So, the 06.30 wake-up call comes. 45 minutes to get ready and collect my things together. I’ve not bothered to pack everything up. I know I’ll be coming back. All I’ve got is some paperwork, this writing pad, and an apple. I’m hoping they’ll let me hold on the to apple until we get to Court – early breakfast will leave me hungry before they get round to feeding me there. On the walk between the blocks I can see the sun shining on the rooftops. Bright sky – the air is cold and fresh. It smells good. After the brief time in the light, we’re back inside, taking names, ticking boxes, then into a box.
There are three of us today, at least from our wing. One is going home, and is talking a bit too much about it; the other, silent. I can’t help noticing the quiet one’s boots – nice ones, look like they’d be more at home on the hills than in here. The rambling one says he’s getting married tomorrow. Says he’s never coming back. I hope he’s right, for her sake as well as his.
Out now, and at the desk a bored officer looks for my suit. First bag? No, that’s the clothes I came in wearing. Second bag? Nope – my personal clothes I had brought in but probably won’t get to wear until I’m Enhanced, and that’ll be some months yet. Ah, here we are – it’s even on a hanger. And my cufflinks are in the pocket too – wasn’t sure if they’d made it, so I fashioned a pair using matchsticks and PVA glue. Won’t be needing them now. Get changed into my Sunday best … the suit I got married in. Never imagined this when I bought it.
Into another box, more waiting. I’m the first, the others follow. The quiet one is wearing his own clothes, and fills the small space with a stench I can’t quite put my finger on. I decide he probably came in with those clothes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d been sleeping rough in them. Start to really hope I won’t have to spend much more time in a confined space with him. Breathing through my mouth now …
Phew, only ten minutes – and I’m at the reception desk. Apples not allowed on the bus. Neither are my pens. Trying now to remember everything, take note, so I can write all this later. But they missed the library book, as I hoped they would – The Power Of Now, tucked inside an envelope of legal papers. Expecting a lot of waiting, need something – why not a serene sense of Being? Or at least trying to find it. Onto the bus. Hard seat. More waiting. Then off we go.
First time I’ve been out of the prison grounds since I arrived. Journey to Court isn’t a long one, half an hour to look at the scenery. Passing memories. That field. That cemetery. That building. That pub. Normal people, walking around, normal day, going to work, earphones under earmuffs, beautiful sky, golden light, pushchair, school run, main road, canal, station, back door. Out but inside. Handcuffs. Down, down, down stairs. Tunnels, industrial feel, damp smell, whiteboards, high counter, old cells, gloss paint, shut door. Graffiti. Wooden bench. Buzzing light. Air vents. Barrister.
Papers. Statement. Shock. Tears. Wasn’t ready for those words. Hard to read. Shakes. Things I didn’t know. I didn’t see. I didn’t UNDERSTAND. I never understood. More shocks: didn’t predict that – now I see why she hasn’t been answering the phone. Prudence. Pain. Politics. Then: reassurance, reports, reading. Not ready. Never ready. Back to the bench. Waiting, reading, distraction. Being, not Being. Future, past, no Power in Now. Water, toilet, wait, read, KEYS.
Up, up, up stairs. Chat too casual. Gallows humour. More water. Through a door. Court. Dock, folding seats, thick glass. So full – so many people – BLAM – there she is. It’s been ten months. She looks so tired, so real, so painful. Not looking. Facing forward, friends around. So many people. Oh – she’s here too – and who’s that? Didn’t expect to see … oh, and it’s … not her too? What’s going down in that notebook? Sly glances back. There he is. That’s right, I’m here. My people too. Not so many, but enough. And some on the left who are really in the middle. Kept quiet, for now. Appreciated. All rise.
All described, everything, out loud, to everyone. Spoken in black and white. All out now. No ambiguity. Judge impassive. Charges. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Prosecution talking. My turn? No – lunch. Down, down, down stairs. White sandwiches, crisps, biscuits, bench, wait. Wait. KEYS. Up, up, up stairs. Barrister talks too quietly. Straining to hear. STATEMENT. Out loud. Saw it this morning, hard enough, but her voice, her emphasis, her face. Why didn’t he say goodbye? It burns. So much. Tears. Can’t watch. Head down. So hard. She needs it. Why couldn’t I see? Why did I not understand? Maybe: reports, autistic tendencies, emotional cripple. But now I know. Now I can’t do anything. Still should have understood. More words. She looks. Eyes meet, hold. Months melt momentarily. I’m so sorry. What is she thinking? Does she even know? Empathy? Love? But – confusion, sadness. How do I know? I’m the cripple. Projecting. Too late. Can’t look longer.
Break. Down, down, down, – half an hour – up, up, up. Back. All rise. Not life? Was that even a possibility? Well, that’s good. But BLAM! How long? Did I hear that right? Take him down. A sea of shocked faces. All looking at me, some crying. No time to react. Got to go. Can’t see anyone clearly. Through the door. Down, down, down. Bench. Numb. Strangely longing for the familiarity and security of the wing. Waiting. Barrister. What went wrong? I tell him I’m trying not to be angry with him. He says we’ll appeal. Can’t get fixated on it though; don’t know the chances. Just got to get used to it. Can’t get used to her eyes though. Head full. So many things. Time passes.
Keys. Handcuffs. Tunnels. Van. Scenery. Gates. Wait. Reception. Food. Off with the suit, back into ‘corned beefs’. What’s that? Yes, I would like those books. Been asking for weeks. Two small books, one of them Big. One blue, one green. Now I have them. Box. Wait. Wait some more. Another box. Wait. More time passes. Then – come on, back to the wing. 13½ hours later.
Long, long day. ‘Home’, sadly. Back to the bunk. Familiar. Safe. Nothing is different, but something has changed. Stay awake, sleep badly.