By Samantha Brodsky
November 9, 2010
Beth told me this would help, writing things out. Make me feel better and shit because apparently I have a temper that needs taming. She makes it sound like I’m a lion and shit. I don’t really know how this works, but she should know what she’s doing since she’s the one talking to us about all our feelings. She’s always playing with her pen, like clicking it over and over will help her help us. Because it makes us all focus real hard on the click-click-clicking and not on any of the eerie whistling or the echoed howls of some of the inmates who think they’re lone wolves up in here. Beth reminds me of someone I once knew.
I’ve never been much of a writer. That was Sue’s thing. She always knew what to write. Left me little notes on the kitchen counter like, “Have a day worth talking about Hun.” Or “Love you to the earth’s core and back forever.” I miss that woman, that sweet, sweet woman.
It’s winter and that makes everything here more depressing, just knowing the world is freezing over. Have you have seen The Day After Tomorrow? I used to love that movie. The one with Dennis Quaid. Anyway, if the world froze over I would take Sue and we would go to Florida where we’re supposed to be and retire there and drink beers on Sundays. We wouldn’t play Bridge or whatever old folk play because we’re not that old, but we would have little dinner parties at our house and invite friends to talk about our kids with.
The guards here all look like they want a break. They’re all droopy eyed and tired, and so I’d make their job much easier by just leaving this place. We all would. Sometimes they look as depressed as we do. Except they can go home to their wives and their kids. And we don’t.
November 20, 2010
It’s about time for dinner. I think someone said something about actual pork today. Or meatloaf. All tastes like shit anyway. Beth said that I should write about what happened, but I don’t think I want to yet. It’s been what? 4 years already? Damn. I don’t want to think about spending another 6 years here. Here in this place with the big, red roof and the ghost white walls. They try to make it look like a home. But these cells are not home. This bed is not my bed. Being here is like never getting used to a time zone change. You can never catch up to how you used to be and nothing ever feels normal. You feel like your flesh is not your own, that it’s made up of some stranger’s skin that you’re itching to rip off your bones because it feels dirty and cold and doesn’t fit right.
I hate knowing that the world is going, going, going and I’m just here stumbling through motions and doing nothing but sitting and shitting and thinking about Florida as life speeds ahead. It’s like those nightmares where you’re trying to get somewhere important, sprinting real fast, but no matter how hard you pound the pavement and pump your arms, you aren’t going anywhere. You’re just panting like a wild dog and you can never catch up.
December 1, 2010
Sue came to visit today. It’s been too long. 2 months since she was last here. She looks older. Her hair’s a dirty mop of grey. Not that I’m not greying too. I look like my father. God bless is wretched soul. Maybe it’s just nature’s way of warning us that we’re moving that much closer to death. She held my hand a bit and that was nice. Her fingers were cold and trembling, and I don’t want to think about her all cold and trembling and alone without me in our bed. I want her to be warm and strong and alive. I want us to be alive like we used to be.
One thing she said to me was that she hasn’t gotten anyone to sign her book yet. She’s been trying for over two years to get that thing printed cover to cover. I think she wants to be one of those distinguished visitors Barnes and Nobles makes huge signs for and clears out rooms for so that the long lines of people can stand and wait to meet her. I would love for her to be famous. She won’t tell me what the book is about, but I think it’s about me. Because I’m sure she’s been writing all this time about what it’s like to have a criminal as a husband. I can tell she despises that word. “Criminal.” It sounds grimy like when you get tackled by a wave at the shore and end up with sand all in between your teeth and gums.
December 25, 2010
It’s Christmas Day. Dan gave me a cigarette at breakfast. He thinks he’s my best friend, but there are only strangers here. Strangers trying to remember what it’s like to live among people we love. People we trust. “May you be merry,” he said, his big eyes sad like a puppy nobody wants and his belly round like Santa Clause. Dan’s in for 20 years for selling child porn. Yeah, he’s a sick fuck. Made a whole big business out of it. He says he’s learned his lesson, but he’s only been here 2 years. The first 2 are tough let me tell you. There’s never a time when the air is breathable, when your lungs inflate with enough courage to face what you’ve done. You’re constantly thinking that you’ll get out. Somehow. Because your wife and your kids are out there in a world without you. But it’s easier living in that world of denial, when your only escape is your dreams, then when it finally hits you that you’re here for a long, long time. And then it gets even worse because you can’t escape anything anymore. You forget how to be hopeful because hope is an illusion. It’s black like night and fades away real fast. And so you start to forget how you once were because time makes you weak. It makes your bones feel like they’re growing beneath your skin, stretching your flesh til it’s paper thin, threatening to break through the surface and tear through you like you’re nothing but worn out, whimsy fabric. And all you want to do is blend into the white walls like the ghost you are and fade away. Wait ‘til Dan’s here for another 5 or 10 years and then we’ll see if he still pulls the optimism card. He’ll forget why he ever thought going home was a reality.
January 17, 2011
They tell us they want to keep us connected to the outside world. To Hell they do. I should be back at home running the bike shop. I should be with my kid. Beth says it’s normal not to write about things you want to avoid thinking about. I guess that’s why I’ve never mentioned Christian before. Whenever I think about him my stomach feels like it’s being pounded by a big, wooden club. Like how I pounded out that guy so hard he never woke up. Landed me here.
Christian is what? 15 now? He was 10 when I was convicted, 11 when I finally landed in here. He wouldn’t even say one word to me before my sentence hearing. He knew they’d find me guilty. He knew he wouldn’t get to say his goodbyes, and even still, he thought it was easier to just pretend that I didn’t exist. When the courts sentenced me to 10 years at FCI Sheridan, I wanted to go running home to him. Tell him that Dad loves him more than anyone ever could love a kid. That he will get out of Oregon someday and be a better man than me. But I also wanted him to cradle me, like he could protect me from this world of hard floors and lurking monsters that feed off your guilt and shame and fears. I wanted him to tell me how much he loves me. How he could never stop loving me. But it’s not that simple. And I left without hearing that laugh that makes my heart happy. I left without a glimpse of his dark curls that he gets from me. I left before I could see him grow into a man. All I got from him was a look of hatred that made his dark features grow even darker. Contorted his boyish face into one I no longer recognized. I can’t bear the fact that my son hates me. It makes me hate me.
February 12, 2011
Lights go off at 10:00, but something made me want to write about the incident today. I want to throw it all away like a big bag of trash and let all my rotting parts decompose in the grass. Sometimes I have dreams that I never went to the bar that night. Never ordered that scotch. Or scotch number 2, 3, and 4. I remember the way the bar lights spotted the deep brown wood with neon colors. I remember the way that asshole slouched at the end corner stool, his stare fixated on me as he balled his right hand in a fist over and over like he was squeezing a stress ball. I ordered scotch number 5 and told the bartender to bring it over to him. To tell him to loosen up or to get the fuck out. Well, the guy wasn’t too happy about that. He came over to me, his left hand now clenched as well, fists eager with tension. “What the fuck do you want?” he asked, spitting out words like they were too sour for his taste buds. His shoulder-length hair twisted like veins at his jawline. He looked exactly like me fifteen years ago before I met Sue. Before I stopped drinking like I had nothing to lose. Before I found hope in the love that we shared and the baby boy that grew inside her. I told myself I would stop drinking and after over a decade sober, I was no longer strong enough to resist. When life gets complicated, you have to drown out the sound of your sorrows somehow. I was no longer sober, but stuck at this bar with bitter breath staring at a man who I once was.
I don’t know what came over me. I just wanted to break that fixed glare of his, slam the bridge of his nose in with my knuckles and hear that pop of crushed cartilage. I wanted to wake him the fuck up because he looked just as angry as I used to be. Angry at the world. Fifteen years ago when all I cared about was booze and babes. But I guess I had no right to set him straight if I couldn’t even set myself straight.
I can still remember the way that guy’s face was bashed into his skull, his features folded into themselves like road kill. I remember the crack of bone against my own, and the muffled yelling that floated around me because I was too tunneled into this moment of rage to realize he was passed out already. That he was too bloody for words and that people around me were pleading with me to stop, too scared to touch me in fear I’d fuck them up too. When I finally was torn away and looked at the guy, he was blue, the air snatched away from his throat. He was cold, lifeless, and no longer looked like my old self, but merely a boy. A dead boy.
If I were given the chance, I would have abandoned myself in that moment, left my body to be lapped up by the shadows. I just want to leave this place.
March 20, 2011
Sue finally brought Christian today. He actually has five o’clock shadow, which makes his face look strange to me. I wouldn’t even call him my son anymore besides the fact that his eyebrows furrow to one thick, black pipe cleaner like mine do when he’s thinking real hard. Sue kept looking like she was about to cry, and all I could do was hold her hand in mine every now and then because the guards get all tense if you touch visitors for too long. “Kiss your wives on the cheek gentlemen,” they’d say. “Hug like you’re hugging a hot iron or we’ll have to strip search ya.”
Christian told me about this girl he’s seeing. He talked low almost like he didn’t want me to hear him, like he didn’t trust me with his secrets. I told him to treat her right, and she’ll be the type of lady who’ll stay with you no matter where you go in life. Like Sue.
I remember when we were young and that last drink I had before I told her I loved her. I remember the taste of those words. They tasted good, like honey. And I remember when she cried the night I told her I’d do anything for her, even sober up. Because that’s how much I wanted us to work. I wanted Christian to grow up with a real man in his life, not a bum.
Sue told me some big publisher in NYC signed her book. “It’s called, ‘The Devil’s Number,’” she said, looking at me with tired eyes. I asked her what that meant, and she said no matter how long she kept herself intact, she felt she would crumble at any given moment, and that no matter how long I’ve been in here, it still felt like I’d never leave this place. So 4 years down or not, time felt like it was taunting her. Like the devil. I’ll have plenty of free time to read the book when it gets published that’s for damn sure.
When they left I felt happy for the first time in a long while. I wanted to hold them to my chest and squeeze them for 4 years straight to make up for lost time. I wanted to go to Christian’s baseball games and be there for his prom. To help him decide on a college, to listen to him laugh over morning breakfasts. The laugh that makes my heart happy.
April 2, 2011
Springtime is my favorite because the sun shines through the windows and into here and makes everything seem a little less cold. I still feel like I’m walking on ice cubes though. Just a little less frozen because the world is thawing out.
Dan killed himself today. The guards found him hanging in his cell, his neck snapped to one side. I guess he finally started to realize his fate. He had double my sentence and had only gotten through 2 New Years here. Six more years. I only have 6 more years. I hope Dan is dancing with the devil. I hope I get out alive. I hope I survive this ice age like Dennis Quaid.