I don't belong here.
My arms are open and outstretched, welcoming the intrusion of a hand-held metal detector. A bored corrections officer runs the wand unnecessarily across my breast and crotch several times before she waves me through. I am used to this kind of treatment.
But I don't belong here.
I walk down a familiar hallway and pass through familiar doors. The sound my heels make as they click against the concrete floor is a cadence I know only too well. I hold my breath to keep the acrid scent of sweat, blood and despair from assaulting my senses but fail miserably. The stench overwhelms me. Invades me. Consumes me.
No, I don't belong here.
I'm hesitant as I am let through the last set of doors. I am on The Mile now. The air in this room is strange. It feels heavy with a different kind of stink. An eerie combination of hopelessness and resignation. I want to turn back. I want to run far away from this place. But I must walk this Mile. This Mile in my Father's shoes.
Even though I don't belong here.
I have to pass through three sets of cells to reach him. Only two are filled with familiar faces. To my left is Duane Lawrence Young. A serial killer. Duane Lawrence Young has eight kills to his name. You wouldn't know it from looking at him. Standing barely five feet tall, Duane Lawrence Young is curled into a ball in a corner of his cell, relentless sobs vibrating throughout his body. His cries don't stop just because there is a woman on the cell block. What shame the man has is gone. I move on.
Sweet Jesus, I don't belong here.
One cell up to my right is Jonathan Jones Adams. I never bothered to learn his crimes. He's a nasty little thing, shouting vulgar obscenities at me each time I walk The Mile, masturbating furiously the entire time I'm on the block. The sounds of him grunting and slapping away echo in my head for days every time I leave this place.
This place where I don't belong.
"Ladybug! You came!" My father is happy and jovial, as always. He lives in a decrepit place, wears the same shitty starched uniform every damn day, and eats food that I wouldn’t give my mangy mutt of a dog. And I don't like my dog very much. My father acts like he’s at a hotel with free room and board.
"Where else would I be but here with you, Papa?" I lie. I would rather be any other place than here with this man. I would rather be at work at my desk answering phones and misfiling paperwork. I would rather be at the dentist having every tooth yanked from my mouth without anesthesia. I would rather be locked in a cell with Jonathan James Adams than standing here in this place standing front of my father.
In this place where I don't belong.
He is allowed only one meal, so he has cut his salmon in half, divided the mashed potatoes and asparagus on a separate paper plate for me. He wants to share his last meal with me. He has chosen my favorite foods, not his. Reluctantly I step into his cell.
Into a place I don't belong.
My father is quiet. Reaches out to hug me. I let him. It's awkward as we stand there, him embracing me, my arms clinched firmly at my side. When he pulls away, his face is wet with tears. He asks, "Have you heard from the governor?"
He is hoping for a stay on an air-tight case. I shake my head, "No, Papa. No word."
My father nods like its okay then starts to laugh. He's always been like that. He used to laugh off the electric company shutting off our power. He used to laugh off gambling away our rent money so we had to sleep in our car. He laughed when the car was repossessed. He laughs now as man being framed for capital murder. He laughs the laugh of the innocent man.
I am uncomfortable so I sit on the tattered cot he calls a mattress. My father's laughter subsides and he sits next to me, shoving a paper plate in my hand. "Eat." It's a command, not a request. I obey, though the salmon is cold, the mashed potatoes are lumpy and the asparagus is overcooked. We both finish our plates in silence.
"I would have done it better, you know?" He's not looking at me but he's talking to me. Does he know? I was careful. Obviously not careful enough, but did he figure it out? Killing my husband was necessary, my father and I both agreed. A capital offense due to the badge that my husband hid behind and used as an excuse to beat me black and blue. But I needed to be the one to take care of it. I am a grown woman after all.
I never thought it would go this far. I never thought that either of us would be here in this place where neither of us belonged. It's suddenly too hot in here. The pungent aroma of hopeless and despair and something else I can't put my finger on envelope me. I can't be here anymore, in this place. I don't like it here.
I don't belong here.
I tell him it's time for me to leave. He seems disappointed that I won't stay for the Main Event, like its Must See TV. I don't belong in an execution chamber. What daughter wants to see her father put to death for a crime she damn well knows he didn't commit? I kiss my father on both cheeks and leave his cell.
I walk away from my father for the final time, his laughter echoing in my ears. I walk past Jonathan Jones Adams still masturbating, trying to finish before I leave for good. I walk past Duane Lawrence Young, huddled in a ball, still crying in the corner. I leave this place. This dark place I could never handle on my own.
Because I don’t belong here.