When you only get to spend a fraction of your time with your loved one, you tend to place more meaning in every subtle little thing that happens. Every action, every moment is something valuable in itself. The time I spend with Sean becomes more important than what actually meets the eye. I am not just visiting him in the prison he is being forced to live in even though he has done nothing wrong. We are living. This precious time together is our life.
Most recent visit: We were seated at the ‘good table’; we call it that because it is of average table height as opposed to all the other tables in the room which are short- think preschool classroom table short. Said table was shared with another couple on their own visit. Facing each other, smiling, opening the clear plastic container of grapes I had just purchased for us to enjoy; the rest of the room faded away and it was just us. It was the first time I had ever really felt comfortable in that room with him like that. I felt at ease, watching him devour the ripe juicy grapes that to him were special and rare. I plucked a few off the stem and tasted for myself, lost in the magic of seeing him and sitting like a normal person, blissfully unaware for just that lingering moment of anything but us. It felt like we were home.
We like sharing food together like this, is bring us closer. Being able to eat together is what normal couples get to do. Not thinking, my fingers tangled up in too many grapes and stems, I placed a grape into the palm of his hand in a clumsy motion.
“You can’t do that.” his voice was serious. That big smile of his was gone.
Suddenly the beautiful moment had vanished, sort of in the same way that you wake up quickly from a very good dream. I was again made rudely aware that there were eyes watching us and rules governing our every movement. Even though my gesture was done with good intentions, to the outward eye trained to look for suspicious behavior it could have been seen as sneaky- like I was trying to pass him contraband. In his mind that was a possibility, that was his immediate response. He doesn’t want to give the guards any reason to look at us or question us, which is really the best approach to take given the situation. We want to continue our visits without any negative ideas being placed in our direction, we didn’t get to sit at the good table until the main guard had favored us, and this took 9 months.
Coming back to reality was unsettling. It felt heavy all of a sudden, overwhelming. I realized that while I had completely relaxed into our moment, his brain was still in action, wired to the tune of the prison rules. Although I am glad he’s looking out for us, it felt upsetting that even something as simple as handing him a grape could be accidentally mistaken for a violation of the visit rules. It was a painful reminder that we are not free when we are together. For now anyway.