Last Sunday, I drove to California State Prison in Folsom to visit Travis Christian (BB8099) for the third time.
Every visit is the same and different. The visitor sign-in room was empty with just a couple of us signing in but, when I boarded the shuttle, it was packed. I found a seat in the last row. A small boy, wearing brand new black and white sneakers, sat two seats away from me and stared. And stared. I felt his dark brown eyes boring into me. “Hi. What’s your name?” I asked.
“Junior,” he replied.
“I like your shoes, Junior,” I said.
“See my shirt? “ he asked.
Everything — shirts, pants, shoes — looked new and he looked very handsome.
I got off the shuttle at the third shuttle stop. Three women and three adorable little kids got off with me. All were dressed up to see Daddy. I checked in at the visitor’s desk and waited for Travis. Every visiting table was taken, unlike last month when the prison was on a lock down.
Travis entered the room. We hugged and sat down at our assigned table. I’m learning and I asked right away, “Are you hungry?”
“I’m starving. I didn’t eat breakfast.”
Travis selected a hamburger from the vending machine. We’d go back later to buy a pizza and a Hershey’s chocolate bar. Travis was really hungry. At the microwave a guard came over to us. “You can’t touch the microwave,” he told Travis. “Your friend will have to heat your sandwich for you. This is where drugs get passed.”
Travis seemed different to me. His legs were shaking and he furrowed his brows when he spoke. “They took me off one of my meds. I hardly slept at all last night. I was fighting with the devil. I wanted to call out Jesus’s name and I couldn’t.”
“What do you mean, Travis, ‘fighting with the devil?’”
“I was thinking about all my faults and how I let Jesus down. It’s very lonely in here and God is my only friend. I can’t let him down.”
We talked about how the med change (he’s been taken off Abilify cold turkey) might be causing these thoughts. Travis sees his doctor once a month. I asked him if he could request to see him sooner. He said he couldn’t do that. Later, I asked a guard the same question. He said prisoners could ask to see their doctors more often.
I brought five family photos to show Travis and three samples of my book cover — a white one, a gray one, and a blue-green one. “Which one do you like, Travis? Which one draws you in?”
Without hesitation Travis said, “I like the gray one. It tells me your story is going to have some gravitas to it.”
During our two-and-one-half hour visit, lulls in the conversation popped up. Travis yawned and appeared distracted. We watched a little girl run around squealing and laughing because her daddy was chasing her. Travis said, “She’s so cute.”
“Do you wish you had children, Travis?”
“No. I wouldn’t want to bring them into this situation. I want to have a wife.”
Travis mentioned a couple of cards he’d received from some of the blog readers. “I read them over and over. I wrote back but I don’t think they’ve picked up the mail.”
I asked Travis what he’s looking forward to this coming week. He puzzled a few moments. “My mom’s coming up Sunday. Church. Being with God.”
We took a photo of the two of us standing in front of a Christmas tree. Travis is going to paste his copy on his cell wall with some adhesive from a tube of toothpaste. I’m going to scotch tape my copy to my refrigerator.
“I think of you everyday, Travis, and send you mental hugs. I hope you can feel them.”
Sunday evening I texted with Travis’s mother, Kathy. She’s concerned about him, too. “The doctor won’t talk to me,” she said. “I leave messages but no one calls back. I’ve left three messages. I hope they’ll check on him soon. When he talks about the devil he gets into trouble. He thinks someone is trying to hurt him and he gets into fights. Then he’s sent to solitary.”
Kathy gave me three phone numbers. I called all of them — one to a prison ombudsman, one to a patient health care hotline for family and friends, and one to a generic corrections and rehabilitation line. I said, “I’m a family friend. I visit Travis Christian (BB8099) once a month. I visited him yesterday. He seemed different and I’m concerned about his med change. He had trouble sleeping Saturday night, his legs were shaking, and he talked about Jesus and the devil. I hope someone checks on him before he gets more wound up.”
I left the messages on Monday morning. So far, no one’s called me back.
You can write to Travis at the following address:
Travis Christian BB8099
C.S.P. - SAC
P.O. Box 290066
Represa, CA 95671
See posts about my previous visits with Travis:
11/15: My November Visit with Travis
10/17: Going To California State Prison to Meet Travis
10/18: Talking With Travis