Sunday, 28 January 2007

The Smallest, Tiniest Place by Kate Smurthwaite

If you are wondering – I killed a woman. It was wrong and I accept that and the punishment which goes with it. She will never again experience the thrill of life. And I may not, but I am allowed to hope. What I long for is not a particular face or voice, arms that have waited all these years for me. I know that no such thing is possible. I crave instead the bustle of public transports, merchants nodding at you, people apologising for their children. I don’t expect them to be drawn to me, why would they, but perhaps once in a while an older woman with grandchildren in tow might turn to me and ask if I’m going the same way as her or offer me directions or change for a banknote.

I wouldn’t care where I went, I don’t need to live in England, in some ways I might prefer somewhere a little less formal, India or South America, somewhere where people interact more effortlessly. It would be a joy beyond my understanding right now to sense the fertile smells of such a place, the smell of densely-packed humans, of life piled on top of life.

At night the lights are turned off for eight hours solid. When the lights are on I can hardly see out at all through the multiple layers of re-enforced glass, I have to make a tunnel with my hands to look through. While the lights are on the computer is on too and though what I can access is limited, I make the most of the opportunity to study, which is all there is really to take my mind off the longing. Sometimes I jog around my cell. It measures about 3 and half by two metres. I can do sit-ups and push-ups in it and I’ve found ways to use the chair and the desk as makeshift weights. I can even do a neat cartwheel down the wall if I move the bed to one side first. And I’ve studied things I never dreamt of: medicine, law, biology, zoology, astronomy and history. I learnt to do yoga and to meditate. The latter doesn’t help as much as I had hoped, but I am still here.

I’ve tried to hack into the computer system but it is all far too carefully monitored. I wanted to be able to send emails, to interact with people, even just people here in the cells around mine. But the walls are surrounded by vacuums you can hear nothing through and the computer system seems to have no glitches or bugs. My daily interaction is with the menu that comes up to allow me to choose my food and the hatch that opens to deliver it. Once a week I am given a mop and bucket and can throw away any waste that hasn’t been flushed through another convenient hatch that makes a worrisome sucking noise if you put anything in. I have nothing to throw away.

I have been in this exact cell for over 4,000 days, nearly twelve years. My parole has been considered twice now and the third time is coming up in a few weeks. These were just formal reviews however; there was no real likelihood of being released. Perhaps there is some this time, but only a little. Even if it is approved it would still take almost a year before I would actually be back. Along the way appeals and legal proceedings could turn me round at any time, back to this familiar cell.

When the lights are off I sit at the window and stare into the distance. I’m quite sure that I can see what I still call home there, a tiny speck of a place barely any bigger than a computer screen pixel. But if I stare for long enough I think I can see its blue, green and white shifting patterns gently revolving, unaware that I am watching with such envy.

1 comment:

Loraine Despres said...

This is chilling and wonderful. I felt as if I were in the cell with you.