From Life Sentences
(The visiting room of a federal prison)
You know, you really are your mother’s daughter. I’d know who you were if I met you on the street. The eyes. You don’t believe me? I’m serious. (pause) Mary was like a beam of light in this joint. Brightness, whiteness, good, she was good. Good for us. We all knew it. We all told her so. (pause) Never a dull moment when your mum worked here. I was never bored. Never, ever was I bored when Mary was on shift. I had a reason to get up every morning – knowin’ I’d see her – and I had somethin’ inside me to go to bed with at night. Sounds corny, I know, but it’s true. And it wasn’t just me. I wasn’t the only one. (pause) Mary didn’t come here to change anyone. Know what I’m talkin’ about? All that bullshit rehabilitation, reform, education CRAP. She just did her job. She didn’t think she was better than anyone. She wasn’t wavin’ no fuckin’ flag. Rehabilitation is rude, man. Mary was never rude. (pause) Ah shit, I don’t know what it was about her. It had a lot to do with the way she smiled. When she smiled, you knew she was smiling at you. YOU. (beat) She kept life interesting. I think we should get rid of all the assholes in the world who want to change the world, and all the idiots who want to keep everything the same, and just keep the people who make life interesting. Like you mum. (smiles) Like me.
I know what you’re thinkin’. That havin’ a murderer around is a good way to keep life interestin’. But there, you see, you’re makin’ a mistake about me. ‘Cause I ain’t no murderer. Ya, it’s true, I killed a guy once. Long time ago – and he had it comin’. And, if you ask me, the world is a better place right now without him. He was one of the idiots. If you’re interested in the details – in the facts – I wasn’t the only one. Three of us beat the shit outa this guy one night. He died later in the hospital. But I took the rap ‘cause of a previous record. That was a joke. Plus I had this shit lawyer ‘cause I didn’t have no money to pay for one. Anyway, my point bein’ that I ain’t no murderer. ‘Cause I never did it before, ain’t done it since, and I won’t probably ever do it again. Unless the situation calls for it… But I’m older now. Ain’t as easy ta get riled up about things anymore. Now I can look right at somebody and think to myself: You’re an idiot – or – you’re an asshole – those are the two categories of People Better Off Elsewhere In The Universe – and I can walk away. Just walk away. You’re an asshole, I say to myself. And I walk away.
Funny, a guy dyin’ on ya after he gets to the hospital. And sometime after, too, like a few days. Make ya wonder if maybe it was some sort of malneglect on the part of the doctors. And here I am doin’ life because, say, some fucker left a pair of scissors in his gut. It happens. But you could say it’s my fault he had to go to the hospital in the first place. True. All I’m sayin’ is, it makes ya wonder, since you were sittin’ in your livin’room watchin’ the Stanley Cup Playoffs when he signed off.
Anyways, as I was sayin’, I’m not a murderer because bein’ a murderer would mean that you get up every mornin’, brush your teeth and go out and kill someone. Now there are people who do that – and they are murderers. But all I did was kill a guy once. You can call me a con because that’s what I do every day. I do time. There are some things we’ll always be. Like you, you’ll always be your mother’s daughter. Me. I’ll always be a con. But I’m no murderer.
Ah, man. There it is again. I’ve looked into that look, that question, that I-don’t-think-I-can-trust-you-even-though-I-want-to pathetic doubt all my life. You know what? I am more trustworthy than the people in your own family. Why? Because the people who kill you are the people who love you. Who do you think I was before I came here? The guy I killed was a friend of mine. Drinkin’ buddies. (pause) You are safer on the street than you are in your own home – and you are safer in here – with all of these bad, bad men – than you are in the street. Trust me.
[From Life Sentences.]
© Elizabeth Anne French 2017