Jail Bird

May 19, 2008
By Zoe Wilkins, Kittery Point, ME

They were like starving dogs, crowding around the tiny, thick-paned windows. Outside, a single woman walked quickly past them, her feet slipped on the loose gravel as she quickened her pace, and she averted her eyes from their grotesquely desperate faces. Even so, they drank in every luscious detail that her presence brought; the feminine curve of her body, and the soft bounce of her long hair. They imagined the way that her buttery skin smelt, and how smooth she would feel to touch.
Even as she exited their line of sight, the prisoners continued to gaze through the smudged glass, their hearts thumping in their chests, their breath fogging up the windows. "See you tonight, Bella," whispered a young man with sallow skin, and liquid brown eyes. They had agreed to call her Bella several weeks ago, when she first started making daily trips to the courthouse across the street from the state penitentiary. Every morning, without fail, she parked her dusty blue sedan in the parking lot adjacent to their windows, and they watched her as she strode on by, and then again, as dusk began to fall, when she made her way back again. Of all the regulars who passed under the ravenous gaze of the men lucky enough to have been assigned cells overlooking the road, Bella was a favorite. She sent testosterone pumping through their veins again, she made them feel dizzy and intoxicated, she was constantly enveloping their thoughts.

The young man, who had whispered to her, in his sad, husky undertone, sat down heavily on a rickety bed, ducking his head slightly as a reflex, to avoid the bunk above him. He leaned back and smiled such a tiny smile that it almost appeared more an involuntary twitch than anything else. He couldn't exactly remember how long he had been there anymore; his days were marked by the goings on of the world outside the window. Nobody came to visit, nobody cared to remember him, and so he lived within his mind; he was kept alive by the stories he weaved around those he saw. In them, he saw the faces of his family; his daughter and his girlfriend, his friends - everyone who continued to exist without him, in the real world.

Just then, he heard the scraping of tires on gravel, and he pulled himself bolt upright, rushing to the window. He was just in time to catch a fleeting glance of Maria, and her daughter, Ruby, as they rumbled past in their little beat up car. Ruby was gesticulating wildly, smiling widely as she spoke.
He had nicknamed her Ruby because she reminded him of his own daughter, who had been born on a hot, flaccid day in July just five years ago, under the birthstone Ruby. They laughed in the same way, tossing their heads back and opening their tiny mouths wide to reveal rows of perfectly white baby teeth. Whenever he saw Ruby passing by the window he felt the air in his lungs fade away; his entire body ached irrepressibly every single time, and yet he was addicted to her image. His own daughter hadn't seen him since he--d been sent to this God forsaken place, her mother refused, and so he watched Ruby, hoping to gain an idea of what his own daughter might look like now, and how she might behave, what kind of person she may become.

The only real memory he had of her was of the first time he was allowed to take her out alone - just the two of them. He drove her to the beach, and she sat in the passenger seat bouncing up and down with her little legs sticking straight out. She giggled and told stories he couldn't quite comprehend, but he listened carefully, her gentle babbling relaxed him.

He bought her an ice cream, and they walked hand in hand down the boardwalk, he felt as though he were an actor, and this was the peaceful, happy conclusion to some light-hearted comedy. It didn't feel like the life he lived, a life of constant money troubles, fights and stress.

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