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“Harm in Custody Is Just a Good Word in Scrabble” — Column — Sociaal.Net

“Harm in Custody Is Just a Good Word in Scrabble” — Column — Sociaal.Net

© Unsplash/Megan T. Boekhorst

Not free for twelve years

“We should get that.” I say. I get on the tram and squeeze among the people.
When I turn around, I look directly into her terrified eyes. She stands frozen on the sidewalk.
Her nose and lips were trembling. Beads of sweat down her temples.
“no.” It is difficult for her to express this rejection.
I come back confused. The doors close behind me.

“I was in prison for twelve years. With the company I wasn’t allowed to choose.

She sits on the bench and nervously lights a cigarette.
I sit next to her.
“Twelve years,” she says quietly. “I was in prison for twelve years. Literally, in a very small space. With the company I wasn’t allowed to choose. People who were paid to watch me and tell me when to do what. Food from plastic bags, and I wasn’t allowed to prepare it myself. Blinded by lights “Fluorescent and sometimes some sun. Closed with doors that close.”

She closes her eyes. “I’ve been counting the days all this time. 4,380 days. Until I’m free.”
“Now I’m counting down. Three months already.” She sighs, kicks a can and whispers, “I’m not free.”

Lying down and awake

She continues. She lies awake at night because there is no noise.
She smiled for her reason.
That there was always someone in her room snoring or wheezing. Light and sound every night. Now it was completely quiet and completely dark.

I visited her studio. It is the basement of an old building. Single bed and shower. Stove and refrigerator with microwave on top. The toilet is upstairs, in the hallway. Everything in one room with fixed settings. The grille on the basement window resembles bars. It opens to an internal courtyard that is mainly used for collecting garbage bags.

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“At night, I get out of bed to check if my door is locked,” she says. “And as I stand there I wonder when I’ll stop doing this. By locking myself up. Unusually.”

“Do you know that I only feel safe when I turn that key? This is so ridiculous, they’ve done this to me for years. And now I’m doing it to myself.”

Harms of detention

She sucks the smoke into her lungs with a grimace.

“Detention damage is only a good word if you can associate it with Scrabble.” I say, mischievously and deadly seriously at the same time.

“Pfft, there’s not even an ‘X’ in it,” she replied sharply.
“Unless you put ‘ex’ in front of it,” I answer.
“And that’s it, Kat, he never becomes an ‘ex’.” She looked away, hoping I wouldn’t see the tear in the corner of her eye.
I am silent. There’s no youthful enthusiasm, no play on words that can disprove that.
Only my strength.

She nudges me with her elbow and points to a passing bus. “Come on, let’s get it!” She’s jumping, She smokes her cigarette and starts walking.
“Huh, but it’s going the wrong way?” Call later.
“Yes,” she smiles, “but it’s empty!”

And I follow her.