It felt like time had stopped. I just kept waiting until finally the door opened and I saw Ben walk into the room. I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t this. I guess I thought he’d be walking in handcuffs and shackles or something but nope, he just strolled in and walked towards me with his arms wide open. The rule is you’re allowed to hug and kiss when you arrive and when you leave but no touching between those times. Even though we hadn’t met in person before we knew each other right away, and he gave me the biggest bear hug.
Things weren’t weird or awkward at all and I had a great story for why I was late to break the ice. On my drive to the prison Ben had called and I said I was only 15 minutes away. That was before I had the clothing mishap, and I had no way to contact him to warn him that I’d be late.
If you know me you know I’m always on time, usually early, so being late is very unlike me. Knowing that he was waiting for me made me upset – I didn’t want him to think I was just messing with him and not actually going to show up. As we sat down I immediately started to explain the whole story and the fact that I was currently wearing a stranger’s jeggings.
Ben laughed and replied, “Well, as a germaphobe, I think it’s weirder that you’re wearing a stranger’s pants than the fact that you’re here visiting me.” Very true.
As the day went on, more and more visitors and inmates started filling the room. I couldn’t get over how many children were there. The visitation room also has an outdoor portion (fenced in with barbed wire of course) with some picnic tables and a little pathway to walk back and forth. Even though it was still before noon the temperature was already high 90’s so we went outside before it hit triple digits.
I told Ben about Dakota, the bus driver, and Ben then informed me that the phrase, “I’m getting out soon,” is actually a pick up line in prison. Basically Dakota had been hitting on me.
I was being exposed to so many new things today. We sat at one of the picnic benches and a little girl ran out to Ben and said, “My mom said to give this to you” and handed him a soda. About 30 minutes later she came out again and handed him a stack of quarters. He quickly handed the quarters over to me and asked me to hold them. The inmates are not allowed to handle money.
I’m glad this girl, Ben’s friend’s girlfriend, was looking out for him because I didn’t know that if I didn’t bring money for his lunch that he wouldn’t eat. Oops. I know you’re wondering what the heck I ate for lunch in there right? Now, prison is like prom in the sense that once you’re in, you can’t leave and come back; once you’re in, you’re in for the day until you leave. If you want lunch you have to eat there. So as I mentioned before there are a couple vending machines. The inmates are not allowed to use them. Their visitors have to put the money in and give them the food or drinks. These are not your typical vending machines. These vending machines had sandwiches, burgers, cereal, wraps, and lots of other meals.
The microwavable meats from a vending machine in a prison were not too appetizing to me so I played it safe with some Lucky Charms. Lucky Charms with milk and some Cheetos on the side. Yum. It was not the most nutritious lunch I’ve ever had but I made it work. Ben got a cheeseburger; apparently this food is better than what they serve them daily. Yet another reason I will be sure to follow the law, I love food too much.
Remember Ben’s friend I mentioned earlier whose daughter came over to bring the drink and the quarters? Well, Ben went over to see his other kids, which included a new baby! It was probably younger than a year old and then it hit me… HOW DID THIS BABY EXIST?! They don’t have conjugal visits and I was pretty sure his friend has been in prison for longer than the time it would’ve taken to make the baby.
I had to know so I asked Ben, “Umm, how long has your friend been in here? ‘Cause how does that baby exist if you don’t have conjugal visits?”
He chuckled and simply replied, “There are ways.”
I stared blankly for a minute as I thought about it. Everything in this visitation room was in the open, there are security cameras, and the bathrooms have to be unlocked by a guard. I couldn’t figure it out.
“What ways?” I wondered out loud.
…To be continued.
Disclaimer: I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity in some instances I have changed the names of individuals and places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics and details such as physical properties, occupations and places of residence.
Huge thank you to Laura and Jenna for their help editing!