Turning the page of a book with my fingers and feeling the texture of the paper under my fingertip is as much reading for me as smelling the aroma of food is for eating. For me. In prison we don’t have access to anything we want and a friend of mine, a fellow girl, has a particularly significant like, Marilyn Monroe.
She’s liked Marilyn Monroe since she was a child and even went so far as to get a portrait of the famed star tattooed on her arm. For her, she represents her ideal femininity, something I strongly identify with as a fellow trans woman.
As Christmas in 2020 comes faintly trickling in as a sliver of normalcy among the most abnormal year in most of our history’s I wanted to connect with all of my loved ones. We all needed it. I crave the gift of human touch so much now I quite literally dream about it the way a marooned man at sea might dream of hamburgers. I want to hug everyone, all the time. For me, the next best thing is bringing emotional warmth to those I am able. I just need to see “happy” in all its forms.
So I got a few books on Marilyn Monroe sent in, one of the books was a special book to my friend, a family member of hers when she was a teen had found a biography on Marilyn Monroe in the teens room and thrown the treasured book away. The teens parent attributed such things to why their child acted feminine. It crushed her. I found the book and an additional one with all kinds of photos. Once I received them I quietly wrapped them in last months newspaper, carefully creasing the edges, forgetting that newspaper turns fingers black, like soot.
Gifts carefully wrapped in hand I went and found my friend. Because of the pandemic and outbreaks in our nations prison systems we never know when lock downs are coming, so I handed her the gifts at first opportunity because we just never know. Of course, receiving a wrapped gift in prison is not common so she was a little surprised and as I told her she would need to hang onto them until Christmas she handed them back to me and said “Here, hand these back to me real quick”. Confused I took the two packages and handed them back to her, at which point she feigned surprise and proceeded to tear the holy crap out of the wrapping paper and shrieking delight.
The first was the photograph book. She happily thumbed through it, eying the second package for a few minutes until finally she couldn’t take it anymore and declared “I’m opening this one too.”
She slowly unwrapped this one, exposing the book underneath, falling silent. “I had this book when I was a teen and it got thrown away, it was my favorite.”
That hug meant a lot. To me. It was tight and warm and genuine. I asked “Are you happy?” The response was a squeeze. That meant more. To me.
Books have been life altering for me in prison. They are more than something to display as a cool background while some talking head on TV spouts about something awful again, they are a way for us to transmit happy.
Someone sent me a few books of my own last night. Expect some reviews again soon!
Give a book to someone special.