It was two weeks until I would be married. I thought of my dad sitting in jail...
Just five years earlier I rode with my brother along the I-10 corridor. Billboards shouting at me. Low income houses lined the freeway with dirt in place of grass as the backyard. I made small talk with my brother as I awaited that first visit.
I didn't know what exit we'd be taking to get there. I thought the jail was removed from all civilization. Then, the trucks blinker went on & veered off just before hitting downtown Phoenix. The side road seemed like an eternity, when suddenly we turned left into a rather long entrance.
Everything was dun like the desert scenery. Willy parked the truck. We crossed the road & entered into a small waiting room. It was the size of some rich person's walk-in closet; except, it wasn't filled with clothes & shoes. It was packed with family members awaiting to see their loved one. They were primarily mothers & grandmothers, some children & wives. Small lockers lined the left-hand wall with one small bench to sit.
Those spots were taken.
The deputy sat behind a bullet-proof window opposite the entrance door.
Willy had briefed me about not having any wallet, purse, jewelry, keys, pencils, pens--nothing on my person. He told me there would be a locker to place any valuables in.
"What about when we go in? What happens then?" I asked.
"We'll walk through metal detectors. Dad will be sitting at a table & we'll sit across from him," he replied.
"What if I break a rule?," I asked. (I was so nervous I would break a rule & the guards would take me down)
"The officers will let you know of the rules & they'll be posted on the wall, " he assured me.
On my seventh birthday I remember thinking how terrified I was to be sitting at the mission in Yuma, staring at a bunch of men who looked like the last time their skin touched soap was before Reagan took office. They scared me. I sat behind my dad on the bench & they all sat on the pews facing me. My dad gave the message that night.
As I watched the families waiting to be called to see their loved ones, I wondered how many times they had done this? Was their son a repeat offender? Was their husband or boyfriend at the wrong place, at the wrong time? Were they working hard, pulling double shifts to support their family & put money on their inmate family member's books?
What I did know was skin color didn't matter there. Or fear of someone judging me, my brother, or my dad, because we all had compassion for one another. There was a nod & a look which communicated, "Your stories are safe with me."
It would soon be time for Willy & me to walk through the detectors & find my dad in a black & white chain gang uniform. It was like I was seven all over again, except my dad was sitting in the pews.
My wedding was two weeks away & I was nervous, because I didn't know if my story, my dad's story...would be safe with everyone in attendance.
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