Houston airport, 12:15 pm
Still processing the second day of my visit -- already day ago. Although I was much less hesitant going through security and much more relaxed conversing with Troy (not his real name), I came out of Polunsky just wanting to unwind. Couldn't get it together to write. I exited the compound under a brilliantly shining sun that made the barbed wire fencing sparkle. Thinking only of myself, I was in a hurry to savor my freedom.
There was more activity in the visitation room on Friday than on Thursday. By total coincidence, I ran into the kind TCADP member who had sent me the long, informative email. She happened to be visitng her friend and was assigned to the booth right next to mine. She seemed subdued and heavy-hearted. We exchanged a bit of conversation and she remarked sadly that the men there are treated "like animals." Troy's arrival on his side of the glass pane cut short our chat. My TCADP friend peeked over and waved hi to him. When her inmate friend arrived, Troy said a sideways hi to him and I peeked over and said hi too. He gave me a big smile. He seemed happy. Her visits must be a great source of cheer to him. Troy knew that inmate, of course, and told me his name. I excitedly told Troy that the lady visiting the other inmate was the TCADP member who had sent me the helpful email. Then we settled into conversation.
I had requested a different booth in the hope that the telephone connection might be clearer, and indeed it was. This time I felt no awkwardness. It felt natural to be there talking and laughing with my friend. As natural as can be expected when you're sitting in front of a pane of glass. A visit totally devoid of physical contact. I keep asking myself: what are they afraid of? Would I slip him a weapon or a razor blade? Or some other contraband? Would he slip me a note? Behind Troy I could see guards leading other inmates to and from visiting booths from time to time. The presence of these stocky, heavily armed guards keeps visitors and inmates properly intimidated. There must be a better way.
The guard who gathered the snacks that I purchased for Troy couldn't have been sweeter, however. Wonder how it feels to be a combination guard and take-out delivery employee? Seeing the guards and other prisoners going to and fro behind Troy, I thought of the beverage machine. You push a button and a mechanism behind a glass window locates and fetches the desired drink and drops it onto the shelf below, where only the guard is permtted to touch it. Of bottles and men.
How does he keep his spirits up, I wonder? And when will we see each other again? And will we ever be able to give each other a hug?