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A relationship told through letters
Love in Solitary
Produced by Andy Rossback Drawings by Sonny Wilson

In July 2012, Lori Wallace, a wellness consultant, wanted to reconnect with her high school boyfriend, Sonny Wilson, whom she hadn’t seen in 34 years. According to Lori, he was her first crush, one that she never quite got over. After doing some online digging, she came across court documents and learned that Sonny was serving two life sentences in Estelle Prison in Huntsville, Texas, for two unrelated assault charges.

Lori wrote her first letter to Sonny in November of that year, and they have continued writing nearly every day. Sonny has been living in administrative segregation since 2004, and when he received Lori’s first letter, no one had visited him in over a year.

Below, excerpts from the first three months of their correspondence.

Hello Sonny:

I wonder if you remember me? I’m Lori (Thomason) Wallace and lived in Inverness Forest on Woodfield Lane when you and your family lived on Woodcourt. I was 2 years behind you in school and we had mutual friends.

I thought about you and checked to see if I could find you on Facebook, but I found you here. I’m really sorry for the trouble you’ve had and wanted to reach out to you. I hope you are doing as good as possible under the circumstances you are in. If you could use a friend, I would be glad to write to you and provide a friendly voice.

Hello Lori,

Of course I remember you! I’ve often thought about you… hundreds of times. It’s really good to hear from you and to know you’re doing well. I’ve often wondered how you were doing.

Lori, it’s excruciatingly embarrassing for me being here — to contemplate what people who knew me would think has been agonizing. But you were so kind in your letter. I’ve read your letter over and over and over and your “friendly voice” melts me every time…

Were you aware that you were my first silly schoolgirl crush? I drove my friends insane. I have a couple confessions...I stole grass out of your front yard and kept it in a baggie for the longest time. Oh, I also stole your Lemm Road #2 street sign.

The last time we talked you called my house the day I was getting married. I hadn’t heard from you in years and you called that day. Do you remember? That was in June of 1980. I had my son, Andrew in 1983.

You kept a baggie of my grass!?! (That’s lawn grass from the yard, in case anyone else is reading this!)

Lori, you know you stole something else from me back then, but you probably didn’t realize it.

N-E-Way, a few months ago I got mad about having to continue to go through all this and I angrily asked God why He won’t let me go “home.” The instantaneous response was, “Wait ‘til the end of 2012, something interesting might happen.”

Then your letter showed up, out of the clear blue...like a little bird suddenly alighting on my windowsill and singing a pretty song. Amazing. Especially since I don’t have a window. :)

Ok, I give. It actually was not just a “silly” school girl crush. It was everything to me way back then. I lived and breathed it during my Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior years of high school.

You had the world by the tail at that time and I just could not capture your attention. I have never forgotten you, but recognize that time period as a somewhat painful, but very educational part of my growing up. To prove that I had never completely put you out of my mind, I have yet another “confession.” In 2003, I had two cockatiels. Carol Ann and Sonny... I swear. :) When I started commuting and was rarely home anymore, I found homes for my birds. It wasn’t fair to keep them caged so much when they were used to so much freedom.

Your card and letter just got to me and I had to send a quick note to you. Lori, nothing can make me cry. Nothing can break me. These people have tried everything. Your letter made me cry. It’s OK. I’m in a “solitary” type place so no one saw me. No one knows but me and you.

You wrote that you couldn’t capture my attention! Ha Ha! You captured more than my attention. Agh! My eyes are getting all wet again.

I feel bad that I made you cry. I’m sure your situation is challenging enough as it is.

I’m writing this while leaned back on the couch, which is why my handwriting is probably off balance. Sorry about that! I just wanted to get this note out into the mail today. I’ve enclosed a big hug for you too.

Did you know what you were doing, did you know what it would do to me, when you wrote you were writing the letter while leaned back on the couch?!! Sheesh. Full disclosure: I got your letter at 7:00 PM and spent 2 hours thinking about that!!!

Before I start writing this letter, I’d like to talk to you about something very important to me. I am not that skinny, wrinkle free teenage anymore. I’m just not.

I sent you recent pictures in the last letter because it is important to me (no, strike that, it is imperative, essential, critical, crucial, vital and significantly necessary) for you to not “see” me on the outside and judge me by that. So, as you can guess, there will be no bikini pictures. :) Is this going to be something that will change the way that we are relating to each other? Please be honest about that.

I so wanted to see how you looked now, to “see” you again, but I didn’t want to ask and risk seeming creepy or whatever...desperate! Ha Ha! You look fantastic. You still have that beautiful-wonderful smile. (sigh)

The administration froze my trust account and then the courts charged me filing fees for the lawsuits I filed (then wouldn’t let me file a few of ‘em) so my money’s gone and therefore I have to go through “indigent mail” which allows me 5 letters per week, 5 pages per letter. So, until I get all this I need to tell you sent to you, you’ll be getting 5 letters per week, 5 pages per letter (written on front and back). They recently started putting these horrid red stamps on the envelope to ensure someone doesn’t get an extra 3¢ envelope, so that’s what all the scribbling is on the envelope; I’m not sending something to you that has “TDCJ UNIT” stamped on it in bold red color. Not for me, for you… you don’t need anything like that going to your mailbox.

They’ve got a wall in China
It’s a thousand miles long
To keep out the foreigners
They made it strong

And I’ve got a wall around me
That you can’t even see
It took a little time
But you got next to me.

I really like the poem you wrote for me...it still resonates to me that it was God’s curvy path for you and I. You and I. The fact that I can write that about you is still astonishing to me.

Lori, you and I have been together before. We were destined to meet again and love each other again.

In the county jail many years ago, right before catching the bus to go to prison, I had a desire to leave to seek so-called “freedom” in the wrong manner. I had a very long piece of pointed steel which I strapped to my leg before being hearded (sic) to the release area of the jail.

Inside the holding cell I came up with a plan. I was going to ask the only other white prisoner to pretend to be asleep on the floor when they came to get us and then after all other inmates were taken out of the holding cell an officer would go in to “awaken” him and I could then go in behind that officer…

I decided not to bother with it. My prison has been walking through this world all alone.

But when they came to get us the guy was asleep on the floor. Everything was exactly as I’d invisioned (sic) it. An officer came to get me that I had never seen before, but he was extremely friendly, shook my hand, man, you’re finally getting out of here, good for you, you take care, etc, etc. Unusual behavior. He saw the guy sleeping and went into the room to wake him up. Lori, it was going down exactly as I’d invisioned (sic). Wow! I could do this and be gone…

But I couldn’t risk harming such a nice person. He was just too nice. What would it do to his heart and soul if I did something after he’d been so nice to me. I decided...I chose not to do it.

God has finally given me Grace after a few more good choices, continuous effort — with difficulty, to improve my knowledge, to help others, to become one again. God has finally brought us back together.

I understand. No, that is too normal. I feel everything you say IS the truth and such a resonating explanation of everything leading up to this point. Since the last time I saw you I never thought there was such a possibility of having you in my life, my heart and my soul again, but here you are. I just don’t know how to properly explain the feeling. I never want you to be away from me ever again. Ever again.

I am coming to see you! Put my name on the stupid list and I will call and make an appointment, allow a cavity search and then look for ways to break through the glass and strangle you! I have never been to a prison before so back off! :) :)

You will not allow a cavity search! When I first read that I thought you were talking about going to the dentist.

You must call for a scheduled visit/appointment because the visiting room is small. Visits are Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon, 8 AM - 4 PM (I think). They have strict dress code requirements that are somewhat silly and I don’t know all of them. No shorts, no shirt/blouse without sleeves, example, your shirt has “cap sleeves” you can’t get in. Makes no sense. Please check that on the website. Business attire, or jeans? T-shirt, it’s all good. You get 2 hours. The visiting areas are little half cubicle things. Small. But there is a small modicum of privacy. They are like on TV, glass with “phones,” or glass with a small screen area to talk through. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

Lori visited Sonny for the first time on January 27, 2013. He proposed.

Did you see me ripping up those little pieces of tissue? I kept wanting to rip that wall down and wrap you in my arms and hold onto you and feel you against my body...I was wanting you like that so badly that I began thinking I could do it! Had to put my hands to work doing something and since you wouldn’t let me do anything else…:)

I know it seems completely crazy, but I really can’t imagine being married to anyone else but you. I would not be truthful if I did not admit that it scares me, but not in a “scary” way. More of an “unknown future” kind of way. If you look at the parable in Mark 5:22, there is a succession of emotions that accompany miracles: expectation, disappointment, then astonishment. I want to expect the miracle, prepare for disappointments and be astonished when God’s full plan is revealed to us. You will find a copy of your proposal with the appropriate signatures and the box checked yes.

Lori and Sonny were married by a justice of the peace on July 8, 2013. Lori’s best friend stood in as the proxy. It was the 36th anniversary of their first date.