Cheryl Somers Aubin
and Jan Irene Miller

Jan Irene Miller
Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 inches
Inspiration piece

By Cheryl Somers Aubin


In the distance, the building rises like a mountain out of the softly rolling hills.  He imagines it is a mountain, but knows it is a building, a warehouse really.

He feels his throat getting tight and tears threatening.  As he raises his arms, the handcuffs’ rattle startles him.  He rubs his palms into his eyes, pushing the tears back hard.  He’d made the mistake earlier in the day of pulling on the handcuffs, and now they are digging into his skin.  He shift his hands to try to loosen them but they stay tight.

The sun casts a gold light behind the building turning it blue, the color of the Caribbean ocean.  He remembers the shades of blue from dark to light, from midnight to translucent aqua – the water, the sky, the clarity and depth all carrying the same colors as Darlene’s ever changing eyes.  “Darlin’,” he’d called her.  “Darlin’,” he whispers quietly.  Those few short days in the islands with her were the one gift, the one bright time of his life.

He imagines escaping from the bus, but moves his feet and feels the weight of the shackles on his ankles.  He’d tucked his too-long pants under them so they wouldn’t  scrape his skin.  It is hot in the bus, the air stale and unmoving, and he wishes he could open the window, breathe in fresh air, feel the coolness on his skin, but it is welded shut.

As he looks out of the corner of his eyes around at the other men, the other prisoners going to the same place, his stomach aches.  Some, like him, are going for the first time.  He meets the eyes of an older white man, then they both look away.  He tries not to care but already wonders how this man will do “inside.”

He tries not to think of Darlene anymore, either, but does, remembering the time she’d reached her hand up, brushing the hair off his forehead and looking into his eyes.  “What are you not telling me?” she’d asked him.  He was transparent to her.  She’d lifted up on her toes and brought his head lower toward her and kissed him.  He’d closed his eyes and breathed her in.  He’d kissed her again, deeply, and felt her tremble beneath his hands.

The bus jerks and he almost hits his head on the seat in front of him.  His lawyer had told him not to let anything get to him.  To imagine a steel suit over him.  No looks, no sounds, no smells, nothing can get to him.  He tries not to imagine how bad it will be inside, but knows that it will be worse than he could ever imagine.

He looks down at his hands and holds out two fingers.  One plus one.  But he won’t be in prison for two days, two weeks or even two months, but two years.  Two full years.

It was just for a little while, he’d told himself at the beginning, the first time the hundreds of dollars floated into his hands in the exchange.  A small white envelope for an impressive amount of money.  He felt both power and relief, like he was finally winning.

He’d only sold to a few trusted clients.  “Clients” he liked to call them, as if he were a stockbroker or a lawyer.  Rationalizing that people would be doing drugs anyway, and needed to get the drugs from somewhere, he thought, why not from him? He was providing a service, after all.  Since the people he sold to just wanted to party and have fun, he thought it would be okay, thought he would be okay.

Besides, he never “pushed” drugs, just “dealt” them.  The easy money was very tempting.  Sometimes he would join in the partying, but mostly kept his head clear and kept track of both the drugs and the money.  It solved so many problems in his life and that was enough, enough to change his life – then enough to ruin his life.

Shadows grow long along the walls of the building he can see more clearly. The sun is beginning to set.  Even as darkness falls, the barbed wire softens against the sky into gentle curves as the building looms larger and closer.

He starts to think about all he will be deprived of: not just the privacy and dignity, but of his life with Darlene; time with his family. He was never a big one for holidays, although his mother is.  God, the disappointment he caused her, the lines on her face now, the brave smile she’d put on during the trial, the time she left the courtroom when one of his “victims” got up to speak.  He is an offender now.  The word sticks to him.  Offending society, his family and his love.

When he got the sentence, he spent his last weeks of freedom lifting weights and trying to get strong.  He cut his hair short and ate every one of his favorite foods.  One night, he got so drunk his hangover lasted three days.  But he took no drugs after getting arrested.  That part of his life was done forever.

The bus idles as the first gate to the prison opens slowly.  He sees the spikes on the barbed wire now.  The building is shrouded in funereal black.  As the search lights sweep back and forth, he’s searching, too, reaching down to find strength.

The bus pulls in and parks alongside the building.  The guard has the prisoners come to the front of the bus row by row, each one jangling from the chains that bind him.  His turn comes, and it’s hard for him to rise out of the seat.  But he wills himself to do it.  One step, then another.  One plus one is two, another step, three, a few more steps, and then he is in front of the guard.  Stating his name as the guard checks it on a clipboard, he then slowly and awkwardly descends the steps and breathes in the night air.

He looks up at the sky, at a star he sees in the distance. He remembers the surprise, the hurt, the betrayal and the anger that cascaded over Darlene’s face, the waves of emotion crashing in on her when he finally told her the truth.  Told her what he did…who he really was.

It was the betrayal that stayed on her face and shattered both their hearts.

He misses her, misses her so terribly it is as if his very soul is missing.  His skin hurts like a bad sunburn, and his lungs feel completely absent from his body.  He can barely breathe.

The other prisoners are starting to disappear into the building.  Like entering his own coffin, the lid slamming shut on his life, on him, he gets ready to enter, too.

This is the last time he will allow himself to think of her.  The memory of her love, their love, their future that will not be, the promises they will never fulfill.

He looks up at the night sky and releases her.  Turning his heart hard, his mind numb, he follows the guard and the other prisoners inside.



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