A Libra Husband

A Libra Husband

Insideout.com is an important bridge between the inmate’s day-to-day life and the outside world. Research has shown huge implications for the rehabilitative benefits of communication for prisoners. Emotional and even religious support can help a prisoner’s well-being, help them to feel a sense of connection to the world around them. For some, it can help them to prepare for life outside.

The Libra Husband, she read once, is a perfect match for the Virgo woman in a long-term relationship. A Libra man is stable, balanced, and the thing that he loves most of all is being in love. He will even most likely choose a bad relationship, over no relationship at all.

And luckily the website allows the user to filter out certain things in the search function like qualities, ages – even weights and heights – and also zodiac signs.

She chooses to look at people who are:

  • Male
  • 25–50
  • Air signs only
  • Life sentences only

There have been times she’s brushed her teeth until she’s bled. For three days this week she’s had the feeling that there’s this small piece of food not between her teeth but actually under her gum – thin and moulded to the shape of her molar by now. She has tried to get it out with her finger or by rubbing at it with her tongue but then she tends to become too conscious of her tongue afterwards. Sometimes she finds herself not knowing where to put her tongue back in her mouth – whereabouts it was before she started being so fucking aware of it.

A few days after she sets up her profile on the site she gets an email from a volunteer – Kayley – to say that one of the matches she requested to get in touch with wants to send a letter to her. She allows it. An email arrives from Kayley, and attached to it is a scanned-in version of the handwritten letter.

Hello,
I am seeking a friend to talk to whilst I am incarcerated here in F. C. Correctional Facility.
I am a Christian, I love God, I used to love tennis, going to the gym and travel. I used to love camping.
Now I love reading. I spend a lot of the day in the library. My favorite writer is Albert Camus. My favourite place to visit would be Paris.
Do you have siblings? I have a sister who is a teacher in Ohio.
I saw from your profile that you are very beautiful. I hope to hear from you and see more pictures of you. Very very much love.

She replies and tells him everything she did that day. He asks for a photograph of every pet she has ever owned. She tells him about the worst husband her mum ever had, who was a magician. He tells her that he gets the feeling from looking at photos of her face that she is somehow magic, somehow enchanted. She doesn’t know his second name.

She sends her messages as emails. Everything goes through Kayley. Then when he writes back he writes a physical letter, which he tells her he mostly writes from his cell or sometimes in the library, then Kayley scans them in and sends them on.

She is on the sofa wearing clothes when she writes the majority of her messages to him. Her New Year’s resolution is not to spend so much time in bed during the day. If she resolves to definitely be out of bed during “office hours” – nine to five, plus an extra few hours for when she would be getting up if she worked in an office, so actually seven thirty to nine – she will definitely stop feeling so dirty and clouded all the time.

Six months after meeting they speak to each other on the phone for the first time on a TV breakfast show. It is actually the second time, but the producers tell them to pretend that it is the first.

“Hello?”

“Hello!”

The audience screams. The blonde lady presenter clutches her hand.

“It is nice to hear your voice,” he says, “after all of these months.”

The phone, on his end, is connected to a speaker so everybody in the audience and everybody watching from home can hear it.

Last night he told her he wants people to know he goes to the library.

“What are you doing today?” she asks.

“I’m going to read in the library, after my lunch.”

She remembers that he was going to be an American, today, she was ready. Yesterday she forgot about it and felt a bit weird when she heard him; sounding gameshow host, plump staccato, big star, very other, very not like her and everyone she knows.

He says, “You sound so beautiful.”

She smiles. She can see from the little screen at the opposite end of the studio that the cameraman has zoomed in on her smile. When she looks at her own face, her teeth spring out “hello” like they do not belong in her mouth.

The blonde lady puts her warm arm around her shoulders, squeezes. “Now you two,” she says, “this Sunday is going to be an absolutely huge moment for you. After this extraordinary story, this is going to be the first time you’ve ever met! Have you got any concerns?”

“I’ve never been to Florida before,” she says. “I’m worried I’ll get sunburn, I’ve got pale English skin!”

The audience laughs.

“I just hope,” he says, “that she is going to think I’m attractive.”

“Well thank you so much,” the blonde lady is going, “for coming on the show. We feel so lucky to have got to be a part of your extraordinary story. We can’t wait to hear,” she says, “the next chapter.”

The one thing that immediately draws together a Libra man and a Virgo woman, is trust.

An older Libra man is likely to have been hurt a lot, so he will find it hard to trust at first, but once he has, it will be for a lifetime.

On her last night before she gets the plane she is so worried about getting to sleep that she waits a very long time before getting into bed. She makes dinner in the kitchen. She packs her bag on her bed and, before she puts everything into it, takes a picture of three of the things that she is packing next to her bag, folded neatly. She puts it on the internet. Since the TV appearance, over two thousand new people have started following her.

She travels alone but they give her a little camera and she has to record herself talking at the airport. She puts on make-up first, uses lipstick from the duty free counters.

She feels nervous. She goes “Hi! It’s half past five. I’m at the airport. I’ve never been to America before.”

She turns the camera off. She buys a sandwich and sits and watches the large TV in the departure lounge, which switches between two different news programmes – one the real news and one news about the airport, where the stories show an interview with a customs officer and smiling airhostesses and long slow shots of gold eyeshadows and sunglasses and vodka bottles in the big mirrored shop.

At the gate, most of the people flying to Florida are going to Disneyworld or the other big theme parks. She briefly feels uncomfortable, nervous, neurotic etc. when she sees a small boy in a massive blue jacket stop running around for a moment to make eye contact with her absolutely fearlessly.

He looks at her like she is a ghost, a weird bird, a sad woman, a spinster, she has been looked at like this a lot, her hair is too long, her facial expression is different to everybody else’s.

Probably everyone at the airport would be looking at her like the child is, if they were allowed.

But then she hears a noise like a gentle rumble, like bullets – applause! Everyone is looking at her. And then she sees the news.

On the TV screen, a woman in a red dress is holding hands with a woman in a black dress, one beaming and one tearful and shaky, big blue light in the background; the clip from yesterday, they’ve added a new headline: FLYING OUT TODAY! WOMAN’S CROSS ATLANTIC PILGRIMAGE TO MEET INCARCERATED SOULMATE.

One of the women is her: her big face is on the airport news.

An old woman throws her arms around her. People come over, shake her hand, whisper in her ear. Children point her out to each other. Two lipsticked airhostesses in bright orange uniforms come and take both her arms, lead her to a new seat in First Class, give her prosecco in a plastic glass, crisps, nuts, strawberries.

When her plane lands at the other side, which is moist, hot, she has her picture taken when she is walking off the gangway. Next month it will be in the inflight magazine.

As a Virgo woman she naturally loves her tidy white hotel room. During her last few days at home the sleeping thing began to get out of hand. She has to record her video diary again when she first comes in. She brushes her hair in the mirror then turns on the camera and goes “Here I am in my hotel room!”

The last week at home she had become so worried about being able to get to sleep that she was waiting later and later to put her pyjamas on, sitting fully clothed and made-up on the sofa or the kitchen table that by the time she went up to bed she was often almost too tired to get changed and wash so would end up getting into bed in just full clothes.

This still didn’t stop her not being able to sleep, instead she’d wake up at about three or four all sweaty and weird, jeans and bra having left itchy marks and etches on her skin, and then have to wash, change into her pyjamas, all over again.

But in this massive hotel bed she can sleep forever. The blinds completely block out any light that might disrupt her, then when she opens them again, it falls back through the window in all colours. In the morning she sits in the window and watches the people sitting by the pool and orders pancakes, then goes down to sit by the pool.

She doesn’t want to leave the hotel at all, she loves it, it is so big. Families come back with theme park merchandise, children dressed in big ears and princess dresses, parents holding big bags, people coming to the casino and having drinks, people having six or eight or ten massive plates at the dinner buffet, people carrying their own cocktail and a second-one-free for someone else at Happy Hour, constant TV on in all rooms, programmes about sharks, weddings, teen pop stars, constant heat, constant colour and light.

She loves the lasagna, the pre-mixed cocktails, the fried chicken, water aerobics classes, long lobby shiny lobby. She loves watching new guests arrive with suitcases, sometimes saying “Welcome!” and she loves it when she watches the unlucky ones leave, not getting to be there for so many more nights like she does.

On the Thursday, a woman from the UK breakfast show flies in. She is not the presenter she met previously, but their features reporter, who is less famous. She arrives with a small camera crew. Her hair is short. The production crew are young men with glasses. They are nice.

In the afternoon, they take her out to buy a new dress to wear tomorrow. The meeting will not be in the prison, like originally arranged, but they will allow him to be brought to a TV studio escorted by some guards and also a camera crew. Kayley-from-the-website will be there too, to help facilitate the meeting and do a quick interview with the crew herself.

The dress-shopping is all filmed. In the car she says, “I’m so excited,” to the cameraman.

She loves the “mall” and wishes she was alone there. She wants to go into the places she has heard of like Taco Bell and Baskin Robbins and J. C. Penney’’s and Target. She wants to buy the crayons scented like oranges and DVDs that haven’t been released yet, nail polish from Sephora, turkey burgers, a pumpkin spice latte.

Instead, they go to a department store where they have arranged for her to spend some time with a personal stylist. The personal stylist recommends she chooses something blue to bring out her eyes, tones etc., but she insists on green to represent her earth sign.

The night before the arranged meeting, the production team are all going out to a bar. She stays in and watches TV, flicks through the channels.

She stops, misses it at first, has to flick back the remote. She hasn’t seen this picture of him before – it is his mugshot. He looks sweaty and ill and teethier than she has seen him, like a villain, like a person-on- the-news instead of a person.

And she isn’t listening to what the presenter is saying and she isn’t listening to the debate he is facilitating with his guests, an Inmates Rehabilitation Officer and a relationship psychologist. But she sees the next photograph that comes up, which is a young girl, with blonde hair and ill-fitted braces, holding a cat, and looking at the camera, smiling like a girl who does not know that her picture will be on the news, and not like this.

She sees a headline, white on blue, JANITOR WHO KILLED SCHOOLGIRL READY TO MEET INTERNET LOVER and then there it is again her in the studio yesterday, her teeth, his voice, red dress, blue light, her face, his face, all too big, all too circular.

For hours she’s between her bed and the bathroom, sick, trying to sleep, sick, trying to sleep, sweaty and empty, once again, circular.

In the morning the UK presenter texts her to say “Hi babe, ready to go in half an hour?” and rings her hotel room and knocks on the door over and over with the small TV crew right behind her.

But she is not there. She woke up early and rang a taxi to go to the parks. It was outrageously expensive. She dresses in all black, sunglasses, a hat hiding lots of her face, pretends she is a Hollywood star hiding from the papers.

One of the parks is a fake world. There is a lake and around the lake there is a small replica of different countries – a stall of frankfurter in Germany, Tsingtao beer served in China, an Aerosmith tribute band in America, pyramids in Egypt.

Walking about with something called a corndog, she is remembering what might’ve been between her teeth a long time ago and how stuck it felt and how now it is definitely gone. She says that next time she has a bad cough she will not forget what it felt like now, breathing completely clearly. She says that next time it is winter and she is wearing a coat she will remember how hot it was here.

In Norway she rides on the Viking longboat. Speakers with sea sounds and wind play, the narrator speaks with a fake accent, he says, “In Norway, we have always lived with the sea,” and she thinks how the salt and the chemicals in the ride feel like they are cleaning her from the heat outside. She places her hand in the water, which you are not supposed to do, imagines that it is spiritual healing water.

At the end of the ride, the Way Out takes her past a stall where there are photographs on the ride. The camera had flashed at the point where the longboat dived over the top of a long hill and sent everyone on it descending through the dark, crashing, sprayed everyone with water.

In the photograph she is throwing her arms in the air and screaming, her mouth big and red, she looks ugly and fierce and dramatic.

Everyone on the train next to and behind her is making the same face, various expressions of literal unkempt fear and excitement. It is unclear in the picture which person is with who, who is there with their children or friends or husband or if they are all there together riding the train, like some sort of mixed-age school trip, social club, a family that do not look alike.

She buys the photo on a deal where you choose five items for twenty-five dollars – she gets a t-shirt, phone case, necklace, mug. She keeps walking round the lake after she has finished Norway, visiting each of the countries over and over.

Lizzie Hudson is a graduate of the English and Creative Writing programme at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work has previously appeared in Strix zine and she currently lives in Leeds.

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