It is unbearable feeling as if you’ve been awaken from a deep narcotic slumber. Drifting off in a sleep-like state while your surroundings continue to move around you. No longer can I differentiate from consciousness and dream. I stand in front of my dingy bathroom mirror starring at my toothbrush. I watch my own hands groom my teeth without even processing the thought to do so. My feet move left and right on the same track each day carrying me to my habitual destination. My only jolt back to reality is the ever so constant nudge of a fellow inmate or the yelling howl of the Warden telling me what to do, how to live. I know what my day will contain in its empty bowels before I have even experienced it. It is all the same, all torture.
My habitual track takes me from place to place. Each place I enter I feel mindless. Is it odd that I feel most alive when behind the grey and black bars of my room in deep sleep? The first destination of my imprisoning cycle is the showers, an uncomfortable white tiled room of pain. White is usually associated with innocence, which I find oddly peculiar. The rooms I despise most in this place seem to be the rooms that are blinded in searing white. The Warden must have it this way out of pure cynical irony. To shower or not to shower is the most problematic dilemma I face in my “life”. I know if I do not I will be faced with further discomfort, but what is that discomfort really. I always wonder if it matters whether I am comfortable or not. Will that comfort change my experience for the better? Regardless of the controversy I face, I step in the thirty-second scalding, hot torrent of water, out of fear that I might disrupt my always-persistent routine. The water hose sprays you as if it were a guard executing you behind a shed. The high-powered water slams into your worn skin like a barrage of stones. I spend that thirty seconds praying. Praying that this is another narcotic slip out of consciousness. When the barrage of water ends I am reminded I am still here, and without fail my legs continue on their left, right track to my next destination. I approach my tear stained body suit that the Warden politely labels our “uniform”. I take another look in the mirror and see myself fully dressed in the clothing. Each time I feel confused. Did I dress myself just then? Or was I already dressed?
It continues. I make my way through the yard to the dimly lit cafeteria that smells of foul molded morsels. Here is where I am greeted by a blurry stampede of uniformed people floating by me, all in the same bottomless situation as I. They flow by, so absorbed in themselves, I question whether they exist. Could I just be in another dream? For all I know I am sitting in my kitchen cooking a meal of eggs and toast. However there is not even the slightest trail of the scent of fresh homemade cooking. The air of the cafeteria is baked with a burning vulgar aroma that cannot even be put into words. Is there some way to tell if what I see is actuality? The planes of reality and imagination meld into one.
I grab my meal of burnt meat and goo from the same large, sweaty, hair covered man that I do every morning. He thrusts the food on my plate without even the slightest hint of eye contact. His eyes stare into a void of nothingness, like a machine that scoops out meal after meal, day after day. I enter the line of uniformed people heading out the exit. It is like pulling into a traffic frenzy on the highway. All you can do is twiddle your thumbs until you get to the exit where you are greeted by your next destination. Here I sit in my usual seat and surround myself with the same usual three inmates. We sit silent; clawing at our scrap food until the Wardens droning voice is projected on the loud speaker. His voice makes me want to quit, to stab a fork through my heart, neck, and eye until I am rewarded with death. All just to escape from his monotonous bullshit I am forced to hear daily. I refrain from my suicide knowing that eventually I will be free, that I one day can have my own life. It would not be worth turning off my movie before it is finished and end all the “good” of my future. After the Warden is done, the four of us briefly interrupt eating to state how long until our liberation.
“One week left.”
We announce the words in harmony and do not express another sentence for the entirety of the meal. Our minds are focused on the end of the day where we can be pleased once again with a drug-like induced sleep.
Shoulders knock and throw my body, awakening me from my hazy dream of real food laid out perfectly across my dining table. Uniformed people surround me from every angle – I am in the stampede. I find myself in the rush of the cafeteria. It continues. I receive the same burnt meat and goo before I re-enter the uniformed riot to the exit. Next thing I know I am in the same usual seat with the same usual inmates.
“One week left.”
The words drop out of my mouth without thought. My mind rapidly wanders, hasn’t this already happened? Was my life repeating or has the morning passed and this is lunch? The similarities between the days make it seems as if you are living through a drug sequence. It was impossible to decipher time – it didn’t exist. The thought of one week baffled me. What does a week mean anyway? A week could be seven days or one. Each is filled with the same happenings and minutes. How does one decipher between the seconds and hours.
A familiar large, sweaty, hair covered man drops burnt meat and goo on my plate. I realize my shoulder is throbbing with a bruised pain. My eyes dart around the area. The legs of my body are taking me to my seat where my three inmates wait. Again, this place. Wasn’t I just here? I feel that I have never left, but it is dark outside now. Last I knew it was day. Everything looks unchanged though. My mouth reacts on its own, almost like it is on a timer to speak.
“One week left.”
Could it still be the same day? In my mind I’ve dreamed months away. I look down at my plate and my meal has already been devoured. How is it that I am functioning and acting without even realizing? Did I eat it amongst the silence and not acknowledge it?
It continues. Retracing my previous steps across the yard I return to my room of grey and black bars. My head falls against the rough pillow that stinks of a dank musk. My eyes only close for a minute, but my mind is already drowning in dreams. Music is gently playing in the background of my wooded backyard. My dog is barking and chasing sticks while I laugh, feeling the breeze of the wind on my ears. The smell of real food returns to me; cheesy scrambled eggs along with rich blackberry jammed sourdough. That unbelievable feeling of being wrapped in your own bed sheets engulfs me. And then I am disturbed.
The entrance of my inmate stirs me out of the only time of the day I look forward to. I try to return to that beautiful, empowering, friendly state, but it runs from me. The realities of the Warden, work, and routine all slip into my head, haunting and scaring my sleep away. I try to tell myself that this is all a lie, that I am simply unconscious. The haunting thoughts trickle from my body. The drug induced sleep pulls on my eyebrows throwing me into my deep narcotic slumber I love so much. It is in that slumber that I cannot be forced to eat burnt meat, be beaten, be victimized by the endless echo of meaninglessness. It is ironic though that my drug-enlaced drowsiness is what inevitably defines the repetition of my life.
My eyes sluggishly crack open. Crushing painful water is blasting my body in a blinding white tiled room. Hasn’t this happened already? Where did my dream disappear to?
When is this…?
Fred. I'm a douche. My apologies.