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The Last Stop: Cara’s Story, Part 1

Today’s guest post is by Cara, a Truth Be Told graduate, and is part 1 of 2; you can read Part 2 here.

That anxious nervous feeling washes over me as I wait for the Guards to come get me. Every time I am moving to another unit or even cellblock I get this feeling. This time its different. I am going to reception, my last stop before I get out of prison. It feels surreal and I can hardly breathe. I will finally stand face to face with “My Jeremy” the man who has walked with me through this life changing experience. I carry my bags to the van and sit quietly on the way to this scary new place that I will stay at for 2 days. I arrive at my final destination; it feels good to know that “My Jeremy” will pick me up from here! This is it!! My last stop!!

“This place is GROSS! It looks like a dungeon,” I think, but don’t dare say it out loud. I am standing in front of a guards’ station and the two guards do not even acknowledge me. After 10 or so minutes, I don’t really know because I gave my watch away before I left Lockhart, they tell me to empty my belongings. I am puzzled and ask “where?” “RIGHT THERE!” they seem to stomp there feet as they say this. So, “right there” on the horrifyingly dirty concrete floor I put all of my precious items.

The guards came over and started throwing my things, my precious belongings, into two piles. When they were finished manhandling my most prized possessions (with gloves on like they might catch some disease) they tell me to throw one pile away and to get only my hygiene’s from the other pile. So I say goodbye to some love letters from “My Jeremy,” a few commissary foods I brought just in case I can’t stand to eat the food in the chow hall, and grab my lotion and chapstick. My bible, Debbie Macomber book and a few pictures of Sarah and my Jeremy, I pack back up and they take it from me for later. I wondered if they were actually going to keep these safe for me or if someone was going throw them away,“accidentally”. I am told that I am not supposed to have my chapstick but they will let it slide. I had already given away my shampoo, conditioner and everything else that the indigent girls back on Lockhart could use.

Next, I am taken to a cell where a woman is laying on the bottom bunk writhing in pain and coughing like a banshee. The guard yells at her to get on her bunk, which is the top bunk, and tells me the bottom bunk is mine. “I am to sleep where this lady was hacking and sweating and God knows what else?? You have got to be kidding me!,” again I think, silently.  I ask for some cleaning supplies and this clearly offends the woman in my cell. She demands to be taken to medical. The guard takes her and tells me its not cleaning day and I would just have to make do. She tells the sick woman to roll it up and that she will not be coming back to this cell. Whew, relief and panic both well up in me! The sick woman is gone! I am in the clear, OH GOD I CANNOT CLEAN! I am frozen in the middle of the cell holding my matt, sheet, and lotion. I feel like the color has dropped out of my face. Tears well up when a girl walks by with cleaning supplies and says, “just give me a minute and I will fix you up. Use your sheet for now to sit on and I will bring you a new one.”  Relief.

What seems to be an eternity ends when this nice woman sneaks a wet rag dipped in bleach, a dry towel and new sheet through the grungy bars. She says, “I’ll be back in a few to pick everything up”. I go to work scrubbing everything down. I wipe the cell down from top to bottom. It doesn’t look clean but it smells clean and makes me feel 100% better. She comes back and I am handing her everything through the dirty bars of the cell when  a guard walks up. MY HEART STOPS! Shit I am going to catch a case and they are not going to let me out! (A case is when they write you up and it goes in your file, they punish you etc. three minor cases equal one major case and they can deny your parole).

The guard says, “hurry up and I won’t see a thing” — thank goodness! (As I reflect on this sickening fear, I realize it was just fear that was letting me think they could hold me there because of that.) I smile sheepishly and hand over the dirty linens. So now I am sitting on my bunk with NOTHING to do. No books, no bible, no pen and paper. I sit and wait. Time for dinner. I go to the “chow hall” pick at my food and go back to my cell to sit…. and wait. I cannot sleep for excitement and fear of the unknown begins to overwhelm me. I go to breakfast at the chow hall, then lunch. Then dinner. I get called for a shower and am handed one of the terrible blue bars of lye soap that I have come to depend on for all kinds of things i.e. washing my panties, bowls, spoons, and hair. I have no shampoo so I merely rinse my hair and wash my body. Once back in my cell one of the girls in a cell down the way asks me if I need a comb. I respond with a yes please do you have an extra. In my mind I am praying, “Please do not have lice”. She throws a comb to me and says don’t worry, it’s brand new! Whew another catastrophe averted!

I braid two braids in my hair, one on each side of my head. I sit and wait. I go to breakfast. “Roll it up”, that’s the last time I will EVER have to hear that again. I gather my items and turn in my matt and linens. I have already given my lotion to the girl who gave me the comb. And here I go… into another cell and wait for hours it feels like. I really do not know. I am taken down the hall where I can see the fence and the outside world through a window in the door. They give me some pants and a shirt and tell me if they don’t fit too bad they’ll do. Now I am in a line of women all preparing to exit prison. They give us each a $50.00 check and a lecture and inspire us with words like “We will be here when you come back”. I mean really, I have NOTHING and they think fifty bucks is going to get me somewhere in my new life, I think as I am in a single file line walking out the gates.

There is only one gate between freedom and me. A little red Toyota pick-up pulls up and my name is called. I walk out and get in the vehicle. “My Jeremy” and I drive off!

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About Shelley Seale

I'm Shelley, a journeyer and learner of the world, freelance journalist and author, yoga chick and dog lover. I pound the keyboard from home barefoot every day, and while my boss is demanding she also occasionally lets me have the early afternoon cocktail. I think not going into an office or collecting corporate paychecks are very good ideas, though not always profitable. I have written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, Texas Monthly and CNN, among others. Neither the New York Times nor Johnny Depp have answered my letters yet. I love yoga, indie movies, wine, and books, though not necessarily in that order. I believe in karma. Mean people suck. If I could have any dream job I would like to be a superhero. I have performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano and was once robbed by a monkey in Nepal. But, I don't know how to whistle. My mantra is "travel with a purpose."

16 responses »

  1. Your experience sounds like those of others I know who are — or have been — locked up. Thank you for having the courage to write about it. God bless you.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Cara’s Story, Part 2 « Truth Be Told

  3. Love you so much for your courage and message. Please keep sharing.

    Reply
  4. Dear Cara,
    I am so proud to call you my Niece and so happy for what you and Jeremy have achieved together. I am also so proud of you my dear, I had no idea it was so horrible but so happy you have come out the other side such an inspiration to everyone. I know you truly saved Jeremy also in this journey of yours and for that George and I are forever grateful! You write so wonderfully you need to write a book! I love you dear Cara and weep for what you have gone through.
    Diane

    Reply
  5. As I read this, I sooo remembered my expirience. It brought a tear to my eye, and gratefulness to my heart. I am glad that it will never be an experience I everr have to walk through again. Thank you Cara for painting such a vivid picture of your horror with being released. Something I had buried deeply.

    Reply
  6. I believe that God has plans for all of us, and I believe all of the things in which we go through are the paths given, and if we hadn’t taken these paths our lives would have turned out completely different. But, if we hadn’t messed up, and taken these paths, then we would never have met each other, therefore Toby wouldn’t have run back into me at church, and wouldn’t have met Cara and Jeremy, and we would be who knows where? I have been blessed to have all of you as friends and family and would never change a thing. We have now been given an oppurtunity to change the lives of people, who have yet to choose a path, and maybe are going down the wrong path. Maybe WE can make sure they know what is at stake, and give them Christ and the Word to help them through their journey. We are a team and this team will fight for what is right and do our best to minister to those who are in need of these stories and the lives in which have become an Awesome reality of what you have become!! I love you guys with all of my heart and am always here for you!! Blessings!! Keep the Faith!!!

    Reply
  7. We use the word ” roommate ” because it lessons the impact of what it really is.
    A ” celly” is what you have if you are in a bad B movie or a penitentiary.
    You are a kindness, a soft heart, a bright light in a small dark space. You are genuine, honest and true. I have watched you grow from a tiny wounded girl into a great strength, wise beyond your years, with a foundation as solid as rock . Your faith, courage & steadfast determination are an inspiration to all who know you. From you I learned the definition of the word friend.
    I am so proud of you!!!

    Reply
  8. As I sit here watching my little Sarah play with her little sister Landry I am grateful. I am grateful to have each one of you in my life! Bricer, you are the best brother in the world. I cannot even type for the tears are making it impossible to. I love you so much and am grateful for hearing your side of that part of our story. You are amazing little brother. I never really understood how deeply you were affected by that visit or by my being incarcerated. Those of us who have been on my end may never feel what you felt but now have a clearer understanding. Your words touch me and I needed to know your hearts feelings. For you to express yourself like that for all to see is …I cannot think of a word great enough. Your vulnerability speaks to me and I thank you.

    I want to say something to each of you but I have no words… I am deeply moved by each of your thoughts and expressions of love and support.

    Reply
  9. Cara how awesome of you to share your story your a fierce amazing and brave woman, like i posted yesterday on another of your talents “I am SO Proud of YOU

    Reply
  10. All of the comments and stories that Cara has inspired others to share, have truly moved and humbled me. Thank you all….and thanks to YOU, Cara, for the bravery in sharing your story.

    Reply
  11. Brice Willoughby

    Cara,

    I read this fraction of your story and I find myself in tears wondering how this is part of your reality. I also have an experience in a prison and it changed my life forever.
    After finding out that my beautiful sister was in prison, I found myself on a plane with my father to “see what’s really going on” with her. With hearts and minds filled with wonder and question in a small town, BBQ just didn’t tide us over.
    Its morning and we have a pass into the prison that is holding her. Dad and I walk into what looks like a rundown high school/DMV kind of building, greeted by a very unpleasant person behind the counter. After being told what we can and cannot take in with us, how to greet her, what is expected of us if anything bad should happen in the meeting room we proceeded. I placed my phone and anything I had in my pockets in a locker and took a deep breath.
    As dad and I sat in the blue chairs with our hands crossed we looked at the door she would come out of with disbelief in our hearts. She emerged from a door resembling my sister but in no way the same person I knew growing up. It was obvious the pain she was in and the disgrace she felt. I wanted to take her from that place, protect her from the bad, and change things.
    Watching my sister ask permission to get a snack, get a hug, hold a hand, I could not believe the situation we as a family where experiencing. My sister was in prison, and I was visiting her. The few hours did not last long at all and before I knew it “Rice” she was called back into the pain.
    I was so mad, hurt, sad, angry, and helpless.
    This is part of my family story and it is not the best part, maybe the worst part. My sister on the other hand is one of the best parts of my story. My sister and her beautiful family have become something special in our family, one of the best parts.
    You “My Cara” are as strong as you have ever been, as beautiful as ever, and as special as always. Your story is going to be a good and long tale, one that I will use as inspiration in my life.
    Love
    Your little brother

    Reply
  12. Cara,

    Well writen, I felt as if I were there!! It is truly a blessing to not be part of the 80% or more that don’t make it. I am grateful that TBT gives women ( like you and me) the tools to turn that 50 dollars and pocket full of dreams into something workable. You are a shining star. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
  13. As I read this, I felt so compelled to reach through this computer and extend my hands to you dear one. No one, no matter what they’ve done should be treated with such disrespect. You are a human being and you have paid for whatever your wrong doing was and now it’s time to begin again. You are a good person and you’ve learned lot’s of new skills through your work with Truth Be Told. This is such an awesome time in your life and it’s a time for new beginnings and hopes and dreams to be realized. You have your sweet Jeremy and I’m sure you’ll have others in your family and friends to help and encourage you along the way. Nothing is impossible, you need only to reach for it and live the life you dream of. I wish you all the best and for all of your dreams to come true. Be Blessed.

    Reply
  14. Cara truly inspiring and and I love you for being brave enough to continue to tell your truth.

    Reply
  15. My dear sweet Cara…I am so sorry you went through this kind of experience, but on the other hand, I believe it has made you into the strong, confident woman you are today. Not to mention your new life with Jeremy. I am so happy for you two.

    Reply
  16. As I read this, I sooo remembered my expirience. It brought a tear to my eye, and gratefulness to my heart. I am glad that it will never be an experience I everr have to walk through again. Thank you Cara for painting such a vivid picture of your horror with being released. Something I had buried deeply.

    Reply

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