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Wearing a Stranger's Boots



I went to visit Jorge again earlier in the month. The visit went well. Jorge looks really good and is happy, and we got to bring his girlfriend (that’s another story about how he reconnected from somebody from elementary school and they are engaged).

There was a quick moment of worry when we didn’t think his sister could get in with a belly button piercing but she did.  This is also the closest I’ve ever come to having a panic attack at the prison. I went through the body scan machine and the metal detector, and took my shoes off, took my ring off, emptied my pockets, and had my hair felt to make sure I didn't have anything hidden in it. I got my wrist stamped and started to feel everything closing in. I had to focus on breathing and try not to think about the institutional walls, the COs who were being rude to me, and most importantly, the razor wire surrounding everything. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to go in but eventually diminished, although didn't go away completely.

After an hour and a half or so, Mitali and I left Jorge to hang out with his family and girlfriend for the rest of the time and went to visit his old cellmate who has literally nobody, during open visiting hours.

The line was really long to get back in, which made me really sad because people were waiting for ages to get to see their loved ones for only 30 minutes or 45 minutes before visiting hours ended.

Direcly in front of us were a grandma and her grandson who were going to see the little boy's dad and we chatted in line. The little boy was awesome. Pro tip: if you ever want to strike up a conversation with a kid, don’t ask them what school they go to. Ask them if they’ve ever broken a bone or have any cool scars. We compared scars.

The little boy looked up at the razor wire and asked what it was for. Granmda was doing something else at this point, so I tried to explain, and I tried to do it without having it sound too scary. But how do you explain to a little boy that the razor wire is there to keep his dad in, and to cause extreme damage if he tries to get out?

We finally got in and got checked in and were about to go through the scanner and metal detector, again. A woman next to us was telling her husband that she wasn’t going to be able to go in because she had lace-up boots, sort of combat boot style. She seemed shellshocked and didn't really show emotion, just kept saying that she couldn't get in, they wouldn't let her in. Now, I can undestand why they wouldn't want someone to wear footwear that was similar to the inmates' footwear, but I have read the dress code extensively, adn there is NOTHING in there about boots. Flilp-flops, yes. And slippers. Nothing about boots. She couldn't have known.

I asked her what size she wore and she said 8 1/2. I said, hey, I wear a size 9. That’s close enough, let’s trade. She pointed out, but then you can’t go in. Mitali asked her who she was visiting and she said her son and she hadn’t seen him in five years.

Obviously I took off my shoes and we traded. The guard tried to say we couldn't and then he just shrugged and let us. I walked out in slightly too-small boots and waited in the car. She got to see her son for half an hour, for the first time in five years.

It was the easiest choice for a good deed I’ve done in years and years. I’m just glad I had the right size feet. 

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