We are happy to present this excerpt from Dangerous by Kristina V. Ramos. This is the first of four excerpts from our book, AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief, coming in April 2018. The story follows a woman as she navigates a situation in which she has no power and no information, being shuffled from bus to bus and detained in deplorable conditions. She has no knowledge of where she’s going or why.
by Kristina V. Ramos
The sound of foot shackles dragging on the pavement is not a pleasant one, but neither is the feeling of them around bony ankles. Aside from foot shackles, I also have handcuffs that are connected to a chain around my waist—which is almost doubled because, apparently, they don’t come in women’s extra-small.
It’s not easy getting on a bus in sandals and shackles, but somehow, I manage. My seat is facing the door that the officer closes behind me. Without really looking at the other passengers, I quickly realize that I am the only woman on the bus. With my peripheral vision I can tell that there are at least twenty men, probably closer to forty. All of them are wearing red jail uniforms and shackles. Millions of questions pop into my head at once. Why aren’t they wearing orange? Doesn’t red mean dangerous? Why am I on a bus full of murderers? What else could they be? Child molesters? Violent maniacs? I haven’t made up my mind about who they might be, when my thoughts are interrupted and they start talking to me.
I am a bit nervous, but I don’t show any emotion. They ask for my name and where I’m from, which I ignore and keep looking straight ahead. They don’t give up. I am sitting no more than a foot away from them. The only thing that separates us is skinny bars making up a cage around my seat. What if they spit at me, or worse? Somebody gets up from their seat and starts singing what sounds like a love song in Spanish, and I begin to relax a little. It seems like almost all of them are speaking Spanish. Unexpectedly, the guy who is singing switches from Spanish to flawless English and speaks directly to me. He’s saying he saw a brochure that says inmates can get married in jail. He says he’s twenty-five, doesn’t have kids, and that we should get married. The other men start laughing and somebody’s telling him that he’s probably not my type. Then a few others try to talk to me all at the same time. I hear different kinds of questions coming from different directions. I keep looking straight ahead and ignore them all. Then they collectively try to guess where I’m from. They compliment my glasses and clothes. They tell me jokes and try to make me smile.
It feels like at least half an hour has passed, and most of the men have given up trying to talk to me. Somebody says I would do well in an interrogation. Then some guy gives a little speech, saying he doesn’t know whether I understand Spanish, but he wishes me luck and says that everything will be okay. That’s what I have been telling myself the past few hours, that everything will be okay. I’m surprised by their compassion. At this point I’m fighting back my tears. I look down at my leggings and I see a little red thread from my daughter’s blanket. Just a few hours ago, I was holding her in my arms wrapped in a red blanket.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristina V. Ramos is a student from Sacramento, California, who believes it’s important to talk about controversial issues, like imprisonment and immigration. She also believes we can change the world one story at a time.
If you enjoyed this excerpt, we hope you will purchase the book to read the story in its entirety. And check back next month for another excerpt!