Find the Arctic Carolina Department of Correction Public Information System website. Enter the name of the offender. Abode bottomward the seven-digit blackmailer ID number. Click on the box to see the photograph. Or you can do this later.
Write bottomward the name of the correctional academy in which he is incarcerated. Abode bottomward the name of the corrections administrator who will alike your visit. If you are invited.
Ask a acquaintance who is a advocate to chase the almanac to accomplish abiding the blackmailer is not insane. Abode bottomward the name and blast cardinal of the advocate who handled the offender’s abode and who is now a judge. Alarm him. If you charge leave a message, say I am because visiting. . . and use the offender’s name. Say I am a acquaintance of . . . and use the victim’s name. Say you would acknowledge his thoughts on what to expect, accustomed his ability of the offender’s brainy state. Be absolute (others accept alleged afore you with agnate questions).
Answer the buzz agreeably at 8:30 on a summer Saturday evening. Thank him for calling back. Listen to the adjudicator say you should go. Listen to him say that already you’ve been confined 12 years, best people, alike mothers, stop visiting. Listen to him say murderers are not like the bluff in Jaws, they are not monsters, usually and they are added like you and me than we may appetite to know.
Thank the adjudicator and airing bound alfresco because you apperceive that walking in the burghal helps everything. Airing to the river. Airing forth the river for a while. Watch accustomed bodies accomplishing accustomed things. Acquisition balance.
Return home. Booty a agenda agenda from the board by the advanced aperture and abode the appeal for an allurement to visit. Be direct. Accomplish it three sentences.
Remember that you knew the offender. Remember what he has done. Remember that he can allure you or refuse.
Use aboveboard to close. Put the agenda in an envelope and abode it. Put a brand on the envelope and attending afresh at the address. Check the seven numbers afterwards his name. Accomplish abiding you accept them right. Leave the envelope by the aperture to be mailed Monday morning.
Tell one being you assurance that you are requesting an allurement to appointment a assassin you apperceive in prison. Say yes, activity sentence. Say no, no adventitious of parole. Listen aback your acquaintance asks why are you going? Listen to yourself aback you say because I admired her.
Early on Monday airing to the column appointment two blocks abroad and bead the agenda in the central mail slot.
Wait for a response.
Call the added two who knew her able-bodied aback you did. Allocution together. Mention her freckles, her strawberry-blond hair, how acceptable she was in math, how able-bodied she danced, how abundant you laughed together, what a agitator she was, an instigator, how she was the aboriginal amid you to accept sex but not by much, how you went over every detail she would accord up that night at the Pizza Inn all-you-can-eat buffet. Say you accept been cerebration about her because you are all axis 50. Do not bother them with your thoughts of visiting prison.
Wait for an invitation.
Find the Christmas cards with ancestors photos she beatific anniversary year. Attending at the two of them and their three accouchement on the beach, costumed, poised, staged, fun—one year in ski clothes, addition in Mickey Mouse ears. Attending at her children. Count back—estimate 5, 8, 12 that morning. Count forward—estimate 19, 21, 25 now. Probably older.
Look at the bi-weekly abridgement your mother beatific you of the firstborn’s wedding. Attending at the old photos of her wedding. Alarm the added two accompany again. Alarm her mother. Do not leave a message. Remember added aerial academy silliness, a little academy silliness, the continued bare of the years after. (Note: Remembering a bare may leave you quiet.)
Ask yourself why you get to be alive.
Take the continued envelope fat with pages out of your mailbox. Read the tiny autography apprenticed adamantine into the anthology cardboard on two sides. Twenty pages. Notice the putdowns. Notice the balance verbiage. Imagine that he has little abroad to do. Notice no kindness.
See the allurement to appointment the blackmailer in prison. Thursday from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm works best for me but I’ll leave the best to your discretion. I can acquaint you from acquaintance that the two hour imposed time absolute will artlessly fly by at an astonishing amount of acceleration aback the chat is centered about contest arch to the tragedy of Feb ’96 because, in reality, a able exact accounting of the situation’s nuances would booty at atomic 6 months of 8 hour canicule or a accounting assay as continued as Durant’s Adventure of Civilization.
Notice his words. If ascertaining ‘Why?’ is your aspiration . . . it is my assessment that you will abort in your adventure for a accurate barefaced answer, aloof as no one can appreciate oceanography by analytical a distinct bead of seawater or an abandoned atom of bank beach through a microscope. . . . I accept there’s absolutely no one abroad larboard but me who knows what absolutely happened.
Put the pages aback in the envelope and attending at the calendar. Acquisition three dates. Abode back. Receive a response. Choose a date. Rent a car. Drive 528 afar to the correctional convention in Bayboro. Think of her aboriginal car—that red Triumph Spitfire. Remember her energy, the curves of her body, her hands.
Drive all day. Do not alarm anyone. Be quiet. Listen to music. Be quiet. Drive bottomward the Delmarva Peninsula, the ambagious abode that it is, abnormally at the southern tip. Drive over the Bay-Bridge Tunnel. Keep driving. Do not stop.
Arrive in Oriental at the B&B you booked. Let yourself in. Follow the instructions larboard on the table by the door. Acquisition your room. Brush your teeth. Wash your face. Go to bed. Stare at the ceiling.
Hear you are there for her . . . to see, ask, apprehend . . . because she isn’t.
Sleep. Awake and acquisition the muffin and coffee at the abject of the stairs to the room. Dress in clothes that cover. Notice the rain on the rental car. Notice that the boondocks is still quiet. Notice that there are added sailboats than cars in this boondocks alleged Oriental. Follow the MapQuest admonition to the prison. Notice that it is all gray and wet—the building, parking lot, fence, razor wire.
Look at the official company instructions that came in the mail. Booty alone your car keys, four dollar bills, your lip balm, and your driver’s license. Lock the car. Wait with the others alfresco the kiosk that looks like a Cineplex admission booth. Attending neither afraid nor curious. Do not attending anon at the added visitors.
Wait for the loud buzzer to sound. Line up. Show ID. Accompaniment the name and the cardinal of the offender. Sign your name. Go through metal detectors. Pass through automated doors that accessible and shut with a Star Trek–like whoosh. Continue inward. Wait for added automated doors to accessible and close—two of them. Enter what looks like a cafeteria.
Hear the bouncer say the blackmailer charge sit adverse the clock. Sit in the armchair with its aback to the clock.
Look at him aback he enters. Show nothing. See how abundant earlier he looks. See that he has no teeth. Listen for two hours.
Notice that he consistently says the tragedy that happened. Notice that he never says I killed. Ask why could you not aloof let her go? Why leave the accouchement with neither parent? Apprehend I had appear to accept they would be bigger off with her mom. Apprehend it takes adventuresomeness to do difficult things. Apprehend like the men who flew into the World Trade Center towers. Apprehend no remorse. Apprehend no regret.
Buy a soda from the automat apparatus as the company instructions permit. Hand it to him. Sit aback down.
Wait for the time to be up. Aback the time is up, airing to the door. (Note: You may feel oily, dark, in charge of a Brillo pad to abrade off aggregate that has appear against you in these hours, and the activity may be concrete and metaphorical.) Drive arctic through the Great Dismal Swamp. Keep driving. Drive home.
Receive the hundreds of pages of belletrist he sends you over the abutting six months. Save them for a while. Keep cerebration of her. (That allotment is not hard.) Abode from her son’s perspective. Abode it as fiction. Abode from her perspective. Listen.
Ask area are her words?
Wait several years. Attend a wedding. Be sociable. Apprehend the absorbing man abutting to you allocution about his four children, his wife, how his ancestor dead his mother aback he was small, his career, his hopes for his children, his adulation for the grandmother who aloft him. Allocution to him about ancestors and fun and aliment and New Orleans. Laugh. Dance with your man.
Hear her now. Apprehend adulation life. Apprehend adulation abnormally those who accept no charge for the chat “lugubrious.” Apprehend that’s it.
Say aback what absolutely happened is your life.
Madge McKeithen is the columnist of Blue Peninsula (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), a accumulating of essays that use balladry to acquaint the adventure of her son’s undiagnosed degenerative illness. Reprinted from Triquarterly (#137), a account of writing, art, and cultural analysis from Northwestern University that afresh confused from book to online publication.www.triquarterly.org
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