Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Criminals

on October 1, 2009

Criminals
Before you enter the facility, slip off all jewelry and leave it with your purse. Tuck your purse under a thick, heavy blanket in the back of your car. No one will break in. Not here. Criminals are all inside. Walk up to the double glass doors. Notice the weeds growing in the empty flower beds. Wonder, like you do every week, why the criminals aren’t assigned to weeding.

Thank the young man who holds open the door for you. Know that you’d recognize him if he was wearing orange pants and shirt. But, now he only looks vaguely familiar. His jeans sag and his t-shirt is over-sized. He’s tucked his baseball cap sideways over his thick, dark curly hair. You know that, somewhere, he’s got his gang name tattooed. He heads toward the probation office while you wait in the security line.

When it’s your turn, place your bag of books, paper, and notes on the scanner. Remove your belt and hand your car keys to the guard. It’s really not that much different than flying. Walk quickly through the scanner. Smile and thank the guard. Pick up your bag and slip your belt back through your belt loops. Ignore the cluster of parents, lawyers and families who wait outside the court room and scrutinize you as you redress.

Turn right and head towards the locked doors leading to the units. Notice the framed picture book art. Colorful pictures of barnyard animals and sunny, cloudless days. Art by criminals.

Round the corner and step up to the glass wall. An invisible camera watches your every move. Place your driver’s license into the drawer which is pulled inward by magic hands. In return, you receive a badge. Clip the “Professional” badge to the lower left hand corner of your shirt. Make sure the cameras can see that you are not a criminal. You are a “Professional.”

Feel eyes on your back. Turn to see a woman who is not much older than you. She watches you from her plastic green chair. You know her wait has been long. Slip your hand into your bag, and pull out a small book. Hand the book to her. Watch her and know that this is only one more piece of information in a long line of brochures, pamphlets, and booklets which have been pressed into her hands from well-meaning counselors, probation officers, and lawyers. Instead of glazing over or becoming defensive that someone else has the answer about how to fix her son, she looks up at you and says, “You know my son?”

You know that you don’t know who her son is, or even if he’s been in the weekly poetry groups. Inside, they are all the same in their orange jumpsuits. But, you nod, and say, “I do.”

He’s the boy who writes about brothers and sisters he’s disappointed. He’s the boy who writes apology poems to his Mom. He’s the boy who returns again and again because he just can’t get off the drug.

You know him.

This boy.

Her son.

Before you can tell her anything more, the door clicks open.

You are invited inside.

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