It had been a long time coming. The last time I saw Jenn W. was in 2015. She had planned to come again in July of 2016, but she was having a summer fling with some mohawk-wearing guy from Facebook, and she chose him over me that summer. I was sad and jealous, but what’s a guy in prison to do? Just wait, and hope.
After lots of gentle coaxing, planning, crossed fingers, and a $1000 money order to pay for her trip, the visit finally happened nine months later.
Visiting on Saturday was scheduled from 11:30 to 4:30, with visitors required to arrive by 11 AM. Visiting hours on Sunday were from 8-10 AM, and again from 1-5 PM.
As you might imagine, on Friday night I couldn’t focus on anything. My nerves were getting the best of me. I was fidgeting like a pro, and had little to no appetite. I had called Jenn to confirm she had made it to the hotel — a nice Best Western overlooking the river in Orofino. She had just finished dinner there with her mom and daughter.
I set my alarm for 7. Our visit wasn’t until 11:30, yet somehow I felt it prudent to be awake several hours early. I had time to shower, to get dressed, to brush my teeth, to put on deodorant, to make sure I was wearing my cleanest underwear (for the strip search at the end), and to think of topics we could talk about, in case there were any awkward pauses in our conversation. I wanted to be prepared, instead of asking “what’s the weather like in California?” or something similar that you’d expect strangers to ask on a blind date.
At 10:45 in the morning, I walked to the window in our dayroom, where we overlook the parking lot and the walkway where the visitors enter the facility. I saw Jenn pull up in her SUV. I noticed how cool the wheels on her new SUV were. She stayed in her car for a while, not wanting to socialize with the other visitors, I surmised. Then, there was an announcement: “Emergency Situation, cell up.” I had to return to my room, and didn’t get to see Jenn enter the building.
But all was OK, because it was now 11:20. Our visit was about to start. My cellmate began to clean the cell, and I paced back and forth in the dayroom, wondering what was taking so long. I went pee again, so I wouldn’t have to during the visit. I drank some water because my throat and lips were dry. I put on some more deodorant. I was hot, sweating. It was 11:40. Why hadn’t they called me yet? 11:50. Noon. What the hell is going on? I was complaining to anyone who walked by me. “This is so fucked up. She drove 13 hours to see me and now they’re not calling it? This is just my luck.” And so on. And so forth.
Tommy kept asking the guard on our unit, “have they called for visitors yet?” The guard kept answering, annoyed, “not yet, I’ll let you know.” Finally, after being asked the 10th time, the guard said, “they said there’s too many visitors so they turned some people away.”
You’ve got to be kidding me. I looked out the window. Jenn’s car was still in the parking lot. So I called her mom to see if she had heard any updates. “Hi Steve. It’s beautiful here. I’m down at the pool looking at the mountains and the river. Jenn left hours ago. They haven’t let you see her yet?” She was as shocked as I was, but she assured me that I should just hang in there and she was sure they’d call me within a few minutes.
Adding to the frustration was the fact that our visit was initially scheduled for the weekend prior. Jenn had made hotel reservations, and had taken time off work. But then I heard a rumor that all of IDOC prisons were cancelling visitation that particular weekend, due to some training. I had my parents look on the IDOC website, and yes, it confirmed that visiting would be closed, statewide. So I had to ask Jenn to change her travel plans. And guess what? That weekend came, and visiting ran as usual. Nobody even knew why that memo had been posted online. They said it only applied to Boise, not to Orofino. I guess I need to better understand the definition of “statewide”.
So visiting was cancelled yet wasn’t really cancelled, and now I’m facing the possibility that Jenn was turned away this time, due to there being too many visitors? It was infuriating. I had an instant headache, so irritated, when at 12:25, the guard finally told me to go to visiting. “Thank God,” I said aloud, and got halfway down the stairs when I realized I had my address book in my pocket, with Jenn’s mom’s phone number in it. Crap. I had to return back up the stairs and throw this onto my bed, as I wouldn’t be allowed to take it into the visit with me. This delayed me a couple more minutes.
I entered the room, and saw her sitting at a table in the middle of the room. They’re the typical stainless steel tables, with the four stools built in, like you’d see on any number of prison reality TV shows. I had to sign in at the desk, and leave my ID, but I looked at Jenn as I waited in line, and raised my eyebrows at her as if to say, with only a facial expression, “sorry you’ve been waiting an hour and a half…this place is a zoo.” Then I approached her table, as she stood up to give me a hug. It felt so incredible. I held on for as long as I could, until she broke the hug after about three seconds, and we sat down. She looked so beautiful. I couldn’t stop smiling. I wanted her to want me. I wanted her to love me. I wanted her to tell me how she can’t wait to be with me when I get out of prison. How she adores me. How she misses cuddling in my hottub or lunches at PF Chang’s or watching scary movies like we used to. I wanted more than a quick goodbye peck on the lips. But none of that happened. She left early so that she could spend an extra day on the beach in Oregon instead of a few more hours with me in Idaho.
Lately, each time I hear the song, “I can’t make you love me if you don’t,” I suddenly become afflicted with really bad allergies.
Categories: Stephen Newman