A letter arrived for me this morning. I beg your indulgence when I tell you that it was written in my own hand. Despite all common sense I am forced to conclude that it was written by some future me, a man condemned. I have transcribed it here, correcting spelling where necessary.
Dear Marshmallow Ladyboy Jesus,
I always knew I’d end up jailed for something. Better I suppose that it was something noble. A martyrdom rather than a condemnation, a brave stand against injustice in place of a grubby harassment suit. I walk, in the penning of this mellifluous missive of corrupt internment, in the footprints of social innovators like Wilde, Pankhurst, and Nice. Though it might be said by one less modest, that their struggles – occurring as they did in the past, can hardly compare to my own battle, which is happening right now.
I had long fantasised about what life in prison might be like, vacillating between two extremes. In one daydream – the one that might be called ‘Porridge’, the inmates ornery suspicion of my cut glass accent and excellent table manners, are quickly replaced by a grudging respect. I help the men pen letters to their sweethearts, assist them with their appeals, and start a social issues theatre company that gives voice to their feelings of imprisonment. Gradually the grateful felons begin referring to me as ‘The Professor’. With time I accrue some degree ‘soft power’, through my esteemed social position within the prison, and Nelson Mandela like influence in the wider community. A former chef, imprisoned for poisoning his Rotery club, becomes my personal cook, and my penthouse cell swells with books on post structural philosophy, lush kittensoft toilet paper, and tasteful lithographs by Cezanne and Monet. Eventually the great day comes and I am released. Emerging to the rapturous attentions of the worlds media, I lead my people to a promised land of anarcho-syndicalist peace, tolerance, creative expression and casually meaningful polyamorous nookie.
There has always been, of course, another and less pleasant fantasy – lets call it simply ‘Oz’. Locked up and forgotten by a world more concerned with celebrity Big Brother and some silly fuss in Persia than my plight, I fall prey to the law of the jungle. Within a week I am slowly and ungently robbed of my prostine innocence by a gang of twelve ruffians, three of them possessed of incurable contagions; whilst rotund and callous ‘Screws’ look on, laughing and smoking their harsh Turkish cigarettes. Within a month I am ‘shanked’ and lie convalescing in the prisons poorly serviced ‘hospital’. Tragically, though the techniques required to return me to good health would be trivial to the most poorly trained general practitioner, the prisons lone medic, a pickled incompetent whose primary degree is veterinary, botches the surgery: dooming me to lurch forever, hunched and careful lest my fetid satchel burst and betray my incontinence. Sloped, bald and stinking always of the fungi that inhabit my open chest wound, I am swiftly rejected by the ‘decent’ prisoners, who force the governor to move me to the ‘nonce’ wing, where I am subject to mandatory castration and distasteful company. Though I pray for death always, I take many years to perish.
The truth of course has been more banal. I get along well enough with some prisoners, avoiding others who demand money and deliver punches like glorified primary school bullies. Mostly I lie in my cell, silently brooding. Having exhausted the small prison library, primarily stocked with Patterson, Clancy, and the execrable space operas of Doc Smith, there is nothing left for me to read. On the other hand I retain little desire to do so, as the sweet velvet touch of heroin brooks no other lover.
The blasphemy amendment which sent me here is being challenged in the EU, and who knows, perhaps in two years or five, I’ll be a free man once again; liberated, and for once thin! It’s a prospect I relish… They say the gear is better on the outside, and cheaper too.
The Political Prisoner
July 7th, 2010