What do I wear? How can I fit in? Am I allowed to wear jewellery, belts? All sorts of thoughts were going through my mind. I wanted to make sure I didn't stand out, however I wanted to look nice for him. As I spent hours deciding what to wear, my main focus was trying to fit in, however I am not sure who I was trying to fit in with. I eventually decided on a pair of jeans, a t-shirt which probably should have been downgraded to a painting t-shirt years ago, a flat pair of ballet shoes and no jewellery.
Not wanting to be late, we actually got there well in advance of visiting time. As we stood outside the large wooden door, we started the queue which formed over the next hour, eventually stretching back along the prison wall. The sound of the wooden door unlocking, made me think of the image of a prison guard with a huge black iron key turning it with difficulty. We were let into a room with a high level kiosk like at a bank, where prison guards spoke through the frosted glass and the shadows of other guards the other side were visible. Our mugshots and finger prints were taken, passports checked and we were asked to wait in another room. I decided to use the toilet to save time later but very quickly wished that I hadn't. It didn't look like it had seen bleach for a very long time and with the water pipes half hanging off the walls, it was difficult to establish exactly what I was standing in.
If you like people watching, you would have a field day in the waiting room of a Cat A prison. Middle aged ladies looking immaculate trying to not catch the eye of anyone in the room; young lads in groups with the inability to purchase jeans which sit around their waist; young mothers screaming in Irish accents trying unsuccessfully to get control of their children, those said young children pushing chairs over or running across the chairs or deliberately breaking toys to get their mother to scream even loude;, middle aged couples huddled together trying their best to pretend they weren't really in the room; and then us, watching everyone else but then not wanting to be seen to be looking.
We went through to another part of the prison before the search and put our belongings into a locker. The search involved rechecking mugshots and finger prints, going through an airport type scanner, removing shoes which are checked by another officer, having my tongue lifted and gums checked with a swab and having a thorough pat down which included a cupping of my breasts that made me jump as the intimacy was unexpected.
We were given a table number, where we sat for what felt like ages and eventually the inmates came into the room. I was relieved when I saw other people embracing and I knew I was going to be able to hug and kiss him. As he walked into the room my heart skipped and as he hugged me, tears poured down my face. To be honest, I can't remember what we spoke about, other than checking he was ok, both of us sitting there with tears in our eyes. The 2 hours flew by and before I knew it they were calling time.
Leaving him sitting in the visiting hall bought all the pain and hurt back to the surface and although I tried to be brave for him, it was impossible and as I looked back towards him as I got to the door, the pain and tears were evidently etched on both of our faces. On the way home, the tears frequently turned to anger, as I ranted about the fact that he shouldn't be in there and replayed the disbelief of how we got to this situation.