A prohibited crayon is the greatest accomplishment I have made here. Whenever they strip me down and inspect my pockets, my hair, my mouth and the waistband of my drawstring trousers, they somehow miss the tiny stub of pink wax tangled in the wool of my left sock.
I use it to mark the days off in the far corner of my cell, underneath the broken wreck of a bed they have lent me. So far there are eighteen little lines. When there are thirty they will let me go, this is the deal we struck. Until those thirty days are up I could beg or cry or sit quietly pulling clumps of hair from my scalp by their bloody roots and it would make no difference. Thirty is the magic number and I only have that because of my youth and possibly because of my gender. We made a deal.
Three times a day the slot in the door opens and a tray of food is shoved in. I collect the food, they slam the shutter and then I eat the food. It is similar to airline food in both quantity and appearance, the only real difference is that unlike an airline this place makes no pretence of careful catering. Two types of vegetable and one type of meat. One small bread roll. One tub of sweet. One cup of water or heavily diluted juice. All of it chucked onto the same tray, vaguely separated by the minuscule raised partitions in the faded blue plastic.
The vegetables are always pale. Once I told the guard I was a vegetarian and she advised me to leave my portion of meat. I had then asked her if it would be possible for me to have an extra helping of vegetables instead of the meat in future and the only response I got was the coarse sound of air being squeezed up between her gums and teeth. The next day my tray was covered in meat juice, even the bread roll was bobbing in it almost forlornly. Of course, that was day four and now on day eighteen I have redeemed myself back to regular meals.
Every other day I am lead with other women to the shower block. We file down the grey hall and keep our eyes locked either dead ahead or on our feet. It is the safest way. We are not allowed to mingle and thus do not know what the others are capable off. I could tell the girl who is always ushered in beside me that I didn't do the crime they say I did, that the evidence was circumspect and that I agreed to it because of my special deal, but she probably wouldn't believe me and they nasty scar that was once her eye makes me think it best not to try. I always shower and dress again quickly. My legs are spiky and my pubic region is a tangled black forest of hair, as are my armpits. There is no real shampoo and the stuff they do have makes my scalp itch fiercely, it always has.
At night I sleep but do not dream. During my time here I have revised my ideas on the death penalty in this country. I now believe, with all my being, that it should be an offered option for people condemned to life imprisonment. Humans are not meant to live like this, it is soul destroying in a way that a needle in a vein could never be. The monotony of the day and the night. Not something to be decided by any judge or jury, it should be an individual choice for those who will never be allowed to walk down a street again, or step into a cafe for a drink. For those who will never be able to go and get food when they are hungry or who cannot lie in bed at night without a voice dictating "lights out!" like an inflexible parent who will never allow their child to grow up. Those people should have the choice to end it all and maybe no one would choose to do so but at least the option would be there. I will campaign for this when I get out. I will sit in cafes and rage to anyone who comes close enough about the stupidity and cruelty of caging humans this way. I will fly home and write un-censored letters to this country's government. I will fly, walk and sail all over the world with my opinions... The guards bang on the door with their sticks and tell me to keep it down.
Day Thirty! I sit expectantly on the edge of my bed watching the first rays of light chase the darkness away from the crack beneath my door. They do not come for me at dawn as I had hoped. A little later meal number one is delivered: grey porridge, a sachet of brown sugar and a cup of swampy tea. I tell the guard I am leaving today. He is new, I have not heard his voice before and he sounds uncertain as he tells me he will check.
Meal number two comes, it is the woman, the meat juice guard, who brings it. Two spuds, a heap if tinned spinach, a scraggy bit of chicken neck or something. She sounds bored as she agrees with me that it is day thirty.
Meal number three is a muddy looking pork chop, watery carrots and yellow broccoli. The hatch opens but the door remains closed. My head throbs with disappointment and when they collect my untouched pork chop I scream at them to let me out. I scream at them until blood gurgles raw in my throat and my pyjama-like trousers are streaked brown from wiping my torn and broken hands down them. It is day thirty, I am not meant to be here.
Sharon hated her job. She hated the hours and she hated the scum she was paid to watch over. She had wanted to be a dancer but a broken ankle sustained walking home in the snow after a night of heavy drinking finished that dream and now here she was, caring for the filth of society. She had twenty of the bitches on her block and rather than learn their real names she merely gave them all nicknames to check off mentally as she checked their rooms at night. Peering through the grimey food slots to save unlocking the doors she ticked them off: Milk-Fart, Scar face, Fat Sue, Inky, Vegetarian...... SHIT!
Thomas Green shuddered. He was only contracted to deal with this one cell so it was the only one he had seen but imagining all the poor creatures living in identical squalor made him feel distinctly melancholy and he wondered how it came to be that this sort of thing happened so rarely. Raised Catholic he had not practised any form of organised religion since he was a teenager but as he removed both archaic metal hooks from either side of the disused light fixture, the dust on one only recently disturbed, he crossed himself on impulse and wished he had not given his mothers old rosary beads to his niece.
Peter Revilo had left the eastern wall as long as possible, but now with the other three walls gleaming at him in a pleasantly calming sage green under the clear new light bulb, he knew he had no choice.
Sighing heavily, he began his work and within moments his brush had obliterated any sign of the hundreds of little lines and scores that covered the wall from corner to corner, each painstakingly etched out in pale pink crayon.