The Bars That Bind

Eight years for burglary. Eighteen for rape. Life for murder. Five women talk about doing time with their men behind bars.

I'd give just about the same advice to anyone else going through this: I tell them a guy will sell you a dream. He'll tell you what you want to hear because they're locked up and they want you to be there for them. But don't let the man misuse you, baby. If he can't deal with it, tell him goodbye. Tell him, "I can love you to death, but I can love you from a distance."

You know what, I hear these ladies talking and everything, and I just pray that they don't have to go through the same thing I went through. I hope the guys get out and don't treat 'em bad or anything. Some of them I see, they honestly believe that it's only going to last until he gets out. But half of them believe that it's going to last forever.

 

 

Linda came for a visit from Florida three years ago with her husband Boo, intending to head home after a couple of months and a taste of winter. Instead, Boo went out driving one night and ended up in jail after running a red light, crashing into several cars, injuring 11 people, and killing another driver. He pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular operation and wound up in Stillwater. And Linda ended up staying in Minnesota.

If you ran into Linda on the street, you might mistake her for a professional runway model. She's tall and thin and twentysomething, and the color of her carefully manicured nails matches her impeccable designer wardrobe. Linda is of Mexican and Spanish heritage, with high cheekbones and café au lait skin. She wears her thick, shoulder-length blond hair down, cascading past her shoulders in huge ringlet curls. Thanks, but no, she answers when invited for lunch--she's watching her figure. After all, she's getting ready for her husband to rejoin her after a three-year separation, and she wants to look good. He's about to be released from the Stillwater prison, on Thanksgiving Day.

Me and Boo got married in 1995 in Florida. Six months later we drive up to visit my sister at Christmastime here in Minneapolis. Well, Boo goes out driving and sightseeing and there is this ice storm. My car isn't equipped for the weather, let's put it that way. No winter tires or anything, since you don't need them in Orlando. So he goes driving, and by accident--he's not drinking--he slides into this woman's car. She dies at the impact.

His sentence is three and a half years. So we're stuck here. I still have the house in Florida--paying a mortgage on that and rent here. Since Boo went in, we've been all over to prisons--from starting in St. Cloud, then to Appleton, Oak Park Heights, Stillwater, Faribault, and now at the Farm at Stillwater. And now he's getting out on the 26th of this month.

His family gives him no support. They know where he's at all the time. They never write a letter in three and a half years. So he's cut them off. That leaves me. And my family is very prejudiced. My dad's not, though, so he's OK with the situation. But the others say no, no, no--you're supposed to stay with your own kind. And with Boo being a black man, this is terrible. My dad just says follow what your heart says, just follow your heart.

Still, at first it just doesn't work. The more time he spends in there, the more he's accusing me of everything under the sun--you know, seeing other guys, that stuff. So I'm like, "The hell with you," and leave. There's been many a visit that I just walk out on him. Then we get in an argument when he's in Appleton and I go home for six months to Florida. But he finds me. So I come back, every time.

Boo's very jealous, very possessive. Now that he's locked up, it's so much worse than ever. I mean, it's not "Hi, honey" when he calls. It's "Who's over there, who's with you, who'd you meet, who'd you go out with?" I do everything to prove I'm faithful. I switch my schedule around--see, his concern is what I'm doing at night. So I work one place in the morning and then I work at another place from 11 to 7. Then I go home. Does that work out anything? Heck, no. I give up.

You know, if you compare notes, a lot of women in my situation say the same thing. They say their men expect them to be right by the phone all the time. I guess it's a way of the men on the inside feeling like they still have some control--like life's not going by without them. A lot of women are just beginning this, and I say to get prepared right now, because it gets worse. You gotta listen to the whining, the crying, all kinds of questions. Then, too, I've spent about $6,000 just in my traveling expenses to visit him so much--gas, hotels, all that, plus about $7,000 I've sent him. And now I'm trying to get ready for him to come home.

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