The dark days we’re stuck inside. The light is broken, and it’s sweltering from the radiator-heater and no ventilation. Day- in and day-out, nights are the same. They don’t have -never have had- a beginning. They’ll never end on their own.
I’m nervous, but I know that she must be too. I can’t imagine her being more so than me, though it would be fair to say she might be. The door opens, and when she walks in my heart loses count, harmony broken. She is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, not just in years but ever (and I have seen the Grand Canyon, the tropical rainforests in Mexico, the green flash that crosses the ocean at sunset, the Aurora in the Northern Sky…). Her shoulders flutter when she sees me, flipping her hair as she speaks to the person at the podium for a moment before strolling over to me. She smiles a giddy smile and flips her golden hair as she takes a seat inches from me.
“Hi,” she says.
I smile. “Hey,” I say.
A moment goes by… my confidence isn’t what it could be right now. Then she breaks the ice. “Can I give you a hug?”
As she leans over the armrest dividing us, I grab her tighter than I have ever held anyone, her gasping and smiling, brushing her cheek against me as we let go.
It was going to be like this, always. With the old heater it was stifling to the point where sometimes it was hard to breath, especially with all the cigarette smoke. But my bed was cold. I felt cold. I grabbed my blanket tight around me.
“Oh my God, it’s really nice to finally meet you!”
“It’s really nice to meet you too. Thanks for coming,” I say.
“I was worried they might not let me in… my mom dropped me off, and she won’t be back for a couple hours.”
“So am I right that it kinda looks like the waiting room at a Secretary of State office?”
“Oh definitely! Like, maybe even a little nicer though. I was a little worried, but it’s nice. And it’s nice to see you.”
I was trying to decide what my options were. The blade in my shaving razor (which is unused. . because I can’t grow any facial hair yet)? I already tried to OD before; you’d think thirty Ambien would do something. Perhaps a run to the fence, make them shoot me off of it. Perhaps not. Perhaps. One more cigarette… an image of cancer swirls in my mind. I’d take it off of someone else’s hands if God would let me. Why doesn’t fate work like that?
I smile larger than I ever have. “Hi Holly! I wasn’t expecting you.”
“I hope it’s okay that I dropped in… you weren’t busy with anything, were you?”
“Like something I could be doing could be more important than you.”
“Give me a kiss…”
–As if I have to be asked…–
I wanted to pick a good time too. Holidays are the worst.
Don’t miss Chris Dankovich’s story: Juveniles Tried As Adults: Becoming A Man In Prison
Going through another Christmas like this? I couldn’t bear the thought. But I have people that love me. I’m not going to ruin the day for them. New Years… could I make it through another New Years? Could I make it until this New Years?
She puts her hand under my chin as I lean in. Her lips feel… what does the Sun feel as it sets over the sea on a horizon of clouds waiting for its glow? Like every flap of the wing of a bird which keeps it in the sky, it lasts forever in that moment. That same air I must breath, however, and I must stop. Why is breath necessary?
Breathing is hard. I have to take deep breaths sometimes because I feel short of breath so much. My father visits, breath in. Come back to my unit and breath out. My aunt, uncle, cousins, grandparents, friends of the family visit… breath in. They leave, and I can’t breathe anymore. Laying on my bunk, in the evenings when it’s cold and dark… when night hasn’t set in and time to dream. . I can’t breathe. I’m gasping, suffocating, drowning.
God. Are you there God? Do you even care? If you are and if you do, please. Please what? I don’t know.
Then. a card in a pink envelope. Mail is slid under our door. I open the card. It’s from someone I don’t know. She says as much. She asks my forgiveness and tells me to disregard it if it is unwanted. But she offers her friendship.
I breathe in.
She can’t breathe, but because she is laughing. We both are. We smile when we stop. I look at her.
’’That’s a beautiful bracelet you have on.”
She lifts her wrist to show me the gold bangle. “This? I really like this one. My cousin left it when she moved out, and I found it and really liked it.”
“May I…” I ask after my hands are already on her wrist, pushing the bracelet back and forth. I slide my hand up, and we grab each other’s hand.
I look at her hand in mine. We say nothing for the moment. I grip her hand and she grips mine tightly back. My eyes go up to her, and she looks at me in a way… I can never forget, but the words don’t exist to describe it. But my mind is on her hand, which feels in mine like… like time must feel when it reaches the event-horizon of a black hole, and it is stretched out into infinity, at once nothing, at once everything.
The Sun always shines as I read her letters. She tells me in one that she loves me. The first time I have ever been told that. What do the clouds feel, caressed by the setting sun? What does the black hole feel, embraced by the infinite itself? I was eighteen years old, and I had been in prison for three years…
Having heard from her many times a week for years, years went by when I hadn’t been lucky enough to hear from her. At first frustration, pain. Later, reminiscing, love and hope for wherever -whoever- she may be now.
One day a text to my dad. A letter to me. Having shed enough tears in my life, for the first time I knew what a tear of joy was. Walking in the door, she nearly cries, and all I want to do is hold her, as tight as I can, as tight as the first time I ever met her. And all I want to do is make her smile.
Chris Dankovich #595904
Thumb Correctional Facility
3225 John Conley Drive
Lapeer, MI 48446