Pulling off of Route 6 onto the small industrial 'Six and One Half Station' road, the nervousness and anxiety was getting the better of me. The hour's drive had me attentive to highways and exits I had never driven on before; but now I knew, I was one turn away. I was filled with the realization that I was soon to be walking in secure halls and in a place I had never envisioned myself, inside a prison.
I had an idea of what to expect. I spent the a night searching for Matt on NY State inmate search sites. After finding where he was, I then went to the Orange County Correctional Facility website, reading and rereading the Rules of Visitation. I knew not to wear clothing with many pockets, for each on would be searched. I knew not to wear a belt, a hat, jewlery or clothing with metal buckles. I decided to only bring in my driving license, a quarter for the personal posessions lockers, my keys, and a copy of 'Lullaby' by Chuck Palahniuk as a gift for Matthew. I would have to give the book to Sheriff personell. I wrote a small note inside the book cover to Matt, telling him a little on how I felt and to give good wishes.
I told him how nervous I was. After not talking to him for almost six years, I was left with the mystery of why that was. I never knew if it was on purpose or by circumstance. How would Matthew react to seeing me sitting there in the visitor's seat? Would I even see him at all? I don't know how the process works; if he is told who is here to visit him, if he has a choice of denying a visit. These mysteries all worried me, but this was someone I considered a brother, regardless of how long it had been that we were active in each others' lives.
The parking lot was a winding mess of one-way lanes and marked parking spots. Every visitor's spot was full, and there was very little foot traffic of people's going back to their cars. While three other cars drove in circles waiting for an open spot, I saw one pull over and ask an Officer a question and then start driving on the way out of the parking lot. As she passed, I rolled down my window and asked her what she learned, assuming she had asked where else we can park. She acknowledged that was what she had asked and led me to a seperate lot, with many empty spots and partially filled with air conditioner compressors, tractor trailers and officers' personal cars.
I parked and tried to collect myself. Double checking to make sure I ONLY had the few things I needed and nothing more. I got out of the car and locked the door. I turned to face the large cold building. In front of me was a few large bay doors. To the right was the beginning of double fencing that circled around what was obviously the inmate area. The fences were both very tall, unending circles of razor wire were extra barriers added to the top and bottom of the see through wall. Behind the fencing was two stories of concrete with evenly spaced windows that looked more like archer slots than windows meant for light. Large plots of grass gave space between the each of the two fences and the quiet prison. The unfenced area I was closest to was most likely the office and infrastructural areas of the prison; the kitchens and laundry, garages and storage areas.
I walked my way around the lot towards the front entrance of the building. The heat and humidity of the day would have bothered me, if I wasn't burning inside with anticipation and nervousness. I was finally going to see my brother again. This could very well be the last time I see him, or the beginning of a new reconnection. I crossed a field of grass to go around to the front door. As I walked passed a row of parked patrol cars a dog barked viciously at me through a small cracked window. Even with the car running and the assumed A/C blowing inside, I couldn't believe it was OK for the officer to leave the dog in the car in this heat. I made my way passed a few people smoking outside the door and into the cold gray building.
Opening the door there was a mass of officers walking all around with a few behind a counter talking to civilians. To the right was a windowed counter for civil business. To the left was rows of hard plastic chairs, a couple vending machines and an alcove of small lockers. There was a wall of glass bricks and what looked like a metal detector behind it. Immediately beside me was a winding line of felt ropes leading to the counter with a few visitors already in line. I took a breath and got in line, watching how the process flowed, to try and keep things as efficient and comfortable as possible.
When it was my turn to walk up to the counter, I looked at the sign in sheet and entered Matthew's name and then my own where each belonged. I thought of the many scenes in movies where a visitor looked at the rest of the sign in names to track who their loved one's other visitors were. I admit the curiosity came over me, but the situation would never allow me to take that much time. I gave my drivers license and got a visitor pass in exchange. I walked over to the small corner of lockers. Many were already taken and the balance were broken. I eventually found one that worked, placed my keys inside and closed the door. I had to placed a quarter in and turn the key to lock the door. I went to the bathroom and put cold water on my face. Staring at my reflection, I imagined what my expression might be like when I first see him. I felt my heart racing and took a few deep breaths. I washed my hands and used the industrial brown paper towel as a glove to open the door. I walked to back of the line of people by the glass bricked wall. It was almost time.