Jake Carson never was a truly good man, but he was gentle. A woman likes a gentle man. A man might be an idiot; he might be careless, dirty, or even unpretty, but, if a man is gentle, he will get a look see from a woman, from most women. Oh, and if he can make a woman laugh; well, he wins.
Problem with Jake was he was getting looks from the police too, and they weren't laughing. Jake liked cars, not a problem. But, liking other people's cars enough to steal them that tended to be a problem. So now Jake was in prison, or, actually on his way there. His wife, Millie, was going to see him for the last time before he headed north. See him off, it sounded to her almost like he going on a cruise, when she said it, but Chico was no cruise. He would be away for ten years. Oh, with good behavior, he might be out in four or five. Millie just wanted to smash his face for doing this to her. She loved him, but she was angry, justifiably angry!
Her situation? Desperate. She had no money; the lawyer had got all that there was. She had no job, but she had to get one in a hurry. The rent on their house would be due in three weeks, and then the pressure would be on.
She hated the place, the visitors' complex at the county lockup: there was a receiving entrance that all, who wanted clearance, had to traverse before getting to the outdoor visiting area in the back. It was a forbidding place, the visitors' area, heavy rolls of concertina razor wire topped a twelve foot high chain link fence. Rows of polished steel two person tables with built in stools were the only furniture in evidence. Jails were not nice places.
They searched her whenever she came in; they searched all of the visitors. And it wasn't pleasant; it was invasive and personal, and dirty. The guards, the women guards, were worse than the men. They seemed to take pleasure in hurting and humiliating the wives. But, no matter how bad it was for the wives, it was worse for Jake and the other inmates.
The worst? He had told her once. It was watching her walk away, back to her car while he had his fingers entwined in the chain link of the fence watching her go. Watching her cross the parking lot that abutted the fence, knowing she was going somewhere that he could not follow. Watching her walk away and not be able to go with her, not able to stop at the store with her; not able to comfort her when she was alone and broke and sick or worried about him, or anything.
And of course there was the absence of sex. None for him at all, unless one of those stinking bastards in the prison made him his bitch. Oh, and no sex for her either—unless she cheated. And, how could he call her a cheater; he had cheated her out of a big piece of their lives together. He was the cheater, the worst kind.
Millie knew it happened, the homosexuality. She was sick for him, worrying about him. Jake was her husband and she loved him. Gawd why! Why those stupid cars!
"Hi baby," he said, as he took a seat on the stool across the table from her.
"Hi." she was trying not to cry. "Oh Jake, when you get out, never again, okay. We won't even have a car. We'll walk or take cabs, but no cars, okay?" she said.
"You got it baby. I know I've said it a thousand times since the trial, but I am so sorry. I am so sick at heart for what I have done to you, to us," he said.
"How did the job interview go?" he said, trying to change the subject.
"Okay I think. I think I will get the job; I just don't know how soon I'll be starting, maybe in a couple of weeks."
"Call my parents. I talked to mom yesterday. They can help till you get your first check," he said.
"Okay, Jake, I will. I'll get by somehow. There's a wives' support group too. I will be going to that tonight. They're supposed to be able to help out when one or another of us is in tough straights. Anyway, I'm gonna go and see."
"Good Millie. Good. There's something else I have to ask you," he said.
"What's that, Jake?"
"You know I'll be headed north tomorrow. It's about a three hour drive, so I hear; that's pretty far, I know. Will you be able to still visit me sometimes? I mean we've talked about it, but I didn't know then where I would be taken until now," he said.
"Every month, Jake. I promise you that. If I can't because of illness or something, I will get a message to you. Maybe through your mom. But, I will be there on visiting day if I can be, you can depend on that."
He smiled. "You know they have trailers there, I mean at Chico."
"Yeah, so that husbands and wives can be alone and together for a little while. Maybe even overnight sometimes. I mean when you visit," he said.
"Yes. I know it's going to be pretty rough for the both of us having no sex. But, well, it's only a thought," he said.
"Just like you Jake, always thinking about my pussy."
"The most beautiful thing in the world, baby, I'm an expert on your pussy."
She smiled and then laughed. It was the first light moment in all of the six visits she'd had with him at the county jail. "Just behave inside that place, Jake," she said. "I need you out as soon as possible. I really need you, okay. I mean I really need you," she said, with as much emphasis as she could.
The hated voice came over the loudspeaker announcing the end of visiting hours. They weren't supposed to touch, but Macon was on duty. So he leaned over and gave her a peck on the cheek. Some of the guards were a little more human than others.
She turned to go. At the gate, she turned back and gave him a little wave.
She couldn't see it as she dodged an oncoming car to get to hers at the back of the lot. But he swallowed hard before beginning to cry yet again as he watched her go; his fingers grew white as he squeezed the wire wall.
Most people never think of the feelings that inmates have, he thought to himself. Bad though many of them were, and others unlucky, all of them had feelings and almost all of them were in pain, bad mental pain.
There were some twenty women, jammed into the little hall on the second floor of the county lockup, waiting for the facilitator, the one who would lead the meeting and give the wives some of their options.
Millie sat between two black women. The one to her right was comely and young and slim; she was also as nervous as Millie was.
"Ever been to one of these before," said the woman.
Millie looked at her as though she were interrupting. It was embarrassing for her to be there among the other women, all of whom shared one thing in common: their husbands were one and all convicted criminals.
"No. First time," said Millie, deciding to be agreeable if not enthusiastic.
"Me too. My man's in for burglary," said the woman. "There won't be a second time; he gets this one mistake and that's it as far as I'm concerned."
Millie looked at her as though to say: that's pretty cold lady with your husband going inside tomorrow, but she left it alone.
"My Jake's in for stealing cars. Shit!" She said suddenly, "We didn't need the damn money; he did it for thrills. Now I'm gonna be paying too," said Millie between clenched teeth.
Her new acquaintance nodded her understanding. "All of us here in the same boat," said the woman. "I'm Jill Reynolds. My husband, Daniel, is on his way to Chico. Yours too?"
"Yes. Three fucking hours up the road, at least so my husband told me," said Millie.
"Yeah, that's about right, I know the area. Never been to the prison, but I know the town," said Jill.
"I'm kinda afraid of going up there. How about you?" said Jill.
Millie hadn't thought that far ahead, but now that someone else had brought it up, she realized she wasn't very comfortable with the idea either: all of those killers and rapists and thugs and such!
"Hadn't thought much about it, but I guess I can do it," said Millie.
"Oh, I'll do it, we all will, but that little asshole of mine will pay for doing this to me," said Jill. "I ain't takin' this layin' down."
Everybody came awake as a stout middle aged woman with frizzy hair and a rough hewn profile entered stage right and came to the front.
"Good evening ladies," she said. "My name is Mildred Doyle. I'm with County Social Services, and I'm here to give you some of your options and to answer any questions that you may have, or try to at any rate."
"Let's begin..." She spoke for some twenty minutes and asked for questions.
Leaving the meeting, Jill pulled Millie aside, and said, "Hey girl, would like some company on your visit next month. I mean we could go together and see our men and then we wouldn't be so—vulnerable, so alone."
"I—I don't know," said Millie. She paused, "Wait, on second thought never mind. Yes, I guess that would fine.
"You wanna drive or me," said Millie.
Jill looked guilty.
"What?" said Millie.
"I don't drive," she said. "I don't have a car either. I do have gas money though."
Millie smiled. She realized that the girl had played her. But it was not a biggee for her, not if the other girl bought the gas. "Okay, Jill, if you by the gas, all of it, I will do the driving. Deal?"
"Deal," said a happy and relieved Jill. "And you can pick the day. Neither of our guys are in for child abuse or drugs or stuff like that, so we'll be able to visit next month no problem. Some of the gals in there tonight might not be able to see their men for a while, and for sure they'll be getting no family visitations."
"What are those exactly? I mean what's the difference between a visit and a family visitation?" said Millie.
"You know, the trailers," said Jill.
.... There is more of this story ...