It had been a hot day. It was the summer of either 2002 or 2003. Roughly 11 or so years ago. The car ride was long, we got up at 4:00 am to be on the road by 5, after our showers. We wouldn’t eat anything. We wouldn’t have been able to anyways; well, I wouldn’t have been able to. We arrived at around 6 am. Already there was a long line outside. We took our place and waited till we could go inside and write on a slip or faded orange paper who it was we were there to see, their identification number, and if we’d be leaving them any money. Before we could pass through the gate, however, we had to be patted-down. It was only procedure. By 6:45 the bus that would take some of us up the hill had arrived. It filled with the loved ones of oh-so-many-others before we had a chance ourselves. “You won’t have to wait too long” a voice said from inside the bus, “we’ve recently gotten more drivers.” For the first time, that wasn’t a lie. We only had to wait 20 minutes for the next bus. We were subjected to the second pat-down that day once we arrived at the top of the hill. There was another line. It seemed even longer than the one we had to wait through at the front. Someone said there was a fight. Figures.
We got through after one more pat-down, and the first metal detector. We couldn’t go in until he had been patted down. He couldn’t leave till we had been patted down. It was only fair. I sat down. My mother sat next to me on the bench that would barely fit either of us if we were comfortable. My sister stood behind us. Across from a presumably bullet-proof window was my uncle. My mom spoke to him, mostly. We had a short conversation, through the tears and the wheezing of a child who could not understand why. He spoke to my sister, nothing much. Fifteen minutes. That’s all you’d get. They’d kindly tap your shoulder. Never would they tap on the prisoners side. Some families would touch the glass. Plead. Try and stay a few more seconds. Others would sit down, stare one another down through the glass, never uttering a word. One last pat-down, one more metal detector. One last wave. We still had to wait for the bus back down. In silence we’d wait under the grueling sun. In silence we’d drive back home. Open the doors to our comfortable lives. Close the one we had only glimpsed a bit to on the inside. And then we’d be able to talk.
For this piece I choose to keep the audience and the experience as separated as I could. I did this for two reasons. Firstly it only felt right as not everyone can relate to such an experience. Secondly because the feeling of separation is one that is relevant to this piece’s tone.