Hi there. This is from my new work in progress, a memoir where almost all the events take place entirely in my own mind, and the fighting, competing characters are parts of me. This is Part 1. For Part 2, see here.
My jailer has lead at the bottom of his boots. Lead at the toes and lead at the heel, it is a trial for him to walk but he walks anyway, sadly, seriously, everywhere through my mind. He patrols with his lamp, scanning the walls and edges. I am so tired already but he wants me to sleep so he can perform all his jobs: sweep the rooms, kill the vermin, dust and mop. My jailer is also a janitor. There is a gleam in his eyes, but his head is just as heavy as his feet so he walks always looking down slightly, peering in the corners to catch the mice of my mind.
My jailer has tension in his shoulders, he almost is tension in the shoulders, he thinks if he relaxes I will fall to pieces and he will be responsible. My jailer leaves the apartments to nervously walk the port streets of my mind, hunting for the rot and decay piles in the niches, the filth to root out. He paces: his bloodshot eyes cast themselves over the harbor, over the empty streets, spying out the midnight people who still remain.
They huddle together. They are poor. Dirty clothes, no showers. They are companionable. A sister and a brother, or at least so they consider themselves. My jailer has a big baton and I admit he does get pleasure out of rousting them with it, swinging it in their direction, and yes, hitting the brother on the leg with that big black object.
There is an energy around his nightstick, a sort of snap. It is the most energy that is ever around the jailer, for he is a droopy sort. His pleasures are few enough, I tell myself, why deny him this?
The jailer lives in a mean little room. He has a set of cubbyholes, an iron bed, a dusty floor, a set of fleas. His cleaning is not meant for his own room. The bed is bolted to the floor and cannot move. He has a jug of milk, which he drinks each day because he is intolerant of it. It will teach him temperance, he believes. It makes him break out and have diarrhea.
He has a little net that he prefers to use with mice and insects. It is unusual, maybe, to catch mice with a net, but he prefers the personal touch, the up-close involvement. He wants to see the mouse directly, wants to interrogate it.
I am afraid of my hands being broken. I am afraid of the bones being broken and never being able to help myself, never being able to bring food to my mouth again. I am afraid someone will hurt my hands deliberately and I will be a husk, just lying there in a corner waiting for the jailer to come and examine me more.
The jailer has caught a particularly smart and bold mouse in his net today, it’s a cute thing with a stripe down the front of its face and he is proud of it.
I am hurting in my left shoulder blade, the whole left side of the shoulder, as though I’ve been shot there, and I’m worried I will always be in pain.
The jailer says: “How does it feel when I do this?” and he rubs a point inside the shoulder blade until I scream.
He seems rather powerful right now, now that I think of it. He wears an old, coarse black fabric, burlap or coarse khaki, two pieces, it looks a little bit like a pajama-top and culottes, cut like a medieval merchant’s garment and interestingly outlandish, but not well-fitted. It’s too large for him and looks itchy.
In the morning, I wake and the jailer gives me coffee and buns. “You were wonderful last night,” he says.
It is a pleasure that he gives me sweet buns, the kind with glazing on top, because I have been prediabetic and am not usually allowed to give myself sugar buns. If the jailer serves it to me it doesn’t count.
I try to drink the delicious coffee and eat the buns before dealing with him, but he grabs my head and makes me look at him.
“You were on the floor last night and you can be there again.”
Pause while I look at the cleaning schedule for the day. The cooking schedule, which I myself supervise and am quite good at. The panic-inducing work schedule. Let’s take a moment out from this moment out to look at my relationship:
It’s great. Er.
WHAT IF IT’S NOT GREAT WHAT IF IT’S NOT GREAT
Let’s go back to walking the streets of my mind: somehow in my mind’s eye, I am never in the beautiful downtown or the place with the art buildings, I am in the garbage streets, the dangerous blocks. The wharf is always a fun place to go, with the prostitutes and the poor kids. No, there is a nice building pretty near to here and I will go to it:
It is carved out of something pink, and luminous. I don’t know who made it. It is tall. It has unusual curves and lines, I don’t know what it is about it but I like the place. How did it get here? Was it carved in one continuous block out of some substance I don’t know? It has a strange light inhering in it, it looks as though each stone were lit from within, and it smells of a warm spice like cinnamon or red curry.
I touch the column and it soothes me, no it repels me, no it soothes me. It is so beautiful I do not want it to repel me, but it literally pushes me back like a powerful negative magnet, it makes me step back in the street when I touch it.
Help me, I say to it. Please. I talk to it but not in words that the jailer might hear, I fervently think these words to it: Help me. From the center of the stone something pulls me in, and I hug the building.
I will be posting new excerpts from Jail Break periodically, please check back for more!