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44 Balloons
written by nicole watts

6:30
Parked at the rest stop Whisper Cooper sat quietly with her AirPods in her ears. The sound of Rod Wave’s “Street Runner” had her in her zone. In her lap sat four ounces of THC oil, a syringe, a pack of party balloons, four packs of peanut M&M's, Krazy Glue and a single serving laxative pack. Beside her sat an elastic headband, and a small box that held two of the world's smallest cellphones and an ounce of Crystal. 
She rapped along with the music as she ripped the vibrant plastic pack of 50 party balloons. After emptying them out onto her lap, she picked one up and blew into it. The balloon expanded, reading, “Happy Birthday.” It was funny. Today was actually her birthday, and she was going to be spending it with her man getting to the check. Releasing air from the balloon, she reached over in the glove compartment and grabbed a pair of scissors. Then she cut the balloon and opened up the small eight ounce water bottle that contained the oil. When she stuck the syringe inside, it made contact with the thick, golden syrup-like substance. Extracting 3ml, she sat the bottle down in the cup holder. With the balloon in hand, she spread it open and squirted the gooey liquid inside. She tied the balloon as tiny as she could get it and clipped the excess. After doing that forty-four more times, she was finally done with the easy part. Whisper always fucked up. That's why she thought ahead and bought multiple packs of M&M’s.
Grabbing a bag, she gripped it like a bag of chips and gently pulled apart the end. She poured a handful into her mouth and laughed as a text was read through her AirPods.
     Message from D’Marco: Cash App finna be jumpin bae. The block dry.” 
Pouring the rest of the candy out, she picked up her phone and smiled at the jailhouse photo of the two of them then unlocked it. With her long, acrylic nails, she tapped away at the screen.
Whisper: Cash out or crash out baby. We finna ball out. See you soon. 
D’Marco: Facts! Love you babe.
Whisper sat the phone aside and counted out twenty balloons then shoved them inside the bag. Once the pack was full, she opened the super glue and dabbed a few drops on the inside of the wrapper then sealed both ends together. No one could tell they weren’t M&M's, and that’s just how she wanted it. After filling another two bags, she put all the supplies into a trash bag and pushed it under the seat. 
Whisper stepped out the car. She grabbed the candy and stuffed it into her boy shorts. She tapped as she looked at the bulge in her underwear. She loved that song and would often rap it.
Whisper loved a good laugh, and even while doing something as serious as this she was going to laugh. 
Adjusting her oversized sweats with big pockets, she smiled thinking about seeing her man. She missed last visit because she forgot her ID. This time she made sure to have it. Taking her seat and smiling, thinking about D, she grabbed a headband, bag of Crystal, and phones then went into the glove compartment again. Grabbing the needle and thread, she shut it. Sewing the bag and the phones to the headband, she put it on then looked in the mirror. Adjusting the headband, she sat back and started to pray. She did this all thirteen trips, and the fourteenth was no different.
Roddy Ricch’s “War Baby” began playing as Whisper started the car. She drove the hour drive to the prison.
8:00
Whisper pulled up to a booth after driving over a small dirt road. Out stepped three officers. One approached the car while the other two stood guard.
“Windows down and identification out,” the officer said as he handed her an inmate visitation form.
First, Whisper rolled all the windows down. Then she popped the trunk and waited for them to search it. Once they were done, she showed her ID then drove a mile down to the prison parking lot. After finding a spot, Whisper scribbled down “DF5734 D’Marco Porter” and her own information. Looking at herself in the pull-down mirror, she smiled then closed it.
Her slides hit the dirt as she stopped out of the car and closed the door behind her. Walking around to the trunk, she grabbed her hoodie and tossed her cellphone inside. Along with her purse, she grabbed a small ziplock bag that contained thirty dollars in ones and five dollars worth of quarters. Locking up, she headed down the dirt pathway until it changed into a concrete walkway. 
Taking a look at the small beige building that read “Visitation,” she followed the path to the door. Entering the building, Whisper kicked off her slides and walked with her socks to the visitor line. There were a few people ahead of her, so she asked the woman behind her to save her spot. Against the wall sat a vending machine and the machine for photo tokens. She inserted three dollars into the machine. Out came three golden tokens. Printed on them was the prison's logo. Stepping back in line, she thanked the woman behind her then stepped up. After fifteen minutes it was her turn.
Whisper placed the hoodie on a tray along with her slides and keys then handed over the Ziplock bag with her money. She was feeling nervous as hell as always. This part could make or break her. The correctional officer behind the desk instructed her to put her arms out and turn around. Once Whisper was facing the line she had been in, she raised one foot then the other. They wanted to make sure nothing was in her socks.
“Hair up,” the CO instructed. 
Whisper lifted her hair to show the headband then let her hair down. Once clear, she was instructed to walk through a metal detector as her hoodie and shoes went through an x-ray machine. Taking a deep breath, she stepped through waiting to hear a beep. She always blamed it on her jewelry. Once given the, “All clear,” she waited at a large metal door until the CO handed her a printout of D’Marco’s mugshot and housing information. 
BEEEEEEEP! The large door began to open. Whisper stepped out along with a few other people and entered a cage. The Cage held three separate cages to ensure that you will not be going anywhere. The first cage opened and Whisper knew the hardest part was coming soon after. After another beep, the second cage opened for the group to enter. As that gate closed behind them, they waited for minutes until another beep signaled for the opening of the third and final gate.
“Niggas ain’t going nowhere,” she joked to the woman next to her as they exited into the last cage and out to the Catwalk as she liked to call it. The Catwalk held two different paths. The one on the left led to the visitation building for Building C where D’Marco was housed. On each side of the path sat two guard towers, each watching as everyone headed down their given path.  Whisper shoved the money in her pocket then began putting on the hoodie. First her head then her right arm. Pulling the hoodie down over her left shoulder, she sneakily reached in her panties and grabbed the bags of candy. With them now in her left hand, she shoved them in her left pocket then continued putting on the hoodie...

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