Anna Parks writes about JAIL from Interviews conducted in 2007 with A girl in the Joint!

THE JAIL PALMIST
PASSING TIME AT TWIN TOWERS
By: Anna Parks

CHAPTER I - ON MY WAY

We reached County in record time. There wasn’t any traffic to delay my arrival. The building entrance was ominously scary. Everything had a gray color and looked menacing. They drove to the gate and it swung open invitingly. I walked out into the darkness and was sent right to processing.

I was led to a chair and told to sit, handcuffs still adorning my very bruised wrists. I was then told to stand by a window where a big fat black officer ordered me to hold out my hand. He scribbled in magic marker some letters I didn’t understand, which immediately reminded me of the tattooed numbers of Jewish prisoners during the Holocaust.

The officers that brought me in, prepared to leave, but not before the dark haired woman cop came over to me. She stared at me sitting on the chair as I asked her for the umpteenth time if she thought things would be okay for me.

She reflected a moment, probably debating whether to say anything at all, but replied, “You look like a woman who has gone through a lot and in the end I think you’ll be okay. You’re strong and just got off track. Take care, don’t worry, everything will be okay for you, I know it.” With that last comment the officers left.

Afterwards everything happened a bit faster. I was led to a room and told to disrobe and put on the two-piece County clothes. I quickly donned the jail clothing and before long I was in the County color of dark blue, even having to put on the ugly white sneaker shoes. I was taken to the next phase, which was much slower. By this time it was way passed 11:00 PM and I was losing hope and very scared. I had never been to County Jail before.

My mind whirled with visions of dropping the soap as I was led down a long florescent lit hallway and into a large elevator to a holding cell where there were at least 25 other woman waiting. I was afraid to look at anyone too long once the guards locked me in with them.

They all seemed like girls that would slit my throat in an instant, at least at that time. Female deputies were immediately inside barking orders. Some acknowledged women who had already been through the system like old friends at a party. Except this was not a festive occasion. They asked us to straddle the steel bench and look ahead, no talking, of course, which was fine with me. I made sure I was at the end where no one was behind me. We sat a bit longer, a few of the women recognizing each other from other stints in the slammer.

I spotted a short girl with scars all over her face. She spoke with a deep criminal voice and I didn’t want her noticing me watching. I overheard her talking to another tall gal about what to say during the medical evaluation.

“You say that you’re very sick and taking all sorts of pills, plus you hear voices,” said the menacing looking woman.

I took that to heart and realized that it might be easier on me if I did the same to some extent. I took account of my surroundings as the shock wore off a bit.

After waiting there for what seemed hours, one deputy led us single file, our right shoulders always close to the wall.

I noticed a blue stripe running to the horizon of the endless hallway, and I did my best to stay in line. I began whispering a tune that shored my fate, “My life is over, my life is done… My life’s over, this is it…”

I sang it over and over as we walked, hands in pockets, heads down. A short, crass-looking blond woman in front of me turned around and whispered, “No, your life isn’t over!”

I still sang it over and over. She seemed to get pissed off and told me to shut up. I did, until we reached a large freight elevator. I could hear other deputies joking, their voices echoing like boys taking a shower after a victory football game. I began crying again, until the same woman turned around and gave me a gaze that shut me up.

“Look,” she said at a hissing whisper, “Your life is not over. Just cool out. It’ll be okay, you’ll see.”

How could I believe her? It all took on this surreal feeling as the elevator went up. I felt a bit claustrophobic, but knew I had to get a grip. My mind flew to my times with Albert, and I tried to put myself back in the security of his room and arms, but to no avail. I was on the verge of panic when my boyfriend’s betrayed looking face of stone rose in my mind like a full moon during Halloween.

We were led out of the elevator and told to walk with hands in pockets, no talking, keeping our right shoulders to the wall the whole time. I noticed repetition was a big part of the jail system, probably instilling order among these chaotic, wayward women housed here. I had long given up the notion that any second someone would pop out and say it was all a gag, maybe a new t.v. show, but that never happened.

They deposited us into yet another holding tank with more women of all races, sizes, shapes and ages. Once settled in the ugly room with the open toilet I could not imagine using, girls began chatting loudly. Some paced, most slept on the concrete floor, and others sat together exchanging stories of why they were in. That seemed to be the question of the hour.

I didn’t want to draw attention to myself while assessing my surroundings more closely. To the left there were two very overweight tough looking black women sitting together talking. One lay down and didn’t care that her butt crack was showing. I stared mesmerized, taking a long hard look at her ugly, spotted body. The woman’s face was pitted and scarred. I marveled at how they both were so manly looking. In fact, I would notice many mannish looking gals, some even sporting stubble of a beard. They looked like a tough bunch, but there I was immersed in them.

Memories of the guy I’d been cheating with Albert surfaced easily and I wept knowing that whatever we had and were growing with was now dashed into the sewer. I thought of TJ, who was the one that put me in here because of it. I ran the arrest at Albert’s house over and over in my mind, wondering why I admitted wrongdoing. If I hadn’t answered the tall officer, maybe they would have let me go and I'd be in a safe room via Albert’s father, not in a dirty jail. I cursed TJ and myself for letting it get this far. Here I was in jail for being with another man. I saw no light at the end of the tunnel as more women were added to the already overcrowded holding cell.

Finally, I started walking the perimeter of the room really looking at people. I seemed to start to accept my fate and didn’t see them as dangerous as first thought. They all looked like they’d done a lot of bad things.

“Hey, all my conditions are serious,” she answered without hesitation, raising her voice for all to hear, then suddenly coming close to my ear, her voice becoming a throaty whisper. “They’re listening,” she said, pointing to a two way intercom speaker.“Yes, I did what I did, but don’t think it was warranted that I be thrown in jail,” I whispered to myself. I still hadn’t spoken to anyone directly as feelings of crushing depression over took my soul. In a span of hours I had lost my boyfriend and, my lover all because of my best friend.

My thoughts kept flying back to the good times I shared with Albert, TJ and Krista, which was normal. In Albert’s case, I felt like Juliet being wrenched away from Romeo, except I knew I couldn’t kill myself, nor would he. In fact, I got the impression that this incident would plunge Albert back into the reclusive, lonely, solitary man he was when I first met him.

He had one friend I knew about with the exception of a few cousins on the outskirts that Albert told me about vaguely. He didn’t have a normal social life and spent most of his free time partying, going to Phish concerts and hanging in his room building speaker components. His seemingly only friend Benny lived with his parents in a house not more than two blocks from Albert. I imagined TJ gloating and angry and doubted things would ever be the same in any area. Things spelled the end of my reactivated, long time friendship with Krista obviously.

I walked to the corner, sat down in lotus position and actually began doing a little Yoga. That’s when I noticed other ladies looking at me strangely, so I exercised and stretched, trying to feel better, like I wasn’t scared of them.

“Hey, Blondie,” yelled the big fat black girl. “What’s that you’re doing over there?

It’s making me nervous.” Her companion, a boyish looking black gal had fallen asleep with her head smashed between the others butt. She cracked open one eye, not even moving. It looked weird, and brought visions of lesbians attacking me in the night. She couldn’t take her steel dark gray one off of me as I did more Yoga contortions in my corner. Finally she turned her head, readjusted herself and went back to sleep.

More time passed. I wandered over to another corner and sat quietly crying and looking sad. Next to me there was a pretty, longhaired comely girl, who looked no more than 18. She turned to me and asked, “Hey, you want to talk about it?”

I gladly accepted her offer and began telling her what happened. She listened attentively and couldn’t believe TJ had the nerve to go so far, but he had, and there I was in County Jail ready to be put in a cell. She told me what went down with her, that her boyfriend had put her in jail for attacking him during an argument. She was so sweet looking and pure faced. It was hard to believe she had done anything wrong. It was then I noticed the other women drawing their attentions to us, wanting to hear more about my story again. So, I related the tale again, more women gathering closer at rapt attention, some asking poignant questions about both Albert and TJ. It was then I realized that I could take the situation and make it better for me by playing the role of the storyteller, which I was always very good at.

Out of the blue, another idea hit me! I asked the young gal if she’d like me to read her palm. She said okay and I took her delicate hand in mine and began reading her palm. I guessed a lot about her and she was amazed as were a lot of the girls forming a small ring around us. Before long many others wanted their palms read. I suddenly noticed that this also would be a good outlet as well. Even the big fat black girl wanted her palm read. She pushed at her sleeping comrade to wake up and move over, making room for me to sit down. Rather than hesitate, I took a seat beside her, even feeling the slight body warmth of her friend radiating out of the cement block ledge, like a phantom still sleeping.

I had read everybody’s palm in less than an hour. I was getting better with each new hand. It was interesting for me to see trends in the lines, especially the Line of Mentality, which represented the written word, things in black and white and legalities of their pending cases. It would seem the trend with women in there was a visible “X” in the middle of the palm above the Line of Mentality. I said it represented their outcome.

One girl even wanted me to show her how to sit in lotus position. I sat on the cement floor and began twisting myself up in all directions, even taking my legs and putting them behind my neck, something I’d been doing since I was 3 years old. They were all amazed and started cheering me on madly. It was a good distraction. Others wanted me to read their hands, which I did like an assembly line. There never seemed to be a shortage of palms, as I would find out. Many wanted to hear my story about Albert and TJ again, and I was getting a nice pace going with it, remembering all sorts of small details about what I experienced with Albert, TJ’s demeanor and an assortment of other things I had forgotten due to my shock in being arrested. It doesn’t compare, but could be paralleled to the pain a mother feels giving birth, which is soon forgotten after the baby is born. Strangely, Krista fell into the role of midwife, the Deliverer. Unfortunately, the whole episode would turn my life upside down, and now I was in a real Jail.

Talking about the incident and reading their palms coupled with the Yoga helped calm me and put an almost human touch to things. I even started pursuing the girl with the scars on her face so I could read her palm. She declined saying, “That’s okay, Blondie, I know I’m dying…”

Others convinced her finally. She sat with me as I read her small, delicate, blotchy, dish-panned digits. I could see the lines of concern and illness, as well as other things that came to me in a flash. I also told her other things I couldn’t possibly know and she was amazed. It was a tool I would use over and over in that place.

After I read her palm she directly cued me in on how to get sent to medical evaluation rather than straight to General Population.

“You just play everything up,” she said.

“Just like you’re doing?” I asked.

I took her advice to heart. She had red dyed hair and other than the scars, upon closer inspection, her face was smooth and unblemished. Her beady eyes showed criminal hardship. The woman claimed to have every sickness and condition known to mankind, and was on all sorts of drugs, prescription or otherwise. She was quite vocal about it as she pranced and preened around the cell to anyone who would listen.

“I guess the question of the hour here is ‘What did you do?’”

“All I did was rob a 7-11,” She said, wanting to hear my story, which I told in greater detail, with most of the crowd leaning in to hear again.

“I know, you were with your boyfriend, right?” I asked her, actually feeling the vibe that she was with her boyfriend. My hunch was correct. She was totally amazed, as were those around me.

“Well, I sure was with my man,” she screamed like winning a Wheel of Fortune round. She looked around at everyone edging in to hear. 

“And I never told her that,” she yelled at the top of her lungs. 

“You’ve got the gift, Girl!”

There seemed to be no limit to my story and the energy I put in to telling it. As I told it again, I could feel they easily identified with me and put my own fears to rest about my stay at County. Some of the old timers came up and explained things to me. They didn’t candy coat it for me, but said I didn’t have much to fear from inmates as much as the deputies. At that moment, I felt like a character from the movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome!

“Those deputies can really mess with you,” said one lady with the most beautiful flowing blond hair and piercing blue eyes I had ever seen.

“Why are you here?” I asked, grabbing her palm on instinct.

“I have an anger management problem. I’m raging all the time and on medication,” she said honestly, pulling away from me only to be able to talk with her hands. “I’ve been here many times for my anger. I’ve beaten up countless family members and friends for no reason,” she said matter-of-factly. Rage was written in the lines of her palm when I finally captured her flailing hand in my own and read it.

It was way past 2:00 AM in the morning when the deputies came and separated us into smaller groups. I was put in a smaller holding cell with some of the women I’d read palms for. I felt an immediate identification with the others like I’d known them and had met them at some function. We were wearing the same garb, the dark blue County outfits with white boat shoe sneakers and socks. In a funny way, t united us in our plights.


I was put in with the first gal I had spoken to, as well as a few others, including the rage girl, whom I was starting to like. Some new faces heard that I read palms (news traveled fast in that place) and wanted theirs read, which I did. It passed the time. I noticed a nice strawberry blond girl with clown-like lips watching me and laughing at everything I said while launching into a barrage of jokes, becoming a real clown myself. I sat on the floor and rolled up into my lotus ball, which made everyone in there laugh hysterically. They tried to do it with little success. For the first time I was actually feeling better about myself. I’d brought a little joy to others and might have found a new calling. I entertained those ladies for over an hour, until a deputy came and brought us to med evaluation. I knew what to say in there, thanks to Scarface.

We were finally led to the next phase. In a large brightly lit room with desks and chairs they told us to take a seat. We waited until our names were called. I noticed that the girls they put me with in the smaller holding cell were still by my side, as if they’d grouped us accordingly. My name was called and as the jail nurse behind the desk cleared her computer I saw Ms. Scarface getting her evaluation. I heard her rattle off all her ailments and drugs. “Yes, I’m taking Valium, Wellbutren, Sulfa drugs, I have Cancer of the stomach, I hear voices all the time, and I’m taking steroids, plus Codeine-5, Morphine…!" I couldn’t believe all the drugs and symptoms she had, most probably trumped up and bogus, like my own situation with TJ. But the nurse jotted it all down like she’d heard it all before.

When my evaluator asked me, I went into my rap. “I’m on Disability from the State for anxiety and panic disorders.” I showed her my fingers, which at that moment looked like I had arthritis. “I take medicine for this too,” I said, holding out my fingers, making them shake a little just to drive home the point.

“What are you taking for the anxiety?” She asked.

“I take Ativan and can’t be in any enclosed areas or I’d have an attack,” I answered.

She rattled off the usual questions. “Do you hear voices? Do you have thoughts about killing yourself? 

Do you have thoughts about killing anyone?” The last one through me for a loop and I almost answered otherwise, but didn’t in my moment of clarity. Krista and TJ came to mind of course.

I didn’t want to take it too far, just get assigned to a medical section, thinking it would be better for me. She jotted down all my ‘no’ answers.

“Am I okay, and is it safe here?” I asked shakily.

She just looked at me, her bored expression giving me no real answer, like she’d heard it all before.

After the med evaluation they led us to a group of poorly constructed partitioned offices and said to sit tight, which we did. I finally got into to see an older lady who did more evaluating, asking me a load of new head questions. I asked if I was safe, and she said yes. I started telling her my case background like a love story and why I was really there. She didn’t seem fazed, but I joked a bit through my tears and could just see a hint of a smile crossing her lips.

It was then I asked her to say something in her evaluation about Albert and I, which she did. She wrote one sentence and turned her computer screen around so I could read it. “Inmate hopes she gets back together with Albert when this is all over!”

Through my tears of loss and gratefulness I asked if she wanted her palm read, but she declined. That ended, and I was led back outside to the holding area where they split us into smaller groups. I found that most of the women I was brought in with were smiling at me wanting to talk more about my story with Albert & TJ and how it related to my case. The deputies seemed adamant about making us shut up and move quickly though.

By 4:00 a.m. I couldn’t believe that 12 hours earlier I was sitting in Albert’s room ready to go into bliss-land. I wondered what he was doing now, probably traumatized and hiding his head under the pillow like he used to do when things got too much for him toward the end of our 5 months together. He must have been affected, but at the time I thought our love would and could conquer all. 

Apparently, it hadn’t though. I imagine his parents were laying into him big time, and the scene popped into my brain, as clearly as I was starting to read palms. I could actually see their lips moving in unison yelling at poor Albert, who was now a casualty, a Romeo bleeding.

We were all led back to the elevator and to the 3rd floor. They told us to take a mat, a blanket and a sheet and follow them. They marched us through several sleeping quarters and finally into a large space they called a day room. There were steel tables and chairs and the lights were very bright. We had to sleep on the floor and so I placed my mat in the middle and prepared my bed with no pillow. It was almost 4:30 a.m. when I laid down and looked up at the ceiling tracing all the pipes and ducts running along the wall like counting sheep. I doubt I’d sleep and needed an Ativan, but knew I’d get nothing, which was the least of my problems. Thoughts of Albert filtered into my mind, as I knew they would. It was becoming so painful to not know what happened, yet sense the inevitable as I lay awake, sleeping a few snatches at a time.

I thought back to yet another letter Albert had written me and cried quietly:

Thank you for being my friend! It is so rare in my life. I was wishing for years to meet someone like you. I love that you live so close, and transcendently we have so much in common. I wish I could be a bridge for you in your trials and survival. I love that you are an evolving spirit in your own right, and I think I can learn a lot from you. I can image us having enormous fun and mystic experiences that could rival Adam and Eve, but we have a lot of work to do on our paths. I can see you have that higher wisdom which knows the difference between the finite and infinite. So I say to you that I am entrusted to myself to be such a guide to all life save my own temporal limitations. Temporal limitations are tough! For example: Your DNA scares me, and makes me think I would not wish to have children with you and since I wish to have children one day, that precludes as getting married, and since you need a husband to share experiences to survive, I need to cut you free of any expectations of me supporting you. However, I can also imagine that if we truly become soul mates, I could bare the risk someday and marry you. Until then, let’s just be the best of friends, even if in secret. Love Albert

At 5:30 a.m., the day room they put us in took on a whole new aura. A stern deputy came on the loud speaker and announced a new day of counting and lockdowns! Women were stirring and cell doors were unlocking all around me, the ominous sound filling the echoing, stale, re-circulated air. I had barely slept 30 minutes when two deputies entered the “pod” as the sleeping quarters were named. 

They announced breakfast after rousing and counting all of us, plus looking at our wristbands. Luckily, I’d made friends with the girls with me and after a breakfast of cold cereal, cold hard boiled eggs, milk and orange juice, we were led out into the corridor and marched to the medical section where recovering addicts, pregnant and suicide watch women resided, some in cells, most in triple decker bunk beds in the day room, some even sleeping on the floor with only the thin pad and county blanket for comfort.

The jail was overcrowded, but neat and clean for what it was. We walked single file again, right shoulder to the wall, hands in pockets, heads bowed. A door unlocked and there I was in Pod 242 B. Other women were meandering around after count, and idly stared at us, the new comers. Some sat on their bunks reading. Others took showers or sat with their bunkmates chatting. As I walked in, I spotted all colors, shapes and sizes brushing their teeth, brushing their hair, and other activities. I saw the red and black signs that read “Suicide Watch”, “Bites”, “Spits”, “415 Med Obsv.” The women looked a bit menacing but there were placid looks as well. Some even looked like men! It was not General Population, but rather a medical evaluation section.

We were assigned bunks in the day room for the time being. I took a top bunk to the back of the pod. There wasn’t much to it. All I had was a thin pad, a county blanket and a sheet, plus one towel and a nightgown. I was given a plastic bag with soap, deodorant and the like, but no toothbrush yet. I already smelled like slight B.O., something I never experienced much.

The medical pod was two stories, glass cells lining up and down toward the back. The day room served as quarters for many, even some pregnant women sleeping on the floor. Mostly there were heroin addicts on methadone, crack addicts “kicking” as they called it. I would soon become used to the daily grind, and even in most cases becoming desensitized to it. It didn’t take long after witnessing so many seizures and actually getting involved with helping them through it, for the episodes to become hearsay and routine. We all got settled, and it was all the women that were in the smaller holding cell with me from that evening. They smiled at me, waiting patiently for me to take the stage and make them laugh, which is what pattern we all fell into.

Payphones lined the walls, but were turned off, as well as the t.v. against the wall. The pod was neat and clean, not grimy, as I had expected. The walls were all glass for observation. Male and female deputies walked in and out of the pod regularly. We were being watched day and night.

I sat on my bunk morosely at first, which was normal for most. All I could think about was how this mess had escalated and how unnecessary it really was. Or was it? I prayed to God silently and cried to myself. God must have answered my prayers because before I knew it people were coming over and introducing themselves, some re-introducing their selves from the evening palm readings in the last holding cell. The raging blond with pretty hair was there, as well as the clown-faced woman who still laughed at everything I said even from across the room.

I climbed off the bunk finally, and sat at one of the steel tables. An overweight, white lady who looked like someone’s mother was reading a romance novel and I asked to sit down. She obliged and started talking to me explaining the daily activity going on around me. Soon another bouncy, blond gal sauntered up and was introduced as Bev. One of the girls in the holding cell with me said I read palms, so I started reading a few, Carole (the woman reading the novel) first. I got her M.O. down pat and she was amazed as well as a few of the others in earshot.

Bev and I bonded the very second we met. She was tall and blond and actually reminded me of my cousin. Long blond hair, oval face, blue eyes, kind demeanor and very up for where we were. I liked Bev and Carole right on the spot. It turned out that Bev was the girlfriend of a well-known D.J. on the local rock station. She was in on her third DUI. Carole was caught shoplifting and had been there a few days ahead of me. She had a family and a daughter, but had to do her time. She was very overweight and I could see bedsores on her elbows and arms from sleeping in the rickety bunk bed with only a pad.

Bev had a huge cold sore on her lip and kept trying to hide it as she talked a mile a minute. More people started noticing how I was … very animated and up for someone in jail. A few asked if I was on something. I denied it, but don’t think they believed me. The truth was that I was still up from my partying with Krista.

I started noticing others in the pod. There was a woman trying to kick drugs and was on methadone. She could barely talk, but others seemed to understand her. There were groups of gals milling together. Blacks, Whites, Latinos, gang members (mostly 18th Street). Everyone sat together in groups, but we all were in there for something. Even Scarface was on the row. Every time I spotted her, she seemed less mean looking, just a girl down on her luck. I doubted she even had half of what she said was wrong with her.

There were even women sleeping on the floor under the stairs of the day room, that’s how overcrowded it was in County. Ironically, when I returned to my bunk another gal had pushed my stuff aside to the lower bunk. “I wanted the top bunk, and you left!” dictated the blond.

I didn’t argue and moved my stuff to another side of the pod to a middle bunk. I noticed bruises on my legs from trying to get comfortable the evening before, and doing that first bit of Yoga on the cement floor of the first holding cell. I had little bruises on my arms and wrists from the obvious. I was still wearing the same jump suit from the night before, and hadn’t gotten any courage up to take a shower in the one shower stall that surprisingly afforded privacy. 

But by lunchtime I had begun to make friends and flowed easily through the various cliques around the pod.

I read palms, and started giving soothing massages to the various girls kicking drugs. Afterwards, I took a nice long lukewarm shower and felt better.

Under the stairs was the Latino click of girls, gang bangers kicking mostly heroine, shooting speed and crack. It didn’t take long for it to get around that I gave good palm and wonderful back rubs.

“Blondie, Blondie, come here,” cried one gang girl named China. It was tattooed on her forehead. Her face was heavily pitted from acne and the like. She had tattoos of tears on her face, as well as a small ‘18th’ under her left eye. She wanted me to read her palm, which I did. It had several ‘X’s’ representing her cases on the Mentality Line, as well as ‘concern’ lines around her Lifeline. I was getting so good at reading that I started to feel this confidence rising in me, and get hunches on people. When I read China’s palm she almost jumped out of her skin with its accuracy. “You are really good, Blondie!” she praised while reclining on her bed.

I began to massage her gently. Her back felt smooth and oily. In fact, I noticed that no matter what their faces looked like (scarred or otherwise), their backs were blemish free for some reason. I asked her to hold out her needle-scarred arms and began trying to send positive energy into her by gently focused my mind’s eye on each bruise from her needlework and imagined a cool white light infusing healing vibes. A new understanding and knowledge of where to rub and how to do it rose up in me. I really began to feel that I was making a difference. I rubbed China for a long time and she told me she was in for trespassing. I’m sure it was more than that judging from her arms, face and palm. She kept asking over and over if her case would be settled and she’d be set free. I said she would be if she kept her head cool. She seemed to be the type that got angry and wanted extra attention though. I picked that up and used it to my advantage while reading her palm.

Next to China was another gal kicking drugs. She too had the lizard look to her. I went to her bunk where she lay in agony of withdrawal. I turned her over and noticed that her back was smooth and feminine, unlike her face, which showed, like China’s, her addiction and pain. The girl was not well. She barely could get off the bottom bunk. She had the body of a praying mantis. The woman was tall and gangly and in definite pain from her ordeal. I would spend many sleepless nights rubbing her and helping her get to the bathroom.

While I sat with the girl, China got jealous and called out to me from her bed on the floor. “Blondie, Blondie, read my palm again, please!” She always said my name twice. By the late afternoon I was feeling comfortable moving from bunk to bunk. I concentrated on reading the palms, and rubbing backs. I, of course, obliged China and read her other palm. Others crowded around wondering and asking if two palms were different.

“The right palm is a cross reference,” I said knowingly. I held up both of China’s palms, she seemed to enjoy the attention. “It confirms information I read from the other palm.” Some nodded with understanding, other’s pretended to know.

Not everyone in the pod was open to palm reading. A few other Latino girls began calling me “Voodoo Woman”. I explained that it was all in fun. “Do you go to the movies?” I asked. Most said yes. “Well, think of it as a movie of your life!” I said, trying to keep my voice hypnotic and calm. “Think of it as a road map of your life,” I stated, feeling like David Carradine in the t.v. series Kung Fu.
Everyone cracked up and the tension of the moment passed.

I hadn’t really gone to the bathroom much, and knew I had to take care of business. Thank God there was one bathroom enclosed. I used it a few times, trying to relax and pee at least. As far as the other business, I didn’t want to rush that. I knew I was irregular, but it would pass. I’d not eaten much for breakfast, and lunch wasn’t much better fare. It consisted of stale baloney sandwiches, fake fruit juice and a cookie. By dinner, the only hot meal of the day, my voice was becoming hoarse and dry. Drinking the water was like sipping out of the toilet, but I had no choice.

I was losing my voice and at times became overwhelmed that I was actually in jail, put there by TJ. Of course I was thinking about Albert constantly, and what was in his head. Between palm readings and massages I tried calling him, but his machine was turned off and remained so throughout my ordeal and beyond. I also wondered what had happened to Krista. Did she go home back home, or had she simply left our house and spent the rest of her ill-fated vacation with her friends in Hollywood? I’m sure my questions would be answered. For now I had to sit tight and be strong. But I kept fretting about Albert.

“Hey, you were arrested in front of his parents, for God-sakes,” said Bev as we lounged around goofing on things around the pod after I’d told her the whole saga.

“It made him go back to his recluse state and block out everything you guys experienced together,” said Carole. She had listened well, and got Albert’s personality down pat.

I was crestfallen, but determined to see this out.

“Have you tried the other guy, TJ?” asked Bev.

“Once or twice, but he isn’t accepting my collect calls,” I said.

I had also been calling my sister, who always accepted my jailhouse collect calls. She told me that she was in touch with my cousin and between the two of them, would get me out. Thanks to my friend Jeanette, everyone concerned had been notified. I begged and cried for them to bail me out. They were doing the best they could under the circumstances though. For the time being I was stuck, but the good news was that they were going to be hiring an attorney, thanks to Jeanette again. She had already recommended the lawyer to me months ago.

“Hey, why are you in a psych ward? What’s that about?” asked my sister. “They think you’re crazy!”

“Good, I’m better off here,” I said, glad I’d taken Scarface’s advice.

“Hey, what’s it like in there? Are you safe?” She asked conversationally. Of course, by now I knew I was pretty safe for the time being. “Is it like that show on HBO?”

Sis had a good life, lived in a lovely home and had been working things out with her family. And all I represented to my sister was more carnage in the wake of my downtrodden life in her eyes.

“I just can’t believe Albert has totally abandoned me and shut off his feelings,” I said to Carole, but it seemed he had. I cried for him, tried to reach out mentally like we did before all this, but to no avail. 

“I’m not feeling him any longer.” I remembered calling him in my mind many evenings after TJ had gone to bed, and before I knew it, he’d call leaving his signature one ring.

“He’s basically ‘shut-down’ on you,” Carole said wisely.

“But it’s extremely hard for me to turn-off,” I admitted. Albert lucked out and had the emotional responses of both male and female. We’d often discuss things like that in great length. “It wasn’t just the physical attraction I miss, but also his mental aura. I’d gotten used to roaming up to his house and being there with him,” I said. “I miss how we used to talk to each other in our heads. I’d call out to him, and he’d answer!”

I thought of another letter he’d written and things seemed to come more into focus:

I know God is watching us through our relationship. You said once that you know God has something very important for you to do in your life. I also have such a feeling. Since our thoughts evolve, God is manifest. My contemplation and actions through life take over a fundamental spiritual realism that is transcendent to my personal will. If you already have a boyfriend or whatever, it is okay with me, as long as I don’t mess things up for you. In other words, I don’t want to own you. Your survival comes first. I hope my honesty does not preclude our relationship that you have been so open with me about right from the beginning! I feel I can do nothing otherwise. In our relationship you don’t even have to be present for our love to grow. For our love stands as I stand in evolution! The mind is above the heart -- The spirit above both. Our relationship is below them only redeemed through the spirit, thus is our work in life! Love you Albert

I began telling the story to anyone that would listen, which was just about everyone. There was always a new ear to tell. By my second night in jail I had almost 50 women listening to my story of the saga of Albert & TJ. It was interesting, and every time I told it, I remembered some vague memory of a time I spent with Albert. It was starting to sound like a movie to me as well as a good outlet for hours of idle boredom.

There was always a newcomer to the pod. They were always directed to me for a palm reading and that always led to the story of how TJ put me in jail for straying to Albert and carrying on with him for 5 months, but because of my best friend Krista, it had all come crashing down like in a Jack and Jill fairy tale gone awry.

“Albert and I shared something very special, maybe too special. We didn’t realize TJ would go so far to end it,” I said, felt like Conan the Barbarian when he loses his true love to a snake arrow. I told the whole story from beginning to end. There was always a stream of new women in the pod and everyone wanted to hear about it.

Afterwards, like Oprah, we’d have a question and answer section about Albert and TJ. Then it transformed into shouting matches, some saying I’d end up with one or the other, but mostly women shouting that they hope I’d end up with Albert. One smoldering-looking Spanish gal standing in the wings with her arms folded disapprovingly said I wouldn’t end up with either. That caused a crescendo of girl’s yelling voices into overdrive. There were even a few shouts for all of us to “shut up about it!”

I told the story over and over again, actually getting things down in my mind better because of the repetition. Small details started floating to my conscience. Instead of Albert having something precious in his room, I was now resigned to the fact that it was happening, so I continued to read palms throughout the day and evening, even reading China’s palm for the 6th time.

Dinner came and went. I tried Albert over and over, but no luck. I did reach my sister, who for the first time in years was actually taking my call every time, ringing up a phone bill to the tune of $500. Dina always wanted to hear gory details of grit and Lesbian fights, but that’s not what was going on with me and the other girls. After talking to my sister, I did tons of crying until the woman who stole my bunk came over and put her arm around me and consoled.

Could you read my palm?” She asked hopefully. I looked at her face and noticed she had niceness to it, a far cry from the scowling lady who stole my bunk.

“Why are you here?” I asked while taking her little hand in mine.

“Can’t you tell me?” She smiled brightly, showing crooked, but clean teeth.

“Doesn’t work that way,” I shot back, sounding like a professional.

“I’d just taken a hit from a crack pipe in my room when the cops were banging on the door,” she explained easily. “They caught me red handed, and could smell it.”

“Yes, I see that conflict,” I said. “And the neighbor called, right?”

“Yes,” she answered in amazement.

“You don’t get along with him, do you?”

“Nope, I don’t! You’re right, Blondie! He called the cops!” She stared at me hypnotically. “I can’t believe you picked up on that!”

After reading her palm and blowing her mind, I told her my story again and she smiled brightly, “See, I told you your life wasn’t over!” It turned out that she was the same girl that was walking in front of me when first taken in. Her face had changed 3 times, and I felt like she was a comrade now, even though she pulled a power play with the top bunk. I let it pass easily and we became friends, often talking in the hallway and at the steel tables. It was amazing how she’d transformed. Of course I told her about my own saga, a very familiar and fun story in the pod.

We actually began a small jogging routine up and down the steel stairs around the second landing, and back down to the bottom over and over until we were exhausted and the stale, re-circulated air had gotten the best of us.

She had also overheard me talking to a few girls in the larger holding cell the night before. As we talked in the day room, the raging girl with the beautiful long blond hair walked up and joined us. Even in jail her hair was in perfect order. She was really striking and I told her she’d make a great model. In fact, we were to share a few incidents in the next few days that would bond us, and it was so hard for me to believe she was violent, but she was … but never to me. 

She already had a few confrontations with other girls in the pod, and would eventually be transferred to a 24-hour lock down cell on the end of the row on the second landing.

“You know, I’ve been thinking,” she said, plopping down on the empty round seat beside me and putting her long arms around me. 

“If I were you, I’d get someone to beat the crap out of TJ when you get out of here!” She said plainly, seeming to want the job in an underlying way. “It’s hard to believe he’d do that over some other guy. And what’s with Albert? He hasn’t even tried to visit or contact you!” She seemed to get angry with them, and wouldn’t doubt she could do some serious damage to them.

“Well, it’s not that easy. They both probably have reasons,” I said while sipping stale tap water out of a milk carton. I thought of the arrest, and just how far TJ had gone. Albert’s baby face hovered in my mind constantly, as well as the sweet relationship, clandestine or not, that we shared. I recalled so many moments that my heart was ready to break in two, especially over the fact that Albert had shut down on me. It was hard to grapple with, plus thinking on TJ’s anger over all this, it was all so overwhelming to deal with.

“Honestly, at the time, I really did see a future with Albert,” I said to her.

“TJ and your friend Krista did this, so just hold on,” she answered, grabbing my hands in her own and squeezing tightly. A lot of women were hoping everything worked out for me in the dismal County Jail. My status in there made it somewhat bearable though, which was some consolation for me.

“In the back of my mind I know how Albert is. His life is sedate and rent free, an easy high paying lab job examining women’s pap smears and cultures,” I said to the girls, who cracked up and screeched with delight, my timing and statement perfect. I told them how he was so easygoing and quiet, but had this funny humor, plus how we’d talk for hours about the mind and why people did what they did, even about our experiments in restaurants when we made others do things with our collective minds thinking as one.

Other memories surfaced and I shared them with my crowd. I could imagine Albert turning off completely, but how could he turn away from the wonderful memories that assaulted my mind? I couldn’t fathom him washing away those great, magical, electric times we shared our ‘white light’ with each other and those around us, but he had. However things turned out, I would always treasure the months 

I spent with him, no matter how cruel it was to TJ, or how bad things looked on paper. I felt a deep, deep love blossoming between us, but TJ had somehow stolen the power and dashed everything in a burning hellacious fireball, and I had let him do it! I knew that both Albert and I were reeling from the blows TJ branded on us. I doubt either of us would be the same from the experience, but it did happen, and was unfolding right before our eyes. At least I did have a cheering section developing. I imagined Albert was hiding behind his mother’s apron strings and that virtually no one knew about what had happened. I surmised that the more people that were told, the more he would withdraw, actually blocking out what we had together more easily.

They hung on my every breath as I described days of walking through the park with this man, a bit zonked from our partying, driving up to San Francisco two times to see the Grateful Dead, running wild around Glendale trying to avoid TJ, or just hanging in his bedroom holding each other all night in the dark and laughing at stupid things that came to us. Our favorite game was sitting under the covers in total darkness trying to guess numbers we were thinking of, childish on it’s own, but so wonderful when it was followed by a barrage of soft kisses and caresses, amidst the flicker of softly lit candles in temple holders reflecting against the ceiling. A few of the girls swooned at that point in my story.

For hours, sometimes we’d hang out at the Chinese buffet just eating, kissing and making out. On occasion we’d really head up to Jeanette’s hippy pad in Tujunga Canyon, where she’d let us hang out alone while she’d run errands. We’d spend hours in Jeanette’s cool canopy bed holding each other, making love and just laughing kid-like.

The girls loved to hear it all, even the times I was with TJ. I had distanced myself from him easily, but not securely. “He’d gotten into the habit of following me when I left the house to meet up at Albert’s parent’s home,” I explained to the crowd of women listening intently.

“You should have taken more precautions,” said Bev.

“But my pull to be with this new, quiet, stimulating man was crowding out everything
I should have done in protecting myself from TJ,” I answered eloquently, which set off mumbled conversations all around me.

“Man, that TJ really pimped you, Blondie,” said one black girl lounging against the back wall of the pod. “And why did that other guy even live with his parents? He’s grown, right?”

“Yes, but that’s what it was,” I answered, continuing to tell my saga. 

“By the first trip to San Francisco in October, it was getting increasingly difficult to get away safely. I would hop a bus going in the opposite direction and ride 4 miles out of my way on my bike just to be with Albert. At the time, it was my haven, he was my heaven, and when I was with him, my life was like a cocoon of secure bliss, hiding from the world safely in his ‘nook’. It was very attractive to me. His parents seemed to turn a blind eye to it as well, probably enabling him, the 7th son, for years.”

“Yes, I can see that, Blondie. But his mother didn’t like you from the get-go. That’s her baby, her last child.”

“He said he’d been in trouble with them before, mostly about partying. He’d been thrown out of 3 prep schools because of that, and bordered on the edge of brilliance. His concepts were a bit Sativa- soaked, but made sense,” I related easily to the crowd.

As I sat in the jail talking to my new friends, I thought about all the notes he’d leave his parents via his bathroom, most saying he was skipping being with them, or not going to work, which started to bother me, especially one day when he refused to leave his room until his Uncle Curtis, his mother’s brother, left.

“On many occasions whenever Uncle Curtis was visiting or sitting in the family driveway, Albert wouldn’t leave if Jerry Garcia rose from the dead and was standing naked outside his door!” I said. The room broke out in serious laughing over that last statement.

“Who the hell is Jerry Garcia?” asked one sweet looking boyish black girl.

Thank God I had many palms to read, and my family was accepting my collect jailhouse calls, even doing the illegal 3-way connection, which was against the rules. One inmate, a recovering speed addict with a sales charge, said all you had to do was blow into the phone when it connected. It worked like a charm.

I thought about how everyone was looking at me on the outside. Family was family, true blood relations that should come to your aid because of that stigma, plus the Jewish guilt factor in full swing too. I knew that probably by this time even TJ was feeling blue about what he’d put into motion, even if I did have charges ringing in the New Year like flashing neon!

I did notice that after I told my story that first evening the majority of them were swinging toward Albert and I, and he would pop out of his fragile, recluse stationery mode he was currently in and step up to the stage to save me. Unfortunately, as the second day kicked in at the jail, it looked like that was not to be the case. But I held onto the hope and memories I shared with Albert, and the shear fact that he would allow them to carry him through like I was trying to do, making it a happy ending love story.

As I told my epic, we were always stumped as to what would happen, and that is what made it so stimulating to discuss. After all, we were the most bored humans on earth and didn’t all walks of life like a happy ending or a good mystery?

We also had our distractions. Every now and then a certain handsome deputy we nicknamed “Butt Boy” would saunter in and do a count, which paused talk in there. Sometimes he’d walk in every 10 minutes just to wander around to the various groups of girls lounging in the day room and on the landings. It was a medical observation pod, so that was typical to see guards there. We knew they were watching us closely. But the women liked this particular deputy because he posed for them and enjoyed it. I could tell that right away.

He was in great shape and not hard to look at. I began trying to throw my mind at him, making him do simple gestures. I shared my experiment with a few of the girls in our pod. Bev got a kick out of it and we’d spend a lot of time staring out the large windows at Mr. Handsome with the closely cropped hair, decked out in full deputy regalia! A few others picked up on our cue. They began watching and waiting to see it happen. At first it was very subtle, then it kicked in full swing. We were all amazed.

One morning he had wandered in 4 consecutive times and by that time I had made him trip on the stairs, turn around and smile, stop in mid step and even say certain sentences that amazed the other inmates watching me. I don’t consider it a magical thing, because from reading all the palms and getting notions on people from that, I believe a new perspective was growing in me. I was able to actually predict what he would do partly.

“Hey,” piped up Bev as we sat in the pod discussing Albert and TJ and any new thoughts on the matter, as well as any memories. “…Maybe we can think all together and make Butt Boy unlock the door and let us go free!”

We all laughed loudly, knowing that it couldn’t happen.

As he followed our thought patterns, and actually did what we thought him to do, the women would “ohhh and ahhh” every time. It was during these moments I didn’t feel like a jail inmate, but just with a group of women like myself at a retreat.

Soon we all would gather in a circle and think deeply of that deputy, actually making him appear out of nowhere and come toward the pod. But his own strong will made him turn around one morning and never enter our pod again after that incident.

After that, Butt Boy resigned himself to posing in front of the computer by the watch station, which was situated right in the center view of our pod, for all to see out of the glass walls where our beds were aligned row by row. Every now and then he’d sneak a glance our way, pretending the vibes we were throwing out at him didn’t bother him. This was done in silence, because whenever the deputies entered our pod everyone would stop talking and almost be at attention. In the beginning I was talking to Carole when they walked in and singled me out as I was in midsentence when a certain mean female deputy asked me to step down from the second landing where I was standing, just about to read a palm.

I was wearing my jail shoes which I’d fashioned into sliding shoes by putting my big size 10 feet on top of the tongue of the flimsy sneakers. I could slide around unhampered and it was easy on my feet. As I was coming down the steps trying to slip into my shoes, I fell, but recovered, showing my flexibility.

“Hey, it’s the Pretzel Girl,” said one female deputy. Other deputies chuckled loudly. I laughed, easily joining in on their joke until they stared sternly at me. “What did you do to get in here?” She asked scrutinizing me up and down, which was their way. My naturally curly blond hair made me look younger than 40 years old. The dark blue jail suit actually complimented my look, especially my coloring. 

I definitely stood out. “You don’t even look like you belong in here, Pretzel Girl! So what did you do, and I can’t wait to hear,” she said, already looking bored.

I walked slowly forward, hands in pockets, head held high. “I’m not sure,” I whispered.

“What, I didn’t hear you,” she commanded easily. “What?”

“I’m not guilty!” I stated, not even daring to mention my Albert and TJ story. Obviously, they saw me doing my Yoga and it had been a joke amongst them. Who knew what other information they had on me?

“That’s what they all say,” she answered. “Well,” she added, putting hands on hips. “… Maybe some time in a cell will shut you up from now on when a deputy enters the pod. Get your stuff and lockdown in cell 7.”

“Listen, I’m on Disability from the State from severe anxiety and panic attacks, and I’ve not had any meds for it,” I explained, my voice low and shaky due to the bad re-circulated air and the trauma of the day before.

“I don’t care about that, you’re here now. This is jail! Get moving or 
I’ll tack on more time, maybe a full week in lockdown! And while 

I’m at it, I think I’ll check your records…”

I grabbed my property and walked up the landing to cell 7, slowly stopping at the door, not going in right away.

“Go on,” screamed the deputy, uncaring that I was starting to whimper. “In, or more time, you make the choice.” She got on her walk-talkie and radioed the watch house outside the pod and gave my booking number.

You could have dropped a pin and heard it in that pod. In the background I saw all the faces I’d read palms for and they registered pain there. Most gloated when someone was sent out of the day room and into the small cells lining the walls and landings away from the groups of ladies littering the day room. But these women were not gloating. They truly liked and wanted me to stay with them. I brought them up like no one else had.

I was told to shut the door. It clicked solidly. I walked to the top bunk and noticed someone sleeping in the bed below. As I was putting my stuff on the bunk I began to cry and carry on. I was panicking and no one cared. I began pacing and screaming and couldn’t breathe. Just as the tears blinded me and I was going into a black panic, hands reached out and held me closely. It was the blond rage girl enveloping me in her strong shoulders and pressing me against the smooth cool strands of her wonderful hair. That morning she had gotten into a verbal tussle with the girl who stole my bunk, so was put in here. She pushed the two-way intercom that all cells had, and was screaming at them. “Hey, she’s having a severe panic attack! You’ve got to let her out, please…” If the situation weren’t so serious, it would almost be comical. The whole jail environment revolved around closed in space.

I held onto her tightly and prayed to God for them to let me out. I know the girls downstairs wanted the same and were pulling for me as well. I could feel their silent prayers. I cried harder and held onto the girl tightly until we heard a click and I ran from the room. “Get your stuff!” cried the deputy. “…before I change my mind.”

I was relieved and grabbed my stuff and gave the blond a tight quiet hug. She smiled at me through her own tears, which had nothing to do with her being locked in alone. It was a rare thing that just happened. Usually when a deputy makes a decision like that, it sticks and nothing would change it, even if I were suffocating to my death.

After that incident, I noticed that the Boy Butt thought sessions suddenly turned into Bible reading and group prayer. I would always remember those moments. The whole pod got together before count. 

There would usually be 40 of us standing around at the table in the middle and holding hands. One Latino woman Kicker actually pregnant with twins would lead us with readings from the Bible and go around trying to make us talk in “Tongues”. Tears ran down my face and the goose flesh rose on my arms as I prayed along with them at an even pace. Trustees, as they were called, the ones who worked outside the pod, and had special privileges, stared at us in awe from the outer receiving area, not moving from their spots in the outside hallway. It was an amazing thing to watch. I didn’t talk in 
Tongues but the Latino woman did come up to me and hold my head way back.

She even knocked on my forehead, which made me think I was! What a wonderful, exhilarating secure feeling you feel with other women in the same boat as you. A bond formed from all the palm reading and massage therapy I was giving the Addicts and Kickers in the pod. Even the praying mantis girl was with us holding hands. I was the only inmate that seemed to be able to cross groups. I was starting to feel welcome among them all – The Latino girls, the older white ladies, and groups of black girls, who actually took me under their wing when I was moved to ‘General Population’.

We prayed every night like that for 20 minutes, the deputies even delaying their 15-minute count until we finished. Then I’d read palms and give more massages, plus do my Yoga contortions in front of 50 women, who quickly became used to seeing me do it. I was literally rolling myself up in a ball and twisting my body in the air, doing head stands and sitting upside down in lotus. Even our guards would soon allow me to do these things unhampered. It was a rare thing and many in the pod came over and told me so. Word of me was spreading to other pods on the floor as well.

One day while in line for a med evaluation two women from another section came to me and asked me to read their palms, which I obliged right there in line. As usual, my readings were accurate and true. I was secretly amazed at myself. One girl clapped her hand to her open, amazed looking mouth and backed away in awe. I was also starting to receive little notes that said “thank you” for the palm readings in the holding cell last night.

In between reading palms, the massages and the like, I talked of my situation. Many heard the many stories of my adventures sneaking away with Albert for 5 months behind my boyfriend of 10 year’s back! They identified with why Albert shut his machine off, and said they were sure he was thinking of me daily, but didn’t want to upset his parents or the balance of his life any further. Also, the pain must have been hard for him to deal with from what I explained to them about his personality. It was more than that, and it started to bother me and distress my soul that he had turned his machine and himself off to me. I was thinking of him mostly in that dark, dank place and he’d not had the decency to at least be a man and let me know what was happening in his head.

Yet another letter he rattled off to me came clear now:

I see things strong in you. You have an inner strength, and duality of spirit that is aware and actively self-evolving. It is a bit confused, but you harbor great love in there. Too much love to hold on to alone – so it becomes grounded. Always Albert

But I took solace when many girls did say it was traumatic for him, especially the way I described Albert … quiet, reserved, a virtual recluse except for his best friend Benny down the street! He talked of the mind and the 4 quadrants of the brain, which I explained to the women listening to me all around the pod. The man had a head talk better than sex. But soon, months down the line, that too would fall into place for us and we would spend many nights of blissful passion together. At the time he infused my soul with such a fire and passion of wanting.

But jail life went on, and the days began to pass slowly. There was little or no access to a clock or real mirror. My nights were virtually sleepless into my 3rd day. I still couldn’t believe this was all happening. It was impossible to get any real shut-eye in the steel bunk no matter what I did. More bruises appeared on my back and legs. The nights were the hardest and I sometimes asked my new comrades in crime how much a body could take with no sleep as I was doing.

“Oh, you’d be surprised,” said Carole one morning as we munched our breakfast.

“The body can take a lot. Don’t worry, you’ll sleep eventually. Look at me,” she said, pointing to her large frame, bedsores and all. She was a very nice lady and had always talked to me when I went to her bunk to chat. She was very positive and knew everything about what I was going through and why. I had told her privately and she’d sat in listening intently when I told my story one late evening to everyone in the pod.

One evening on my 3rd night in jail I first noticed a large Ethiopian woman locked in a cell by herself. Magnetic red and black signs read 
“415 Med. Obvs”, “Bites”, “Spits”!

“What’s 415 Med Obvs?” I asked one black girl also watching the Amazon lady locked away from everyone by herself. She wore a yellow jump suit and looked like a huge man standing there ready to pounce.

“She goes into attack mode whenever a deputy walks by…that’s 415. In fact, she tries to attack anyone walking by. You don’t want to mess with her, Blondie.”

I watched the girl behind the locked cell. Our eyes met, but not in a bad way. She must have been watching me, because most told me she was an observer and knew what was going on. She’d spend hours just standing as close to the glass door as possible. On occasion a deputy would walk by on count and she’d go nuts trying to break the door down. She’d go through a temper tantrum of spitting and clawing and throwing things around her cell.

Next to her was a meek looking gal on “Suicide Watch”, as her magnetic sign stated. I walked by a few times and she was crying and screaming, sometimes pulling at her hair and scratching her body with her jagged, bitten fingernails. I could see her face clearly behind the glass. She had been crying and carrying on and was sweaty looking, washed out and wearing a blue prison gown rather than the garb the rest of us wore, including the 3 pregnant women housed with me.

On the 3rd night, I as usual wasn’t sleeping and was just one bunk away from the girl kicking on methadone. Sometimes she’d bolt upright, bump her head and start talking in her sleep. I couldn’t sleep so dragged my mat and bedding to the floor and passed the “Suicide Watch” girl, next door to Amazon Lady. There was a large pylon that would hide me. I started doing Yoga like crazy which gave me energy. As I was doing the Yoga, and stretching myself into a pretzel again, no one bothered me. I, by chance, looked over to the girl on suicide watch. I moved my mat right up to her glass cell and knocked. She had been looking the other way, definitely not asleep, because I had heard her carrying on and crying the past 2 nights, no one helping her or coming to her aid.

She turned and began frowning at me sitting by her door, waving me away easily, and squealing loudly. Instead of leaving or teasing her, I began doing the Yoga, rolling myself up into a ball right in front of her eyes. She sat up curiously looking out at me, but her whimpering stopped. I had her attention, that was for sure. I began rolling over and asking her questions whispered under her door. I made it a point to overdo my body gestures when I’d crawl up to the door crack and talk to her.

“What’s up in there? “Hey, want to see me bark like a dog?” I nimbly jumped into lotus upside down, rolled up to the cell door and barked like a dog. “Hey, did you realize that the door has been unlocked all this time…? Try it. Open the door for me!” For a split second I could see the urge in her bright blue eyes to come to the door and see if it indeed open, which it wasn’t.



She began chuckling lightly, still a bit wary of my intentions, but definitely distractedly interested and responding to what I was doing. I definitely had her full attention all the same. For almost 2 hours I entertained her by the door, only stopping long enough for the guard to come through and count us. As soon as he left, which took about 2 minutes, I’d be back at her door doing the funniest antics I could think of to make her laugh. Suddenly, I stood up and took her ‘Suicide Watch’ sign down and wrapped it around my own neck and pointed to it like I was hanging myself with it. “What’s ththis all about, Lady?” I asked sarcastically, pretending to be a deputy reprimanding her, hands on hips like I had seen them do many times. I smiled at her. She laughed crazily and had to sit down because of her giggling jag. The girl was laughing so hard and was getting out of breath as I pretended to be guarding her. 

I marched back and forth playing policeman, even imitating certain guards whose personalities stood out.

Boldly I went over to Amazon Woman’s cell door and took down her “Bites” sign and showed it to the other girl. “I’m going to switch signs and see if they notice, is that okay with you?” I asked her, going into my under the door whispering-dog-mode. I put the sign on her door for a moment. We both cracked up and she cautiously came a bit closer to the window of the cell door. She reminded me then of Wendy from Peter Pan.

I put her sign upside down and started pacing in front of her door like I was a husband waiting for his wife to deliver their first baby. I told her as much as I paced and paced, suddenly going into Yoga mode right before her eyes. I had been doing the stretching exercises as much as possible in the pod and realized I’d not been out of the room in days. She laughed at everything I said and every antic I did, even a corny Jackie Gleason to the Moon, Alice number, which reminded me vaguely of Albert. She became my captive audience. In fact, everyone in this joint had become so as well. Maybe it was my sense of survival, maybe I really cared. All I knew was I had found a new calling. Maybe when I got out of jail I could look into some sort of physical therapy, helping patients get over injuries and such. I knew I could do it and I’d prove it again and again as the days 
passed in County.

Little did I notice at the time, but Amazon Woman was up watching what I was doing with the girl on suicide watch. She stared openly into the dim hallway from her cell door, as always. She resembled a sad clown, not a violent girl at all, at least to me at the time. I went over to her door and cautiously sat down in lotus position. She looked back at me, but didn’t move to scare me or go crazy. I started jumping back and forth and grabbed her 415 sign and put it upside down on her door. I said, “Are you going to get in trouble for that?” She smiled brightly and nodded her head back and forth. She ominously pointed to me and wrote an invisible “T” against the cell door. I turned the sign back.

Next I grabbed the “Spits” sign and held it up and took some water I had by my pad and began squirting it easily from my two front teeth. I became a fountain and got up on one knee and made a stream of water shoot 20 feet. She didn’t hesitate to smile brightly, which was a rare thing for her.

“Hey, I could change this to “Sizzler”!” I pulled the sign down and pointed cartoonishly. She laughed again and squatted down to watch. I grabbed the “Bites” sign and said, “I could make this ‘Bidder’ I pantomimed placing bets at the racetrack and then pretending I’d won and was collecting my funds. Amazingly, she got the jokes and just stood there listening and watching me do my thing. I didn’t miss a beat and became good at gesturing jokes. I interchanged between both women until I had them literally rolling in their cells.

It was then I noticed a few girls in the pod watching from their bunks. They were perplexed, but interested and some were sitting up and openly gawking. I doubted they were sleeping any better than I was, so I continued with my circus show for the two cell girls with others watching in the dim lighted pod.

I tried to keep the jokes coming and was getting carried away and obsessed with thinking up something new to say to them. I was getting just a tad bit overwrought, but did more Yoga to soothe my soul. The girl on suicide watch no longer was crying and cowering in her bed, nor scratching her eyes out, or threatening to do it. Instead she was mimicking my moves. I kept using my hand gestures and whispering under her door, which added to the fun. She began following my lead; even doing a finger movement thing with me for a good 15 minutes, almost like the silent act the Marx Brother Harpo did with Lucille Ball.

Amazon Woman also got my attention as she sat on the floor of her lonely cell and tried to put her legs behind her back like I could do. She got as far as her ear when I heard the familiar click of the lock, signaling the deputies count walk through our pod. I quickly ran to my pad and lay down pretending to be sleeping. I could feel the wind of the guard passing me. I cracked one eye and saw him look in at both girls I was working with. Both smiled at him as he causally stared inside. In fact, he looked twice just to be sure and shook his head when he spotted Ms. Suicide Watch sitting on her bed in a half lotus position trying to push herself up straight. He spotted Amazon 

Woman on the floor in lotus position trying to put one leg over her neck. He left without a back glance, but shook his head as if he’d seen it all.

The weekend passed uneventful, more of the same routine. I was surprised at how accustom I was becoming to County. Other than not sleeping, I was coping quite well, making friends and moving through all color lines. I especially enjoyed the massages I was giving to the girls. It never became sexual, and it was surprising to me. 

Talking to my sister, and listening to her questions conjured up all sorts of sick things, but they never happened to me. Reading everyone and anyone’s palm helped elevate my status there as well.

The evening before I was to go to court, they brought in a very young, pretty white girl. Everyone took her under their wing because she seemed so innocent. The girl was in for shooting up speed and was 3 months pregnant. She was only 18 and had a very feminine high-pitched voice that sounded like a little girl. As everyone pawed over her and played with her hair, I just became a bit jealous until someone suggested I read her palm, which I did. As they played with her smooth, brown, silky hair, I finished her palm and joined them. 

She didn’t seem to mind everyone’s hands stroking her hair and scalp. A lot of those woman had a motherly intuition and they were giving her everything they had. She seemed to enjoy it all, even when I started rubbing her back. A day later she was released as everyone waved goodbye like she was leaving on the Titanic.

I was also learning how to be when the deputies were around. We all found out who the nice ones were and who the real baddies were, which was most of them. One particular nice female deputy seemed more like a first grade teacher because of the way she treated us. 

The male guards were mostly aloof. You did have some like Butt Boy who would slightly fraternize with us, usually asking what we did and if it was worth it. It was the way they asked us that drove the point of it all. I noticed that the whole flow of the jail revolved around demeaning us to such a degree in every possible way, no matter how small. I would see the scenario time and time again during my stint there.

I would soon find this out when I made my first court appearance. It was Tuesday morning around 3:30 a.m. when my name was announced for court. I hadn’t been sleeping anyways, so I rose from my bunk and got ready. There wasn’t much to do except take a Mexican bath, quickly arrange my hair with my fingers, brush my teeth and wait for breakfast.

Breakfast was the usual cereal, milk, hard boiled eggs and juice. I had learned to eat as much as I could, even though it was sub-fare! I had been in there since Friday evening … 4 days! But I was keeping my spirits up with the prayer sessions, palm reading and massage therapy that were growing popular around me. I sat eating with a few others who were going to court from our pod. We made small talk and woke ourselves up.

I recognized and knew every single person in that pod, even the new faces. Sometimes they’d try to fool me into thinking I’d not read their palm and I would play along, but give the same interpretation as I’d first given. I even started understanding the woman on methadone, Anna. I also found out she was the same age as myself – 40. It was hard to believe. From day one she never got it out of her mind that I had a 9-year-old child with TJ, so I shouldn’t leave him, even though he put me in jail and was the cause of all this pain.

“You have a child with this man, you can’t leave him. You gotta’ work it out,” she bantered, almost looking like she was talking into space. She wasn’t though. She was talking to me! No convincing whatsoever changed her stance on it. She really believed I had a child with TJ, which was ridiculous.

After breakfast we were all led out and walked single file to a receiving area before getting to the holding cells downstairs. From there we would board a black and white jail bus and head to court, but that was hours from now. Once we departed from the freight elevator it was pure chaos in the multiple court holding cells downstairs. As I passed the various areas, women were recognizing me and calling out “Blondie, read my palm! There she is, the Palm 
Lady!” Women screamed from all corners.

Hands of all colors and sizes waved furiously trying to get my attention. I felt like Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator as I walked down the long hallway to one of the many multiple holding cells. If the deputies noticed, they didn’t say a word. As long as I didn’t talk and kept my hands in my pockets that were now shredding, I was okay. I also, for the first time in there, thought about what Herb might have thought of all this. We reached my holding area and they deposited me and another Spanish girl in with at least 75 others waiting there for the buses. Long benches lined the walls and women were doing the usual things.

A group of Latinos called out for me. I ended up reading their palms like clockwork. I’d gotten quite good at making a big production out of each reading. As I read one woman’s smooth, deep lined palm in English, it was interpreted into Spanish many times over all around me. My voice was very weak and it was hard to talk over the noise in the room. A few times I had to drink water from the fountain situated beside the open toilet, which I actually tried to use, but with little success.

Other girls saw me from across the room and wanted me to read their palms. The clown-faced girl who laughed at everything I said was there with some new friends. I read their palms. Then talk of the Albert and TJ situation arose and I re-told the story to all that would listen. The Spanish girls edged in and the same gal interpreted my love story that had become so very popular, even in another language. As I told the story and heard it coming back at me in Spanish, it sounded even more fiery and intense than in English. I would catch the names “Albert” and “TJ” frequently mentioned, then a barrage of words strung together excitedly. It was truly fascinating and I took note. I also realized that there were many dialects of Spanish, different words meaning the same, but put in a certain way.

Finally, after waiting for almost two hours, the deputies came and marched us out into the hallway. We were handcuffed and chained according to what court we were going to. I ended up chained to an older Mexican lady whose husband had put her in over domestic violence. It was amazing to me how many women were in there for that.

We boarded the bus and took a seat in the front. Men were caged in the back. They wore orange or yellow jump suits, and stared at us curiously, but we pretended to ignore them. We rode the bus headed down the 110 freeway, stopping first at Van Nuys to deposit a few guys.

The woman I was chained up with and I struck up an avid conversation. She didn’t mind talking like most did. It was a good idea to keep to yourself in jail, but that was not the case with me, because I needed to reach out to others, I thrived on it. It was no different with this lady. She seemed very nurturing and spoke good, clear English. She understood me as I explained what the lines meant on her palm. I also told her of my plight and she said God would lead me to the right man. I said that I saw them dropping the case and she would go free and be clear.

We got close being chained to each other. Even when we finally reached the courthouse and were led into a small men’s bathroom converted into a holding cell with a broken payphone in it, she and I talked about everything under the sun. We prayed together and cried together, sharing our pain. She didn’t think her husband would follow through with the case either. I wished the same for my situation, but knew mine was a bit more complicated.

It was 7:30 a.m. and we weren’t due in court until 3:00 that afternoon. We had a long time to chat and comfort each other. By 12:00 noon they opened the door and handed us baloney sandwiches and an orange. I tried to eat, but couldn’t. I did Yoga for a bit and continually tried the broken phone. It was frustrating.

Finally, at around 1PM the steel door opened and my comrade was told that her case was dropped. She clapped her hands to her mouth and jumped for joy like a beauty queen winning the contest. I was genuinely happy for her. I asked about my case and the bald officer stared me down coldly. “We’re prosecuting you to the full extent of the law, Lady.”

I almost cringed, but refrained. They shut the door again. The lady and I hugged tightly. She wrote down her phone number, took my booking number and waited eagerly to be released, which would happen soon. She promised to put $20 in my account so I’d have money. She never did, but wished me well and said that God will make everything okay with my case. I had enjoyed my time with her. 

She gave me added strength to go on and face the music. They came for her 30 minutes later and she was gone out of my life.

PART II COMING! SO WHAT YOU THINK?