Tuesday, September 15, 2015

William Myrl; Letters to No One (25)

Dear No One,

My celly is odd. I can't recall if I have described him to you before. He is nearly seventy, and in appearance follows perfectly along with the caricature of "old man". His posture is slightly hunched, his belly a cauldron pulling down his midsection. He has no teeth, none, and his gray hair has thinned on the top to the point where a handful of long strands have been dragooned into the job of covering his whole pate. When he sits on his bunk to write he becomes like a snowman; head, belly legs. And when he gets out of bed in the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening, whenever really; he has the bedraggled air of a man waking after having been beaten and left in a back alley. His comb-over/comb-back doesn't survive a nap.

Enough about his looks. The man has an L-note, as they say, and yet about once every other day I hear him say something along the lines of, "when I go home," or "if I go home." That's a common habit among lifers, I observe, despite the abolishment of parole. He did some bad things he has never admitted to me but everyone knows about. All our crimes are available on the internet to anyone with the family to call. This is where he lives now, so it doesn't matter so much who he was twelve years ago.

He works in the library, when there is a library, and it gives him a feeling of completion. He was a hoarder in the real world, and now he is a hoarder of information. His property box is full of folders, full of them, where he has copied from books and magazines. He writes things down for hours and hours. It's actually quite impressive how dogged he can be. He tells me, as he tells anyone who will give him the time, that he has written over one thousand poems. He has, I have seen the paper piles. They are not good, but you need to have better taste than whatever form of badness you are looking at to know that it is not good itself. He is rewriting a novel his old celly wrote, expanding it five times over. The whole process makes me wonder whether someone much better at writing than I am will look at my novels and think, "Poor fellow, he really tries."

He is generous with his family and a sheister with everyone else. He wants the cell to feel like a home, sensible enough, so he has a policy of sharing and sharing alike. I would rather he didn't, for the most part, because I dislike the messy obligations that such arrangements necessarily create.

He is happy, most of the time, but he is a sad sort of creature. To me his hobbies seem like a desperate attempt to mine meaning out of a meaningless existence. To him they doubtless seem pleasant. He is a collector, and a scribe, and that is enough for him.


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