You know how everyone always says that thinking about a bad thing coming up is always worse than the bad thing itself? Dede decided to test that theory. She had always known this was going to be a terrible, terrible day, but she needed the school credit and wanted to prove to her foster father that she wasn’t scared of everything, like he was always accusing her. So she found a book in the library on visualization and practiced the exercises, imagining herself boarding the bus, talking nicely with her classmates, and then arriving at the prison. She pictured herself calmly touring the facility, the inmates polite and well-mannered behind bars, no one looking at her, while the tour guide droned on and on about the American Justice System. Things always went well in her exercises, but it didn’t help to shaking the jingling doubt in her stomach that the real thing would be much, much worse.
The yelling and staring were fine – she had been in foster care for three years, so she was used to that kind of thing. She even dealt with a ham sandwich getting thrown at her face. Just like dinner at my house, she joked lightly to those standing around her. But when they got to the capital punishment quarters and the tour guide asked for a volunteer to lie on the lethal injection table, that doubt inside her chest hardened into a tiny fist, pounding on her rib cage. The other kids knew, of course they did, and even though no one looked at her directly, the general energy in the room shifted in her direction. The tour guide noticed and said you, how about you? You want to lie on the table? Dede knew to say no was perfectly acceptable – everyone would understand, and the tour guide would be upbraided later, made to feel guilty. But she wanted to prove her foster father wrong. So she climbed onto the table where her mother had died and laid her head down, allowing herself to imagine that her mother was the one on the other side of the one-way glass, staring at her, instead of the way it had happened three years ago. Dede was the one leaving, the one with no more worries. And strangely, she felt a lot better when she sat up – the table was less scary than she’d always imagined for the person on it. Maybe visualization worked after all.