Spent my birthday in prison. Again. How many years? The same bars. Different guy in the next cot. At least this one isn’t crazy, sick, schizo. Said “Happy birthday” when I told him.
Rich kid. White collar crime. Has manners. Is polite. Reads some. Doesn’t talk. Well, yes, he talks, but what’s he going to say? Have a nice day. Looks like rain from our peep hole to the sky. What’s your position on Obamacare? All our health care needs are taken care of. That’s one thing about being in rather than out. Full service government health care plan. Food plan too if you are on a carbohydrate diet. Fry this. Fry that. Protein. Bologna and American cheese. All American cheese.
Cheez, no wonder he doesn’t have much to say. Glad he’s not a shouter.
I was a shouter once. Rattled the cage like a gorilla. Was so pissed. Scared. Lonely. Terrified. Yelled and cursed until they put me in the hole. Which shut me up. When was that? 20 birthdays ago? 30? Who’s counting? Well, I am, but nobody else. I’m 59 years old, a writer now, not a talker. Wrote my cellie a note. Today's my birthday.
He looked surprised. Real expression on his face and I would say a tear in his eye, but hard to say. The light isn’t that good, but he’s young—20 something. In here with an old guy celebrating his birthday. How sad is that? Would make me tear up if I still could. Which I can’t.
Which is good.
Is there any way to say Happy Birthday without saying happy?
Maybe glad you’re still here another year.
I am glad about that, not happy, but relieved. Yes, that’s it.
Relieved not to be dead. Dying in prison, the ultimate shame that keeps me knocking off the birthdays. Once I’m out, I can die in peace.
That’s what I want for my birthday. To die a free man.
© 2016 Kathleen Coskran