there’s a metallic taste that’s oozing from my cheeks to overtake the caramel flavored candy i was chewing on earlier today. my jaw is clenching tighter. my heart is pumping so fast that i feel every uneven beat jumping through my throat. my fingers are numb and my skin tingles as if i’ve just fallen into a pool of ice water. fear and anxiety are overtaking my body as i begin to experience the most uncomfortable night of my life.
the sun is setting outside, but i can barely see its rays. there are no windows around, only a small slither of a break in the concrete, and it’s away from where i stand. i don’t know for sure how far into dusk it is, but i can feel it getting darker, even though i’m in a space that’s already dark.
the only thing i see in front of me are the cold hard iron bars of the prison cell. i close my eyes for a moment, trying to ignore the terror my body is feeling. trying to convince myself that i’m not in any danger. trying to collect my courage to overcome all the negative energy surrounding me.
but it’s my first night in a prison. my first time being so terribly close to a house of evil. my first time in a space that was overrun with stories of atrocious crimes. and although none of the perpetrators are here anymore, their residue is all around – remnants of their broken souls are lodged in the crevasses of the walls.
i close my eyes for another moment, still controlled by fear but allowing myself to get washed over with a will to understand. to try to fathom what it meant to be here, to live a life that was stripped of all freedom, to spend days and nights and weeks and years without human interactions. forgetting with time the warmth of seeing someone’s smile. or the emptiness of letting someone down. simple pleasures of making complex choices.
my mind is wandering as i struggle to understand, to feel emotions of a people i’ve been taught have none. i suddenly begin realizing how lonely it is to stand here. there’s a deafening silence in this space. and even though there are hundreds of other people taking this tour with me, i feel completely alone. and i imagine these spaces are meant to elicit that feeling. to serve as a constant reminder to each inmate of what brought him here. a loneliness that serves as a deterrent to doing whatever it was that sentenced him to a life void of meaning.
so i stand behind these bars, in this empty space filled with both the scariest and the saddest of stories, and i begin questioning the system, and questioning the results. questioning the people that worked here, and the ones that were condemned to be here. questioning everything.
and i stand here in more discomfort as i realize that there are no clear answers to my questions. no black and white absolutes. only a series of more questions to lives i can barely understand.