Life is like being born and dying in a prison, without knowing what crime you committed to put you there in the first place.
So a constant, low-grade frustration permeates your life; it’s there when you traipse into the cafeteria and eat the slop from the plastic trays; it’s there when you clutch the prison bars and stare out between them, the bars throwing lines of shadow over your face; and it’s there when you’re lying on your hard bed, alone in your cell, staring up at the ceiling.
By the end of it, when they declare you guilty, and force you to drink a vial of poison, to atone for a crime you did not commit, the cold draught slips down your throat dark and bitter as bewilderment.
The thing is, the whole business of living is so puzzling, so disorientating, so strange and unfathomable, that you can’t even muster up any anger. All you can do instead is walk through the corridors of the prison, going along through the motions of the day, in complete confusion, like a sleep walker.
Two things comfort you as this terrible situation slowly wears you down. One is that you are not alone; there are hundreds and thousands and billions of other prisoners suffering along with you, new faces pouring in every day, who all do not know the crime they committed, and all must trudge through the daily drudgery of their days, swallow the poison at the end.
The other is that the prisoners who came before you, who have already swallowed the poison, left behind notes and mementos scrawled on the prison walls, voicing their own despair, confusion, often packaged in words of comfort and humor. Thus, if you scrawl your own little message, somewhere, for someone after you to read, as you read this or that person’s scrawl with your still living eyes and still living brain– that is, if other people swallowed the poison and now you exist, to one day swallow the poison also– then perhaps there is some meaning to being in the prison, after all. It’s a repeating cycle; they’re in your shoes and you’re in their shoes and when you’re gone, there will others in your shoes and their shoes who will one day have others in their shoes.
And so we just keep on going, doing our best to distract ourselves until the time comes, rattling the bars and crying out into the emptiness when it gets too hard. Though no prison guards are coming to save or help you; for, in truth, even the guards don’t know what they’re doing, and perhaps not even the ones who dish up the poison, either.