Published in The Rumpus, 4/22/15
It’s your first trip to the Century Regional Detention Facility, AKA Lynwood Jail. It won’t be as easy to get there as you think. The directions look simple on your car’s map, but once you get off the highway you will get lost. The Lynwood exit empties into an industrial section of town: underpasses, streets splintering off into multiple smaller streets, hairpin turns. This urban labyrinth will confuse your car’s GPS, or more accurately, your ability to understand what it’s telling you to do. You’ll turn off one street only to meet up with it again two blocks later. Recalculating.
Don’t be late. Arriving late could mean losing your reservation, and you don’t want to make this drive more times than you absolutely have to.
The boy in the back seat will help you. ”Turn on that road,” Kevin will say, the boy who’s not your son, whose name is not really Kevin. Kevin will surface from his uncharacteristic silence in the car to offer you this advice. Take it. Swing your Highlander Hybrid around; backtrack your way onto the right street. Brown signs will soon appear along the road, confirming Kevin’s direction. Shortly after that, the car will announce that you’ve arrived at your destination, but too late—you’ll already have passed the jail. Kevin will point this out to you, too. Your mistake will have been that you were looking for some imposing, monolithic structure, with checkpoints and towers. Barbed wire, maybe. Instead, you should have been looking out for a group of buildings that appear, from the road, as unassuming as any other bureaucratic government facility—a post office, or DMV.
Make a U-turn at the next intersection and pull into the lot. Kevin will tell you where to park. Eleven-year-old Kevin knows his way around.