“What spurred you to join the poetry club?” Grandma asks. She’s been keeping up a steady stream of chatter to keep my mind off of what I’m about to do.
“Mia? You okay?”
“Wha- oh, yeah, I’m fine. I am super nervous though.
“That’s only normal. But don’t overthink it.”
I shrug. “Yeah. So, the poetry club,” –wow, that seems like it was eons ago- “Nothing, really. I’d never been into writing. It just seemed like the best option.” I pause. “Crazy how it ended up changing my life,” I muse, shaking my head. Grandma smiles reassuringly as she pulls into a parking spot.
“Well, this is it.” The prison is built on a hill, and the whole place is tilted, like the lives inside it, and the lives of the people they left suffering in their wake. Good metaphor, I note.
We step out and trudge up to the ominous building, which is surprisingly not gray. It’s a pristine white.
“Like the souls we keep here,” the guard jokes in response to Grandma’s remark.
I watch all of numbly, detached, as if I’m not there. I don’t like that at all.
We fill out the visiting application to prove that we’re not fellow criminals trying to break him out. As if. Then Grandma has to fill out a minor’s application for me.
My bangs fall over my eyes and I blow them away. Someone asks for my student ID and for a second I wonder if they suspect me. Then I figure it’s probably just standard procedure. We wait while they verify everything and then we’re done.
I’m about to see my father for the first time in a little over a month.
The building is stuffy, but I find myself shivering. Grandma holds my hand and even though it makes me feel like the biggest baby ever, I don’t pull away.
What if he starts yelling?
What if hates me ever more?
What if he tells me all the reasons why and their solid?
I only realize that I’m muttering this out loud when Grandma whispers, “What ifs are a waste of time.
I nod and take a deep breath. Our escort unlocks a door and lets us in.
“I’ll be waiting right here. If the inmate gets violent, call me in,” he says, his face callous. Looks like those nice cops who came to get me away from home were the exception.
The bare walls seem to glare at me from all sides. In the center of the room is a table with a phone on it and an uncomfortable plastic chair. I stare at the floor, afraid of what I’ll see if I look up. But I do, anyway, because I must.
Dad’s eyes meet mine and I can’t breathe anymore. I didn’t like feeling numb? Now I got what I wanted. Every ounce of me is living to feel pain and my brain is shouting Run!