You are probably asking yourself, what in the heck does immersion have to do with death? Is that crazy death writer lady going to immerse herself in death? What exactly would that entail? A trip to the morgue? A sleepover at a cemetery? What? Inquiring minds want to know!!! Well, my new found friends, followers and atoz blog hoppers, there's a daring, swashbuckling kind of way to immerse yourself in death, and there's the Pamela Skjolsvik, tip-toe through the tulips way.
Here's a wee little passage from my book where I finally get some cajones.
When I finally reach the Polunsky Unit, I am stopped by a guard before I can turn into the parking lot. He is the quintessential fat happy Texan. In a “What we have here is a failure to communicate” Texas twang, he tells me to pop the hood and the trunk. I have no idea how to pop the hood of my rental car. Frantic, I run my fingers along the underside of the dashboard hoping to find a latch but for the life of me, I can’t. Defeated, I exit the car and open the trunk. The guard looks inside, lifts the flap where the spare tire is kept and writes something on his clipboard. With his black ink pen at the ready, he asks me the name and number of “my inmate.” I tell him Khristian’s name and I fumble recalling his number. I inform him that this is my first time at the Polunsky Unit. He gives me a blank stare and shuts the hatch. I feel like he’s going to tell me to leave.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to pop the hood. It’s a rental. Maybe you can figure it out,” I say like a clueless damsel in distress.
“It’s alright. You’re going to go to that first building there. And you can’t bring nothing inside but your ID, some money if you want to buy him something, and a smile.”
I look towards the flat taupe building that stands behind two barbed wire fences and thank him for letting me slide. After finding a parking spot, I scan the rows of cars looking for Khristian’s parents. There isn’t a soul around, just a giant orange tabby wandering through the maze of cars. I retrieve my driver’s license from my wallet and shove my purse under the seat. This is a totally unnecessary move. I don’t think anyone is stupid or desperate enough to break into anyone’s car in a prison parking lot. An armed guard surveys the lot from a tower.
I walk towards the entrance. Inside, a uniformed black woman and a white man, both in their early thirties stand at the ready. This isn’t my first time at the rodeo, just the first time in the lone star state of Texas. I place my car keys and my ID in a yellow plastic container and walk through the metal detector. The woman asks me to remove my shoes and show her the bottom of my feet.
“Arms out,” she instructs and pats me down, running a pointed thumb along my bra line. She runs her hands along my side, my stomach and the inside of my legs. Finally, she scans me with a wand. I pass the test.
I am instructed to hand my ID to a woman who is seated behind steel and thick bulletproof glass. I place my driver’s license in the metal slot and tell her that I’m there to visit Khristian Oliver. In exchange, she deposits a chain necklace with a yellow card attached to it that identifies me as a visitor. She looks up some information on her computer and fills out a blue piece of paper. She scoots it towards me through the metal tunnel and I study what is written. “Pamela Skjolsvik FRND.” This is puzzling. What does F-R-N-D stand for? It takes me a second. Friend.
She points to the door and tells me to walk through the outside corridor and head towards the next building. Once outside, I am greeted by a silent steel gate that buzzes on my approach. I push through it to the outdoor walkway and continue walking. The woman’s voice booms from the intercom, freezing me in my tracks.
“Close the gate please.” Oh, shit. I push the heavy gate into the closed position but it won’t snap back into place. I stand there and wait, feeling like a kid being called on in class, the one who doesn’t know the answer and picks his nose while he thinks about it. The buzzer sounds and I slam the door forcefully into the locked position.
The sun is blinding. I reach for my sunglasses at the neckline of my shirt, but they’re back in the Vibe, squished under the seat with the contents of my purse. I squint my way towards the prison entrance and enter a regular door that doesn’t require being buzzed in. A white male guard sits at a desk. He looks up at me from his newspaper and nods. There are two restrooms opposite him. I figure this is my last chance, so I zip into the ladies room to fluff my hair and check my teeth in the reflective thing masquerading as a mirror. For some reason I feel rushed, like if I spend more than three minutes behind this door, I could arouse the guard’s suspicion that I’m excavating a balloon of heroin or a small pocket knife from the areas that weren’t patted down by the female guard. These thoughts don’t help my pee anxiety, which strikes whenever I enter a public restroom.
I am beyond nervous, but there’s no turning back or running away as fast as my sensible shoes will take me. I’m too far in.
Here's me immersing myself in the working life of an EMT.
Look at the worried expression on Dan's face as I operate the "Jaws of Life."
You too can immerse yourself in something and write about it. Check out this contest offered by "Brevity" and win yourself a shower cap!