"The gentleness of that moon-fish face told me at once: the old woman had just got out of prison.
'She's a thief,' I said to myself. As I walked away from her, a kind of intense reverie, living deep within me and not at the edge of my mind, led me to think that it was perhaps my mother whom I had just met."––Jean Genet, The Thief's Journal
I never met Alice. She chose not to attend San Benito County Jail’s weekly writing classes, so until she was dead, I hadn’t known she existed.
After her death, however, I learned of the great love students in my class held for Alice. One Wednesday, their sudden lethargy and irritability marked the room. Usually, writers arrive buoyant and ready to experiment. That day it was their sadness they brought with them. I wouldn’t have known of their loss had I not asked what lay behind their grim faces. Even so, it wasn’t something they expected me to understand. It was something between friends. A loss others might dismiss, so why risk talking about it. She’d been released. Soon afterward they learned she died. A friend was gone in a manner that touched on the fears they had about their own lives.
Alice was an elderly homeless woman, sometimes given to outbursts. Before her release, she had argued with not only jail guards but her cellies too. Cellmates, however, understood that anger wasn’t all there was to Alice. They loved her for her humor, her optimism, and her friendliness.
This is the Alice celebrated and written about in Forget Me Not, the latest collection of poetry and prose from the writers of San Benito County Jail. We hope you enjoy this work. Let it open your eyes and your heart to the stories of others like Alice, people in struggle, yes, but also people that bring meaning, connection, and light to those who look closest.
Please click here to learn more about Alice and the people who loved her: Forget Me Not.