I turn left off Parham Road,
into the Henrico County Court Complex,
feeling overwhelmed at the
campus-like set up of all the buildings.
On my left I see a pond
that I don’t immediately recognize
until I see the small arching footbridge
stretching across the pond to my left.
This is where my older half-sister
was married nearly two years ago.
The building I’m looking for
is at the back of the court system,
attached to the Sheriff’s Office.
I walk in the wrong direction
at least twice before realizing this.
The air is empty,
the wind blows too fast.
My armpits are so sweaty.
I take my jacket off,
revealing the Boys & Girls Club logo
on the front,
the word STAFF in big letters
on the back.
I walk into the corridor of glass windows,
plastic porch chairs and pay-phones.
The walls in-between the windows
remind me of the cardboard tri-folds
my teachers used to put on our desks
in grade school to help us focus,
or prevent cheating, I’m not sure which.
The officer on the other side finds me,
shouts that he’s on his way down,
and I wonder how he knows
who I’m visiting.
I see the wheels before I see his face;
stand up to meet him at a booth.
He angrily grabs the chair in his way,
slides it into the walkway
so he can roll up to the window.
He picks up the phone, holds up a finger
telling me to wait before picking it up;
he has to dial his inmate number first.
The hellos are quick before he tells me
he’s still mad about Christmas,
thinks there’s more I’m not telling him.
He called (a pre-paid call, he reminds me),
just wanting to say Merry Christmas to
all three of his children together.
But his ex-wife is now remarried,
didn’t want the call taking place at her house;
What more do you want me to say?
It’s not my place to tell him
that my little brother and sister
didn’t want to talk to him.
After thirty minutes, we rush our goodbyes;
I wave once more and watch as he rolls away.
It feels like I’m nine years old,
waving from my mom’s front porch
watching him drive out of her neighborhood
every other Sunday.
When I get back to my car I realize
this was the first year my dad didn’t
wish me “happy birthday,”
but I guess they don’t have calendars in jail.
I’ve believed in ghosts
since the second grade;
I woke one night to see a young girl
caked in the green of my night-light
walk through the wall
and into my sister’s room.
I never had a reason to believe in angels.
The week after my twenty-sixth birthday,
I stood at the Wawa cash register,
paying for coffee and a made-to-order sandwich.
I was trying to hold in the urge to sniffle,
having just cried in the car after my first
visit with my father in jail.
This is the way it is now, I thought.
I took my ticket and stood by the counter
where they place your food when it’s ready.
I looked at my ticket to find my number,
felt a shift in my airspace, something telling me
everything would be alright.
My order number, 521, matched
my uncle’s birthday, May 21st.
I knew I was meant to see it, connect it here.
I sat in my car and cried.
I cried for my dad, and for us,
telling myself I had always believed in angels.
The day he’s released,
he lets me know via text message:
“I have returned.”
“That’s good, congrats!”
And then, nothing.
I look back at the conversation
again, three weeks later.
It looks the same,
still ends with a mass of white space,
nothing more to say.
Alexandra Englehart is a 26 year old Richmond, Va native. She is currently working on finishing her Bachelors Degree in English with a Minor in Creative Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been writing poetry since the age of twelve and plans to obtain an MFA in Creative Writing after completing her undergraduate degree. Aside from writing, she enjoys singing, photography, and roller skating, as well as spending time with her two black cats.