Excerpt: "Tracing grout lines in cinder blocks."

An excerpt from the article "Tracing Grout Lines in Cinder Blocks" from Louisville Magazine

My first experience with incarceration was in 1981, when I was just five years old. My memory of it is pretty vague and replays in hazy clips when I try to think back. I don’t remember what I was wearing or how my mother styled my hair or how we even got there (my mother didn’t own a car). I just remember her going up to a window and talking to a woman sitting behind it. I also remember that the floor was shiny and had speckles on it, just like the ones we had at home in Cotter Homes except ours were dingy, dull and had black gum stuck to them that had been tracked in on old, used soles.

After a short wait, a man that I only remember from the chest down called my mother’s name and we followed him through a heavy metal door. I could tell that he was a white man, a little taller and a lot bigger than my mother. He wore a baggy uniform with a belt cinched tightly around his waist and carried a full metal key ring that jingled and jangled to the cadence of his steps.

We followed him down a long hallway that had doors lined on one side and prison cells on another. Most of the cells were empty while others were occupied by intense staring eyes. It was extremely loud in there, too: doors slamming shut, men carrying on conversations with other men several cells away, the white noise and relay of information between corrections officers, and that ever-present jangling of keys.

Baggy Uniform and Jangling Keys stopped at a closed heavy steel door, unlocked and opened it, and we stepped inside a matchbox-sized visiting booth. A heavy rotary telephone with a smooth base was mounted to a steel partition that separated us from the other side of the booth (which was conjoined to and identical to ours). My mother sat down on a steel stool, eye-level with a small bullet-proof glass window that had a crack in its corner.

So, this is where the police took him that morning my mama was crying?

Baggy Uniform and Jangling Keys closed the door and locked us inside.

- Cheketa Tinsley, author (above, photo by Del Ramey)