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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My First Visit

A little over two years ago I was off to see my new friend in prison.  When I land at the airport, I pick up my rental car, and drive the hour to the town his prison is in.  I get to the hotel, which was an amazing quasi B&B.  It was late, so I was ready for bed.  I remember sitting on the bed, nervous beyond explanation, thinking "WHAT AM I DOING HERE?".  I got little sleep that night, and got up the next day and prepared for my first visit, not just to a prison, but to a super max prison.  Where the "worst of the worst" are housed.  There was a paperwork glitch and my friend had not been brought to the visitation area.  So I sat, and looked around at the dimly lit room, with all of the loved ones of the incarcerated in the room I was in, and the inmates in their own cages on the other side of the glass window, sporting the most offensive color orange I had ever seen. I decided to duck into the bathroom and give myself a pep talk in the mirror, like something you would see in the movies. Telling myself "I can do this". This is my friend I have been writing to for over 7 months. I walked out of the bathroom and glanced at our assigned "non contact" booth, and I see my friend, with his handcuffs on, behind his back, and they are taking them off. My heart sank. I remember two distinct thoughts...the first was "Why are you handcuffing him! He's not going to do anything!" The next thought was "I feel like I am trapped in an episode of Dateline". I stood there and looked at him, finally sat down, and picked up the phone to talk. I don't remember what the first thing I said to him was, nor what he said to me. The first thing I remember him saying to me was "You look very classy." I was touched by his genuine compliment and told him that orange looked good on him (my attempt at a joke). I looked at his hands, knowing what horrible and violent acts they had committed. I looked deep into his eyes to see if I saw a person responsible for taking the life of another, or a transformed man. His eyes, to this day, after many visits captivate me~as I see sadness and hope in him. Our first three visits flew by. I was his first visitor in over a decade. So, I sat before one of the most violent offenders in the state and I was filled with friendship and love. I knew that this man was going to be a part of my life forever. We talked about many things.  About me, about him, and our lives.  KC is a very serious man, and he used every opportunity to share with me how he felt about me and our friendship.  There were a few times when neither of us spoke, but our eyes locked, and we just looked into each others eyes for what, under most circumstances, would have been an uncomfortable amount of time, but wasn't for us.  It was an amazing feeling, raw, and among the most sincere moments of my life.  I remember, at my last visit thinking I just wanted to hug him, give him some positive human interaction. Aside from "cuffing up" every time he leaves his cell he has not been touched by another person in over a decade.

I visited him three days in a row, and they were all wonderful visits.  The Correctional Officer's give a "5 minute" warning before the visits conclude.  And on the last day of our visits, after the Officer had given his "5 minute" warning, my eyes filled with tears.  I am a law abiding citizen, my worst act is one speeding ticket.  But I found myself thinking "What if I just refuse to leave?"  I didn't want to leave him there.  I never wanted anything as badly as I wanted to take him with me, to get him out of that hell on earth environment he faces daily.  My mind was racing, and multiple thoughts and flashes were popping through my mind.  None of which I can now remember.  I just didn't want to leave him there.  But when it was time to leave, I made myself get up out of the chair and walk away from him.  I looked back at him several times trying to "memorize" his face.  I kept it together until I got out to my car.  When I got into my car I lost it.  I started sobbing, uncontrollably.  I forced myself to put the car into drive, pulled out my directions to the airport, and was rather happy that I had the distraction of being rushed to make the hour drive to the airport, and car rental return in time to make my flight.  I got onto the plane, trying to think about anything but our three visits.  Once I was on the plane, I started to let myself think about what had just happened during my three visits to him.  A few hours later I was home, and returned to several letters from him in my mail box.  I had the next couple of days off work to really think about everything.  It was during this time that I knew that I was in love with this man.

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