Something terrible has happened. Everything’s hazy and confused, and I feel as if I’ve gotten lost in a daydream and can’t find the portal home. I’m having trouble remembering things, important things, like my name, how I got here, and how to turn thoughts into speech. I don’t even know where “here” is, although it’s clear enough I’m in some sort of prison or detention facility. I can’t say precisely how long I’ve been lost, only that while the fog of terror and confusion has yet to fully lift, I seem to be coming to my senses a bit, at least enough to get a tenuous grasp on my situation.
Here’s what I’m most sure about: 1) I’m in prison. 2) I’ve sustained some kind of head injury, which has affected my memory and ability to speak.
The rest is groundless conjecture, but it’s the best I can do. I think I’m in Mexico or somewhere in Latin America, based on the appearance and language preference of the prison guard. I assume he’s a prison guard anyway, though he’s unarmed and dresses in street clothes. When he first came with the food tray, I frantically tried to communicate with him, an experience that left me terror-stricken when I realized I couldn’t utter a sound. Not Spanish, not English, not even a peep. Permanent brain damage? A lobotomy? These are the things that ran through my mind. Through panicky gesticulations I tried to get across that I needed something to write with. El Diablo, as I like to call him, just stared at me blankly and headed back down the hall. I grabbed the spork from the food tray and began feverishly scratching notes onto the wall. I thought of the movie Memento—where the main character writes everything down, even gets tattoos, to make up for his memory disorder—and with this in mind I carved the outline of my known universe into the brittle, cement block wall.
Just as the panic started to ease to a tolerable level, the most terrifying thought flashed through my mind like a bolt of lightning: My wife! Where is my wife! El Diablo must’ve heard the thunder crack, or else the scratching and scraping on the wall, as he suddenly appeared again outside the cell. I’m sure I looked like a madman standing there by the wall with the spork in my hand and a look of sheer horror etched into my face. For whatever reason though, he didn’t seem to be concerned. I even think he may have cracked a smile for a nanosecond or two. Then he spoke to me, for the first time (that I can remember). “Neuva mesas.” That was it. He motioned for the food tray, upon which I dropped the spork. I pushed it back under the bars with my foot, and stood there frozen as he bent to pick it up and then shuffled back down the hallway.
He returned again a few minutes later with a roll of toilet paper and a pen. These he pushed through the bars to me, at eye level, apparently unconcerned that I might snatch the pen from him and drive it into his neck, another lightning strike that flashed through my mind. In fact, his eyes seemed to soften a bit, as if he were taking pity on me, throwing me a bone as it were. For all I know, this man may have beaten me to within an inch of my life not too long ago, although his knuckles weren’t swollen, nor were his shoes caked with chunks of my scalp.
As I stared deadpan at the wall, a strange thought occurred to me. I was actually disappointed that I wouldn’t be completely covering every square inch of the cell with spork etchings. Thought it would make a great movie scene: the camera panning across the walls, then the floor, then the ceiling, until at last fixing its gaze on the dramatic, shocking, mind-bending final words. If only all this was a movie, then it would be just a matter of time before the credits would start to roll, the lights would come on, and I could head for the exit sign.
As it stands, if there is a you reading these words, then you will have found them on paper meant for wiping ass, under a prison bed in a town somewhere just south of nowhere. I need to believe that you exist, or at least will exist at some point. It’s more than just holding fast to hope of rescue. I also don’t want to accept that I might be talking to myself, because talking to oneself is a telltale sign of insanity. And just between you and me, I am very afraid that maybe I’m going insane, that maybe that’s where I am.
Yet, things seem to be getting clearer, and so I can write all this down today, which I would guess is approximately five or six days since I started to come-to. My day-to-day memory has returned, although I still can remember nothing of the surrounding events leading up to my incarceration. And I still cannot utter so much as a peep. Soon after grabbing hold of the pen and toilet paper I frantically wrote down everything, explaining about the busted brain, the not knowing what I did to get here, the existence of and concern about my wife, etc. I also wrote a letter to my wife and one to the as yet anonymous speaker of English I hope will soon be my savior.
El Diablo accepted the bundle and walked it down the long hallway to my left and out of view. I’m still waiting for a response. Like an automaton, he pushes the food tray through and retrieves it a while later. When I “ask” him about the letter situation, by miming and nodding expectedly, he just flashes me his patented blank stare, or else returns in a few minutes with more toilet paper. That’s why I call him El Diablo.
Maybe that’s unfair. Maybe he isn’t a bad sort. Maybe he isn’t the one who’s responsible for this giant scab on the back of my head, or the numerous scabs and bruises adorning the rest of my body. He did provide me with writing supplies, after all, and not once have I found a gob of spit floating in my gruel. But he is my jailer nonetheless, and just as I need an imaginary reader, I also need someone upon whom to vent my frustration. I need something to be against in order to feel here at all.
My best guess is that neuva means “new” and mesas means “tables,” but I’m not holding my breath waiting for new furniture to arrive.
Sometimes it’s best not to guess. Sometimes we just have to leave a problem blank and move on to the next one.