This is unfinished, but I thought I’d post anyhow. Needs one tiny addition which I will make later, but take a look:
No Romeos in Hell
By Jasmaine Payne
Please, look at me
Quite to my astonishment, he was the flagrant opposite of our dismal surroundings.These words resonated in my mind as I wondered how I had not seen him until now.
Had I not seen the elegance of the building’s exterior, this room would have suggested that I was in some kind of dungeon. The unpainted concrete walls were joined at the corners with slabs of putty as though work was yet to be done, and the floor was covered with a thick slimy substance which made it always appear wet. Indeed, quite a few times I had slipped as I walked to my seat on my weekly excursions here. The entire space was set in a narrow, windowless rectangle, separated by a thick glass that stretched from wall to floor down the middle. On one side sat the occupants, overlooked by their superiors who were clad in dull uniforms and grim miens. On the other side were the people like me- ‘the invitees’ I liked to call us- those who came, to interact with the unfortunate tenants of this bleak abode.
‘Unfortunate’ was one of many words I would use to speak of all things allied with such a place. It was residence of endless time and silence- where memories of one’s wretched mistakes were sometimes the only thoughts called to mind. Such torture evidently dealt due penance to even the strongest of men- so that skeletal resemblances were not uncommon among them. Yet there he sat two stations away from mine, on the other side, a magnificent testimony that all had not been lost here.
Please, look at me.
Perhaps it was the contrast of his complexion that caught my eye. Paler than everything and everyone around him, he was a distraction even in one’s peripheral sight. And herein lay the first clue to why I was drawn: my addiction to men of his race. So he couldn’t have been here long, I would have noticed. What was more, his face was far from gaunt. In fact, there was a freshness to his clean shaven visage and his hair bore evidence that it had recently been cut.
What brought the likes of him here, I wondered. His entire countenance spoke of middle class and white collar. There was an envious affection with which he engaged his invitees- a young woman and child who looked around the age of three. He touched the glass every so often to suggest a longing to make contact with the pair. I could not hear his voice but I saw his thin lips move to form presumably loving words that matched his actions.This was a man with value for his family, he did not belong here.
I envisioned his past life clear as day: he enjoyed the clichéd existence most men found safe: the wife, the child, the good job, the stability. This was man’s checklist of accomplishment, and he had conquered it quite early on; a goal that many could only wish to achieve by a certain age. He lived his life rigidly on this path, reaping the satisfaction of fulfillment, and anything else was merely an accessory to his good life. I knew I was right about him, even as I watched him soundlessly converse with his visitors. I could tell that this was the kind of man that did not step out of line. But something had gone terribly wrong, because here he was. This murkiness that disjointed the timeline between his life then and where he was now added an intrigue that only augured my attraction. My glare had no doubt begun to burn holes into the glass; I only prayed that no one would notice my increasing desperation.
Looking at him gave me hope that my approach to life could possibly change and I felt as though completion lay in his acknowledging me . I was a woman with a smidge more than my share of woes and this had slowly begun to tell on my appearance. Soon, my countenance would scream that I was a single heartache away from self-destruction.
But time passed, as this particular place never ceased to remind you, and nothing changed. Then a familiar sound echoed through the room hauling me out of my reverie. The occupants sat frozen as their superiors stiffened in preparation for possible conflict. We, the invitees, stood up and rigidly began a slow shuffle in a single file towards freedom.
He was staring straight ahead, engulfed in some daydream of his own- perhaps visions of what it would be like when he was ready to leave. His face, relaxed, told no tales of misery or regret. This was a man eerily at ease. A few more steps and I would be at his station. I wanted to wave my hands in front his tranquil face to make him see me. I wanted to say something that would impress on his mind that I was alive.
As though these thoughts had screamed at him, he looked up at me just as I passed.
With a flick of his head, he coolly brushed strands of his jet black hair away from his eyes. They were the eyes of a good man- a harmless brown, reminiscent of a little boy I knew who lived just two houses away from me. He didn’t deserve to be here, I thought, until I looked at his wrists. Identical metal bands clung snugly on each hand which foretold his bleak future. This unflattering piece of jewelry decorated only the unluckiest in this place, cementing the fact that their way out of here was through one means. His time here would be short, because his fate had been sealed. He was among the few, whose deeds had been so unforgiveable, that death was the only payment worthy.
Reciprocity had been something I lacked all my life. Could this have formed such a cavity in my mind that my view on what was good for me had become skewed? Amidst my sudden amour, I had been hit with the reality of my pitiful perception of things: the woman who had visited here every week, while her treacherous father still refused to see her; who had lost more than she had gained in every union she had ever known; the naïve little girl who cradled dark memories that were placed in her head earlier than girls should ever be exposed. Alas, that same woman had fallen in love with the man with the innocent eyes and the perfect life. The man, who had been chosen for death.
And so it is in this dismal world.