She is Me | Leisure

She is Me© By Sera

Someday they’ll give a war and nobody will come. – Carl Sandburg Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on. – Robert Burns It is 8:30 PM in prison. I am in a huge room with 78 other women. There is a TV blaring in the day room. There is a low murmur of endless chatter, a monotonous sound that becomes the eternal background music. It is punctuated by 80 different kinds of laughter. High giggles, open guffaws, low chucking; and always the sound of consistent talking underneath. Bunk beds circle along the walls, the middle of the room full of single beds. All but perhaps ten women are in this huge room together, the other ten diffused in the TV room, the bathroom or the toilets. I look around the room attempting an objective eye. Here is a girl sleeping. Here is a girl curled up around a book. Here are two girls, sitting side by side on a bunk gossiping. Here is one girl sitting on the floor at another girl’s feet getting her hair braided. There is a girl sleeping, there is a girl staring into space. There are three girls playing cards, two girls playing backgammon. Here are two girls looking at someone’s photo album, each woman’s treasure here, oooing and aahing over the pictures. There is a girl crying, another girl stroking her hair. There are two women sharing a bowl of noodles, complimenting them as if they were escargot. One girl is reading “Dick and Jane”, one girl is reading Nietzsche. One girl speaks slowly, one girl jabbers fast. There is a shower going somewhere, toilets flushing and an endless procession of women walking to and from the bathroom and the day room. There is no one fighting. We are all here on top of each other and there is no raised voice, no raised fist. Don’t get me wrong, prison is violent. I have seen more physical fights than I can count. But I would say 85% of the time we all manage to exist together in a semblance of peace. We maneuver carefully around each other to respect each other’s space and allow each other to breathe. We are very different women, but in here, none of it matters. We are in a single experience together. We all understand each other. She was a doctor in her other life. She was a hooker. She is a cut up, she is very serious. She has a Masters. She never made Junior High School. No one cares. We are all prisoners. We all have had great

joys and great depressions. Dreams and Fantasies. Nightmares and Fears. Great Hopes and Great Failures. I am she and she is me. I have four more months here. She has 40 more years. No one cares. We’re all here right now and living through this moment. I love them and hate them. Envy them and pity them. Respect them and condescend them. They are beautiful, ugly, crazy, loving, morose and laughing, endlessly circling each other like vultures and lovers. She is praying. She is sewing. And I am scribbling furiously whittling away at the effort of explaining women in prison. Alas, I don’t possess the talent.

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