I don’t really like talking to Madison because she’s not as refined as I am- She’s in here for attacking her husband.
Stupid. Don’t get married. That’s stupid. She’s stupid.
But I talk to her today because I’m bored and she’s bored and we’ve run out of lines on the wall to count.
We don’t say much at first- We know enough about each other and I don’t actually want to hear about her kid she left behind and how much he probably misses her because he probably doesn’t miss her. I wouldn’t miss someone like Madison.
She asks me about my own kids. Huh. I said I didn’t have any, but she’s the persistent sort so she asks again, and again, and then about a husband, and some parents, and some siblings. Huh.
She probably thinks I attacked them all. So I tell her they left and I left and that was that.
“Your kid?” She asks.
I say, “What kid?” But I think she knows that she’s on to something because she doesn’t just let the question die, she keeps asking and asking and eventually I tell her,
“He’s off at university.”
“The intellectual sort.”
I guess I thought she was done but she isn’t because then she asks, “Do you miss him? I miss John.”
I don’t care about her kid John, I don’t. I don’t know why I get angry but it’s not about John and it’s not even about Madison.
It’s quiet for a few minutes, the sort of minutes which just go on forever. I want to go run laps in the exercise area but it’s late and we’re supposed to be asleep.
I go to the bathroom instead. It’s across the room and she keeps watching me, but not in the perverted sort of way like some of the women I’ve met. She just looks curious about what I’m thinking. She keeps looking curious until I return to my cot and she asks,
“What’s his name?”
I shouldn’t have told her because you shouldn’t tell people anything.
“Does he visit you ever?”
“No. He’s busy at university.”
“Oh. Does he write you ever?”
“No. He’s busy. I said he’s busy!”
“John writes me and he’s busy too.”
“Are you trying to piss me off?”
And I know she is but I know she’s doing it on purpose and I know she wants me to snap and tell her everything. I close my mouth and don’t make another sound.
“I’m tired.” She eventually tells me. She lies back on the cot, and the bed creaks and whines until it falls silent. I would move but I know it’ll be loud and for some reason I don’t want to risk waking Madison.
“He got me in here, the little brat.” I say.
She’s up in a second, peering at me through the thin light in the air from the emergency fluorescents which are on all night, keeping us awake.
“I don’t know.”
“I raised him, the ungrateful bastard.”
Then I tell her everything because I’m crazy. I’m crazy. “He seemed to think I was taking the easy way out every single day. He didn’t understand anything! Do you know what my first mistake was? Letting myself be taken advantage of.” I begin to cry and I don’t try to stop it because I’m almost certain it’s too dark to see the dampness on my cheeks. “There was a young farmer and I thought he loved me but he was married. So I took his wallet and I took all the gifts he’d given me and I left. But you know what? He left me with more than some stupid jewels- I was pregnant.”
I keep crying and I can’t even speak and it doesn’t matter how dark it is because Madison knows exactly what I’m doing.
“Damian thinks I chose this life for some sort of glory!”
Madison is nodding- I can see the way her head bobs.
“Do you hate Damian?” She asks me.
“No.” I say. Then I add, even though I don’t think it’s true and it only feels like it sometimes, “But he hates me.”
“Oh,” she says in that way which is so infuriatingly Madison. “And what’d he do?”
I stop to think for a moment and then I just tell her because it’s late and I stopped thinking a long time ago.
“I was with a target; you know, letting him think he was magnificent and handsome and smart in some stupid high-end club. I had his wallet already. I was getting too old for it and I wanted to retire and then Damian walks in and there are cops and I don’t know what and then I’m here with you.”
“The kid hasn’t talked to me since. He didn’t even say anything that night, he just kind of looked at me as they put handcuffs on and marched me from the club with everyone gawking like they do when something interesting happens. The target I was with thanked him, thanked my son for ‘saving him!’ From me! His mother!”
“So you do hate him?”
She lies back down. I hear the bed scream.
I lie down too, and I cry into the thin little pillow until I stop.
“I don’t know what I think about him. Sometimes I wish he’d stop existing, but I’m also glad he was there all those years because he was a sweet kid. He was a really sweet kid. He kept me sane.” I tell her, and I wonder if it’s true.
“And what about now?”
I laugh. “I’m in prison. I’m in prison.” I say it again because I realize how ridiculous it is. Damian is off studying to be some business man and do you know something? He’s probably going to be great. He’s probably going to be magnificent. He’s probably going to build a legacy for himself and never need me again and one day I’ll be free and I’ll go back to our home and he won’t be there and I’ll find all the money I ever stole and I’ll leave.
I’ll leave. I’ll go to the Bahamas and I’ll start over all by myself.
And I’ll know that somewhere in the world Damian is sitting all by himself, too, because that seems to run in our family.