Prison Bars

It was a long time before I looked up from my roommates’ shoes. They had removed the laces; how would I explain any of this? Beginning with the borrowed shoes.

Maria was curled on the bench like an injured kitten; she had twisted her ankle in the chase. We both looked like hell, and how she could sleep was beyond me. Half a dozen women leaned on the wall, or sat on the floor in the shared cell, popularly termed: the drunk tank. The women were lost in their own shattered worlds. Their eyes shone, but blankly, like the backs of old spoons.

A short-haired girl with sunken cheeks and blue eyes chewed her lips in the corner. She smacked them together, wetly, murmuring and looking off into space.

“Kit kat…, caramilk…, twix…,” grumbled the girl. Her mouth moved faster and slower at the same time. Horrified, I trained my eyes on my roommate’s shoes. I dreamed myself small. I shrank down in a puff of smoke and turned into a rat- had to dig my way out of the mountain of my clothing.

“Hey”, launched the girl, without warning. I froze. The sheer concentration of her gaze was scorching a hole in the side of my skull. “Hey you”, she teased again. And I looked up. Oh god, I looked up. Into blue eyes, clouded with delusions and probably ghosts; the site from which something precious and blameless had long been wrenched.

“Better close your mouth, Hun,” said the girl. “Someone might come along and stick a ___ in it.”

My mouth went dry as the room began to spin. I wanted to disappear.

The taste of chocolate thickened against my tongue.

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