Posted by the prisoner's wife On 6:37 PM
(i LOVED this song...all hail the Queen)
oh how i love the weekend! during the school year, my mood automatically shifts at 3:04 Friday afternoon. i'm off work, able to sleep in, breath easier, and just be ME. this weekend was very laid back. i didn't grade any papers, which i really needed to do, but i did enjoy myself.
on saturday i went to a book club meeting and met some very interesting women. i think i'm going to stick with it. i need to talk to ADULTS about books for a change, plus a lot of the other women have children & they brought them along. so it'll be a chance for both the munchkin and i to make new friends.
today was my grandmother's 74th birthday. we all went out to dinner to celebrate and i ate way too many tasty breadsticks. my grandmother has definitely been a force in my life, and i'm thankful she is still here to give advice, crack jokes, and make her sweet potato pie. i pray that God blesses her with many, many more good years and birthdays. i just wish my grandpa could have been here to share this day with her/us.
at the book club i realized that i need to stop tripping and get back to the things i love, namely writing. i have the begining of a short story/novel written and i've just been letting it sit for far too long. i'm sort of stuck, and normally i'd allow that blockage to keep me from writing. but tonight, i dusted it off and added a few more pages. i'm going to try not to overthink it and just write. i am my own worse critic, and i have to stop being so hard on myself. i am just going to write, write, write and fix it all later.
i want to share a piece of the story with you. it is so unfinished & i need to figure out what i want to happen...but i think i've got an interesting start. let me know what you think.
This Side of the Wall
And just like that, her world ended in a cacophony of silence. No longer able to focus, the sound of the gavel deafened her ears. All hope and prayers were crushed, silenced by the astonishing assault on the chestnut podium. She sat in awe. Unable to feel…anything. A dam of tears threatening to break free and flood the courtroom, heaved dangerously behind her eyes. Yet, she remained still, struggling desperately to emit an air of peace, despite the chaos that haunted her mind.
Lela sat, for what seemed like hours, outside of the courtroom, still trying to wrap her head around what had just happened. She could not cry, at least not right here. She was too exposed. She blinked purposely while the lawyer tried to explain it all. He mumbled something about their options, told her they had tried hard, and to get as many letters as possible together for the sentencing. Lela nodded, but couldn’t really make out exactly what he was saying. All she could do was cradle her growing belly and wonder.
* * *
It was as if the universe sensed her mood. Just as she stepped out of the courthouse, the clouds that threatened to drown the city all week, finally cracked and began pouring. Lela contemplated taking a cab back to Brooklyn, but shuttling back and forth to court and to see the lawyer had put a serious strain on her wallet. And she still hadn't eaten. She was out of work, seven months pregnant and too proud for welfare. Lela stood outside of the courthouse, broken.
Her phone buzzed violently in her pocket. It had been ringing all afternoon, assaulted by a few of Damian’s friends and his family wondering if she had any news, good news, to share. Reluctantly, she checked her voicemail and heard Damian’s mother’s crackling voice.
“Lela, haven’t heard from you yet. Any news? Good news, I hope. Hang in there, dear. God will bring Damian home! I just know it. I wanted to be there today so badly but—”
Lela slammed the phone shut. There was always an excuse, some pressing reason why Damian’s family couldn’t make it to court. Demanding bosses or uncooperative trains or non-existent bank accounts always managed to get in the way. Lela rubbed her temples and began to get angry. She was tired of his family. She was tired of being the conduit, the messenger between Damian and the outside world. She desperately wanted them to step up, so she could ease herself into this pregnancy without the burden of doing it all. She felt alone and wanted to talk to him, but would have to wait until Thursday, visiting day. Although she desperately wanted to speak to Damian, to hear his voice and make sure he hadn’t gone crazy because of the verdict, she wasn’t sure of what to say. She did not want to cry. She did not want to make him feel any worse than he must have already felt, but she, too, was hurting. Lela wanted to comfort Damian, but was afraid that he, again, would have to comfort her.
She contemplated calling Damian’s mother to deliver the news, but decided to head home instead. In a daze, Lela walked the three blocks to the Brooklyn Bridge station and braced herself for her descent underground. Immediately, she felt the need to vomit. The station reeked of rotten food and musty flesh. It was the middle of rush hour and it seemed as if all of Manhattan was crammed underground. Lela hated the 4 train, but didn’t feel like walking from the courthouse to Canal Street to catch the A. The A train station was an extra five blocks away and would force her to slowly weave her way through Chinatown. The stench of day-old fish and the pungent smell of Chinese food would have been too much for her delicate stomach. So there she was, stuck desperately trying not to breathe the stifling air that clung to every wall and bench and overhang in the station.
“People in this city are so fuckin selfish,” Lela muttered, as she got onto the train.
Straphangers hung to every conceivable inch of the subway car, piled on top of their neighbors as if they were lovers in an embrace. Even though Lela’s belly was pushing against the seams of her blouse, and it was obvious she was pregnant, no one moved to offer her a seat. Her feet ached and her baby did somersaults in her womb, while those around her pretended to be asleep or deeply engaged in the day’s news. She hissed her teeth loudly, annoyed at their lack of manners, and steadied herself against a commuter and the door of the train.
As Lela emerged from the Nostrand Avenue subway station, her cell phone vibrated wildly. Without looking at it, she knew it was Damian’s mother calling again to find out what, if anything, had happened. She pressed ignore and checked her wallet to see how much money she had.
“Damn, fifteen bucks,” Lela mumbled, wondering how she would make the meager amount stretch until the end of the week.
It was only Tuesday, and her unemployment check wasn’t due until the weekend. Between now and then she had to eat, get to her doctor’s appointment, and visit Damian at Rikers. She walked into Golden Krust and deeply inhaled the savory aroma of the jerk chicken that rested on the grill. Her stomach twinged at the spicy smell, but she couldn’t afford to spend seven dollars on a meal. Instead, she decided to buy a patty and coco bread and walk home.
Lela entered her apartment, immediately stripped off her clothes, and headed for the shower. In the past, whenever she felt stressed, Lela would sit in a hot bath and soak until the scorching water turned cold. However, she was pregnant and baths were off limits, so she often sought solace under the barrage of a torrid shower.
“God, what are we gonna do now? I can’t believe this shit is happening to us!” Lela pleaded with God for answers.
She had been hopeful Damian would be coming home today. For the past six months she prayed daily that God would bring him home and give them the chance to be a family for real. She was a true believer. She felt confident that her prayers and pleadings would be answered, and her lover would be returned to her arms, but today, that dream had vanished. As the water washed over her, Lela cried, deep, torturous tears that she was afraid to share with anyone else, even herself.
Lela’s skin was damp and her pores agape and welcoming after her long shower. After losing her job, there few luxuries she could still afford. Luckily, hot water was included in her rent, or else she’d owe the city a small fortune. Lela spread lavender baby oil over her skin, massaging her belly first. Running her fingers over the translucent stretch marks that crisscrossed her growing belly, she almost giggled, remembering how Damian had teased her on their last visit.
“Baby, you getting big! You sure we ain’t got twins in there?” Damian reached for Lela’s belly, rubbing in slow, deliberate strokes, as they hugged, greeting each other. The tedious ride to Rikers and the near two-hour wait for him to be produced in the visiting room always set her on edge. Damian’s touch rebuked the stress that inhabited her limbs.
“I look that bad?” Lela smiled back, trying to mirror his excitement, but she was tired.
“Nah, baby. You look good. Better than good. You look great. Are you okay, though? You look a little down. I already told you that you didn’t have to visit so much, especially the further along you get. You need to rest and—”
“I’m cool,” Lela said, cutting him off with a smile. “Besides, I can’t sit up in that apartment all day wondering how you are. I need to see you. Just to make sure. Besides, it’s hot as hell out, and y’all got AC!”
Damian laughed and kissed Lela’s palms, placing them against his aging face. Although he tried to be upbeat, Lela could sense that he, too, was growing weary. He had been on the Island for six months now, and struggled to cling to some semblance of his life on the other side of the bridge. He hated being forced to watch her solider through this pregnancy alone, tracking the growth of her belly by how wide he had to open his arms to hug her. Damian’s once ultra confident swagger, had slowly been eroded over the past six months.
July was oppressively hot, and New York City was especially unkind in the summer, imposing unbearable heat and humidity on its residents. Lela suffered, her belly exploding into a large, ripe watermelon seemingly overnight.
Hoping to look the part of a happy, buoyant mother-to-be, Lela wore a blue, strapless sundress that clung to her protruding bump, and pulled her hair back into a lazy bun. Her amber skin glowed with a slight mist of sweat. She felt like shit, but put on a brave face for Damian. She couldn’t let him see how tired or sick or drained she actually was. She didn’t want him to spend precious energy worrying, that was her job.
“So how do you think it’s going?” Lela asked about the case. The reality of it all made her uncomfortable, but she wanted to know what he thought.
“I can’t call it. I look up at the jury and I try to imagine what they thinking, but I can’t. Mr. Todd says things seem to be going well. But he also said it’s too hard to tell.” Damian cleared his throat, “the D.A. offered another plea.”
“What? When?” Lela cocked her head to the side, and wondered why she hadn’t heard about it yet.
“A few days ago. Said we had until court resumed to let them know.”
“Why didn’t you tell me when they talked to you?”
“I didn’t want you to worry. I knew you’d be over there thinking and worrying yourself to death, and I can’t have that. Plus, I wanted to talk to you about it in person.”
“So that means you’re considering it?” She asked nervously, her voice cracking. The thought of Damian being away longer than tomorrow made her sick.
“I don’t really know. Mr. Todd says it’s a good sign, especially since that last witness, Carlos, was lying his ass off on the stand.” Damian shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He hated talking about case. He thought about it enough when he was alone and tried hard only to think of Lela and the baby.
“So, they offering fifteen this time.”
Lela’s body stiffened, and she pulled her hands away from Damian to fiddle with her hair. Damian knew she was trying not to cry. Lela looked down and then toward the wall and around the room before settling, again, on Damian’s face. He scooted his chair closer, pressing his chest into the table that separated them. He rubbed her back and continued cautiously.
“Mr. Todd thinks he could bring her down some more, you know, negotiate. But damn, fifteen years is a long time. Our baby will be grown if that I take that shit. And you, you know, might not want to wait that long. I wouldn’t blame you, either.”
Lela blinked back tears. Until now, she never doubted that Damian would be home for their baby’s birth, holding her hands, feeding her ice chips and willing her to push. She struggled to imagine herself alone in the hospital room, holding some stranger’s hand, ushering their baby into to the world while he was locked up somewhere far upstate.
Fifteen years. She shuddered.
It sounded like he said forever.
(c) me. don't bite.