I’ve been riding my bike all over town in the past couple of weeks. Down the hill to pick up the shuttle for work, back up the hill to home. I’ve ridden the new bike lane in Roland Park so as to knowledgeably engage in online debate about whether or not it’s a good bike lane (I think yes, but everyone needs to be patient so we all learn how to use it). I’ve ridden to lunch, to after-work drinks, to acupuncture and therapy appointments, to a friend’s in Federal Hill. I’ve also ridden down the hill a short left on Eager Street where I’m teaching a women’s studies class to a group of women who are part of Safe and Sound’s ELEVATION program at Baltimore City Detention Center. Friday was my second class, and I flew down Guilford Avenue on my way. I saw a group of teenagers on a corner a few blocks before Mount Royal–3pm, after school crowds everywhere. They giggled to each other, so I instinctively steeled myself as I rode by, saying my how you doin’s. And they rushed into the street to try to scare me off my bike, laughing with each other as I felt tears come to my eyes, run down my cheeks. They’re just being knuckleheads–it’s what teenagers do–but I’m still grieving, and part of that is I’m quick to tears, and quick to anger. I sucked it back in, didn’t turn around to tell them how unsafe that is, how it won’t be funny when someone falls and seriously injures themselves, how my dad just died in the street so leave me the fuck alone. Part of living with others is riding a bit further in the street when the teens are gathered.
I locked up my bike to a street sign–this jail’s sorely lacking in bike racks–and headed inside, past the friends and family amassing outside for the 3:30 visitation time. I showed my id and my letter put my cellphone in a locker, took everything out of my pockets, got patted down with serious intimacy, walked through the metal detector, and then was on my way. It’s all cinderblock and steel bars and correctional officers in here, and I’m new, so I don’t know the rules. The many cameras and watchers mean you can’t wander for more than a few steps and I was quickly caught and led to the large room where the women stay. The students turned off the TV, gathered, and I taught the same class I taught my UMBC students earlier in the week. Just like at UMBC, a few students did most of the talking, a few were clearly disinterested, and a few had that look that suggests quiet thinking, don’t make me talk right now. And then our hour was up and I headed back out–after getting lost again. I’ll probably have a lot to say about this experience, but I don’t have much to say about it yet. I will say, though, that still, everything is taking place against the heavy backdrop of grief. I have less to say than I usually do, and I care less about the details of things. It is what it is. And yet much of daily life is just the same as it was, which is both a relief and a total drag. I got back on my bike and headed to Mount Vernon for an end-of-week beer before heading home. I wish the women in that jail got to go home, too.