“Mail call,” the female voice yelled as she came on the floor. Jamie had been asleep. Any time a woman came into the area they had to announce themselves. If they didn’t, no telling what they might catch someone doing, if you catch my drift.
As he sat up and stretched he wondered what the odds were he’d have mail today? He could use something new to read and think about. He needed some encouragement to keep going. He gave up waiting for family to write years ago. There was a time he’d look at pictures of his family every day wishing he could see them. He missed his mama. He used to think it was his fault she never wrote him, because he caused her so much trouble when he was a kid. But now he couldn’t find any excuse good enough, no matter what anyone says.
“I can’t write because it hurts me too much knowing you’re there.” What? Hurts who? Buy a card that says I love you. Wish you were here. Put a stamp on it and put it in a mail box. How much would that hurt? Better yet, how much would that help? Oh well, it’s long past.
He’s been ignored for so long he wasn’t able to care anymore. Oh, he knows he says that. He’d welcome her any day with big smiles but that wouldn’t erase the pain. Besides, she isn’t here anyway. No one in his family ever is. And it’s not like they lived far way. either. He doesn’t look at pictures anymore. It depresses him. They let him know how important he was to them a long time ago.
But there might be a letter from Sonni. It had been more than a week since the last one so it might be possible. He stood up to wait by the slot in the door just in case it opened.
She was all he had to hold on to. So many dudes in here had no one. Some of the things they had to do to survive he could never do. Prison law is different than on the outside. Some let themselves be used. Having someone on the outside was like gold. She was his only connection to this world to remember he was still part of it. She kept him sane and told him everything she knew about his boy. How he was doing in school and all that.
They made an odd sort of family, Nana, grandson and dad in the middle like an inside out oreo cookie. She called him a Hershey Kiss ’cause he was sweet chocolate. Anything to make him smile. She did her level best to keep his head screwed on straight when he started to slip down. He needed her. She needed him. She knew things about him even he couldn’t understand, whispering in his head to not give up. Always making him think about why things are the way they are.
At first he didn’t know why she was there. He thought he was a loser. What did she see in him? She laughed at him a little for saying this. Said she shook her head with a knowing smile. “You’re family”. He wasn’t alone. He thought about her a lot. She was in his head. They talked. Not talk for real. He wasn’t allowed to make phone calls. They joked about imagining they were riding bikes out in the country and would go to the top of a hill and sit and talk about things. Have a picnic. They would both think about it at 8 PM so they could go together. Thinking about each other at the same time. Sometimes she’d write it at the bottom of her letters to make a date to meet outside the prison.
Why did she care so much? Did she love him? “Of course,” She told him, “Love comes in many ways. Sometimes it comes and goes and you can’t remember who the feeling is attached to. But sometimes it is bigger than that. When you take it inside it becomes a part of you. No matter what, it is always there.
She called him Son. He called her Mom. At that time he needed a mother. Really she was a lot older than his mom, but she was beautyful to him. He was broken in a million tiny pieces and wanted to give up. He was going to die in here. She came right into his cell, into his head and wrapped her arms around his being. She told him he was safe. He wasn’t alone. Don’t worry. He didn’t have anyone else to think about. She always knew when he was worrying too much. About his future. About his son. All the things he couldn’t figure out while he was in here. He didn’t know how to figure things out. He could do nothin’ about any of these things, but he worried anyway.
The biggest pain causing him the most heartache was not being able to see his son. His son, who has his name yet he is like a figment of his imagination. Born after he was sent away he has only seen him a few times in his ten years of living. His family hasn’t brought him. The mom won’t bring him. Only Sonni when she comes to visit but she is too far away to come often.
His boy, who he loves most in the world. He was afraid he would hate him for not being there. Knowing he is there, on the outside and he can’t touch him. He touched him once, when he was a toddler. It was the only time, the only time and he was lost, eyes closed reliving the memory.
“Cummings!” He heard his name and it startled him. “You got mail, really you got a box.” He had to move away to the back of the cell and stand there with his hands showing because they had to open the cell door. The guard brought in a box and a letter. Jamie thanked him.
Only two things came in boxes. Food and books. Someone on the outside could go to the Texas prison website and order $60 in food four times a year. Not much but it was a few extras to supplement the garbage they served. Sonni got him some fun things. Cookies and Oatmeal Pies. Coffee. Something’s he could trade for stamps if he needed.
But this was a book box and he desperately needed books. They came from a used book store approved by the prison. All kinds. Mysteries, Sci fi, even romance and Westerns. 30 in all. That will keep him reading for awhile and get his mind off things and escape. But before he went through the books he settled down on the bed to read what Sonni had to say today.
He smiled. Sonni always had a lot say.
( This is not a book chapter. It is a submission for a writing class)
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