Sometimes it takes a darker path to see the brightest light.
The statement could be applied to my life, but I wish I would have known that or maybe not. When you are convicted of a crime that you had to do against all odds, would you do it? Would you make the ultimate sacrifice? It’s a pity; there was neither judge nor jury to see my heroic deed at the crucial hour.
Mr. Sanders you are hereby sentenced to 10 years of Prison cum Rehabilitation and Psychiatric help. This was what society had given me, my golden reward for my heroic deed of murdering my wife in cold blood.
All my wealth taken from me, all my love; I was caste out from the society I was supposed to build and contribute to. Here I am in an institution with psychos and estranged rapists as companions. No love could be found here, no comfort, discomfort would be the most sought after trend over here I believe.
The institution looks like an old age home; I thought it was a prison. It had a beautiful open area with three buildings, a common cafeteria, and a meditation center for the spiritual yahoos, a community center where I suppose you talk to the people about your feelings and emotions. But the jail part was coming, there were no rooms, it was just a disguise from the outside as the cell was shared by three people with small earth kissed beds and one toilet. What a site to see. Full grown men living together trapped inside a room for 16 hours a day while the 8 hours were extracurricular activities. I have to do this for five years or maybe more. I share my room with a serial killer, James and a schizophrenic patient called Dan who thinks there is another person living in the cell named Raldo, so technically to keep the atmosphere sane, its four people sharing a cell. The routine was simple, get up have food and pills, mostly pills, do a bit of therapy and gardening and rock cutting.
There are those occasions where it seems to be weird where sometimes I would sleep on raldo or stamp his foot or make him uncomfortable, I’d apologize but James would announce with an irritable mood “Stop encouraging him, he’s mad! There is no raldo, there never was!”, Dan would disagree, he’d cry most of the times as if he was bullied by his elder brother stating not that he’s not hurt but raldo is. The term brother comes into play because of the bond that has developed over the past few months. Why would we hate each other? Why would we kill each other? There is nothing more that we can do here but just live out the rest of the days of our lives. There were the occasional beatings we would get from the frustrated guards and nurses, but we would take it all.
Nine years have passed and we have become a family. A lunatic family but a family of brothers, the insanity of lying in a cell all day was covered by conversations of our past, our present and our future. Every Christmas each gets a chocolate bar after dinner, and so we did. The rain was heavy on Christmas Eve for a strange reason and the power was out. The backup generator provided electricity for the main pole lights, since our ventilator was facing it, we were lucky enough to get our cell all lit up. James bar was missing, he questioned us. None had an answer then desperation started to emerge, as he questioned us intriguingly. He saw the chocolate on Dan’s face and his bar on the ground. Five slaps to the poor chap as I come in between I try to stop it but he won’t restrain himself. Dan screams crying, “It was Raldo, and he did it!” James is furious, “You mother fucking, there is no raldo you dick! It was you who ate it!”
No! It was raldo!; Dan cries and keeps repeating as he lies defenseless on the cold floor. I push James towards the hard cell door.
“You want to fuck with me now? I’m going to wring your neck you get that!”
Family just got divorced at the moment. I realized why he was sentenced here. It’s quiet and yet I and James are fighting a loud and endless battle of strangling and biting each other. I try to push his hand away which Is strangling my neck, I can feel the air blocked and the sheer pain in my throat. I stamp his foot as hard as I could and he lets go, I catch hold of his neck and push him towards the wall. He punches me in the stomach and bangs my head to the toilet seat and drowning me in the water, flushing my life into the drain. I am out of breath, energy and the water is just consuming me. Just then I heard a deep voice apart from the gushing of water, I came out of it and caught my breath, and James was stunned. Dan gave James a right cross like no other with blood flashing out, he then warned, “It was I who ate the chocolate not Dan!” For the first time me and James saw Raldo. He seemed to be a very tough character. The night was cold and we were wet, tiered and emotionally exhausted. We didn’t sleep, but were lost in a daze. I cried, not because of this but because I remembered why I was sent here.
Matilda my wife was an alcoholic, I could remember that day. It was raining and the power was out. Only the candles lit up the entire room. I and Matilda had a fight about her alcohol addiction and she just kept me away, I was low. I cried to see that the woman I loved turned out to be an inconsiderate hell hath bringer. My daughter Meg saw this and couldn’t take it, for this was not just once but many times that a little 6 year old witnessed such fights. She went up to Matilda and screamed and started to hit her defending me, for hurting “Daddy”. She was way too drunk to change, way too drunk to realize. She pushed her away, got a kitchen knife and was approaching Meg; I heard a scream which got me to the scene. “I’m going to kill you, you bitch! Then will you stop talking! I calmed her down but it didn’t work. Meg was cornered and I was in no position to stop her. So before she could hack her I pulled her down, she cut my hand and was violent, only death would get her sober. I was her target now, but her aim was at Meg. She was on me about to finish her final blow as I was injured with not knowing what to do, I turned to see Meg’s face, she was weeping and begging. “Your next sweetie” that was something I could not bear to hear, I overpowered her by choking her neck and banged her head to the wall. She died. The print on the knife was mine because I was the one last holding it and on her neck as well. Who would listen to a 6 year olds truth?
The rain stopped and I was crying, I asked “Raldo Isn’t it fair in front of God that what I did was for my daughter? Where is the justice in that? Why am I punished? Maybe I could have put her down, injured her, she could have got rehabilitated, she could have got better, and Meg would have had a mother”.
Dan just sat beside me, as he offered a shoulder to cry on.
10 years later, my sentence is done. I am put on parole and I can meet my daughter twice a month. Over the years me, Dan and Raldo became quite close, we spoke about life, love and art. Raldo seemed to have a lot of information on Art. It seems he was sentenced here because he was an art thief. I wasn’t mad, but I seemed to have faith in Dan’s schizophrenic nature or his dual personality disorder. He was my best friend who thought me about life and how precious it was and he told me that if we are punished or go through a struggle and the choice is yours to believe that after this comes a new day of peace and joy, go through that struggle and live it because at the end you know that day will come, he also cleansed me of my guilt and asked me to move on. James was put in another cell. It was just me and Dan. Over the meetings I told Meg who has become a beautiful young girl about Dan; she was cool about it and wanted to meet him. Dan stayed at the institution, it was permanent. So I decided to take Meg there and meet him. When I went, I was taken aback, I was broken on the inside and this time there was Meg to support me. Dan slit his throat and died.
At the funeral there was me, Meg and James and a father.
“See you in heaven you crazy old fool” said James.
Meg said she’d wait near the car.
I learnt that day that how I was supposed to continue my journey. How important the people in your life are. No matter whom they are or what they make of themselves.
I didn’t say anything. He lived for a short lifespan in my life, made a huge difference gave birth to a new me and died. I know deep down in my heart when I spoke to him or Raldo, I knew I wasn’t speaking to a mad man.