Mitch walked with Fitzy to the Administration section on their unit. For one of them, the morning stroll was filled with expectation and excitement of things to come. For the other, it was that walk you take when you are seeing someone off at an airport, knowing they won’t be coming back. It was that walk of duty that would most certainly culminate in a wave of sadness when they were gone.
They stopped at the Admin office doorway. Mitch and Fitzy shook hands. Their handshake was prolonged. Both men were clearly moved by the moment. They developed a strong friendship in the two or so months Mitch had been inside.
While their friendship wouldn’t change, in a few short minutes their companionship will. Their company will part ways when Fitzy moves on to his life outside these fortress walls.
Fitzy adjusted his grip on the standard handshake to take hold of Mitch’s thumb. He and Mitch moved in for the typical macho hug, the one where they pat the other twice on the back, before separating.
‘I’ve described you to Alison,’ Mitch said, rubbing a nervous hand through his hair. ‘There shouldn’t be too many six foot four, solid, bald-headed guys walking out the door carrying a bag…but just to be sure, I described you to her.’ Mitch forced out a straight mouth smile.
Both men nervously glanced around in a moment of awkward silence.
Fitzy jabbed a thumb at the door. ‘Well…I better…you know,’
Mitch extended his hand to the door. ‘Yeah. Of course. You’ll probably have lots of paper work to fill in before they let you leave.’
Fitzy nodded. He too forced out a straight mouth smile.
‘Thanks for everything you did for me in here, mate. It would’ve been hell in here if I hadn’t met you…’ Mitch said.
’No. It is me who should be thanking you, mate. You and Alison.’
A Guard opened the Admin door. ‘Jack Fitzgerald…?’ he asked. He glanced at Fitzy holding a bag. ‘Big day for you, mate. Come through and we’ll get your release paperwork done.’
‘OK. Thanks.’ Fitzy glanced at Mitch. ‘Catch ya on the outside, bro…’ Fitzy said.
‘I’ll have a cold beer waiting for you to toast our freedom…’ Fitzy said.
‘Sounds great, mate. I look forward to it.’ Just before the door closed behind Fitzy, Mitch said, ‘Oh, I’ll give Alison a call later today to see how things went.’
Fitzy nodded as the closing door finalised their separation.
Once again, Mitch was all alone, like the first day he arrived here. He slowly turned back towards the unit. His head was lowered and his shoulders were rounded. The place he has called home for the last nine weeks will not be the same.
Unlike most inmates doing time, as a remandee, Mitch was not obligated to work, so his daily activities were up to him. Working would’ve helped pass the time, of which he had plenty. But to Mitch, working in a prison workshop, laundry or even the kitchen was something that prisoners did.
Despite his prison greens and the bars on his cell, Mitch did not accept he was a prisoner. He had never been sentenced for a crime. In around three weeks’ time he would leave this place for court and he won’t be returning, or so he believed.
Until then, he maintained that while he stayed in a prison, he was not a prisoner.
Mitch hung up the phone for the second time. Lines of concern filled his face. Two attempts to call Alison both ended in his call diverting to their answering machine.
He rubbed a concerned hand across his mouth. Dinner would be served here shortly, so the time must be approaching evening.
He moved to the side so the next in line could use the phone. He started to worry if everything went OK with Alison picking up Fitzy. They should be well and truly home by now.
With nothing else to do, Mitch joined the back of the telephone queue. He would give it one more try before dinner.
Unfortunately for Mitch, it wasn’t long before the loud, flat alarm sounded, followed by the announcement directing all inmates to the tea room for dinner. His telephone call would have to wait.
For the first time since arriving at this place Mitch ran to the tea room. He was one of the first in line to be served. He quickly took a seat, gulped down his dinner and left again, all within ten minutes.
He was on a mission. He wanted to make his phone call before the compulsory head count ahead of evening lockdown.
The tension building in Mitch’s shoulders relaxed slightly when he noticed the phone was available.
He quickly entered his PIN and pushed number one. He impatiently drummed his fingers on the wall while listening to the chirping ring tone.
‘Al, it’s me…’
‘Oh, hi Hun…Is everything all right? You don’t normally ring at this time of night…’
‘No. Everything’s fine. I just wanted to see how you went with Fitzy, before I get locked down for the night.’
‘Everything went well, Hun. We’ve had a good chat. He is actually a really nice guy. So polite. I took him for a drive around the coast to show him around the area. We’ve only been back a few minutes. He was craving a pizza, so we picked one up on the way home, along with a few beers he wanted.’
‘That sounds great…’ Mitch said. He was relieved to hear they arrived safely, even though it was a little strange hearing how his wife and his new friend were sharing pizza and beers in his house.
‘I told Jack he could use your car while he is here...That’s OK, isn’t it?’
Jack? He hasn’t called him Jack once since he arrived in prison. That name sounded to him like she was referred to someone else.
‘Of course…I’m certainly not using it,’ Mitch said.
‘OK. Good. Do you want to talk to him? He’s just walked in to the kitchen.’
’I’m not sure if I can do that, Al…This is supposed to be your phone number and I’m only to talk to you…you know what…stuff it. He’s on my call list so, yeah, put him on.’
‘Hey mate. How’s life on the outside?’
‘Fantastic. You forget what it’s like to have the freedom to go where you want and do what you want. I’m having my first beer in nine months and I’m about to chow down on my first pizza as well. And I didn’t have to stand in some long line with a heap of other stink arse blokes just to get fed.’
‘I’m happy for ya, mate.’
‘Hey…Shouldn’t you be having dinner about now…?’
‘Been there done that.’
‘So, it must be close to headcount and lockdown...’
‘All the things you’ll miss, hey. So how is Al treating you?’
‘She is great, mate. She is the perfect host. We took a little driving tour around your home town. You were right, mate, it is beautiful down here. I can see why you love it so much.’
‘Anyway mate,’ Mitch said, ‘my counter is running down. It’s great to hear you are doing well in your freedom. Hopefully we can catch up again and share that beer in around three weeks or so…’
‘You bet, mate. Take it easy in there, bro…Here’s Alison for you….’
‘Cheers…Hey, have a beer for me.’
Mitch spent the remainder of his call chatting with Alison until the dreaded clunk from his expired time terminated their call.
Being able to speak to both of them before lockdown was calming. That call would help get him through the long lonely night ahead. He was a little envious about the pizza and beers, but after nine months inside, Fitzy deserved to enjoy some of the many things incarceration deprived you of.
Over a week passed since Fitzy was paroled. Mitch was still adjusting to spending his time without his mate.
He still sat with the ‘Three Stooges’, as Fitzy named them, for most of his meals. However during the day, Scoob, Coop and Irish worked in different areas within the prison, so Mitch’s days were mostly spent on his own.
Such was his boredom after Fitzy left, Mitch re-visited the gym. It had been a place he chose to avoid since he was challenged over using the equipment.
Returning to the gym for his first time was like wandering into enemy territory. It was a place of unpleasant and frankly, scary memories. His eyes were peeled and his senses honed as he entered. Everyone was a potential threat.
The wall mirrors were his best friend, ensuring he could always see behind himself during his workout.
After about thirty minutes of working out on various workstations, Mitch started to relax. There didn’t even appear to be so much as a sideways glance in his direction from the other gym users.
It was good to be working out again. So far, he hadn’t been hassled by anyone. He kept to himself, and hopefully, the other gym users would continue to leave him alone.