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IN WOMEN'S PRISON

Dreamed 1994/7/23 by Chris Wayan

Another scorching day in women's prison. I'm in the lobby, watching a young man on the staff, a counselor, hurrying to set up "table showers", sort of sprinkler-showers the women can cool off under. But then a cop comes in the front door, and the counselor instantly changes course to intercept him.

The cop says he's here to investigate rumors of a shooting. The staff's been trying to hush it up, but I sympathize for their reason. Was it unintentional, a quarrel that got out of hand? Was she violent, was it self-defense? I'm not even sure it's real. A malicious rumor to get the place shut down, get us transferred? In any case, the counselors want to keep the local cops, who are almost all men, away from the inmates--they always show a leering contempt for the women and bring up bad memories and undo days of self-esteem work.

Then a tall skinny slightly ragged blonde in a miniskirt comes out and yells "Michael, we gotta rig up a table shower, they're gonna go crazy." She's not staff--an inmate. Over the last few months she's become the de facto leader among the women--smart, sociable, demanding fairness. Though she had the good luck to face a relatively liberal staff, she deserves a lot of the credit for major changes around here--more than any single staff member. I like her instantly. I'm not the only one: she and the counselor have danced a wary flirtation; though in the prison structure staff and inmates are inevitably enemies, they genuinely admire each other.

The counselor looks a little awkward. She feels shaken--"Is he ashamed of me? Of course. Why's he need a whore in jail with no education? He can get a girl with no scars and a PhD and a career and everything..." Her eyes and voice have half-teasing half-suicidal brightness as she adds "And join me for a drink afterward?" (Goodbye, you know you can't. But I meant it, all that flirting, you'll tell me it's some transference, but it's as close to love as I'll ever feel, with my fucked up heart...) The counselor hesitates, and the cop smells blood. Corruption.

The counselor inhales, and smiles, and says... "Well, I agree with you about the shower, and this cop is here to interview people about the shooting, and we have to put it to a vote how to do it. And... actually... yes. I'd love to join you. I've wanted to ask you for a long time."

The cop's eyes bug out and all the women fall silent. The bravest, most romantic gesture anyone's ever made here. Not actually illegal, but he's risking his career to say he loves her. And that is what he's saying.

The two touch hands. Her soul starts to shine right through her skin like a glow stick.

They're in love, and to hell with other people's opinions.

NOTES ON WAKING UP



LISTS AND LINKS: freedom and prisons - home - coming out - showers - initiative - courage - love - joy

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