ready for school.
Now he has this horrific condition ravaging his insides and I can’t do a f***ing thing about it. I’m stuck. Stuck in a cage with a hundred other heartless women who couldn’t care less that my heart was breaking and my world was slowly crumbling around me. I needed a hug. I needed someone to tell me everything is going to be okay. I needed to get high.
Getting high wasn’t an option – obviously – so I decided to sleep. I didn’t want to be conscious, stuck in my own head, stewing on the helplessness I felt. Why. Why had I gotten myself in a position where I couldn’t be with my dad when he needed me most? I hated myself for this, for this and for so many other things. Why the hell couldn’t I just be normal? Why couldn’t I go to college like all my old friends, enjoying sorority life and getting an education. Why did I have to take that first pill?
I exited the visitation room and headed back to my cell. I kept my head down because I didn’t want to inadvertently make eye contact with anyone and be forced to converse with them. Apparently the universe had other plans for me – because when I was two feet away from my cell I heard inmate Daniels call me a “police ass hoe” in the distance. I saw red. I stopped short and immediately began heading in the direction her voice came from. I had had it with her mouth. I was tired of her pushing me mentally and today was the breaking point. I didn’t even know where she was at this point, but it didn’t matter, I was going to find her – and I was going to rip her f***ing face off.
I spotted her when she stood up from her chair at the table where her and 2 other girls had been playing cards. Evidently she saw me bounding across the dayroom and decided to take a defensive position – to prepare for what was coming. I didn’t even know what was coming, I had lost all control. My mind was merely a helpless passenger and my anger was at the helm.
The words shot from my mouth like missiles as I approached her. “YOU REALLY WANNA F*** WITH ME TODAY B*TCH? I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL F***ING KILL YOU!” I screamed, an inch from her face, wrapping my hands around the fabric of her collar and twisting. I watched her expression turn to fear as I jerked her back and forth. I could tell she was shocked and unsure of what to do – she wasn’t expecting me to snap like that, and only now did she realized that her mouth was writing checks that her ass couldn’t cash.
Had it not been for Gemma yanking me off of her and my glasses flying off of my face – temporarily blinding me – I truly think to this day that I would have done irreparable damage to her face.
The pain and anguish that came along with being stuck in jail combined with the news of my father had caused me to feel like a soda bottle that had been shaken. Her name calling popped the lid right off – releasing weeks of anxiety and stress in the form of violent rage.
I scrambled across the floor until I located my glasses, throwing them onto my face as quickly as possible and spinning around to my back in preparation for whatever blow she was about to throw, but she was gone. I sat up and looked around the room. Everyone was staring at me, their faces a mixture of shock and amusement. I couldn’t see Daniels anywhere.
“You better get your ass up and go in your cell before the guards get in here”, inmate Fralin said over the brim of her glasses, “you lucky Gemma got yo ass off her before they came in here and hit you wit dat taser”. I jumped up to my feet glancing around and headed for my cell. Daniels’ bunkies must have pulled her into her cell, probably to keep her from going to lock.
Nicki was standing at the entrance to our cell, her head following me as I whisked past her and hopped into my bed. “Are you serious right now?” She said, her jaw hanging open. My heart was pounding out of my chest. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins and I couldn’t breath. I felt …Good.
“What? Am I serious about what?” I said. “Um, about snatching Daniels up by the shirt and threatening to murder her? Like, what? What just happened?” Nicki said. “Dude, I got some really bad news in visitation and I just-”
“Aright ladies! Back to your cells!” Deputy Cash yelled as she entered the pod.
“F***. Am I in trouble? I’m gonna have to go to lock, huh? DAMNIT. I should have at least throat punched her. That woulda been worth going for.” I said, peering through the gate to see if the C.O. was headed my way. She was holding the pod door open with her foot and I watched as a girl came through the door holding a mat.
“Fresh meat!!!” one of the inmates yelled from the top tier. Hell yes, they aren’t here for me, there are new girls coming in from holding. Thank you Jesus. “Damn I didn’t know they did a prostitution sting in the graveyard today! You b*tches are looking rough”, an inmate named Sarah yelled out causing the entire pod to erupt in laughter. When I saw the final girl enter – my heart soared.
“Brandi!!!!!” I screamed, running up to the gate and clasping the metal bars with my hands. My best friend. She was back. Seeing her face had made me momentarily forget all the drama that had just occurred. It was like the universe knew I needed a friend right now.
“Brandi! Over here!” I yelled, waving like you would in school when you saw your friend in the hallway. “Johnson! Shut the hell up and sit down, this ain’t a damn reunion” Deputy Cash yelled from the entrance. Deputy Cash was a tall lesbian. All the girls in here had crushes on her. Most of them whistled and cat-called as she passed their cells during count. They never got in trouble for it – I think she liked the attention.
I rolled my eyes and sighed as I headed back to my bed. They liked everyone to be in their room and settled as they brought new inmates in, that way they could get an accurate count.
The moment they finished the count and the doors popped open, I ran straight over to Brandi’s cell. Her cell was unfortunately located next to Daniels cell, but I didn’t give a shit. I needed to see my friend.
“Brandi!” I yelled as I entered her room. I immediately stopped short once I caught a glimpse of her face. She had only been out a week or two and she looked like a completely different person. She had lost a ton of weight and her face was covered in fresh scabs. When I got closer I could tell from her gigantic pupils eyes that she was high as a kite.
“Oh my God, Tiff! I missed you!” she said , throwing her arms around my neck. “Dude, I can’t mother***ing believe I’m back in this shithole. They are tryna say some bullshit about me soliciting sex or some shit” she was speaking so fast I could barely make out the words. “Tiff, oh my God, I got some important shit to tell you real quick” she said, pacing back and forth while scratching her head.
I seriously couldn’t believe this was the same beautiful girl I’d met when I first got here. She looked 10 years older. Her eyes had sunken in and she had dark circles underneath both. “Are you okay?” I asked, looking at her intently. I knew she wasn’t.
“I’m good, I’m reallllly good. I was banging a hit of meth when the cops rolled up so I – boop – did it real quick cuz I knew they were taking me anyway and I figured what the hell, if I’m going down I’m going down high, ya know? But holy shit, I’m freaking out kinda” She said, glancing around nervously and bopping onto her tippy-toes as she spoke. Jealousy and longing washed over me as I imagined what the hit must have felt like. Seeing her feeling so good made every cell in my body ache. I wanted to feel that. I tightened up with anxiety knowing it was impossible. I needed to get out of this room as quickly as possible before I exploded.
“Hey, did you want to tell me something? Because I am really tired and need a nap.” I said, standing up preparing to exit. “Yes! Shhh come sit. I have to be quiet” She whispered. I reluctantly sat back down on her unmade bunk. It felt as though all the blood in my body had been replaced with little ants. My skin was crawling. I wanted to get high so bad that it physically hurt.
“Hey so listen, you know how you told me about how you got charged with, um, selling that drug dealer, um, Lazarus, the guns or whatever?” She said. “Um, yeah, can you please shut the hell up. You are the only one who knows about that” I said, glancing around to ensure no one had overheard her.
“Okay, I know, sorry, shhh. Okay listen. Well I saw his homeboy Tre, and he said, that Lazarus is realllllllllllly mad that you snitched on him. Cuz, ohm, his you know, his house got raided and stuff. So, anyway, I guess Lazarus wants to kill you. Well, not like ‘kill you’ but like, hurt you or your family or something really bad and – “ “Hold up”, I interrupted, “slow down. Are you f***ing kidding me right now? They raided his house? Son of a b***h” I said, realizing that things had obviously gotten worse after my arrest. “Yeah, no it’s bad like, 3 people got arrested and allllllllll his drugs were taken and stuff. Luckily he wasn’t home”. Yeah, luckily, now he’s free to murder my family.
“Okay so, anyway guess what the craziest part is?” she said, her eyes looking like they were about to pop out of her head, “Lazarus has a wife, it’s his sons momma and-“ she lowered her voice to a whisper, “she is sitting right over there” She said pointing behind me. I slowly turned my head to follow her finger and when I saw where she was pointing my blood ran cold.
It was Daniels…
I turned back around to face Brandi and before I could say anything I watched her face suddenly twist into an expression of confusion. Her hand reached up to her heart and she muttered the word “ow” as her eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed onto the floor. She began convulsing and I instinctively fell to my knees next to her to hold her. When I realized I should call for help, I hopped back to my feet ran toward the intercom. I quickly looked back and realized she had stopped seizing.
Her arms fell limp, her legs were twisted into an unnatural position and her eyelids relaxed down onto her open eyes. They were staring straight at me, but there was no life behind them. I was shaking in panic as I jammed the emergency button on the wall to alert the correctional officers. “Yes?” the woman on the other end said calmly. “Please hurry, I need help. I think my friend just died”…