Saiorse stood and waited to be buzzed in through the clanking metal gates. It was the first time she was old enough to go in herself, and as nobody had ever bothered to take her, it was the first time she had ever been. She smoothed her hair down, checked her clothes, and then thought how stupid it was to care. He wouldn’t. He hadn’t cared the whole time.
The gates opened, and Saiorse followed the guard through the security checks, the rough pat-down, the hand-over of her bag, and finally, found herself in a small room, divided in two with a thick glass partition. She took in the grey-black plastic chair, the hard-to-reach ledge, the absence of windows. The bulky guard motioned for her to sit down, and then stepped back. Half-falling into the seat, Saiorse held on to the edges, noticing the hardened chewing gum underneath her fingers, the over-bent back. The floor was a dirty grey, with faint lines marking large squares. She moved her feet together so they were within a square, rubbing out one of the many black smudges the chair had made. How many people had sat in this chair, she wondered, and how many were glad to be in it? It wasn’t a good idea to think right now, and, after years of practice, she found it easy to keep looking down, shutting out all feeling, all memories. In fact, she wasn’t sure she even recalled his face or his voice after so many years without them.
“Saiorse! Is that my wee girl?”
Saiorse jerked her head up, and followed the voice. She looked through the glass and saw an old man, hands forced together, locked. His once blue shirt was now faded, and hung unevenly on sharp, lumpy shoulders. She couldn’t see below his chest, as he was already sitting down, hidden by the counter. Leaning forward, he clunked his wrists down on the laminate, and tried again.
The eighteen year old girl felt nine again as she dragged her eyes up to the prisoner’s. Looking through the fog of many painful years, a face telling a story of prison hardship stared back at her. Saiorse fought through it, and after a long silence, she found a glimmer of who he was to her. Who he used to be.