Tag Archives: prison love

Sex and Sunshine

I used to talk to this woman at Lovelock Correctional Center who stood by her man for 20 years. Anytime I saw her at visiting I had a feeling of friendship and calm wash over me because she was very easy to talk to and sort of took me under her wing when I first started to visit Jeremy regularly at that prison. I saw her not too long before her man was released, which was also just before I married Jeremy. I remember when I told her that I was going to marry Jeremy,  she just enveloped me in her arms for the biggest hug ever. If there is ever a time when I needed comfort, it was before I made that life leap. Our ships passed briefly in the proverbial night, but I liked her a great deal. I always asked myself if that was going to be me someday, a thought that both interests me and terrifies me. She was dedicated to her husband for 20 years of incarceration and I used to wonder how she did it, what her private life was like, if she thought a lot about sex and walking in the sunshine with her husband.

It has been almost 8 years since I hugged this woman goodbye, a stranger goodbye, a sad and happy goodbye, a “farewell, I will never see you again but thank you for your time in my life” goodbye. More than likely, when you part from someone to meet you prison, you know you’ll never seen them again. It’s part of the landscape of prison relationships.

All these memories and repressed excitement that makes my heart beat came to the surface after listening to the latest episode of Ear Hustle, a podcast from inside San Quentin state prison in California, that I’ve started to listen to and enjoy. I find myself laughing and nodding my head while I listen and I realize just how familiar prison feels to me, how much I know, and how common the themes are, no matter where your person is incarcerated. This particular episode was about couples, sex, family visits, connecting on an intimate level, and the general struggle of being in a romantic relationship, or shall I say maintaining a romantic relationship, while one member happens to be behind the barbed wire. It ain’t easy, that’s for sure, and you can quote me on that.

When I think about my marriage to Jeremy, how we met after he was already in prison, how there are no “family visits”(also referred to as conjugal visits) in the state of Nevada, and how we have never even held hands in the sun….well, I start to think about just how different my marriage really is. Sometimes Jeremy and I literally look at each other, fully aware of the bizarre life we have built, and we laugh. Yet it all seems so “normal” because if you do anything for an extended length of time, it inevitably seems commonplace, no matter how unconventional it might be. Been married almost 8 years and never had sex with each other or been outside together? Totally normal.

Only a very small number of states allow conjugal visits and usually if you have a life without parole sentence, those visits are even less likely. So, the chances of me getting alone time with my husband is pretty much nonexistent. I never had to really come to terms with that fact, it just is. It does “help” that we never were together in the “free” world, but I’ve just accepted that prison infringes on anything private. Even though I am free citizen, I am also a prisoner right along with Jeremy when it comes to our time together. I have little control over my own skin to skin contact with my life partner. I have made adjustments to my life plans when it comes to intimacy, have had to redefine the term and my expectations. I have officially ruled out having children as something that I would want for myself at this point, and have settled with the idea, that for now, I can be outside and Jeremy can be outside, but we cannot be outside together. “You have to see my new hair color in the sun” I tell him, but I know that isn’t possible.

I used to get frustrated when people would casually ask “So WHEN do you get to have sex with Jeremy?” Over the years, I’ve learned that people on the outside just don’t really understand how the prison system works, the restrictions that are imposed, and just how difficult the rules make it to even see each other sometimes, let alone maintain any type of “sex life” beyond creative writing and an exchange of words over a monitored and recorded call.  You have to throw a bit of your inhibition away and if you have anxiety like me, you have to throw all of your inhibition away and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

So, as a 32 year old woman, I have to dig deep and modify where I can because at this point I’m not interested in extracurricular activities (my silly reference to extramarital affairs). In this life, there just comes a point, one that I’ve been at for a while, that you stare down the prison bullshit and then turn to your partner and say “Okay! I love you and I’m in it for the long haul and this sucks but let’s make this shit work”. The application for “friends with benefits” has long been torn up and thrown into the air like correctional confetti.

Side boyfriends and accepting ones fate aside… I have seen and heard a lot of funny stories about women visiting their men and trying to “release”. Well, it’s hard to release when you are constantly being watched like some freak show, the guard’s personal prison porn.  The thought of a voyeuristic intrusion doesn’t seem to faze some people, though, and I have on more than one occasion tried to ignore quick face sucking, momentary grinding, and the end of a kinky sex fantasy in the visiting room. My ears pick up every other word and I find myself trying to block out and listen at the same time. You gotta do what you gotta do, I guess. No judgement.

Note: If you ever do end up in the visiting room at Ely State Prison, choose your chair wisely and stay away from any weird stains. No, I`m not joking.

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Headphones for the heart

“If we can make it through another day
With you believing in my innocence
And we can make it through another year
‘Cause we both need it to forget this fear” – White Lie by The Lumineers

Listening to music through headphones changes the music. It changes how you feel about the music, the lyrics. It changes the story, the intensity. Mild fascination with words sung become a life line, a soundtrack to your deepest emotional crevices. The songs become your heartbeat. The music becomes you and you become the music. At least, that’s what happens to me. It must be said that I am absolutely a person who depends on music for survival.

I’ve recently become smitten with the Lumineers and although I heard their first popular song, “Ho Hey”, some time ago, I didn’t pay the band much attention. I actually heard “Ho Hey” initially on a road trip out to visit Jeremy, when visiting was an entire trip away. I remember thinking to myself how appropriate the line “I’ve been trying to do it right. I’ve been living a lonely life” was on my solo journey out into the desert to hold hands with a man I have never brushed skin with outside in the sunshine. Those lyrics stuck with me. The loneliness of that line stuck with me and I found myself singing it over and over again on that car ride.

I recently got hooked on The Lumineers and have even persuaded Jeremy to download some of their songs on his MP3 player. Yes, sometimes prisoners get MP3 players, though definitely not for free. I apply parts of each song I hear  to my life with Jeremy. I read an article about the band recently, where the lead singer referred to his brother(another band member), Jeremy, as “Jer” and it made me raise an eyebrow and laugh and sort of cry at the same time because we call my Jeremy, “Jer”. It’s funny how common things become magic when you allow them to.

I believe in unseen life connections. I often have trouble having faith in those connections because the patterns are woven in such a delicate manner that they are tough to see on especially dark nights. I get so frustrated with the kingdom of love that we have built because it is so unbelievably beautiful and vulnerable and it feels, fragile even though it’s strong.  On the surface we are two kids in love who happened to stumble upon each other, maybe by a happy accident, maybe by divine intervention. What do I know? I know that I love someone who lives in a prison in Nevada who came to know, and eventually marry, through a single letter I sent so long ago. I know that what we have is the truest life experience I have ever known. I know that I need to start fucking believing in this path I chose to walk on again. I am going to listen to life with my headphones on from here on out. The situation isn’t ideal, obviously, but I often feel like I’m taking “the music” for granted. I feel like I stopped looking at this adventure with Jer in an exciting light. I replaced “adventure” with “fear” and “hurt” and “the end”.

I’m going to dig deep, open my ears and my heart. I’m going into this next area of the path with the feeling that this is the beginning. This IS where the magic happens. It’s like when you’re listening to an especially long intro to a song. You’re waiting for the intro to “break”. You’re waiting, waiting, waiting, and when the lyrics begin and beat changes, you realize there can be no song without the intro.

“It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love’s indifference”- Stubborn Love by The Lumineers

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An unwanted spotlight

I really hate having attention drawn to me. I REALLY do. I’ve always been that way. I`m uncomfortable being the center of attention and you never need to worry about me stealing the spotlight because it has never been my desire in life. I prefer privacy, quiet, low key. I even get ridiculously embarrassed if I laugh too loud sometimes in public. So, it’s a bit comical that I should end up with someone who is infamous, with someone I have to talk about my life with in order to change perspective from what the media portrayed at one time. I have to talk about what real life is like with this person, being with this person, loving this person, and ultimately painting a brighter picture of who this person is.

In school, I was the kid who hated giving presentations, hated talking in front of a large group (and still do), and hated divulging facts about myself. I`m a listener in most instances and I’d rather not talk at length about my life. It makes me uncomfortable, vulnerable, and open to criticism. The truth is that people are going to criticize you no matter what. You could be doing the best job you possibly can in life, helping people, obeying all the laws like a good citizen, and you will still be criticized. That is just the way humans are.  Instead of hiding in the shadows and letting people talk about how mysteriously absent I am in talking about my husband, I choose to talk about my life and all of the ups and downs, how a person sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole can be an amazing person if you just look beyond the headlines of his case, how everything is not as it seems, because it isn’t.

Starting this blog was a leap. It is incredibly difficult for me to talk about certain aspects of my life with Jeremy, but I do it for the sake of planting seeds that will grow into something more worthy of watering than some sensationalized news story from almost 20 years ago. There is part of me that believes that it is my duty as Jeremy’s wife to do this public presentation because if I let people look up my name behind my back and never bother to talk about what a wonderful relationship I have with a really genuinely good natured person, they will only walk in the direction of “she is married to an evil murderer” and never know the actual story behind it all.

People will always, talk, though, and there will always be an unwanted spotlight on me. At the prison, I have officers and other visitors alike, surprised that I`ve spent the last 14 years visiting Jeremy at prisons and they try to wrap their heads around why Jeremy’s back number is 5 digits and everyone else has a 7 digit number, or why his visiting file dates back to 1998. I feel like sometimes people look at me funny when they hear my last name called out, but it could just be my paranoia because no one has ever said anything to me. There have also been times when I have gotten  private messages on Facebook or at work, from people who are curious about my involvement with Jeremy and at this point I just say “Yes he is in prison and yes we are married and no I`m not crazy”.  When journalists approach me, I act with caution, but I still believe in truth and telling the untold story. So while I absolutely cringe talking about my personal life on this blog some days, it is something that comes with the territory.

If we do not speak our truth, no one gets to hear it.

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At death’s door

What’s the truth? What’s the one inevitable fact about all life on this planet? That we are going to cycle out of this form and die. We don’t know when, we don’t know how, but we do know that when our time comes, we are going to be taken and returned to the earth and to the universe. We are going to be returned whether we have done good or bad, whether we want to or not.
I used to be so scared to talk about death, to talk about truth. The last 15 years with Jeremy have directly, and indirectly, taught me to embrace some pretty heavy truths about life, love, and the pursuit of both. When I look into his face, I see life and death, heaven and hell, every duality that exists. We live and love on a line, a precipice, and we balance as best we can without falling into the abyss. But death is there, death is everywhere, and we are embraced by it and almost have to embrace it back to really know the joy of life, even when it’s a life spent in prison.
Prison is a place of hard times, hard sentences, and the hard reality that death is ever present, sometimes in the most violent ways. I’m not ignorant to the fact that my husband could be murdered at any time, and his being targeted before makes this a heart stopping fear that I live with daily. It doesn’t take hold of me and render me unable to function, but it’s there. I sit with these truths and they become the foundation on which I build my ability to cope with this harsh experience.
Every time there is a death at the prison, murder or natural causes alike, I hold my breath while I scour the Internet for name information. I don’t spin out of control in anticipation of what I will find, but I poker face the shit out of my emotions and try to be as rational as possible with undercurrents of acceptance. What is death? It’s a transition. It’s a reality.
It’s timing is unknown.
My heart has been steady pounding in my chest, more intensely each second, as I write this. I am thinking of the realities of life and love, more specifically my reality with Jeremy and how scary and raw and maddening it can all seem sometimes. I am thinking about how I worry about his safety constantly, but don’t let it consume my being. I am thinking about how, in this life of such uncertainty and at times gut wrenching circumstances, that I found someone I can say I truly loved before I departed this world, whether it be tomorrow or 70 years from now. I think that finding that love is the purpose of life, no matter where you find it. Did you find it on a park bench on a sunny day? Did you find it in the grocery story while you were smelling the lemons? Did you find it in a prison half of your life ago?
“We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us”-Charles Bukowski
We are laughing at the odds and it’s a beautiful reminder that life is oftentimes difficult, but as everything is, the difficult times are fleeting.
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