“Once through, we were led to a large waiting room with plastic chairs where other small groups waited to see their loved one. We sat separately from the lady and children we had driven with. Said nothing to them until it was time to leave. Security was taking people in groups up to the visitation floor.
We sat anxiously for what seemed like forever. As we waited, I observed the many kinds of people sitting quietly around me. They appeared to be in hopeful spirits, just trying to make light out of being here. Many kept their head down and only offered a slight forced smile if met by my eyes. Some, nothing at all. I noticed the many intimate families made up of woman and children, just like us.
In the air, I sensed shame. Embarrassment. They were waiting to visit an inmate too. It was the only reason to be here; to see someone who must have done something horrible, terrible, evil, corrupted, immoral or unforgiving. Nothing to be proud of. Perhaps they looked at me thinking the same. Maybe, it was only me.
After 40-50 minutes of waiting, it was finally our turn. We stood up, anxiety emanating from our bodies, along with other people who had been waiting just as long or longer. The three of us walked to a large metal door and waited until the guard gave us clearance to pass.
We went through an entrance that lead to an empty tan-colored room with silver elevator doors. No furniture or paintings on the wall. Completely baron. Caleb and I kept close to Mom as she directed us to move or wait as she did.
Minutes later we entered the elevator, along with the many other visitors. The guard hurdled us all in like cattle, attempting to fit as many of us as possible into the small space. Once filled to the brim, they closed the doors and took us up.
There were many Hispanic and Black woman and children sharing the confined space. The distance everyone tried to maintain in the waiting room was seemed pointless now given the close quarters of the elevator walls. Everyone remained silent as we moved up, nerves creeping up as each floor passed beneath us.
The elevator came to a stop and everyone stepped out into a large, low ceiling room filled rows and rows of dark green plastic chairs that seemed to continue on into the distance. Each seat appeared connected, making one long, unmovable structure. Under the dim light, we waiting in line to be checked in by another security guard who sat behind a tall, solid gray desk.
As I looked out into the room, one by one I saw families being reunited with their husbands and sons. Hugging tight and kissing strong while tears cascaded.
Scanning through the forming crowds, my eyes were suddenly caught by a familiar face.