Tales from A Woman's Prison

“ It Never Rains In California ”          by Pella Lopez

It was one of those damp, dreary days. The kind where you find
someone to talk too,  just to keep from going crazy.

Everything looked bleak. My future, the future of others around me.
I sat there wishing someone would bring me a joint or a pill, so I could
sleep that day away.

Even on dreary days like that, there was always some noise; people
talking, TV’s up too loud, something. But for some reason, that day,
it was quiet. Quiet, like something bad was going to happen. We all
felt it but didn‘t say anything. We just waited, hoping that whatever
it was, it wouldn‘t be as bad as it felt like it would be.

I hadn’t smoked cigarettes for 13 days. Until then, I was certain I
had kicked that habit. The same kind of tension that caused me to
smoke in the first place, caused me to get up now and hunt down
a smoke. The moment I lit the damn thing, I regretted it. After the
coughing spell subsided, I puffed away. It gave me something to
concentrate on, instead of wondering what was going to happen.

I was 19 then and had only been smoking for 5 years. When I finally
quit for good, I was 49 and had been smoking for 35 years. Funny how
it happened; I just jumped up one day, threw all the cigarettes out and
that was that. Of course the fact that I had developed a smokers cough,
contributed to my decision. My lungs just couldn’t take it any more.
But that day, I was glad to have something to calm me down.

Women were going from room to room for a while, then everyone settled
down. I guess we were holding our breathe, afraid to exhale until we knew
it was safe to do so.......Then it happened.

The first sound was like an engine revving up, stopping and then starting
again. Ugh ughhh, ugh, ughhhhh. Then the flood gates opened and a
full wail came out.

Linda started crying. Loud, ugly crying. The kind that comes from deep
pain that bubbles to the surface, out of no where. Pain that you buried
or your mind blocked cause it was too much to deal with. Hurt that’s so
devastating, it brings a strong man to his knees and makes a young girl
wish she was never born.

The kind of crying Linda was doing, was totally unacceptable! It was so
deep that it went through all of us, bringing up shit that we couldn’t handle
right now. It reminded us that we were in prison, why we were there and
what made us commit crimes in the 1st place.

Her crying made mothers feel ashamed. They had put drugs, money, men
or ___before their children. They were here, instead of outside raising their
kids like they should be. It made us younger girls hate the men that molested
us, resent the mothers who didn’t protect us and hate ourselves for taking
it out on innocent people!

In prison, whether it’s a woman’s prison and especially a men’s prison,
you never let anyone hear you crying. Women could cry softly in their
rooms, but men could never cry under any circumstances; unless you
were a bad motherfucker and no one messed with you no matter what you did.

Linda’s crying broke our hearts. She cried non stop for at least an hour!
When it was over, we breathed a sigh of relief. Damn! Now maybe we
could go back to pretending our lives would get better, we’d be out soon
and everything would be just fine.

But in our hearts, we admired Linda. She had the courage to do what
we all wanted to do, but couldn’t. She faced her pain, let it out and went
on about her business.

Most of us were like Humpty Dumpty; if we broke down, we’d never
be put back together again. Linda became our secret hero. She had
cried for all of us. We felt a whole lot better afterwards and so did she.

Another year went by. Linda did everything she could to make parole
and she did. She never came back.