a whole pair of shoes

i know for a fact that limp and i are given blankets, but i don’t remember this.  i know, too, that we are shoved into the cell, the door slamming shut behind us, but i don’t remember this, either.  all i remember is that we are pulled out of the tiny interrogation room and led down the hall, and then i am balled up half-asleep on the cement floor of a jail cell, my back to the wall.  i never, ever thought i’d be in jail.

later, i wake up and we are lined up and categorized.  some people are released, others are sent to county, others, like me, are staying put.  a few of the women don’t speak english.  “what’s your ID number?” the warden barks at these women, who stare at her.  “your number!  your nombre!”

nombre means name, not number.  it’s a simple mistake i made once with the spanish-speaking busgirl at work, who laughed good-naturedly and corrected me.  i like the fact that she giggles when i mess something up; i imagine that when i speak spanish i sound intoxicated, or like i’m talking in my sleep.  she just looked confused, though, when i meant to say “this is my pen,” and instead said “es el boligrafo de mi” (it is the pen of my).  from the busgirl i have also learned the spanish words for vomit, burp, vampire, hermaphrodite, and “do you want my little man?” (quieres mi chiqualin?), but those are not useful in jail, and i am way too scared to tell the warden about how number is actually n?mero.

“stay awake!” she yells at all of us who are left in the cell after the others have been led away.  “they’re going to clean in here in a minute!”  limp and i, caped in our blankets, sit together at one of the picnic tables.  trying hard not to make eye contact, i glance around at the other women.  i am the only person in here (and there are about twenty of us) wearing a whole pair of shoes.  everyone else has shoes without laces, socks without shoes, or clear plastic gloves stretched over bare feet.  my grey velcro tennis shoes have apparently been deemed harmless.

two of the glove-footed girls, who appear to be in their late teens, sit down across from us.  they’ve come in together and are, without a doubt, the prettiest girls in here.  one of them may be the prettiest girl i’ve ever seen in person.  her perfect skin, long dark hair, and model figure make her look out of place among the other rumpled, dirty inmates.  “what are you here for?” limp asks the two girls.

“soliciting,” one of them says.

“what’s soliciting?” limp asks.  i am horrified.  how can she not know what soliciting is?  what are these girls going to say to her?  what would i say if i were a prostitute and someone asked me that?  well, i’m glad you asked.  you see, i have sex with strangers for money.  sometimes they come over to me and ask for it, and sometimes i go to them and offer.  that’s why they call it soliciting; it’s just like when people come to your house and try to sell you makeup or girl scout cookies or vaccum cleaner attachments, but with sex instead of that other stuff.

the two girls don’t answer.  i guess they’re barefoot because their high heeled shoes have been taken away.

a few minutes later the inmate workers come in to clean, and we are taken into the cell next door.  the cell next door is much more crowded than ours, and louder.  the benches are packed with people, the walls are lined with sleeping lumps.  most of the women are wearing prison uniforms.  a few people are singing, a few are dancing, nearly everyone is yelling.  my group is locked into one of the inner cells here.

for the first time, we have access to bunks and mattresses.  i grab a mattress immediately and claim a spot on the floor.  limp sits down next to me.  the two prostitutes share a bunk.

i want to sleep, but i worry that since it’s so loud in here i won’t be able to hear them call my name.  they’re going to call my name, right?  but if i don’t fall asleep, i’ll have to watch every minute, every second pass by on my warped internal clock.  i figure by now it must be four a.m., or noon, or seven p.m. and three weeks.

the two prostitutes have climbed down from their bunk and are talking through the bars to someone they know in the outer cell.  “did they get all of us?” the blonde one says.

“yeah.  me, y’all, stacy, sheryl, everyone,” says the outside girl.  “i think we were set up.”

the dark-haired one laughs.  “i bet it was the hotel,” she says.  “the people at the desk kept glaring at us.”

“did you call someone to come get you?” says the blonde.

“yeah, he’s going to bond me out whenever i get processed,” the outside girl says.

“it’s funny,” says the brunette.  “i met a guy in the lobby of the hotel, and told him i’d meet him upstairs in his room in fifteen minutes.  then i got arrested.  i wonder if he’s still waiting.”

scantily clad, wrapped in blankets and goose-pimpled from the cold, all three girls begin to giggle.  it almost makes me wish i were a prostitute, so i could get arrested with a friend and not feel quite so alone in here.  except if i did that, i’d have cafeteria-lady plastic gloves stuck to my bare feet.  also, i’d have to be a prostitute.

it looks like limp has been listening to their conversation, too.  “did you hear them?” i whisper, nodding my head in their direction.  she nods.  “that’s soliciting.”

“ohhhhh,” she says.

marie later informs everyone that the prostitutes just got here from las vegas, and were arrested right off the bat.  there is much discussion about why a group (a ring?) of hookers would move to texas from a place where their profession is legal.  the dark-haired girl, marie says, saved up all her money for eight months to get breast implants.

to look at her, i would never have known.