She was large, childlike and taciturn, with short, unkempt hair and sadness in her eyes. She looked like a young boy only she was a 17 year old girl. Everything about her was soft… soft, round lines, soft eyes, soft voice. She seemed scared and timid and very unsure of herself. She was neither nasty nor friendly, but somewhere in between only more on the friendly side. Had she opened up her mouth and spoken to the others, they would have found a gentle girl with a heart of gold.
But she didn’t speak very often and the others would whisper and discuss her amongst themselves and maybe, to them, she did look like a killer, but to me, she was just a ghost of a girl who potentially could have been loved deeply and loved others.
There was a friend involved, but she was not there. I assume this is because Mincy did the killing herself and the friend was merely sharing in the prize should they not get caught. I’m not sure where the friend went or if she were incarcerated at all or if she was sent to a mental institution. I wonder if she was permitted to go to her grandmother’s funeral or if she was carted off quickly.
I was 15 and a runaway who had been picked up and found to have drugs in my possession. This got me thirty days in the juvenile detention center, the old, run down one before the new, high tech one was built next door. The one with the Asian doctor who did mandatory pap smears on us and strip searched us in a supply closet.
Word sort of spread a few hours prior that a girl was coming in who had commit murder, always a big event in juvie because most of the crimes committed were petty and small. This girl was infamous by the time she arrived, late in the evening. She had killed her friend’s grandmother for money to buy tickets to a Billy Ray Cyrus concert. People snickered and wondered who in the hell liked Billy Ray Cyrus enough to do such a thing. I wondered, too.
She never talked about it and I didn’t ask. The night she arrived, my cell door was opened and she was let in with sheets and a mattress and all I could see in the darkness was the figure of a large girl as she sunk down onto her bed. I didn’t speak and she didn’t speak but fell asleep sniffling and moaning a little and I just listened until my eyes shut.
The next morning, I awoke to the usual sound of a guard banging on the metal door telling us to get up. I sat up in my bed and Mincy was already awake. She looked like hell and never really recovered from it. She looked at me and I smiled at her and hopped up, dressed and lined up for inspection. We didn’t speak, but instead filed out to the day room where girls watched television all day and braided each other’s hair and I sat reading or contemplating the many signs on the walls depicting pubic lice. The day wore on and no one spoke to Mincy and then, that night at bedtime, I finally started a conversation with her. For thirty days, we talked, always in the night, always in quiet voices. I learned a great deal about her but never once asked her about her crime.
The third night she was there, I had just fallen asleep when the silence in the room was shattered by a deep, bellowing voice hollering, “I’M HON-GRY!!!!!!!!”. I shot up out of my bed to see Mincy standing at the cell door crying and begging for food.
The guards yelled back that it was too fucking bad and for her to go to sleep.
“But I’m HOOOOOOON–GRY!!!!!” she yelled back.
The girl weighed about three hundred pounds and the weight dripped off of her sadly as she bellowed for food. She was having a rough time with the limited access, something we laughed at because I loved the food there and she hated it.
To this very day I still remember her yelling, “I’m Hon-gry!” and I smile like crazy until my face wants to break into pieces and fall off.
The others thought I was strange that I could find someone so charming, someone who had killed another human being. They begged me for information and I offered them nothing. As much as I had come to know Mincy in the nighttime hours, I had never once pried into her experience with murder. Of course I was curious, but I felt that it wasn’t something I should bring up as it would be disrespectful unless she instigated the conversation first.
It was sometime in the last week I was in there before I was released and we were just settling into sleep when she finally felt it was safe to talk about it. I was 15 and she was 17 and I don’t know what made her comfortable enough to open up. Maybe she had decided that I wouldn’t say anything. I wasn’t exactly a recluse at the place…. I talked to other girls and played spades and did my thing and I wasn’t disliked so much but I was told on an hourly basis that I was too smart for my own good and that I used words that were too big. I spent a lot of time with the guards who I was very close to and they knew me very well since I was always in and out of the place. Once the new building was built, I was frequently let out of my cell at night to sit at the desk with the guards and talk as the other girls slept.
My favorite times of life were when I was incarcerated and I was pretty happy there. I was respected by most but there would always be one girl in the bunch who wanted to kick my ass. I usually ignored this shit, but the time finally came for me to silence a girl, one who was racist, and by the end of that night, both of us were shackled and taken to the emergency room of a nearby hospital… I had a broken hand and she had a broken something that I don’t remember. Her name was Alicia and the scars on the knuckles of my last three fingers on my right hand are my Alicia Scars… tiny, tooth sized scars.
I really miss it there for some reason. Not so very much the old building, but the new building. My only really interesting memories of the old building are the closet strip searches, body lice posters and Mincy.
In the week leading up to my release, she talked and talked and talked and I sat on her bed holding her hand or sitting with her head on my shoulder and just let her vomit up everything she had done. By my last night there, I knew I was going to miss her and I was awakened by the guards at 5 in the morning to be shackled and taken to my hearing and Mincy was up sitting in bed. We didn’t talk as I got dressed to go and she hugged me and I was lead out. That morning, after my hearing and after I spent nine hours in my holding cell and after I was given my personal belongings back in a large, manila envelope, visited my probation officer, paid my court fees and was finally un-handcuffed and shoved back into the fresh air of downtown Cincinnati, I knew that there are no such things as monsters. Mincy had taught me a great deal about looking at things with a different perspective and now as I sit and watch the news about killers or kids shooting up schools, I don’t scream at these people like so many others. Instead, I sit and think about their sadness, about how awful one must feel to do something so desperate as to hurt another person. I think about loneliness and detachment and pain and anger. I think about how alone someone is when they are locked in a world that they have created inside of themselves that revolves around hurt.
Everyone is capable of drowning when things are bad but the ones who hurt others or kill are so overcome by these negative emotions that they see no other resolve. They just stop caring altogether.
Because of Mincy, I talk and I talk and I talk. I never deny myself of anything I am feeling. I lock nothing inside. If the flow is always allowed to escape just a little bit, then you can’t drown. People think I am crazy for understanding but I don’t care. I think that if more people understood and showed compassion for others right off the bat then so many of these horrible incidences could be prevented.
Little, tiny hurts all add up. Name calling, bullying, ignoring…. for one person to go through these kinds of abuse they lose their strength. It doesn’t take long to make someone start believing the words you say. It is not hard to convince someone that they are shit and to make them believe such a thing is asking for it. It is just as easy to make someone feel worthy of living a wonderful life.
So, to Mincy… wherever you are, now…. I want to thank you. You have made me look at myself and how I treat others and to make changes. Since knowing you, I don’t hurt people. I don’t call people names or judge them for who they are. I don’t discourage greatness. Because of you, I am always willing to help someone who needs it. Because of you, I am better at recognizing those who do. Because of you, I give a shit.
That in and of itself helps me know what kind of person I am and it squashed so much hate and negativity in me that could have turned ugly a long time ago. I know that people dislike me for my viewpoints, but I don’t care. Some people might think I condone or support killing, but that’s not true. I support loving everyone enough to understand and I fully endorse being the kind of person that could help prevent it in myself and in others. The people who hurt and bully others, who think only of themselves, the people who turn the other way instead of reaching out… those are the people who create killers.
But not all people have the mental capacity to prevent themselves from committing horrible acts. Some people are just insane due to imbalances of chemicals within themselves. It’s so unbelievably sad that those people cannot be helped.
Thank you for showing me that there is a human being in all of us.