As much as I didn't want to plead guilty, I had to. There was no way I was going to prove my innocence (or should I say, try and prove I am not guilty). Of course, the CCTV wasn’t wrong. The fingerprints were not wrong surely. All my mind could gather, was that I hadn't dreamt all that. If I hadn't dreamt all that, I was guilty. Simple as that. I didn't have a family lawyer. The lawyer they gave me told me that I’d be lucky if I got anything under two years. After all, what motive did I have?
I thought about it. I was sure I was guilty. So, I confessed. I was given a year, and according to the lawyer, I was lucky. So my lucky ass was taken to Federal Prison.
The first time I entered this prison, I’d seen pretty much all the inmates. I walked through the corridor, the cells to my left, and an open area to the right. All cells in this corridor were empty. The inmates in that open area were like anything you'd see in a typical Hollywood movie. The fat, heavily tattooed white men, tall, dark-skinned men and a few thin and medium sized guys in their early twenties. Christians, Muslims and Hindus were all here. Most of them were in here for much judicially bigger crimes- rapists, smugglers, and yes, there were a few murderers as well. I saw judicially, because otherwise, a crime is a crime. This I learned in these two months. Just ten more, I thought.
In this time, this man called Alan grew rather close to me. We were in the same cell. He was here before me, of course. He’d raped his neighbor’s daughter. Of course, I felt uneasy acquainting such people. However, he's a nice man once you know him (contradiction, but that's true). He’d been given five years, and he’d done three already. I’d have him for a year.
The layout was something every prisoner naturally looks at when he first enters. So I did, though I had no intentions of breaking out. Quite a simple layout, when I thought about it. It was a rectangle, with a circle in the middle. The circle was divided in 4 parts, each part separated by a twenty feet tall wall. Well not exactly a wall, it was a platform. Two guards standing on each of them. Each part had only 8 cells, big enough to hold 3 inmates. Right now, there were about 80 inmates. There were two solitary cells (Alan told me that).
Inmates in our regular cells were let out for 4 hours a day. Inmates in the solitary cells were let out for only an hour. We got better food, Alan said. He'd been there, obviously. There was a workshop, and a TT room in two other corners of this rectangle, and the last corner was reserved for the warden’s office.
I'd heard of this man called Wayne. I'd met him also. I'm a rather thin guy, so it was my size which was made fun of. Such a wuss. Out of all the things you can do, you tease me for my size. Asshole. I hadn’t feared talking about that incident in front of 10 other people in the Yard. Ten people, no less. I knew one of them would tell him. It didn't scare me though. Same day, in the TT room, I was talking to Alan about Wayne. I fearlessly insulted him, and I'd almost forgotten that this hour was a common hour. That meant that Wayne, who was in a solitary cell, was probably in the same room, and I didn't know that. Scary thought.
Alan kept count of the number of hours he had left in prison. He'd change his count every 25 hours. He could just count the days left, but he says it's more convincing when there's a big number with a small quantity. Weird logic. But that's it, isn't it? People become weird and they change for the worse when sadness strikes them. Something about him tells me that he too, felt he was innocent, but didn't have anything in his favor to prove or justify it. I thought I'll ask him someday.
So here, in the TT room, I was smashing the ball and throwing insults on Wayne (doesn't that make me a wuss?). My thought was true. There he was standing behind Alan, waiting for me to complete the insult I was throwing presently. He pushed Alan to a side and kicked the TT table to one side. He fought me, while Alan kept his comrades off me. We fought for about a minute or so. I was bleeding, Alan was bleeding, and so was Wayne.
Apparently, the guards had seen how the fight began. So, nobody else, except Wayne and I were punished. Well, technically, Wayne wasn't even punished. We were sent to Solitary Confinement rooms. There were two, and Wayne was already an occupant of one. So although Wayne was also responsible, it was only me who got the upgrade.
It's a worthy mention here, that there's only two meters of aluminium between us. That is all. For a week or two, all I could think about was how wretched those two meters were, and how I could strangle Wayne. Also, in our open hour, I saw Wayne in handcuffs (not quite an open hour for him, huh?). So, he did get punished. As much as I hate him, I was pleased, and rather relieved, that he was in handcuffs.
In the workshop, we could build anything we liked. It, of course, would be unwise to openly make things like ladders, which help in scaling walls (Psst… escape). The officers would be there as well, making sure no more Jordan-Wayne incidents happened again (not like they weren't in the workshop before we fought, but yeah that was pretty much their job). This workshop was a place Alan and I would meet.
We once eavesdropped on two guys making a plan to escape from this prison. They asked a Alan for help, and he worked his ass off to do so. Alan always said, ‘When you know you ain't gon’ do somethin’, you gotta help people who have the courage to that.’ Well, I kind of agreed with him, but I didn't want to get caught helping escaping inmates. This year, is the last year I'm spending in jail. I kept telling myself that. Of course, the more you think about something, the easier it gets to achieve it. So it did. These eight months were filled with broken arms (no fights, only boxing, which the guards never really paid any attention to; they'd only catch if it was an uncontrolled fight-boxing was apparently an event in the TT room), broken legs, and broken-almost-everything. These eight months were the most sentimental eight months. I kept telling Alan, ‘Take my number, we'll meet once you're out.’ I really didn't know why I wanted to stay in touch with him, but he took my number, and promised to meet up. These eight months passed by faster than I'd expected them to; faster than I'd wanted them to. Nothing great happened in these months. The same boxing, the same talks and the same craving, to get back to my normal life. I don't wanna be back here, I thought, never. This is it.
Last day, my lawyer was here, and my wife was here. I hugged her, tears were freely flowing from both our eyes. It was a long hug, I thought. We both were happy, obviously. I was getting back my life, I was getting back my wife. I thought it would take time for me to get a job (yeah, a murderer doesn't get too keep his job. Not that it's his choice, but anyways), but I'd be good. It would take time, but we'd be there. We'd be happy once more. The mere thought made me happy, and made me cry with extreme joy.
My release papers were signed by a few officers, my lawyer, and then me. They removed my handcuffs. I. Was. Free.
My heart, as clichéd as it may sound, leapt with joy. In this year, all the feelings a prisoner in an American movie would be shown to experience, I'd experience. In this one year, I'd probably gained ten pounds. I felt the extra weight in my belly. I'd wondered how that happened, because I had worked out quite regularly. I'd even do push ups, in my cell. Anyways.
It was only a few weeks after my release that we felt the need for more money. Amy had saved as much money she could from her income. After all, it was only her for a year. It didn't prove enough, obviously. Of course, in these few weeks I hadn't got myself even a reasonable job. All that I got, was offers to become an electrician or something at local buildings. Finally, I got a reasonable pay, for an acceptable job. I'd have to repair the hardware of computers, phones, and TVs. It wasn't ideal, but it was enough.
My regular routine was rather boring. Come to this small room everyday at 9, wait till the boss comes at 10, wait for customers to enter at 10-30, and then start repairing whatever they brought. Obviously I could start repairing if there was something left overnight. I'd usually take about three to four hours to repair the average mobile phones and five for a computer or a small repair in a TV. We were living, but only just. We were holding on to life, like a man was holding onto a ledge, a hundred feet above the ground. Our life was no less than walking on a tightrope.
One day, this tall, dark man walked into the room. I had a separate room for the repair work. There I was, working on a broken mobile phone screen, when he walked right in. Nobody except my boss and I were allowed in here. I naturally asked him. ‘Hey, who are you? You're not allowed in here.’
‘I don't give a fuck if I'm not allowed in here. You want money?’
Of course I did. He looked like a man who'd give me the money, but I was pretty sure it was going to be something illegal.
‘Yeah I do, yeah.’
‘I ain't givin’ it. You gotta get it.’
‘Yeah? What do I do to get it?’
‘Been to Peru?’
‘Wanna go there?’
Drugs. This was definitely, and surely a matter of drugs. No. I wasn't going to accept his offer. No matter how much money he'd offer, I would reject it. I wasn't going to take the risk of going back to prison again. I needed the money, but no.
I was silent. I was thinking. I was lost. He snapped his fingers.
‘Oi. Fifty grand for getting cocaine into there. You want it?’
No. I wasn't sure if I said that, or I just thought of saying it. I couldn't get myself to say no to him. He might have a gun. He could shoot me right there.
‘No.’ I said it.
He laughed. He put his hands into his breast pocket. Can't be a gun, maybe. He took out a note. He placed it on the table.
‘Call this number, when you change your mind. I know you'll call. Say ‘Tutka’. That's it. I'll know it's you.’
Was Tutka his name? Or just a code name? I thought it wouldn't matter, because I would just throw that paper away. I'd never call him. I thought I'd known that for sure.
He walked away. He was limping. He was tall, at least six feet five. Had a few missing teeth. I could hear him screaming at the people in the shop to make way for him. He was holding a gun, I thought. I was no less terrified than the people out there.
Then the paper. That small piece of paper. It'd get me fifty grand. No. There's barely a chance to get caught. No. Besides, this isn't even ‘Banged up Abroad’ on Nat Geo. You won't get caught! No.