looking in from outside

woman waving behind glass

credit – superstock

Weekly, I write inside Vermont’s women’s prison with a group of 12 – 15 women. They are ‘inside.’ I can go ‘out.’ How does this feel?

After four years of this work, I have built trust and several strong relationships with many who are ‘inside’ for a long time. No longer do they eye me with the distrust of a gawker come to stare at them as if they were a rare species of bird or worse – a criminal with no name, no life, no story.

Of the many, MANY stories I could tell, one inside/outside moment remains seared in my heart even years after the event.

One Thursday evening as I was heading home late, I looked through the glass while waiting for the officer to hand me my keys. One of ‘my’ writers stood beyond. She doesn’t write with us anymore – English is tough for her and she’s severely depressed. But our eyes connected. I put my hand to my heart, nodded and smiled to her. And SHE crossed both arms over HER chest, held my gaze with palpable tenderness. Oh, the compassion that can pass through time, space, even glass prison walls – not to mention the enormous divide between us in terms of where we are in our lives . . .

Thanks to WordPress Daily Prompt: the experience of being outside looking in.

13 thoughts on “looking in from outside

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  2. Sarah, your piece says so much in a small space – elegant yet deep. I liked your incorporation of today’s Daily Post prompt: being outside, looking in. . . . and thank you for visiting my post for today and sharing your thoughts. – Theresa

  3. I enjoyed your story. It reminded me of a collection of stories Wally Lamb put together with the women in his writing group (also a group of women in prison). You have probably heard of the book given your interests, but if not, it was called “Couldn’t Keep It to Myself” (I think.)

    • Indeed it was – interestingly, the title came from a song, as did the title of our recently-published book, HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write. Prison is a pretty universal experience I guess. Thanks for stopping by; I appreciate your comment!

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