I had no idea when I was going to be let out of cell number 5.
I had been on the verge of expecting to be moved for hours. I wasn’t sure as the evening progressed to early hours of the next morning if I would be released from that room or if others were going to join me un expectedly. I didn’t know how comfortable to make myself. I didn’t know anything, so I made up the rules for my expectations as I went along.
When I was served dinner, it came with a little Styrofoam cup of water. I remember that water being delicious and so so cold. I sipped it through the night and made sure that it was safe from being accidentally knocked over by my feet when I slept on the bench.
The water was precarious as I knew at some point I was going to have to use the bathroom. This was something I was avoiding to HAVE to do. Feeling desperate for any reason in this place was something I was going to avoid at any cost.
The window in the cell door obviously had no privacy shade and as varied as you can imagine, the intake to a prison has a varied sort of people coming through.
Most are curious enough to glance in, I noticed this when I was sitting at the far part of the bench looking out and watching people look in.
I saw male guards, police officers, male prisoners in a variety of different color uniforms. It was like a grand central station for the great kingdom of Lock Up. I was going to be dammed if that little cup of water was going to make me pee in front of any of them. I decided to choose my time wisely, a point where the “lobby” was empty of “visitors”.
I felt this process of “peek and go pee” was dehumanizing for me. I felt huffy about the whole thing like I was some old lady in a Jane Austen movie. I felt determined that I was going to do this as dignifiedly as possible.
Once, I even did it in the spirit of rebellion. OH yea. I’m getting hardened now. A real rebel – who forgot to first ask the guard for toilet paper.
“what-the-fuck-ever” I thought. As I scrambled to the “welcome bag” a guard gave me at check in and rummaged for a kotex pad that would have to do in the place of TP. The little sink did not have soap, so I rummaged through the bag again and produced the body/hair soap bottle I was given and washed my hands.
During this process I don’t know if I was talking (cursing) to myself, but shortly after I had completed this mission and settled back to my place on the bench looking narrowly out the window at the clock, that a guard came by with a full roll of TP for me.
I had unpacked the whole “grooming kit” I was provided and brushing my teeth and using a tiny comb to fix my hair back in a decent pony tail. I asked her when she slid the door open, how long she expected me to be in intake.
It was 2 AM. She looked exasperated on my behalf and explained she had been calling medical to come down and check me in for hours and when they were not busy, I would be called. I nodded.
Medical? That’s …interesting. Ok. I wrote about this all in my book. About 10 mins later, she opened the door and told me to get my things and come out into the lobby. I gathered the blanket, the pen and the book and threw it into the bag I was given. I also tossed in the roll of TP.
While in the little cell, I felt more polished after fixing myself, stepping outside into the lobby, I felt disgusting and disgruntled. I was haggard from sleeping and not sleeping and grimy just from the surroundings of feeling crowded. My hair was jacked up and though I tried to make it decent… nothing helped much.
I was told to sit in a chair against the far wall near a desk. Two nurses were asking me questions. One asked if I could provide a urine sample. The other told her I had just went. I’m thinking this public peeing thing is a whole lot more public than I realized, they weren’t even in the lobby when all of that happened.
As I am answering medical questions, there is a barrage of inmates that enter the area, males and females, my solitary cell 5 was now being filled with so many women that there was standing room only. One was yelling for the guard that she had to go to the bathroom and needed TP. I had taken the roll.
Normally, I would have excused myself from the nurse and giggled and said I had it and gave it to the person. But this was prison, not a church potluck. I turned my head from the cell of inmates and decided to let the guard deal with it.
Several officers were in the intake area as well. One was tall and about my age and in another time or another place…I would have found him very attractive. He had big wolf-blue eyes, and strong hands and a strong but gentle demeanor. I noticed him when the nurse asked me the first question, and I spoke.
He looked up and looked straight at me as if he had heard something weird or different. While how I looked now, was very inmate, I can only assume the intonation and words I use to speak is what sounded like maybe I was different, that I didn’t “belong” there, that jail was new for me… that maybe, I sounded like a real person. Our eyes met and I smiled instinctively but I smiled very small. I quickly looked down and tucked some mystery hair back behind my ear.
I hadn’t realized until that moment, that I was missing from myself. I wasn’t a girl here. I wasn’t a normal person. I was a criminal. I was not an equal.
I answered my questions and anxious to get away from the room and the feeling of not being female anymore. I told the nurse if I had a more private place use the restroom, that I would give her that sample. She allowed me an empty private cell away from the bustle of the lobby. I came out of the cell with the sample. The whole time I was praying that the man who reminded me of what I am not at this moment, was no longer within sight.