There are prisons within prisons: confinement unimaginable to those on the outside. Total isolation. One kind of isolation is sanctioned by the prison administration for the purpose of security, the operation of the facility, or the protection of a person; and the other kind is court-ordered. As for the latter, you’ll know when it begins, but never when it ends.
No books, no TV, no human contact. You’re in a cell all day with one hour of yard time, and you’re always alone.
This is typically the lot of specially managed prisoners. I was monitored for nine years. And during those nine years, I did not utter a word to anyone. I no longer knew what to say. What’s more, I realized I had served nine years in prison the day I walked out of it. My wits, my brain, and everything besides had deserted me. I didn’t remember how long I’d been in there.
How do you hang in there? You fight back with everything in you, stay fit, try to seize pencil and paper. But you aren’t entitled to send and receive mail. Day, night, nourished, famished—you lose track of these things.
At certain moments, the mind droops. It slackens its grip and everything goes hazy until the day you awaken in a yard, surrounded by people, not knowing what you’re doing there, and then, it’s over.
I was overcome by suicidal thoughts, but how was I to kill myself? When in isolation, you don’t get a knife, or even a fork. Hurling myself against the wall and shattering my skull seemed like the only alternative. I have never fully understood how, after years of loneliness and inactivity, oblivious of one’s whereabouts, one retains the wherewithal to look to the future. Little by little, life simply gained the upper hand. Human beings are capable of so much! They are way more resilient than they know.