I don't like to think about it, much. I just want to get there, take my number, check in, and go chat for the allotted half hour. Sometimes, it's inconsequentials: how we're progressing on our workout routines, what's going on at the office, techie stuff about networking or coding, how hard that one New York Times crossword puzzle was. Sometimes, it's more serious and in-depth philosophical or theological or political discussion: things like the nature of Faith and spirituality or the morality of drug legalization. The half-hour is almost never enough, especially on the days where the discussion gets serious. Just when it gets really interesting, it's time to go.
Rather, it's time for me to go. She, of course, has to stay.
Sometimes, when we're talking, I forget she's in jail, and it seems like old times with the arguments we used to get into. Sometimes both of us would switch sides in the middle, just to play devil's advocate, and sometimes, we'd just disagree strongly with each other. It was exhausting sometimes, our conversations, but always interesting.
When the visit is over, though, the surroundings make it pretty obvious that it's not like old times at all. I get off the small, metal stool in the visiting room, walk up the stairs, and down the long, sterile hallway painted with red, white, and blue lines to direct visitors to their particular area. It's cold in jail, and the hallway echoes with the sound of my footsteps. Even when there are other people near me, finished with their own visits, we're all somehow completely alone as we make our way back toward the outside. It's oppressive, the atmosphere. The ceilings seem lower than they are, and the whole place has a bizarre, too-brightly-lit aura to it.
I got up to the desk, and turned in my temporary visitor tag, at the same time retrieving my driver's license from the deputy on duty. Heaving a bit of a sigh, I started to walk toward the parking lot. I wanted to get back in my car, and let the music pound the sense out of my head. I needed that clarity.
On my way out, I passed a haggard and depressed-looking blonde woman carrying a little girl, maybe one or two years old. The woman didn't even seem to see me as she headed toward the visiting area. There was all the hopelessness and resignation in the world in her face. As we passed each other, the tiny little girl turned, looked me right in the eye, and gave me the sweetest smile I'd ever seen. The contrast between mother and daughter rocked me, and nearly stopped me in my tracks.
On the way home, the music was louder than ever.