Prison is about waiting, yes. But it is also this weird time warp. I have written before about how the time moved too quickly and much too slowly at the same time, but there was also the time warp factor. I wrote Dan a letter almost every day. Sometimes I would save a letter from one day to the next and continue it, but I almost never missed a day. Sometimes I even wrote a few letters in one day. Dan wrote to me too, not every day but most days, and he would mail me cartoons from the newspaper and crosswords or word puzzles that he had solved. What always threw me off was when I would receive a letter from him dated a few months prior.
Sometimes between the prison outgoing security check in the mail room, and incompetent employees, the letters wouldn't get mailed and then when someone finally found them and sent them, it was jarring to read them after so much time had passed. I received two letters from Dan in March 2010, both were dated September 2009, from when he was in MCC. It was disheartening to read his letters and see that not only were we still writing about the same issues, but that nothing much had been resolved or changed. I got a Valentine's Day card he had made for me, but it arrived weeks late. It was a 3D card with decorated by Dan and Tank, with a pop up puppy on the inside. Dan wrote:
Happy Valentine's Day.
I know you want a puppy so here is one to pop up and say hello.
All things considered, I think that the next stretch of time will be hard but it will end with a rewarding future for us.
It was just a goofy card, but I loved it. Even if it did come late.
Dan was having a rough time in F Dorm, and finding the environment very depressing. He felt that the guys were disrespectful, staying up till 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, arguing and yelling over stupid things like who hadn't showered properly. They would yell and fight and gang up on each other. Dan had a habit of sharing extra commissary food with other guys who were too poor to buy their own, and it irked some of the other inmates. They hassled him about it and made life difficult. I didn't know what to do to help him, and it affected our visits. He wasn't sleeping well and nothing new was happening so he was bored and anxious, a bad combination. I ordered Dan a bunch of cryptogram books online to preoccupy him, and he sent me a funny cartoon. It was a woman putting on her makeup in the mirror, and her husband standing behind her, muttering to himself "This is my wife, some assembly required". I liked it a lot.
G Unit was smaller and calmer. Dan was back in a unit with the few Jewish inmates, one was a Rabbi from Kiryat Joel. He was facing a pretty severe sentence and was a tiny wisp of a man. He looked so frail and fragile, and people would always give him a rough time because they knew they could get away with it. Dan hated seeing that, and would sit next to him while he prayed, doing crosswords. Most of the other guys would leave him alone when Dan sat near him. He knew the power of that small action, because of how Tank protected him back at MCC. It made me sad that anyone would pick on this Rabbi. I was glad he had Dan around to look out for him. I did feel resentment towards some of the other Jews in the unit- they gave Dan a hard time for "not being Jewish enough." Which upset me, greatly. There's no scale to measure that kind of thing. Frankly, gentlemen, you are all in prison so better Jew or worse Jew the time for judging others had long passed. I also knew I could out-Jew any of these guys without skipping a beat, and I was stuck outside unable to do anything about it. Frustration.
Dan had been in prison for just over 19 months and according to him if everything went well, he could be home in 400 days. That really didn't mean much to me, since anything could happen in such a long amount of time, but it seemed to cheer Dan up so I embraced it. A few weeks later, his management variable was set to expire (the note on his inmate file that meant he was a difficult prisoner because of the incident that got him booted from Taft camp). Once it was gone, he could be moved back to a camp instead of a Low facility, if we could get him redesignated. Big If.
I sent him the lyrics to a song called Fall For You by Secondhand Serenade. The words just hit me when I heard it playing on the radio one day driving home from a tough visit. We had been having tense visits, just difficult and unlike our usual easy going ones. We weren't fighting, but we weren't happy with our current situation and the edges of our lives felt like they were starting to fray. Tense and anxious were good descriptive words for how I felt most days as I left the prison.
"Fall For You"