Prisons and Prisoners. Pain Inside-out. Part 6. End of Story.

Контент 18+ (лексика, описание сцен насилия)
In difficult periods of my life I have always relied on my friends and my hobby to give me focus and direction. So it happened again. A weak wind of change blew when a local TV showed a clip about my amateur music band, where I was honing my skill of playing bass-guitar. I thought that their visit was premature because we didn’t perform very well, but everybody said it was a great video-story. Thanks to an operator and producer, I was now in the news! A day later my colleagues informed me that all the prison knew about my hobby because some of the inmates had access to TV. It wasn’t prohibited to play music in your free time, but I’d have preferred that they didn’t have any inkling what I did outside. I wanted them to know me only in the role of serious and authoritative doctor: I focused on this manner of behavior because I supposed that my appearance couldn’t inspire respect.

By a strange coincidence our rehearsal studio was near the prison and I often passed by my workplace with my musical instrument in the case slung over my back. And only then I did start to notice the quiet, inconspicuous guys in black clothes who were always in a hurry somewhere, and it seemed that nobody paid attention to them, but they saw everything with their tenacious eyes. Now I caught sight of them and they watched me.
— What does it mean? — I asked Olga. — Why are the prisoners allowed to hang around outside?

She explained to me that they were 'the confidants' and the guards checked them very thoroughly. They had the best chance to get an early release and the guards used to order them to buy something in the city, like cigarettes or another stuff. “It is not dangerous, believe me”, — she said. However, what would the free citizens say as they went strolling serenely along the street? Did anybody tell them that some of the people walking among them were actually incarcerated criminals who had been let out to run such errands? Of course not. And the prison with its strange rules, with perpetual antagonism between the guards and the prisoners…it had gradually occurred to me that the whole system of the prison was based on a balancing act of controlled tension between prisoners and guards, both forever uneasy and fearful that something would come along and overthrow this balance. Only a few walls separated the fresh wind of the free street from the stale melancholy of the cage. And people live here and there — they are people too and deserve a humane attitude… but rules in these two worlds are different.

One day my old friend from another city (bigger than mine) suddenly suggested that I consider a new job. He was an amateur musician too and once we had played together. He worked for a popular science magazine and had decided that it would be as comfortable to work with me as to play music with me.
— …but I don’t have a relevant experience! —I responded doubtfully.
— Don’t worry! You will be a junior editor and we’ll teach you everything, — he answered in his letter. He offered a salary — the lowest in his company but… I received the same money in the prison with all exhausting shifts. And so I agreed.

I liked my job in the hospital but I was fed up with the night duties. Moreover, when you are a young doctor, you can’t refuse shifts in any hospital you work, and everyone who is older than you wants to dump you his charge. I understood very clearly that in my own city it was impossible to find a job based my specific education — and with the option to sleep at home in my own bed. During student days I had dreamt about high-tech operations, microsurgery, medical science, but now my dreams had crashed because there were not adequate wage-rates for me in the usual hospitals in my city and there were too many who wished to do my line of work in my friend’s city. Further, I saw that medicine took all my time and power whereas I wanted to live a full life. “I’ll move to my friend’s city, — I mused, — and start to study music as I wish, and I will sleep at night…''

So, I decided to work one month more and go away. Just at that time in the hospital a new order came out: every co-worker who was not an officer must attend self-defense classes. At first I was glad — I had always wanted to do it. However, my mind was changed very soon. Our coach was a severe pile of muscles and for some reason he elected to show all the painful techniques on me.

— Stop, please, it hurts! — I exclaimed when he wrung my hand. Then he started to push even more with the whisper:
— Have you been thinking you are in a fairytale?
I didn’t want to feel myself as a victim, nor had I any further desire to play punching bag to this sadistic bastard, so after the second lesson I stopped visiting the gym with the words: “If they want, they can fire me right now, ok”. Something had changed in my thinking and I understood that the prison needed me more than I needed it. Maybe, Anatoly thought the same thing every time he went on a drunken binge.

On my last day in the hospital my colleagues organized a farewell tea party with cookies in the staffroom. Every doctor from both Departments of Surgery was there. Some of them said that they envied me because they simply were not in a position to change in their own lives. One thought himself too old, another — that he wasn't qualified to do any other job except this one in the prison. I was astonished that I didn’t have enough strength to stay there, but they, conversely, didn’t have enough strength to leave the prison’s hospital. At least, they claimed so. And nobody told me: “You shouldn’t go”.

Valery, the head of the hospital, who loved music very much and didn’t miss a single jazz-concert in the city, gave me a new CD with songs of Gary Moore and unexpectedly said:
— I always dreamed of being a musician too… — it seemed to me that he could start to cry at that very moment. However, it was only my imagination, of course.
— That’s right decision, — Anatoly said, — what would you learn here? How to treat patients with the help of only shit and sticks? You would never improve your skills here. Here is… a black hole.
— At least, — Olga said smiling and biting the cookie, — now you can say: “I spent a half of year in a prison”!

— It’s very interesting, what awaits you ahead, — Elena said, — I think, it will be better than it could be here. Good luck!
I admired these people at the time and I do now. It took about three years for me to get rid of anxiety, tension and professional cynicism, to stop trying to detect who from among the passengers on a bus had been a prisoner in his past, to stop seeing in my dreams all the different surgical sutures each with a different name, that I had carried out…
I saw, however, that there in the hospital I would improve nothing; I would only lose my own health and maybe also something even more valuable inside of me: my humanity. On the opposite side, my ex-colleagues were sufficiently prepared to safeguard their souls, their grasp of beauty and sense of humor. How did they manage it? I don’t know. But I like to think that somewhere among us other people live and strive to perfect their spirit trying to make our world better even in places where inhuman activities occur on a regular basis and where a self-replicating monstrous system tends to turn you into an iron bolt of its organism. Only few can resist this grinding pressure.

Maybe I couldn't, yet I am glad to believe that some can.

We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness, O’Brien had said to him. (George Orwell, 1984)

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