One by one an officer began calling names and taking us to another room. This is where we were to get into uniform. My street clothes were then dumped into a bin, never to be seen again. Individually, we were stripped naked asked to lift up our boobs, both sides of our hair to reveal the back of our ears, and open our mouth and stick our tongue out. Lastly I was told to turn around, bend over, squat, spread my butt cheeks and cough. This was an activity I would proceed to do many times over the next few years. I used my childhood coping mechanism of blocking out current painful experiences, and acting like I didn’t care, that it didn’t bother me in the least. It w
orked for me. Some officers didn’t seem comfortable with my bags exposed on my stomach and they hurried me along, even omitting the bend over and cough part. It was easy for me to access that wide berth of denial I comfortably went to. Many years of dropping my pants for nurses and doctors made this event less embarrassing.
I was given a dirty white sports bra, white granny cotton underwear, a tan T-shirt, a button down shirt, and an overly starched stiff pair of stretchy pants. But I was most grateful for the oversize, heavy coat the officer handed me before I was told to go sit back down with the other girls.
I was the last one sitting on the bench. A kinder officer explained to me that they would have to put me in solitary confinement until the morning, because I technically wasn’t supposed to be there. He looked at me with apologetic eyes so I took a chance and asked if I could stay the night on the bench, near him, that I would be quiet and out of his way. He said no and proceeded to re-cuff and shackle me before he gave me back my heavy coat to wear. I had never been so grateful for the warmth of that coat and I mean deep gratitude. Two armed guards escorted me outside into a yard that was completely blanketed in snow. I remember thinking that it looked like I was walking in a scene of a movie, maybe Shawshank Redemption. This moment was so surreal that I purposefully took a snapshot in my brain, knowing that this was a pivotal moment on this terrifying journey. After a several minute walk I began to shake, my denial was cracking and I was having a hard time pulling it together. We got buzzed into another building that was immediately loud and smelled like puke and I was ordered to change my clothes again. I didn’t understand because I just changed into my khaki uniform. I was told that solitary confinement inmates wore orange so that they could be spotted easily. I don’t know where they thought they were going, but OK. I was given orange paper underwear, an orange shirt and pants. The kind officer came back and whispered that he would get me out as soon as he could in the morning. He told me to hang in there and that I would be safe and to ignore all of the screaming. That only frightened me more and I began to do what I was trying not to … cry. The tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t control it. Dammit! I told myself that I could do it. That for 12 hours I could get through anything. It was like going into an operation. To keep fear at bay I would remind myself that this was only temporary and that in a few days or weeks, depending on the type of procedure, I would feel better.
I was escorted into a room that had a brick wall on one side and three levels of cells on the left side. The stone faced, CO turned the key and the bars opened. Without saying a word she nodded and motioned for me to walk in. In seconds the bars clinked shut and she was gone.