I walked into the hot smelly cell, the walls which were covered in swear words and the tags of a thousand bored losers. Although they may not have been bored, they may have been wired on the potent drugs you can always get in prison. The mattresses smelt of the hundreds of sweaty men that had slept there before. The bed was a bunk. Great, a roommate. He walked in. He was a massive, 6ft bear of a man with a short crop of black hair and blue eyes. He just grunted and climbed onto the top bunk with ease. He lay down for the night and didn’t utter a word. I lay down on the bottom bunk and stared at the boards above. I read the word of the tormented souls that came before me. Eventually my own word would add to theirs. Not yet though. I still held onto a remnant of my sanity. And then the lights went out and everything was plunged into darkness. For the next ten years this cell would be home.
After two years, several riots, brawls and escape attempts by other inmates, I was still somewhat sane. I walked into the prison cafeteria for lunch. Melting pot did not begin to describe the cultural diversity of a prison. The hustle and bustle was much like a school cafeteria. Everyone had their own tables and groups. Just like school. This “school” was full of scarred and tormented men though, not young children full of hope. The groups were not you’re usual. They were defined not by similar interests, but by similar hates. This was a morbid school where the “prefects” carried batons and all games were painful. It was not about winning said games, more about losing last. I picked up my tray and pushed past some of the newer inmates. I took my food and sat down. It looked much like vitamized hospital food. I scooped some of the gruel onto my spoon. I raised the spoon and watched as it slowly slid back down into the bowl. Not for the first, I wasn’t hungry. I ate though. Unlike hospital food, the gruel tasted foul. It was greasier than a fish and chip shop hamburger, with none of the flavour, nor the personality. It was a grey muck with barely enough nutritional value to keep us going. I ate it though.
We were only given three hours a day in the sunlight. Time to talk and trade stories. Time to exercise and stretch our legs. Most of all though, time to fight. Not every day, maybe once a fortnight, someone would get on someone’s bad side. Fights were usually started with racist or family comments. They would usually involve 15-20 people. The punches would fly hard and fast. They would leave scars on everyone involved. I was involved in my fair share of brawls. I had a large, permanent purple bruise on my left side. Just a little punch could send pain through my entire body. There was a small cut on my left leg. It was deep and needed stitches. I had a light cut on my left cheek and another next to my right eye. The knuckles on both hands were cut and bruised. My nose was bent to the right from the number of times it had been broken. My worst scar ran from the top of my right shoulder almost to my wrist. Deep crimson, it was bruised its entire length. I also had a large scar across my back. It ran from my left shoulder to my right, long and red. Prison leaves other scars though. Scars on the soul. Scars on the mind.