It was cold, and no matter how hard he pulled at the covers, there wasn’t enough to keep him warm. It wasn’t the first time he had woken at 4am, and it wouldn’t be the last. A cool chill covered his body as he stared at the ceiling; he took a deep breath as he contemplated the next two hours of lying awake, trying to ignore familiar thoughts as they attempted to penetrate his consciousness. Every morning his mind waged the same battle, and every morning he grew more weary as it took its toll.
The sun slowly started to rise and the darkness was no longer able to mask the confines of the room. Prisoners know what it feels like to be isolated by four tight walls, and on mornings like this, he knew the feeling intimately. After taking off his sweat drenched clothes, he adorned his green jumpsuit, just like every other inmate, and stepped outside into the glaring sun.
The morning was slightly different to most as he strolled past the others in the exercise yard; he felt different and something was amiss, though he couldn’t put his finger on it. He caught the eye of an amigo, who simply raised his head in acknowledgement. Some days words never needed to be said to convey a message, only the right look and nod.
The compound wasn’t big, so it was never far between cells. At least this one was shared between three during the day, but wasn’t much bigger. The walls were an off grey, there were no windows and the air was stale. Sitting at his desk he sighed as he proceeded to login, feeling the handcuffs tighten with every key pressed. This was how he was to spend his foreseeable future, confined and restricted. The days were a repetition involving two different cells, the exercise yard, the small confines of the compound and the same few faces – it was real isolation without needing to be locked up alone.
It was the afternoon and he realised he had been sitting there, staring into nothing, for half an hour; yet he couldn’t recall what he was thinking about. It occurred to him then and there, what was amiss. He no longer felt anything. He had become numb. He had boxed up his feelings for long enough that they ceased to exist. He had his reasons. He just didn’t want to feel the pain and sadness anymore – instead there was a void. He wasn’t sure what was worse, because the nothing he felt, the emptiness, was just a different kind of sadness.
Without thinking, he picked up the phone and instinctively dialed the number. His heart raced as it rang three times before the call was answered. He froze. His throat closed up, he searched for words, opening his mouth but no sound would come out. He started to panic as he felt his own heart thump against his chest. He swallowed as he searched for the courage to say hello, only to hear the sound of a closed connection. He had dialed someone who was once his best friend, someone he could have a conversation for hours with, yet was unable to even start one simply out of fear.
After regaining his posture, he stepped out into the yard for some fresh air. Everything had changed in the two months he had been here; everything he had left behind was gone. Everything he loved and held dear, everything he dreamed about, simply no longer existed. A significant part of his life was now left empty.
That night he had to go for a drive out of town to pick up some equipment. Once you get outside of the urbanised area, the roads become dangerous, especially at night. He hated driving into the mountains like this, the air became heavy, and soon it started to rain. Landslides were common in these areas, and driving was one of the most dangerous tasks.
His mind began to drift after a while, back on the days events – to the phone call. He wondered what he might have said if he had the courage to speak, but could not decide on anything worthy; he wanted to say everything, but he knew nothing would mean enough.
He focused back on the road knowing how dangerous it was to be distracted. The rain was getting heavier and it was almost impossible to see up the road. He tried to clean up the window, and in doing so, he saw a glint of a reflection. He peered out the window trying to make it out. His lights illuminated the object of reflection, a truck, traveling down the hill. It showed no signs of stopping. He honked. The truck didn’t stop. His heart sank. There barely enough room on the road for both of them. He sped up, aiming for a segment in the road that was wider than the rest, hoping to reach it at the same time as the truck.
Today just wasn’t his day. The truck was moving faster than he anticipated and shot past the wider section of road. He swerved to keep the car on the road but it was too slippery. He felt the loss of gravity as the car slid off the road, temporarily floating before meeting the slopped ground, rolling twice before resting at the base of a group of trees. He was lucky; the car could have kept rolling to the base of the hill.
He took a breath to calm his racing heart. He pulled out his phone and dialed the number. He listened as it continuously rang. He was almost ready to give up when it was answered. He kept it simply. “Hey. I miss you. I still love you”. The response was expected. “I know you do”.
“Keep Safe” he said.
He took a breath and hung up. He closed his eyes and tried to calm his beating heart. A tear formed in his eye, slowly rolling down his cheek. Closely followed by a second. He opened himself up to his feelings again. He looked at his hands and at the unmistakable red that now covered them. He stared into the empty distance and thought of the home that he had left behind, A home that no longer existed, and soon, neither did he.