By Patricia Vasquez
There’s a time in my life I could remember when I really enjoyed and loved to read and write. That was when I was writing love letters to my at the time boyfriend about 17 years ago. One of my best friends was incarcerated at the time. He and I were on the phone talking about my failed love life. He mentioned to me that he had a friend in there who was also having some problems in the love department, while on the phone he asked me if I wanted to speak to his male friend, so I agreed. We spoke on the phone for a few minutes then we exchanged addresses and said we would write each other. I was so intrigued by the sound of his voice. He gave my friend back the phone and my friend Kyron asked me, are you really gonna write my boy? I simply said yes, plus I wanted to. It was something about his voice, the way he said “hey what’s up.” My call ended with Ky, I was excited, I was about to write this man I didn’t even know which was weird to me because normally, I would’ve said something like “I don’t wanna talk to no jail-bird.” I got off the phone, I found me some paper and started to write.
“Hi, my real name is Patricia but most people call me Boobie,” just giving him brief info about myself, but I wanted to know more about him. I had a couple of questions. I especially wanted to know about his last relationship because I wasn’t interested in wasting my time. I wanted to know about his past, and what landed him where he currently was. Then I went on to his family and questioned if he had children. When I was done I sent it off and to my surprise I also received a letter from him a few days later with a bunch of questions for me to answer.
After about a month or so of us writing which was our only source of communication, started with one letter a week quickly became more and more frequent, and very intense. As I started to write him more often it became part of my routine. I even found myself writing on the weekends. Then there were the nights I couldn’t sleep so I would begin to write him, or the times that I was bored or whenever I just had anything to say. I found myself jotting little ideas down so that I would have something to write about later. It was so entertaining that I started to buy fancy stationary I would see in the stores. I would think to myself that’s pretty, I need to write a letter on that. Sometimes the paper would come with envelopes and stickers that made me really feel like I was doing something special. As I think back I wish I had better penmanship to go along with the words I was saying. Thankfully he never complained. He was always happy to receive mail from me.
Although this was a new way of communicating, writing felt really good to me. Our letters got deeper as time went on. He was able to tell how he just lost his Mom not long before he turned himself in. This was especially hard for him because she would’ve been one of his biggest supporters. He told me about a time when she was the only one that was there for him, when he had to do a bid ( jail sentence) as a teen. How she always left him a plate of food in the microwave no matter how late he came home. He told me all about his son, who was about three at this time. Months are passing and the letters are getting more serious. I was fully invested now, so I followed my heart and allowed it to make all the decisions. I was on cloud nine. I was giving all that I had in me. This felt different although I was unaware of what the outcome would be. By now I was anticipating his letters. I just got off from working the 7am-3pm shift at the Suffield House, which is a nursing home in Suffield CT. I pulled up in front of my house on this beautiful, hot summer day, about 98° the sun is still shining, the kids are out playing, and of course all the corner boys are posted. My only focus is to get to my mailbox as soon as I park. I pull up in front of my huge apartment building, that houses 14 families, including myself, my mom and twin aunts. I get out and proceed to my mailbox, and sure enough, there was a letter from him.
I retrieved it from in my mailbox, and immediately smelled it. I walked up the three concrete steps to go through the underpass, to get to my building. I headed up the two flights of stairs to the second floor, where I entered my apartment, and straight to my bedroom. I took off my clothes, showered with my Bath and Body Works, juniper breeze shower gel, then threw on a summer dress. Now it was time to read. I knew he had something good to say, he always did. To my surprise not only did he have something good to say, he also said something that shifted things. In his letter he explained to me how he was happy that he met me, and one of his fellow inmates, whom he had told all about me, told him that I was a good woman to have in his corner. That he should make sure that he did right by me, and to make sure he did everything he had to do to keep me. Telly really respected this guy. He was much older and wiser than him. Telly also admired how much respect he had for his wife who has stood by him for 15 years of his bid. He also told me that he knew he wasn’t perfect and he believed he had something good and he wanted to make things official. As I sat and read his words my heart was overjoyed. I couldn’t wait to write him back. I wanted him to know I was all in for it I told him how happy I was, that he has some sort of positive vibes around him although he was in such a bad place. I was ready to move forward with our relationship. I drew some XOXOXOXO’s, and sprayed it with my favorite perfume from Pink.
Weeks turn to months and at this point things are going good. I’m really loving this thing he and I have going on. He’s a little different from the guys that I use to date. I don’t know if it’s because we’re almost the same age. I don’t usually date guys my age. I like older men. Now it’s not only the letters, I get to hear his voice. The phone calls come daily and most of them end with him saying something like “make sure you write me a long sweet letter tonight.” We’ve learned a lot about each other’s lives, past, and family. I can’t wait to meet him and show my friends and family he’s real. Eight months have past and we decided it’s time to see each other in person. After all the letters and phone calls, I was ready to see this man’s face, although he still had some time before he would be released. Finally, I would be able to put a face to the voice. I had already fallen for him so this was the next step for me. I sent back all my paperwork and the information they requested, before being able to visit inmates. So any day now I should be getting the call saying, “Bae you can come up here now.”
One day my phone did ring and the caller ID displayed the jail number, so I answered with a smile on my face and said “hello.” “Hello you have a collect call from a inmate at Willard Correctional Facility, press one to except the charges.” I hit 1 and said hello, and the voice that responded was unfamiliar. “Hello,” I say again, the strange man asks if he could speak to Boobie, “this is her, who’s this?” He went on to say that he was making this call for my boyfriend Telly. He told me that he had lost his phone calls and was in the hole (solitary confinement). The guy told me, Telly would write me then hung up. Days go by and I’m waiting on the mailman, like he had a 10 thousand dollar check for me. About four days go by and finally I received a letter from him. First thing I noticed was, the letter was written on this funny looking off-brown, pre-ripped paper the was provided by the institution.
He stated in his letter he was sorry and he had got in trouble for smoking, so he had to choose between a loss of phone time or visitation. He said “this would go by fast and that I had made it on his visiting list. He chose the loss of phone, so that once he was back in general population we can finally meet face to face. I was happy it was only a week away so I decided to send two letters a day for the next week. I went out and bought me a new outfit and I did my hair. I was finally gonna get a chance to see his face and I wanted to look good.
The day had finally come, I couldn’t wait to get off of work. 3pm couldn’t get here fast enough. My visit was at 6:30pm and I had to sign up a hour in advance. So I went home and immediately jumped in the shower. My clothes were already laid out for me on my bed. It was still warm out so I was able to wear my tight jeans and a cute little black crop top, I slipped on my sandals, combed my hair down and I was off. I drove all the way to Enfield CT, with my stomach in knots. Finally I pulled up to the jail, parked my car and almost ran into the building. I filled out my visiting form, proceeded to the window, handed the guard my form and identification. The guy takes my info, hands it off to another guard who enters it in the computer he’s sitting in front of. The guy then handed me back my ID and told me I can take a seat. I’m patiently waiting when I hear, “who’s hear for Vasquez?” I hop up and say I am. They then tell me the inmate is no longer in this facility. I say excuse me, was he released, they say no he’s been transferred to Osborn. I reply Osborn is a level 5 prison. The guy said “well, that’s where he is.” I head out, Osborn was only 5 minutes away, so up the hill I went.
When I pulled up I was immediately afraid. This place looked crazy. The jail’s down the hill looked like camp compared to this one. There were some loud, slamming doors you had to walk through then finally the entrance that led to the guards desk. Once again I filled out the visiting form, and handed it to the lady along with my ID. She turns to the computer entered the information then paused, turned and grabbed the phone I could only hear the words, Vasquez, nothing else. She hangs up the phone turns back to her computer and enters something else, next words were, “Miss, he’s been moved.” In return I say yes he was moved here. She then lets me know he was here but has been moved again. She says he is now in Gates. “Gates,” I replied. The male guard chimed in and said “make sure you bring your bathing suit,” as I get ready to respond. The female guard speaks up and say “it’s near a beach” and they both laughed. I walked away went back through those loud slamming doors, so I could get back to my car. I was upset the whole ride home.
Once I made it there, I did what I always do which was check my mailbox. Low and behold what was there, a letter from him stating that there was a chance he was gonna get transferred.
Writing to him at this time in his life created a unbreakable bond, and a everlasting love between the two of us.
Course: ENG 095 Basic Writing and Reading Strategies
Assignment: Literacy Narrative
Instructor: Alexa Carey
Instructor comments: I selected this literacy narrative because of its unique telling of how powerful writing can be. We often consider writing to be a “school” subject, but this narrative proves how writing can enrich our lives and relationships. Happy to say that Telly was released from jail, and that he and Patricia celebrated their 16th Wedding Anniversary while she was in our class writing this essay.
Photo Credit: “Jailed” by Roan Fourie (Creative Commons)