Latoya sat, disgusted and frustrated with her arms folded across her chest. To trumpet her statement, she slouched in the chair with her legs stretched under the seat in front of her. She sighed loudly, shifting back and forth.
The television was on in the multi purpose room. Judy Garland was singing “Over the Rainbow.” She wanted to scream. “Auntie Emm,” she mocked in her heart. “Yeah, why doesn’t Auntie Emm come and snatch me outta here?
To make matters worse, that little girl from east block was eyeing the empty seat beside her. Latoya cringed as she made her way over and sat down. “What a nuisance,” she thought. “Maybe if I get up now, I can get away from her.”
To her dismay, Officer Pendleton appeared at the Officer’s station with paperwork in his hand. “Nobody move. We’ve got an incident in the facility and I’ve got to get a head count. When I call your number, stand until everyone is accounted for.”
Latoya didn’t move as she stared at the prison wristband strapped around her wrist. “Williams, can you please sit up like everyone else?” The Officer’s tone was derogatory. Latoya knew it wasn’t meant to be a question but a command. Reluctantly, she complied.
“355308!” His voice bellowed out another anonymous life and demanded action. “Latoya Williams, Sir. #355308 present.”
“OK. That’s everyone. Keep it quiet in here. Everybody stay put until I tell you otherwise.”
“Why do you hate that song?”
“What?” Latoya was extremely irritated and not in the mood to converse, especially with little east block.
“I said, “Why do you hate that song? I know who you are. Over in east block they told me about you. They called you Toya and told me if I ever got sent over here, I’d better stay away from you. They said you was rough, not one to mess with. What’s up with you? Why you so hard?”
“None of your business what’s up with me. None of your business why I hate that song.”
“OK. But you lookin at life all wrong.”
“Life. It’s more than just surviving in here. It’s more than black and white whether you want to believe it or not.”
Latoya was more than annoyed. She wanted to punch the lights out of her and shut her up. She wanted nothing to do with anyone who looked at things positively. It made her sick.
“I don’t know what you’re talkin about.”
“Well, this is the way I see it. Take that song. What if there is a rainbow for you out there? What if there is something more to life than just surviving? What if…?
Latoya jumped in to silence her. “Get out of my space you little twerp. I don’t need any of your advice.”
“OK. Just wanted to give you something to think about.”
“You have a visitor, go out to room seven and wait.”
Latoya sat on the cold metal chair in front of the partition and waited. The visitor’s booth was damp and dreary. “Who’d bother to come see me?”
The door opened and a frail little lady sat down on the other side of the partition. Latoya had no idea who she was.
“How you know me? What are you doing here?”
I’m a friend of your grandmother’s. She died Latoya. Last week. Your mother asked me to come. She knew you wouldn’t see her. We found something in your Granma’s house.”
“A letter on the back of a picture. I brought it with me.”
“What’s it got to do with me?”
“I’ll just read it OK?”
“Latoya, I know you’re locked up but that doesn’t mean you can’t be free. You were always a dreamer, Latoya. That’s what I loved so much about you. Don’t let your dreams die. Don’t let ‘em squeeze the color out of your life. Dream until you’re out of there and then dream some more. Never forget the rainbow, Latoya.”
Tears weren’t her style, at least not as #355308, but Latoya sobbed as her visitor placed the picture on the glass partition. She could see Grammy’s hand meticulously painting the rainbow, humming the song, kissing her cheek as she worked. “Oh Grammy, if you only knew.”
As she lifted her hand to touch the glass, her eyes met the ID number on her wristband. She said softly, “Grammy, no more #355308. I’m gonna dream again.”
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