826

826.
There are three things you must never if you find yourself imprisoned due to some unfortunate circumstance.
By some unfortunate circumstance I mean you did something out of being broken and spat out by the society, not if you did something out of intention. It may seem like a weird sentence, but trust me there is a difference.
One, do not bend down to pick up the soap. I am not encouraging a stereotype; it’s more like a word of caution. Human hormones are extremely demanding.
Two, stick to your own, um, how do I put this, ethnicity? Culture? Colour? Basically stay with people that are accepting and stay in the group. The outside world also has the same rules, stay in groups, and don’t wander. Societies do not welcome outsiders; it’s the same in prisons. Stay within a group.
Third and most importantly,
“Do not ask a fellow inmate what he did” I read this somewhere or heard it in a film or something, not important. Like most of things in life, I heard this in the background.
I was determined to follow the three rules. One and two were relatively easy. Groups come naturally to us. I was no different. But something else comes naturally, curiosity. Curiosity –as the saying goes – did not just kill one cat; it killed generations of cats. Now that I have established my thirst for curiosity I can tell you about inmate 826, I know his name, but that is not important, to this story – as to most – names aren’t important. I used to stay in cell number 23 on the second floor, alone. Then he walked in one day during one of those days, when I was imagining how it feels to be dead. In prison one does not have much to do, but has a lot to think. Stay in prison long enough, thinking becomes more like breathing. That is one thing that the outside world does not facilitate. So as I was thinking, he walked in. Thin, tall and spectacled, seemed about 40 and that’s where my observational skills end.
826 and I got off to a less than desirable start, to say the least.
“Stay away from my side” were the first words he said to me, there was a certain ruthlessness in his voice, ruthlessness or desperation, I wasn’t very sure about that.
I had mastered being silent so I just nodded. He didn’t look like he was in a prison for the first time.

“Transferred from maximum security” said guard number 31 “don’t know what he did, but he’s a legend” I had befriended 31 slowly, just to have an edge when it comes to getting food or getting toiletries, but in a while he even smuggled me some coke. But I must admit, I had to pick up a few bars of soap to get this friendship and the favours that come with it. But in this case he was of no help; he really didn’t have a clue as to what 826’s crime was. But I was determined to find out. There were a few rumours here and there:

“He raped his wife and daughter and slit their throats”

“Obviously a drug lord”

“I know his kind, probably touched children”

“He snapped and killed his whole family”

In those years we became closer to each other, much more than just friendship, as is the case with most beings stuck inside prisons- of life and such.
What had been initiated as a casual curious state of mind, morphed into romance and I still didn’t know.

He was a typical kind: broody and scarred, and we’d spend meal times together, silent, trying to figure each other out. There were mornings when I’d want to hold his hand and coax him into talking to me; then there were nights when he’d press himself against me, in the loo, and call me his “love” and all I wanted in return, was for him to talk.
Talk to me, I’d sigh into his ears.

I could never figure out why I was so determined for him to reveal his story, but I was.

I had to know.

“Whom did you kill?”
“Why do you think I killed someone?”
“You look like a killer”
“That’s flattering”
“It’s the truth”
“This is hardly bedtime talk”
“Tell me”
“They found my brother dead, in his bedroom.”
“They assumed it was you?”
“We used to have fights”
“That’s it?”
“I used to beat him up, he landed up in the hospital one day”
“Oh? That makes sense”
“I didn’t do it”
“I am not a robber either, I didn’t kill that old lady”
“NO REALLY! I DID NOT KILL MY OWN BROTHER! SOMEONE BROKE IN”
“Denial is pointless”
“ IT IS THE TRUTH…….

He kept on ranting about the event. Then he talked about his family, his dead mother, his house, his neighbourhood and everything else. I realised something. I remember this incident; I saw it on the news years ago, before getting indicted. I remember feeling proud of myself. Why? Because I had broken into that house thinking no one was home and a teenager walked in on me. I had bashed his head into a wall because he had started a fight. Huh! Young blood! I saw him bleed and I fled. I found out he died a while later on the news and the next day they even found the killer. I was proud of myself. I got away, scot free.
So he really didn’t kill his brother. It was me.

“I believe you” I interrupted his rant.
“You do?” he smiled.
“Yes, you just found him didn’t you?”
“YES!”
“Just lying there on the floor, in his bedroom?”
“YES”
“The Poster on the wall had blood on it didn’t it?”
“I didn’t tell you anything about the poster”
“Yeah, but I know”
“How?”
“I was there”
There, I just told my lover I killed his brother and that he had served years for my crime. He looked at me, expressionless, detached. He took minutes to recover, he put his arm around my neck, the way he generally does, in love. But this time he started strangling me, locking my neck with his elbow, I did not protest. How could I?
I loved him.
He deserved to kill me.
But just as I breathed my last, one thought crossed my mind. Why did he kill me? Was it because I killed his brother or because I took away years of his life? Did he really love his brother? Or did he love himself more?
I didn’t know.
I had to know.

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