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tried to assuage mom’s concerns: “based on prison photos, most of them are burnt-out cases, not live wires.” Could prison photos predict accurately how these women would live out “in the free”? Before imprisonment, when they’d been drug involved, nearly all had plied their wares as sex workers. Wasn’t returning to “the life” their natural default? The women’s project began on high adrenaline. Angie’s drug aftercare said she was “on escaped status,” but her PO said she’d been expelled from prison as a troublemaker. I finally reached Angie by phone at her PO’s office and we agreed to meet at what I learned later was a major drug drop. Her roommate intercepted me, claimed Angie had gotten “tied up,” and led me on a wild ride through alleys and condemned buildings. When we finally began climbing their time-worn staircase, past apartments without doors, eyes peered anxiously around the doorframes. I was slow to catch on: I was entering my first shooting gallery! When we entered their apartment—the only one with a door—Angie was naked from the waist up. At first she thought I was a customer, and then figured out who I was. “I expected an older man,” she said as she donned a ruffled, crepe-type strapless halter top. She sat down, bounced back up, grabbed a broom, and began to sweep vigorously until her roommate ordered, “You don’t sweep now!” Angie was obviously high, but seemed to answer my questions about drug use and illegal activities with remarkable focus, thoroughness, and candor. When I asked about prostitution, her demeanor changed, she turned away, took a grey flowery top out of a drawer, and switched tops. Finished, I paid the $20 she was due, she signed a receipt, and I figured I’d be set free. Instead, she moved toward her bed, sat down on her feet, started to sway back and forth on the bed, and asked, “You sport? You have fun with a woman?” I stood up and said, “Someone’s waiting for me up town. I gotta go.” $50! Weeks later, I caught a train from DC to New York after an ex-addict claimed she could deliver Janie who was “back on pills.” I met my informant, we rode a bus together throughout Harlem as she crumbled coconut cake into the hair of an infant she caressed, and the infant grabbed and ate the crumbs. We entered a fast-food joint where the staff wore

white “Muslim Imports” aprons. She propped the infant on the counter, put a dry diaper in my left hand, told me “if anyone asks, tell them you’re waiting for your wife,” and disappeared. I stood holding the infant, all eyes on me, wondering if there was any chance this day could end happily. When they didn’t have any bean pie or carrot cake, I ordered a “Fishboat and Little Hugger.” After nearly two hours, my harried informant returned with a scribbled note: “Tell the man don’t be mad.” I gave my informant bus fare home plus $5. Zip for me. Train home. Toward the end, I was sent to Texas to team with a female interviewer from Los Angeles. One afternoon, we reached Joey, the husband of the woman we had to interview, Maggie. Joey suggested the four of us gather at their favorite drinking-hole. When we arrived, Maggie—formerly, a high-priced hooker— was dressed to kill in a white silk dress. We drank White Gloves (banana puree with rum) with them, and then drank another round. “Dallas has already lost six conventions this year because the police drove out the hookers,” Maggie complained. “Lots of riches to be made in the construction industry,” Joey remarked in the men’s room, as he flashed the innards of his snakeskin wallet, a thick wad of 100 dollar bills. It didn’t compute fast enough that Maggie and her pimp husband were back “in the life.” When Maggie asked my colleague as a personal favor to “ball” Joey, we knew things had spun totally out of control. Breakfast in the wee hours became the counterplan, followed by a few hours of shut-eye. On day two, my colleague successfully interviewed Maggie, while I babysat Joey. $50 split two ways! Attempts to conduct interviews at jails or prisons often generated resistance from line correctional staff, despite my BOP credentials. One interview in Baltimore City Jail was summarily ended halfway through without explanation; another time, in Texas, I was refused access rudely. Perhaps correctional staff feared I was evaluating them, routinely treated visitors like this, were unaware of or disrespected my credentials, or rigidly applied visitor time limits, even to officially-sanctioned visits. Though some acquiesced to “the life,” many others celebrated leaving it behind. Preparing me for an interview, one PO warned, “Try to keep your fly up. 103

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Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...

Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...