Ten Til Forever

The vistation room in a penitentiary doesn’t follow the same laws of time as the rest of the universe. A two-hour visit passes in the same amount of time as a commercial break on the television, which can be maddening. But, the last ten minutes of the visit can be just as trying, because the end of the visit seems to last forever- and not in a good way.

Regardless of which side of the bars you reside, you have a moment of apprehension and anticipation before the visit actually begins. Will you be able to cover everything you need to discuss? Two hours seems like plenty of time- maybe even too much. But then the visit starts, and you enter the time warp.

You start your visit by greeting each other in a specified area with a kiss and hug before walking to your seat. As each party situates itself, snacks and drinks are passed out and commented on. This, the warm-up act to the actual visit. Once everything is settled, the visit begins in earnest. How are you? What’ve you been up to since I last saw you? What news do you have of the family? What plans do you have after today?

That should take about thirty minutes or so, right?

In a flurry of food and conversation, both inmates and free-world members try to exchange as much information as possible while at the same time reassuring the other side that they are loved and appreciated. This is important for both sides, because contact is limited outside of this two-hour period.

So, what, another thirty minutes, perhaps?

Each participant in the visit pays close attention with all of their senses. How does this person look, sound, feel, smell, and even taste- when in regards to spouses- compared to the last time you visited them? Every detail is analyzed as the visit goes on and is often discussed

This couldn’t take more than fifteen minutes, tops.

Once these topics are covered, inevitably, someone asks the question, “So, how much time do we have left?”

The wall clock is checked- and then rechecked. How in the world did an hour and fifty minutes disappear? We only have ten minutes left!

You’ve been a victim of the time warp that exists within the time-space bubble where the visitation room resides.

But then. . .

It’s as if whatever deity presides over time suddenly realized the time warp cheated you out of your two hours. So, to make up for it, the divine being massages the time-space bubble and the time warp is affected in the opposite direction.

The immediate universe has changed, but no one bothered, to tell you. The next ten minutes of your life exist in a different kind of time warp. Now, time travels at a glacial pace. The reason this occurs is because if you go over the ten minutes, the guards will make sure you have less time the next time you visit or may even remove the free-worlder from the visitation list. There is too much at stake to chance exceeding the two-hour limit. So, for the next ten minutes, both sides struggle to engage in interesting, but not too interesting conversation. You can’t afford to lose track of time due to mesmerizing topics.

Plus, you know that you’ll be allowed one more hug and kiss at the end of the visit, which has to be included in the two hours. You’re forced to keep an eye on the greeting area, because there’s nothing worse than getting stuck behind someone else saying goodbye, using up your precious visitation time. You’re forced to seek a discussion topic that will take no more than seven minutes, leaving three minutes for goodbying.

And so, time, which until now had been surfing the time warp faster than a greased cheetah riding a waxed lighting bolt, crawls along using only its elbows to pull itself down the highway of existence.

"So, what are you planning on doing the rest of the day?”

“Well, I’ve got to catch my plane, so I’ll be driving straight to Houston from here. No time for any stops.”

"I see.”

“How ‘bout you?”

“Back to my cell. Maybe I’ll watch some football down in the dayroom."

Interminable silence. Frantic rummaging for a subject. A glance towards the end of the room.

”When do you want me to call you Monday?”

“Oh, same time I guess."

Another long silence, big enough to drive a cruise ship through

“What time is it?”

“We’ve still got eight minutes."

How can the rest of the visit disappear so quickly and this last ten minutes take the rest of the day?

“Do you want to go?”

“No, not yet. I’m not ready to let you go.”

Waiting. Watching.

”We could go ahead and take our time saying goodbye.”

“You know how frustrating it is waiting on someone else who’s doing that. I’m not doing the same.”

“Okay. Just a thought.”

Tick, clock, tick.

”How much...”

”Five minutes.”


We move forward in time, but just barely.

“Well, close enough, let’s go.”

In addition to the banal attempts at conversation, both sides suffer the ache of memory: that day when the inmate was declared guilty and you were told you had ten minutes to say goodbye before imprisonment began. Those ten minutes obviously existed in the same type of time warp as the first hour and fifty minutes of visit. Long before anyone was ready, the bailiff was telling everyone it was time to go.

Painful memories don’t seem to pass time as quickly as happy memories do, and so time continues to creep forward.

Sometimes there are other factors involved as well. If you’ve just spent the last hour and fifty minutes slamming sodas, they usually hit your bladder about the time you experience the time warp shift.

Getting up to use the restroom would use up your last ten minutes when you could be visiting, but not going could also lead to reaching your bladder’s limit and an embarrassing meltdown.

Did you ever think you would wish for time to pass and not pass at the same time?

But finally, after what seems like fifty different thirty-second conversations about nothing, it’s time.

Both parties proceed to the place where they can say goodbye. Kiss. Hug- but not too tight- no one wants to squeeze lose anyone’s bladder control.

This is the moment when time snaps back into place and suddenly you’re in a rush. After all, you never know if the guards’ watches are fast or not.

Yduar. ten minutes of forever disappears into the time warp and you are once again forced apart from your loved one for- at least: another week, at most: eternity.

You go back to your life. You often wonder how the two parts of the visit can be so different. If you could figure out how you step outside of time for ten minutes, you would do it every visit for the entire visit. You try to figure out how to apply the time warp of the final ten minutes to the first part of the visit, but the gods of time simply laugh at your pitiful attempts to control them.

And so, you look towards the next visit with happiness, expectation, and just a touch of dread of the ten minutes of forever.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez