Monday, 3 September 2012

Prisoner's Diary - Chapter One

As you can most probably tell, I cannot stay focused on finishing just one project before starting another one. I just can't. I have so many different ideas flying around in my head, and if I don't write it down I'll lose it. Some ideas are vague enough that I can just write a rough summary and then save it for when I have time to write them; others are so vivid that I have to write at least one chapter of them, or as many chapters as it takes for me to run out ideas and finally be able to leave it for now. This is one of those projects.

This might be the only chapter you get for a while - I'm talking anything from a few months to a few years - but I thought I'd put it up here all the same. Maybe you can try to come up with an idea of what the prisoner did that was so morally wrong.

Anyway, here it is:

27 June 2010

I find myself in a place I would never have thought I'd ever see the inside of. Prison is everything I had expected it to be, and more. Of course, as contemplated, I am sharing my experience with that of another new convict, an older man who grunted at me that he was taking the lower bunk. That was more than fine by me; as a little boy I had always envisioned that the top bunk would collapse and land on top of me if I were to take the bottom bunk - even now, thirteen years later, I am apprehensive of sleeping in a bunk bed.

As I walked into the prison, with the few things I had with me in a plastic bag, I could feel several pairs of eyes summonsing the goose bumps that were rising underneath my skin. Calculating. Judging. I dared my eyes to leave the floor, standing up straight and making eye contact. I remembered what my father had said to me before court:

"If you sentenced, son, just remember one thing: be brave. Don't let them know you're afraid. You're a man now - show it."

Some of the inmates simply looked curious as to who I was and what I was in here for. Others simply looked ready to knock me off the bottom peg I was hanging onto. I tried not to show how scared I really was, but I still doubt my ability to do so.

I have watched programs and films before about people in prison, and had learned that the best way to get through each day was to keep my head down, and never talk to the screws unless it's to be clever. Of course the other inmates were quick to introduce themselves to me at dinner, asking me lots of questions about what I'm in here for. I've been speaking to serial killers and drug dealers, and although I'm absolutely terrified of these people, my apparently cool demeanour has kept me safe. For now.

One man I have come to bond with to some extent is Justin. He was sentenced to seven years for possession of Class B drugs with the intent to distribute. A harsh sentence to teach him a lesson. He didn't look like a drug addict, and he confirmed this when I asked him what got him into drugs in the first place.

"We needed the money," he said simply. "I never used - we needed every penny we could get - but I won't deny that at times I was tempted by them."

I wanted to press the matter, ask him why they were so desperate for money (whoever 'they' were), but we were interrupted by a tall, muscular man standing over me, arms folded. I looked up to see that his head was completely shaven, and his steel blue eyes seemed to stare right into my soul with such an intensity I found it almost impossible to prevent the shiver that crept down my spine.

"I'm sorry I didn't welcome you earlier." He had a deep, broad voice that seemed to boom off the walls. It was obvious that this was the top dog. "I'm Greg," he introduced himself, offering his hand for me to shake to which I obliged. "If you's having problems with any of these, let me know, yeah?" And with a nod he turned on his heel and left. It was strange; I’d expected him to make himself known to me. Make sure I knew that this was his prison and that I do as he says. But instead he seemed...kind. A man of little words as opposed to the gobby bastard I’d anticipated. I study his receding figure and the way the other inmates are quick to get out of his way and try talking to him all at once. He took time to listen to each and every one of them, talking to them, advising them.

“He’s like a celebrity,” I commented.

“He’s fair,” Justin replied. “That’s why people like him.”

“What’s he in for?”

“Triple murder,” Justin replied. “He ain’t ever getting out; he knows that.”

“What happened?”

“Nobody knows,” Justin said. “Except for him of course.”

I still find myself intrigued by the man. It was so surreal. A kind murderer? Who’d have thought?


The walls need painting; as a DIY buff this bothers me to no end. The ceiling has a collection of small cracks that seem to mock me, arranging themselves into my first initial. K. I belong here. I deserve this cell with the grumpy middle aged man who now lies snoring on the bottom bunk. I'm surprised he can sleep what with the screaming coming from a neighbouring cell. I never thought men could scream like that; he sounds like a banshee, and I can imagine the bed trembling underneath me. He ignores the aggravated shouts of the other prisoners demanding that he shuts the hell up, and I can hear as the prison officers let themselves into his cell and shut him up somehow.

Everything becomes eerily silent after that. I can’t sleep. I feel so out of place here, but I also know I belong. In a bizarre sort of way it is cathartic for me – I wanted to be punished. I deserve to be punished. I’m not happy to be here – I’m terrified – but I’m also somewhat content. I turn my head to the cork notice board on the wall, and my heart aches as my eyes rove over the pictures of the family I have let down. In one of them my gorgeous wife is sat on our sofa at home, our two beautiful daughters huddled curled up on either side of her, giggling away. My wife had been so forgiving – everyone had been so forgiving – yet it was I who could not. Would not. I had wanted the psycho who had done this to get what was justified...and that psycho turned out to be me.

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