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A LIFE DOWN THE TOILET



I could tell something was wrong by the look in his eyes. He generally walked around the track looking down at the ground. Now, for some strange reason, he was constantly looking to his right and then to his left. He would take another ten or fifteen steps, then he would once again look to his left and then to his right. His actions never seemed to vary. All at once, someone in the distance yelled out. He quickly spun around and thrust his fists up into fighting position. When he saw that no one was near him, he slowly lowered his hands and continued with his walk. That evening I saw him sitting alone in the prison-dining hall, his back against the wall. Someone who was worried about being shanked by a prison-made knife usually behaved like this.

When I returned to the cellblock, I walked round for several hours listening for any rumors. Anything that might tell me what was happening. I knew better than to start asking questions, and I knew better than to stick my nose into someone's personal business.

At seven o’clock, they announced any inmates wanting to see the movie were to march single-file to the theater. As I passed his cell, I saw he was lying on his bunk with his arms tucked behind his head. I nodded and continued down the tier. When I reached the bottom level, a strange feeling came over me. All at once, I turned right, moved out of the line, headed to the television area, and sat down. Within minutes, all was quiet and I sat staring up at his cell.

At seven-thirty, I walked back up to the second tier. As I passed his cell he jumped and covered something with his bed covers. I stopped, placed my hands on both sides of the bars, and stood looking at him. He said not a word.

"Is someone out to shank you?" I asked.

"Not that I know of.”

"You have been acting real strange. What’s going on?" I lowered my hands to my side.

"Can I ask you something real personal?" he asked.

"Shoot.”

"Have you ever thought about committing suicide?"

"A few times when I was in the orphanage."

"When you thought about it, were you scared?"

"No, not really. I was just tired of being scared and beaten on all the time."

I walked over to his bunk and sat down. I reached over, pulled back the wool blanket, and there on the sheet were about fifty pills.

"I see you've been saving up your medication," I said raising my eyebrows.

He just smiled and covered the pills.

"You got any children?" I asked him.

"I have two kids, one seven and one nine. Both are boys. Real good boys too."

"You know I’ve got two boys. When I first went to prison, I thought about committing suicide. Thought about it for a long time."

"Why didn't you do it?" he questioned.

"I was watching TV one day and this nut doctor said anyone who commits suicide, will leave their children wondering if they might commit suicide one day too. Those words really made me stop and think."

"Do you think that's really true?"

"I don't know," I said, and shrugged my shoulders.

"You know, my dad shot himself in the head when he was forty. That is just 'cause he lost his job. So it might be true."

"I don't know," I replied. I shrugged my shoulders again.

We sat there staring at one another. Then he closed his eyes for a moment, reached over, and uncovered the pills. I watched as he gathered up the capsules in one hand. He turned toward the toilet and pulled the handle. He began to drop the pills, a few at a time, down into the swirling water until they all disappeared.

Just at that moment, a guard appeared at the cell door. "OK, you two fagots break it up and get down to the television area!"

“I can’t understand why those ass-holes have to talk to us like that?”

"Should have saved those damn pills. Could have put them in that bastard's coffee," said my friend.

"Can't do that, the poor bastard probably has kids," I said.

"Just can't win for losing around here," he responded and we both laughed.



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