On Wednesday my phone rang around one in the afternoon and when I answered it was Shane on the other end, “Anna, it’s me. Hey.”I walked over to my couch and sat down with my phone in my hand, “Shane, how are you?”
His voice sounded distant, “Not too good but I’m hanging in there.”
“What’s going on?”
It took a moment until he answered, “I don’t know, just the whole thing getting to me.”
I wanted to motivate him and encourage him but I myself felt depressed and clueless at the situation. There was not much I could say to him.
I know I didn’t sound very convincing, “You can do this, just be patient and stay strong. When you get a court date it’ll all be over soon.”
“Or not and it’ll just start all over again.”
I didn’t know what to say and thought for a moment, then replied, “Shane, don’t think about the worst right now.”
“I try not to but I keep thinking about what’s going to happen to me and to us if I get locked up again for good.”
“We will tackle that if it happens. I’m coming down again on Saturday. Did you see Jordan or Scott last weekend?”
“Yeah, they both showed up on Saturday afternoon.”
“Did you have a good visit?”
“It was all right.”
“What are you doing every day?”
“Nothing, lay on my bed and stare at the ceiling and think about you and everything we had.”
“We still have that…”
I couldn’t help doubting if we actually really still had it and Shane put in words what I thought, “Do we?”
Quickly I answered, trying to sound convincing, “Yes, we do still have each other Shane. Even though we can’t be together right now I still think of you every minute of the day and I can’t wait to see you on Saturday.”
“If the weather is too bad you don’t have to come down Anna. I heard on the radio that they’re expecting bad weather over the weekend with a hurricane in the Gulf. Isn’t it named Katrina?”
“It won’t be that bad, it will weaken before it makes land fall.”
“Let’s hope so. But I really mean it. If the weather is bad I don’t want you to drive this far.”
“Shane, I’m coming down and a little rain and wind is not going to stop me from seeing you. I miss you.”
“I miss you too. How was your week so far?”
I told him about having hung out with my friends and having gone shopping.
“I’m trying to stay occupied and keep my mind off all of this.”
It was all awkward and we didn’t really know what to say to each other. We couldn’t really talk about anything happy, we couldn’t really talk about anything fun we would be doing, and we couldn’t talk about getting together soon and Shane staying at my place or me staying at Jordan’s with Shane. We really didn’t know when our life would go back to somewhat normal. At this time it was everything but normal and it was incredibly difficult to keep a cheery attitude when everything was all but cheerful.
I tried to pick up the conversation again, “Have you walked in your braces?”“Actually not, they decided it’s too much of a hassle for me to strap them on every time I go eat, so I’m getting my meals in my cell now. No more braces, no more standing or walking right now.”
I was upset about this, “Shane, you should talk to the warden or something. They can’t keep you from moving some and for that you need your braces and crutches. They can’t just leave you without any kind of mobility. You depend on those things and they need to let you have access to them.”
“Anna, they can do what they want and apparently they felt it took too much time for me to get into my braces and they thought it was a waste of time for me to walk into the dining hall just for dinner and then go back to my cell and take them off again. I asked them to let me keep them and if they wanted to put me in 24 hour observation I would be okay with it if I could just keep my braces, at least throughout the day so I can get up some and get my circulation going and also keep my muscles working. If I can’t get up my muscles are getting weaker and it’ll get even worse with my legs then. I try to do my stretching exercises on my bed but I miss being able to get up.”
“If you won’t fight this Shane I’m going to say something on Saturday then.”
Shane sounded frustrated, “Anna, I fucking tried…you need to stay out of it. It is what it is.”
“They can’t do this to you. You need those things to get around and they can’t keep you from being mobile. It’s your given right. You not being able to get up or walk cannot be allowed.”
“Anna, this isn’t a normal place, this is a jail. I’m locked up and they can do what they want with me. I don't exactly have real rights in here. And apart from that they are decent enough, the food is okay and it’s clean. The guards are not too much of assholes but they don’t want to wait around for me to get into my braces just to go to dinner. They have too much other stuff to do and other inmates to take care of.”
“How can you protect them?”
He sounded tense, “I’m not protecting them. I shouldn’t have told you Anna. You get too worked up about it. Just let it go okay. You won’t say anything on Saturday and for your visit they’ll most likely let me get into them because I seriously doubt you can come visit me inside my cell.”
I was angry partly at Shane for being so compliant and partly at the jail staff and how they kept Shane from having his basic rights.
“I don’t get how you can just let it go Shane.”
His voice was angry and low now, “Anna, for Christ’s sake, leave it alone…what the hell? I’m sorry but the guards apparently aren’t getting all hot and horny if I’m in my braces.”
I was stunned at his comment and was speechless for a moment, but really I was hurt at what he had said.
In an impulse I threw my phone in the corner and pressed my fist against my mouth, shaking my head.
I sat like that for a moment and processed what Shane had said. When I picked up my phone again I saw the call was ended. I stared at the phone for a moment, debating if I should call the jail again. I didn’t.
When I watched the news that night they talked about the massive hurricane Katrina heading toward Florida. Hurricane season was upon us and all we could hope for was that it wouldn’t be too severe.
Jordan called me that night and I talked to him about the conversation I had had with Shane that afternoon and how he wasn’t allowed to have his braces and crutches and was pretty much stuck on the bed in his cell. Jordan got angry and felt the same way I did about this, agreeing with me that this was not right and we needed to do something about it.
“He doesn’t want me to say anything when I see him on Saturday. He told me to stay out of it.”“Well then, don’t worry about saying anything, I will address it when I get there then.”
I talked with Jordan for a while longer and we then decided I would go visit Shane again before noon on Saturday and Jordan and Jenny would go there in the afternoon.
Thursday I went to work and I talked to Nadine and Ray about Shane and his situation. I almost cried but pulled myself together.
On Friday afternoon I had my TV on the weather channel all day and they announced that the hurricane had passed over Florida and was gaining strength again as it hit the Gulf of Mexico. I was somewhat astonished that it had not lost its intensity when it had swept over Florida and was now actually stronger again and apparently heading straight for Mississippi and Louisiana. Even at the club it wasn’t too busy on Friday night, the usual tourist crowds stayed gone and it was an unusually quiet evening.
I sat in my little office and thought of Shane and I and my heart ached. I longed so much to actually call him but I couldn’t. The place he was at kept him away from me and from his family. There was no way I could call him and the thoughts that scared me so much came pushing through again. I was constantly trying to fight off the worst case scenarios in my mind but as I sat by myself in my office, the booming sounds of the music in the club faintly pulsating through the wall I thought of my boyfriend and I missed him so very much. I missed him more than anyone and anything and I wanted us to be together. Without thinking I dialed the number to the Morgan City jail.
“Morgan City Correctional Facility, this is Officer Troudeaux. How can I help you?”“My name is Anna Ashworth, I’m calling for my boyfriend Shane Lenalier. I wanted to see if I could talk to him. It’s urgent.”
The moment I said this I was pondering about a lie I could use.
“And what is the urgency?”
My mind was racing and I blurted out, “His brother is in the hospital. He was in an accident.”
I was hoping so much that the Officer wouldn’t ask any more questions and my wish came true.
“Let me connect you to his block.”
We went through the same process as we had done when I called the first time and it ended with them telling me it would be a while because they had to get Shane from his cell.It took at least 5 minutes until I heard an out of breath Shane on the other end, “Yes?”
“Shane, it’s Anna.”
He was breathing quickly, “Anna, hey…it’s…it’s late.”
“Yes, I know.”
I wanted to reconcile with him, I wanted to tell him good things and I wanted to let him know that he was on my mind every second of the day and night.
“I missed you.”
“Aren’t you at work?”
“I am but I’m not busy right now. It’s kind of slow tonight, probably because of the possible bad weather coming over the weekend.”
“I heard…that hurricane is heading our way, isn’t it?”
“Yes, so we don’t have much business tonight and I just wanted to hear your voice.”
Shane asked softly, “So what is the urgent message you have for me? Is anything going on?”
I knew our conversation was probably recorded but now I didn’t care, I couldn’t worry Shane unnecessary and I told him the truth, “Nothing is going on…I just wanted to talk to you. So I told them there was an emergency.”I felt my voice tremble and my hands were shaky, “I miss you so much and I’m sorry about the other day when we talked.”
“It’s all right, I’m sorry about what I said. It has been eating me up inside. I’m so sorry about all of it.”
I heard a male voice in the background, telling Shane that he had two minutes to finish this up.I panicked, “Shane, I love you and I can’t wait for all of this to be over. I miss you so much and it hurts so much.”
“Anna, I love you too but you have to be strong for me, okay. Don’t let this get to you too much. We’ll make it through this baby. I know it’s fucking hard but we’ll come out even better on the other side.”
“I’m coming down tomorrow, I can’t wait to see you.”
Again I heard a male voice in the background and when Shane came back on he sounded frustrated, “Anna, don’t bother coming down tomorrow.”
I was confused, “What? Why?”
“They just told me because of the late call and what you said about an emergency that isn’t really true I can’t have any visitors tomorrow.”
I felt my heart race, “No way…what the…?”
“Anna, don’t worry, you can come on Sunday.”
I felt my eyes get blurry, “But…I didn’t…”
“I have to go baby. Sunday, okay?”
I was hesitant and debated if I should fight this but I didn’t, “Okay, I’ll see you on Sunday then.”
“I love you Anna. I love you a lot.”
“I love you Shane, I will see you on Sunday.”
We finished and I felt almost sick in my stomach at this outcome. I broke out in tears. There was something about this call that wasn’t right. Something I felt but couldn’t explain. Shane felt so tremendously far away from me all the sudden. I couldn’t focus anymore on anything in the club and I actually ended up going home early that night.
As much as I had wanted to visit Shane on Saturday I had to wait until Sunday because of my own stupidity and having lied for a reason to talk to Shane on a Friday night at eleven o’clock. I should have known that our call was being monitored and as soon as I had told Shane there had been no emergency it was over. We had to deal with the consequences of my lie and I had to wait until Sunday to see him.
On Saturday morning I called Jordan’s house and Jenny answered.I told her about the incident and she tried to console me, “It’s all right hon, you just go see him tomorrow then. You missed him and wanted to talk to him, can’t blame you for lying so they would get him. You tried, it didn’t work the way it should have but at least you got to talk to him.”
“This is getting so hard Jenny, I don’t know how long I can keep going.”
Jenny sighed on the other end, “I know, the question really comes down to how much you love him? Are you prepared for the worst and willing to go through with this until you can be reunited again or do you think it would be too difficult?”
I shook my head and took a deep breath, “I don’t know Jenny. It’s so god damn hard to not be with him.”
Jenny sounded warm, “I know hon, and I’m so sorry you have to go through this. Try to be strong but if you can’t hold on anymore, then you can’t hold on anymore.”
At those words I felt chills going down my arms. I never wanted to get to the point of not being able to hold on anymore. I needed Shane, he needed me, we needed to be together and there was no question about it. We would hopefully be able to fight through this rough stretch, which seemed to be rough really ever since we met. I wanted to see me and him happy together somewhere without pain and sorrow. When that would be I didn’t know but right now I needed to be strong.I replied to Jenny, “I’ll never let go of what Shane and I have, never.”
“That’s good, girl. You can do it and you know we’re here for you guys in any way you need us to be.”
“Thanks Jenny, I appreciate all of you so much.”
“You’re family girl, that’s it.”
We finished up and I ended up on the news again and saw how the hurricane was predicted to come directly toward the Louisiana coast and it was now back to hurricane strength in the Gulf. I was worried but hoped we would be okay.
Saturday night at the club was basically dead, we had maybe ten customers and soon the topic of the hurricane was everywhere. We turned on the weather news on one of the TV’s and when we actually followed the meteorologist we soon realized that this was actually more serious than expected. The hurricane was predicted to make landfall on Monday and there was mention of possible catastrophic outcomes. Talk of mandatory evacuations came up. We all became less cheerful and Nadine and Ray decided to keep the club closed on Sunday.
Since the club had not been busy some of the girls were sent home early and at one in the morning I stood in the garage with Ray and Nadine.“I want you to stay safe baby girl. Are you going home to Ponchatoula?”
“I’m actually planning on seeing Shane tomorrow.”
Ray pulled up his eyebrows, “I don’t know if you can make it down there tomorrow Anna.”
Nadine hugged me so tight, “You be careful okay. Call me tomorrow and I’ll call you.”
Nadine and Ray lived on the other side of New Orleans, close to the Mississippi border. They owned a house out there.
We said Good Bye and it was a different mood than usually.
We were holding our hugs longer and Ray said with a serious tone, “If you go to Morgan City tomorrow, you be careful okay?”
“I will be.”
We hugged again and finally got into our cars and left the garage. It had been breezy all night and I felt the wind move my car on my way out to Metairie. The rain was coming down in a soft but steady stream saturating the city as the trees swayed slightly and constantly in the breeze.
Sunday I woke up too late, I had overslept and it was almost eleven when I opened my eyes.I glanced at my phone clock, “Fuck!”
I jumped out of my bed, I needed to get ready so I could get down to Morgan City. Visiting hours on Sundays were only until two o’clock.
I showered and once out of the shower I stood in my living room with the TV on when I saw what was happening. I was shocked to see that the mayor of New Orleans had ordered mandatory evacuations of all residents who were mobile and they showed the traffic heading out of the city already. It was bad and I felt panic creep up. I finished up quickly and I was in my car at a little after twelve. There was a lot of traffic even in Metairie, people from the city making their way through Metairie to get to I-10, westbound. It took me almost thirty minutes to get out of Metairie, I felt absolutely anxious and worried now.
It was twelve thirty when I was making my way onto I-10 and I was shocked to see the traffic moving westbound out of the city. The Interstate was packed with vehicles, loaded down with people and luggage. I slowly moved onto the entrance ramp and couldn’t even speed onto the Interstate because traffic was moving very slowly. I merged onto the Interstate slowly and was stuck then.
The traffic was moving either very slowly or not at all. I pulled out my phone and dialed Jordan’s number.
It didn’t take long and he answered, “Hello?”
“Jordan, it’s Anna.”
“Anna, hey, how are you?”
“Not good actually, I overslept, got up too late and am trying to get to Morgan City now. The Interstate is packed, I’m not moving and I’m worried I won’t make it down there before two.”
“I’m on my way to the jail right now since I couldn’t go yesterday.”
“I’m so sorry about that.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s fucked up they didn’t let him have visitors yesterday just because of the phone call Friday night. So, what’s going on with the traffic and stuff?”
“Everyone is trying to get out of the city. It’s scary. I guess it may be bad with the hurricane.”
“They say it’ll make landfall tomorrow. Do you want me to tell Shane anything just in case you won’t make it?”
I didn’t want to think about not making it but it really looked like it.
“Tell him I love him and I’m so sorry about yesterday and sorry about not making it today.”
“Maybe you’ll still make it. What’s going on with your work?”
“The club is closed tonight.”
“So you’re off?”
Jordan broke up a little, then came back on, “…down to be at our house then.”
“I’m sorry Jordan, you broke up.”
“I said you should still come down to our house. It may be safer in Morgan City. You know you can stay with us as long as you need to and you’ll be closer to Shane.”
“I didn’t bring anything for overnight.”
“Don’t worry about it, we have everything at the house. Just come on down this way, no matter if you make it for visiting hours. I’ll tell him about your situation.”
“Thanks Jordan. Maybe I can make it.”
“If you can’t make it go straight to our house.”
“Okay, thanks, I’ll see you later.”
“All right. Drive careful. See you later.”
We finished up our conversation and I focused on traffic again. It was crazy, one car after the next, bumper to bumper. All the cars were loaded down with people and things, some had stuff strapped on the top. I was stuck in traffic and even the next exit was still a few miles and I would have to turn around to go back to Metairie. Jordan was right, I should go to their house. I would be close to Shane, even if I couldn’t be with him but with the storm coming I wanted to be near him at least.
I listened to the radio on my way and they kept updating the weather situation and it was constantly advised to leave the city. People were definitely leaving.
I knew when I finally was able to exit onto Highway 90 at almost two I wouldn’t make it to see Shane and I was upset about it. But at the same time I got very nervous at this whole situation about the hurricane, it sounded like it would be a bad one and I was worried.
Highway 90 was also very busy but traffic was at least moving slowly and not standing still. I made my way into Morgan City about two thirty and headed straight for Jordan’s house. I knew my way there now and soon found myself in front of the double wide trailer, the dogs running toward my car and barking.
Jenny came out onto the front porch and waved. It was drizzling rain outside and the wind was softly blowing the branches of the trees around the trailer.
As I walked up onto the porch Jenny hugged me tightly, “Hi Anna, it’s good to see you.”
“It’s good to be here finally. Traffic is a nightmare.”
Jenny added, “I’m so scared for all the people in the city.”
“I know, it seems like it may be a bad one.”
We walked in and Jenny explained, “Jordan isn’t here yet. He went to see Shane and is running some errands with Scotty before he comes home. We need to get some supplies. I’m so worried about the storm.”
Inside Jenny had coffee ready and I sat down at the kitchen table with her. The boys greeted me excitedly and then went back to their cartoons on TV.
As Jenny poured the coffee she asked, “So how are you?”
I sighed, “Well, I feel like crap about not making it to see Shane.”
“I’m sorry. I know this sucks.”
I told her about having talked to Jordan.
“Well, yeah, I don’t want you to go back to Metairie, you can stay here with us and ride out the storm.”
“I guess…the club is closed tonight.”
Jenny sat across from me, “So how are you holding up with Shane locked up?”
My eyes filled with tears, “I’m scared for him and it’s so hard. I feel like he’s slipping away from me and I don’t know why.”
“Well, if you can’t talk or see each other it’s definitely difficult. I’m sure it’s very hard on him too. It sucks that things turned out like this. Again, just when things were starting to look better for him, this happened.”
“Did Jordan tell you about the braces thing? They’re not letting him use them anymore.”
“Yeah, I don’t get that. I mean he depends on those things to walk and it’s like they’re making it extra difficult for him not to be able to have them. I don’t think it’s right.”
“No, it’s not.”
We drank from our coffee and Jenny then looked at me with her green eyes and asked gently, “Do you think you love him enough to make it through this?”I stared into my coffee mug for a moment and nodded, looked up and answered softly, “Yes, I love him very much and no matter what happens I’ll stick by his side. Even if he has to go back to Angola.”
Jenny laid her hand on mine and leaned over some, “That’s all that matters then. You’ll make it through this.”
A tear ran down my cheek as I slowly nodded.