In prison, he’s immediately placed in solitary, “for his own safety.”
As the door closes behind him, he doesn’t bother turning around to say
goodbye to the guard, who seems decent enough.
To his surprise, although he is taller than the cell is wide, he does feel
safer. Life “on the outside” has not felt safe for a long time. It’s on the
outside that killers are born, trained, defined. On the outside, he was
always at risk. At last he is in.
Now that the cell constitutes his entire world, every aspect of it interests him. He measures it out with his size-twelve feet. It is six by eight.
But which is width and which length? He doesn’t remember. Length by
definition should be longer than width—isn’t that right? Can width ever
become length? Ridiculous question. And are all the cells the same size?
If so, why this size? Does it have to do with median height? What might
it be like for a very tall basketball player, who would be longer than the
bed? Google doubtless has answers, but it will be a long (wide?) time
before he can get his hands on a computer again.
Of course, it doesn’t matter. Every day he finds himself less interested
in mere information. Information once necessary for survival—bus
schedules, the price of avocadoes and gas, a partner’s whereabouts: these
counting games have lost their savor. He wants to know what it is he can
really know. What truths does his body carry, which are his alone and
are not to be found online or in books and which, therefore, can never be
taken from him? It’s a question he has never asked himself before.
He stretches out on the floor and stares up at the ceiling. He decides
to think of it as sky. It is his sky. He imagines the sun rising at dawn and
the moon, cherubic and shy, turning up at night—though, of course, he
has no windows and never knows whether it is day or night.
Time, too, is suddenly irrelevant. Another number. With nowhere
to go, no watch or cell phone to check obsessively, time is no longer a
monster devouring its own children. If time has any meaning now, it’s to
be found inside his own body, which, he knows, is constantly changing.
Texture, on the other hand: the scarred skin of the walls, cement like
stucco a charcoal gray, and a concrete floor, also gray but not as dark,
stained with piss, blood, and tears, along with a gray ceiling, his cloudless sky, and a steel door olive green, cold and oddly moist to the touch.
Light from one recessed bulb, dim as though at a séance. The other
lights embedded in the ceiling remain unlit. He often thinks he hears
the whispers of the cell’s former inhabitants. He finds himself imagining