The bright white glow of two florescent light bulbs kick off and are replaced by the muted, yellow hew of the security light as it comes to life. It is a symbol to the man sitting on a steel stool at a steel desk, that it is exactly midnight. His face is down and he holds his recently shaved head in both hands. He thinks to himself, “What have I done this time”. As he closes his eyes, he only hears three things. The first, is the soft sound of classical music as it flows out his most expensive possession.....a battery powered AM/FM radio. The radio is transparent so that one cannot hide anything within it’s case. The man sleeps with the radio on to drown out the sound of his silence. The second is the buzz of the security light. It beats out a different tune.....as if some musician is clueless to the other symphony being played. The third, is the ever so quiet voice of another man. He is singing Amazing Grace, to crush the loneliness of his own silence.
The man, trapped like a rat in a cage, knows just how many cinder blocks create his domain. There are six blocks on the short side and 9 blocks on the long side. Six by Nine, six by nine.....Inside this six by nine space exist a steel toilet, a steel stool, and a steel table. The space is so small, that when you sit on the toilet you feel as though you are about to eat a ‘steel sandwich’. The table is literally inches from your face.
There is cream colored paint on the walls and what is left of the paint on the steel fixtures is royal blue. Running down the walls is some kind of unidentifiable yellow slim. The best description the man can give is one of egg yokes. Egg yokes which were beaten, then thrown on the wall. Left there to decay. The man tries to clean it off the wall, but the stain seems impervious to his efforts. The stench of the cell is rank, a mixture of rotten eggs, sh-t, and body odor. The man wonders if the cell was once home to a den of skunks. The night is long and sleep is hard to come by.....
It’s the man’s second night in the cell. He is all moved in now. Everything he owns, he carried in the night before in a small round laundry basket. His Bible, sits on the top left corner of his desk with 3 AA batteries as page markers. On the opposite corner, are his two most sentimental possessions. They stand tall and proud, for all the rest of the inmates to see. They are two cards, both from a good friend. A friend, 3 times his age, who once professionally counseled him for drug and alcohol abuse. The cards are beautiful. High gloss photos, with thought provoking quotes. One is a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge with a thick fog evaporating in the morning sunrise. It is hard to say if it is the orange glow of the sunrise that makes the bridge all the more amazing or the other way round. The other card pictures the brightest, clearest day that one could imagine. A solid, black asphalt road cuts through the New Mexico desert for miles. It travels so far, so completely straight, that one cannot tell where the road ends and the sky begins. The quote on the card simply states, “Where ever life takes you may happiness follow”. Is that some kind of a joke? The symbolism of a free and open road and happiness. While the man sits, not free, not happy. While the man sits in a six by nine cell. A cell he must return to every night and must lock himself away in for the next 2 and 1/2 years of his life. The blaring voice of the radio announcer disrupts his thoughts. He feels a tinge of anger and rage well up inside of him, he clenches his teeth and exhales. His anger is miss directed. His seething hate is not at the radio announcer, the open road, the ex-girlfriend, or even the Judge who sentenced him to this place. No, his injustice, is the injustice he has done to himself. The man welds so much potential, so much charisma and yet.....he sits here......six by nine, six by nine. Surly this cannot be God’s plan for him. Surly there is more. The man knows this thought pattern will not advance his mood. He must not only, exhale physically, but mentally as well. He lifts his head and reaches for his pad of paper.
He selects a sharp, number 2 pencil from a pile of about 12 pencils in the center of his desk. Even the pencil frustrates him, because it is not a ‘normal’ pencil. This pencil is one of those damn, short pencils you use when you play miniature golf. Still, he carries on. He places one pencil to paper and another protrudes from his lips. The later to stymie his craving for a cigarette. As he begins to write, he has no distractions, but no title or topic either. All he knows is that he must write.
As his thoughts begin to form, he notices the cell has become cold. So cold, that he actually tries to exhale and observe his breath. Of course, he cannot see his breath....but still...the cold. The warmth of his morning shower has now faded completely. It is late in the evening now and breakfast comes early, but sleep still eludes the man.
The man in this piece is real, the account is factual, and the man and the author are one.