Vacation from Purgatory


“Give me scars” she said.

“I don’t care what kind but make them indelible. “

“Not ones that’ll fade in time… ya know?”


She says it with the carelessness of a cancer patient

Light as someone who has seen the date on their toe tag

The date on ours decided for us by 12 strangers and the media


Never mattered


Could never be, really


May be the most meaningful thing either of us has ever done

Neither of us will live long enough to find out

C’est la… morte?

She’s as condemned as me and she knows it

Probably, better than I do


I haven’t got any scars yet.

None she’d accept anyway.

She with her tapestry of Keloid

I always managed to heal.

Not all the way, but most of the way.

Enough that my skin is a composition of faint silver intersecting lines.

From a distance though, from a distance my skin looks just like skin.

I look just like her

We look like everyone else.

Troublingly solid ghosts in bright jumpsuits

They keep telling us we’re dead

It hasn’t stopped our hearts beating


We’re not like everyone else though because we know.

We see the lies that bind

One to another and others to themselves.

Oceans of disparity as vast as the breadth of a strand of hair

Insignificant enough to kill for

That’s why we’re here her and I

We’re murderers

She brought about an unceremonious end to the Virgin Mary

And I?

I killed Mother Theresa


CNN likes it when you martyr the martyrs

Fear, moral outrage, disgust

They sell ad slots and news stories like salvation to Christians

Few things are hotter than a common enemy to spice up the suburbs

For our trouble, we got:

Bright orange and 9X12

60 minutes a day of rec

3 showers a week

… when we behaved

Needless to say we got used to falling asleep to the scent of each others sweat

She smiles

It blinds like the high beams of a drunk driver

Shocks you still with asymmetrical perfection

You know there’s danger ahead but you can’t look away

Not for a second, or in my case, 5 years now

I’ve always had a strange affinity for the way one side of her mouth pulls down just a little more than the other

A small blessing afforded by a dull knife


Perhaps it was an unsteady hand

She never told me which, maybe, she herself doesn’t know

A mystery to rival the pyramids if you ask me… no one ever will though

I know I’m not the only one to see it, but I am the only one to love it and so I have decided that her slightly lopsided smile is mine

Just mine

For an eternity neither of us may lay claim to


Forever, is sometime longer than the appeals process


Just a touch shorter than the length of your sentence

We’re forfeit and always have been

There will be no reprieve for either of us

She accepts that in a way I don’t think I ever could

She turns and the light hits another of her red badges of courage

This one along the side of her neck

With a bit of care he managed to slice just below the important bits and just above her shirt collar

“The kindness of a stranger” – we’d given them all names

Her fingers find the familiar redness as though she felt my gaze there

There’s no grimace when she touches it, no sadness flickering across her defiance


Her smile broadens

She’s particularly proud of that one

This one… She strokes it lovingly… This one took me right to heavens gates before the paddles yanked me back

You’ve seen heaven huh ?

We’ve had just this same conversation a dozen dozen times

Now, familiar as her scars

Yea, she said, I’ve seen heaven

Big golden arches

Baby, you were high

He got you behind a McDonalds

Yea, she says, I was

::My smile::

Yea that was back when I could get the good stuff

Now… hell… I’d trick for its memory

There’s a pause; not uncomfortable, not pregnant the fight had long gone out of that offhand comment… this pause is reverence for the sanctity of our routine

I’m her reincarnated Virgin Mary


I never did that either…


So I’ve never had sex… none she’d accept anyway

My first night she gave me bread

In my cell shock the vultures had picked the carcass of my tray clean

I sat, transfixed, there was blood under my pinky nail

It wasn’t mine

The red of the scars on her hands

 Technically defensive wounds but don’t you let her hear you call them that-

It eclipsed the red of the blood

Then her eyes

They found mine and held them

Twin hazel green north stars to guide me home

She pressed bread into my mouth and held it shut until I swallowed

She didn’t acknowledge the tears only filled my silent mouth with bread

She is my reincarnated Mother Theresa

This dinner is unremarkable, though, it is the most memorable one I will never have

They gave us two puddings


Somehow, despite the puddings, I can’t quite get the food to go down right

Neither can she

This was the first time I cried since the night of the bread


You’re going to ruin the damned pudding !

Just because they gave us extra that doesn’t mean you get to ruin one

It’s our last meal and I’m adding unwarranted salt to the dessert

She will lighten the mood if it kills her

Then, at least, it won’t be the state that gets her

This is not her last meal

That won’t come for a few days yet

But… tomorrow… tomorrow she goes to Building C

To a room smaller than this one that doesn’t house me

The last room she’ll ever fall asleep in… or … maybe she won’t

She doesn’t sleep really, just lays quietly for a while

Then, motion

But this is the last time for each of our routines

Each paid special reverence in its finality

Though neither of us have said it out loud, each piece of well worn choreography is a small goodbye

A last glimpse of a small piece of the other never to be seen

These last imprints of memories that’ll have to last the rest of our lifetimes


Tomorrow I’ll have a new murderer to take her place

Tomorrow she’ll have a countdown to take mine

The 14th woman to be executed in New York State

An interminable number of tomorrows from now I’ll take my own place in Building C


You know how these things go

But tonight

Tonight before society kills my killer we won’t have our last supper

An eternity expressed in pudding

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