‘Twenty years…Life….!

The judge’s words all a blur, up until those words….’Twenty years.’

Wasn’t until I was locked up that night that I could begin to fathom the number. ‘Twenty’. What it meant? ‘Twenty years’… kept on repeating it again, again. In my mind, aloud sometimes…(broke the silence).

‘Twenty years’…As if important not to forget these digits….. ‘Life, twenty year minimum…..’ How old would I be? I’d be forty years old at the completion point!… Calmed panic raced; checked, re-checked the numbers again…. ‘Yeah, I’ll be forty years old.’ That’s so old I thought!

I’d only been expelled from school two years prior. At eighteen, I considered thirty to be old-ish! How little I knew, understood then.

So I lay in silence all night, living inside memories gone by. When I closed my eyes, pondering, imagining how the world will change? Having to idea of what really to expect?

Imagining friends, some family… Trying to picture them all ‘twenty years’ down the life line. I found myself to be quite calm, certainly I felt down, hadn’t cried yet, though…. Too polarised. I’d been that way a while before prison.

Acceptance of my fate… I pleaded guilty to murder and robbery. I knew a life sentence awaited me weeks ago when I did so. So now I knew how long it would be before I could ask parole. I had figured out my age at the finish point…40. And I’d imagined, presumed and pondered. What futures, fates would befall those I loved, cared about? And those that showed me love? What kind of man will I be in ‘twenty years’?

I stopped these imaginings instantly, it wouldn’t help me now. I needed to be strong, mind and body. I’d carried so much already, I could do this too. I mean, I had acceptance of my fate in hand already, ready to use as a tool to fend, fight off dangerous day-dreaming.

I thought of all my victims. All that pain, hurt, anguish, I’d caused it all. Never saw the man I killed. Dark, no street lamps. His image comes from the papers, his warm, smiley, kind face. Etched onto my mind.  Couldn’t look no longer, though. I wept of shame, cried anguish for  all I’d done. First tears in many years, like a flood for it all. The whole sorry state…my life till this point. His family! My co-defendants’ family…my family….realisation of the reach my pain and anguish will affect….despair!

I shook my head, coming to from the trance. I’d laid for hours inside myself, dwelling, dreaming….thinking. Washed the dried tears off my face. Stung. I had to be strong. Couldn’t dwell like this. After I wiped tears from my cheeks that night, it would be seven years before I’d allow myself to weep, cry again. So, I put on a suit of armour, built high walls and stepped inside….locked myself away. I put myself in prison, inside of prison. Felt the safest thing to do at that point.