The yellow lines on the highway sped by in a blur, and we flew through the night, and we felt free. But we weren’t, and I knew it. We were running away from something and running away was never the path to freedom. I thought about telling John to turn back. I thought about suggesting we turn ourselves in. Sure, we’d be all over the news and we’d never be able to see each other again but I was willing to do a long-distance relationship even if it was penitentiary to penitentiary.
Our lives flashed through my head, my thoughts laying out perfectly how our relationship would be. We’d mail each other letters every day. I’d tell him about how I got assigned to kitchen duty and how, on the first day, my cellmate saw how scared I was so she threatened to shank anyone who even looked at me wrong; and how I was so grateful for her protection that later that night I stood outside the showers to watch for any guards while she finger-banged her wife from cell block E. Then I’d tell him about later when I helped her write flowery poetry that tells her wife how much she loves fucking her. This help would have the other inmates coming to me for advice and pretty soon we’d have a “slam” poetry group that would get so famous Oprah would do a special on how damned inspirational we all were.
John’s letters would consist of how scared he was all the time because the other inmates were always trying to kill him or fuck him because he was such a beautiful young white boy – his hair bright red and freckles all over his face. He would tell me how his cellmate would wish him goodnight by saying he couldn’t wait to shove his big black dick into John’s soft mouth and shoot his cum down John’s slender throat. John’s letters would talk about how he could barely sleep or eat because he was always so afraid. And how the guards would just laugh at him and conveniently go missing so gangs would be able to beat and rape him. His handwriting would get shaky and there would be tear stains on the letters as he described his many infirmary visits and how he wasn’t even safe there.
I would send encouraging replies to try and keep his hopes up. Letters that talk about all the wonderful things the women did for me, like a haircut one day when I was really missing him or the surprise birthday party where they all pooled their commissary money and bought some cake mix and then baked me a penis-shaped birthday cake. I would even tell him about my little Hispanic girlfriend who was street beautiful and had a filthy mouth I loved to kiss but that it didn’t mean I loved him any less. I’d explain that I was just gay for the stay and sometimes I missed his tender touches so much I got desperate for release. I’d remind him of all the times I jacked him off and how he would always say how much better it was when I did it so surely he’d understand me having someone finger-bang me so I could find some measure of comfort while I was locked up.
He would tell me about how the heads of the Aryan Brotherhood, the Mexican Mafia, the Bloods, and the Crips are all getting together and coordinating their time, so everyone got a piece of him. Eventually, he will tell me that it was easier to just stop fighting and how his body was covered in scars from the uncountable times he was shanked just because he tried to fight his rapists. He would tell me that he stopped complaining to the guards because that only made it worse. Eventually, he would stop writing so many letters and once he would explain that thinking of me in that hell hole never made him feel better, only weaker and more desperate.
One day he would tell me his mother stopped visiting him months prior and now her letters had stopped. That I was the only one who wrote to him anymore and sometimes the other prisoners would take the letters before he could read them and they would take turns jacking off on them before giving the letters back. That it broke him a little more every day thinking what those men might do to me if they ever had a chance. That he was terrified of letting me see how broken he was now.
Months would go by without a letter from him and then one day I’d get a letter from the doctor at his penitentiary letting me know that John tried to kill himself, but they found him in time. I’d get an update from the doctor every couple of weeks and one letter would tell me about how a group of inmates was so upset about John trying to get away that they snuck into the infirmary and shoved a large, but undisclosed, amount of broken glass up his ass and down his throat and how the doctor wasn’t expecting John to live much longer.
I would send letter after letter for the doctor to read to John and tell him how supportive the women have been to me in my hour of need and how we held prayer meetings every night after dinner to pray for him to get stronger. I’d tell him about how I was trying to stay busy so I didn’t worry and how an inmate named Angela was trying to teach me how to crochet. I’d describe the horrible job I was doing trying to make him a scarf, but I was determined that if I could just finish it, John would be okay.
I’d send scrapbook pages of my day with doodles and words of encouragement for John. My letters would describe how I’ve talked about him and our life together so much that all the inmates felt like they knew him and were sending word to their crews at his penitentiary to help look after him because of how important he is to me.
The letters from the doctor would eventually stop but I’d keep sending mine. I’d describe how one of the women got ordained online and how we could have a Skype prison wedding as soon as he was better and then I’d send sketches of the dress the girls and I were designing and describe how we could smuggle in flowers and that the guards would let us because they understand we’re easier to handle when we’re happy and involved. I’d tell him about the new inmates that came in and how they struggled to find their place in this new world and how I got nostalgic for my first days here.
I would eventually get so busy with all the groups I was running that it would be almost a year before I realized we hadn’t exchanged letters. I’d sit down that night and pour my heart out about how much I missed him and my freedom even though I’ve been able to have such a fulfilling life behind bars. It would be a couple of months before I’d get a response and I’d have to read it at least a dozen times before it would sink in.
John’s handwriting would be different. It would be rough strokes against the paper. There would be no hesitation and definitely no tears staining it. He would say things like how much he wanted to cum on my tits and piss in my mouth. He would tell me about how a gang saved him so now he oversaw breaking in the new members. He would describe all the horrible ways he had come up with to rape the other inmates and break them as they broke him. He would assure me that he didn’t cry anymore because he wasn’t the same bitch that ended up there. Then he’d demand I send him letters that described, in detail, all the times I was with one of the other women, even going so far as to demand I sneak a phone in and video the coupling. He’d say if I didn’t do it then I’d never actually loved him and how the men he raped were more woman that I was.
I would cry other the loss of such a tender soul and my friends would surround me with love. It would take a long time to get over John and I’d never stop worrying about him but eventually, I’d stop looking for his letters at mail call. Years would go by and I’d get a large envelope from the doctor in John’s infirmary. The letter would say that John was killed when he attempted to rape another inmate. The envelope would include some old, faded, and folded pictures of me along with some letters I wrote that were well read and used. The doctor would say that John designated me as next of kin so I got his few possessions. My heart would be heavy. It would be sad at the loss of John all over again but relieved because the John I knew died years ago.
I turned in my seat in the car and just absorbed John’s profile. The slight smile on his lips, the sun creating a halo around his bright red hair, his fingers tapping on the steering wheel in time with the song playing on the radio. I leaned forward and kissed him lightly on his cheek and as his soft green eyes looked over at me, I decided not to say anything to him. My John wasn’t built for the life of a criminal, so I’d just have to kill him the next time we stopped for gas.