When looking back on a life that passed easily for more than fifteen years, I find one experience that changed my perspective, my self, and my soul. My father had landed himself in a jail cell, and I, being his daughter, was obligated to visit him. The day that I was placed in front of a six-foot square window and handed an ivory telephone changed me. This is what I remember:
As I walk into this jail, I make myself believe everything will go smoothly, but I am just deceiving myself. Upon looking closer, I begin to envision the comfortable couches as spikes and the sweet secretaries as witches, filing and organizing the devil’s agreements. I am reminded that steel bars holding in the convicted also hold the victims’ innocence that has been stolen and kept.
The plaster, white walls and the ugly gray flooring seem to be closing in, making me feel lonely and desperate to leave. Waiting and watching until it’s time for the inevitable meeting with my father is unnerving. Finally, I hear our last name ring out into the waiting room. It is time for the brief walk to face my fears and my hate. I sit down and watch the guard release my father into the room beyond the glass. He is sullen and unshaven. I figured this would happen due to the loss of alcohol and tobacco. I know that my family is trying not to cry, babbling on and on to distract their tears from dropping.
The hardest thing to do is talk without letting the hate I so passionately let build up show through. I uttered a few words about school and nervously fidgeted in my seat waiting for the strained conversation to be over.
“Katie-bug, how has my little girl been?” he asks.
“I’m just fine, daddy.” I answer quietly.
“I love you,” he says, almost questioning me.
I am surprise for a moment. My parched ears have not heard those eight letters uttered for so long. I know now that I can no longer keep my tears at bay, tucked safely inside my eyelids. On the brink of breakdown, I let out a nervous giggle.
“I-I love-e you too, daddy,” I stutter out.
Guilt sets in because I know the time has not been long enough for him and yet far too long for me.
“C’mon girls, lets go,” my mother states quickly.
My dad is weeping now, and I battle feelings of wanting to comfort and cuff him at the same time. Because my emotions deceive me, I begin crying as my mother leads me to the safety of the outside world.
That jail holds the souls of the innocent, the forsaken, the pitiless, the evil, and the dreams of long past. That jail is where my father was kept in a six-by-nine cell, as well as a self-made prison comprised of his faults and misdeeds. That jail is where silent tears reign and my dreams shattered into unfixable shards.
I believe that jail still holds part of my heart that I left there that day. I believe that in the space of a few seconds my heart broke and rebuilt itself. I believe sometimes loving someone is letting go rather than holding on. This I believe.