Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Chapter Four: I Sit Here Caged
By Gina Morrison
I am back here on the striped couch at Dottie's and I am trembling because of what happened with David last night, we had another fight I called Elizabeth my therapist and she says I have to write about it, I am trying to, right now, but when I do, start writing, I start crying, I see all the awful images again, I see him and her, him and her, I hear him saying what he said, what he said was "Yes, I fell in love with her," he actually said that to me, why would I want to write this? I am getting hysterical just sitting here, just trying to write shit I don't want to write I don't want to write
I would rather slit my throat than write about this, I would rather do anything in the world than write and see it all in my head, I would in fact rather
sit and rot write here right in this cell I tell you this bench is stone cold, rock hard, and I'm sitting, an animal caged, my ankle bleeding and crusted at the rusty chain. The skin is boiling red, and pain shoots closer and closer to my knee.
Only one thing saves me: my mind making lovely pictures. I see Teresa and me walking through the fields. Or the two of us hoisting our dark skirts and trudging up to the live oak tree on the golden hillside.
I see the sky, and hold the color close to me. What a glorious pink and blue the sunset can be.
Teresa’s letters are my only comfort. In the moments when I am most frightened, when I cannot even bring myself to whisper a prayer, I clutch my rosary and open her letters and reread what she has written.
Sometimes I say her words out loud, speaking them over and over again like a soothing chant. Tears pour out as I hear her cheerful voice echo. I can’t accept the idea I may never see her again.
Oh Teresa. You came to the convent a scrawny Irish orphan and so quickly you started to grow so plump. Ah but you were always the one I could count on to make me laugh. Each morning before prayers there you were, solemn, straight-faced, imitating pie-eyed Mother Yolla and her scowl. No one can imitate Yolla's waddle the way you do, how like a cow our Mother Superior walks. You have me laughing in tears. And then just as suddenly I am saying a prayer, “God, forgive me for laughing.”
I am laughing no more. I am certain now that I will die, as the lawyer says the most recent appeal has failed. I can’t see any hope. Mr. Deluria came briefly to the jail yesterday morning and said he isn’t sure what else he can do on my behalf.
After he left, I sat for who knows how many hours, staring through the barred window, looking out into the courtyard at the gallows. As the afternoon wore on, the sun got hotter and brighter. I grew more and more weak and dizzy. Fearing that I might faint, I finally tore off my wimple and veil. My hair stands like dry straw.
Occasionally a wagon came into view, the wheels sending up thick clouds of yellow dust. Finally, just after five, the guard brought dinner – a cold, grey mass of greasy potatoes he called stew – and I couldn’t begin to eat. As he retreated, I asked him where the hanging would be and at first, he glared at me and wouldn’t say.
“Ma’am, I ask you, what good would it possibly do to know?” He stood there jangling his circle of keys, and smoothed his hand over the impossible stubble on his chin. Then, when I said nothing, he silently pushed back his soiled hat. I saw his dark eyes, as flinty as the iron bars, and the wrinkles of the brown weathered skin of his forehead.
“Please,” I said. “Please just tell me where the hanging will be.” He eyed me carefully and replied, “If you must know, ma’am, it will be right outside there, in the far corner of the lot where the horses water.”
I ought not to have asked. For the rest of the evening and well into the ink of night, I clung tightly to the bars of the cell, so tightly that my hands and face smelled of rust. I kept wishing I had my guitar because if I had,
I would have played and sung and that would have calmed me. As it was, the sun sank lower and lower into the blue crust of the horizon and with it sank my spirits. Slowly the sun became a blazing orange egg yolk in the creamy azure of the evening sky. Still I kept riveted on that dreaded spot out there in the courtyard where my body will dangle from a rope until I am dead.
At some point during the night, I must have fallen asleep. I dreamed I was swinging from a rope that hung from a crucifix. I had been hanged, but somehow because I was on the cross, I didn’t die. I woke up with a start, slick in sweat, my heart beating as frantically as a hummingbird’s wings. I was collapsed against the grimy wall of the cell and I heard a drunken song coming from the jailer.
Oh this hell on earth must end. The only thing I can hope for is that my death comes fast and that some day, in some way, my living, my suffering, will not have been in vain. I pray that Theresa will take this diary, as she has said she would, and she will use it to clear my name, to show how Antonie lied.
Maybe it is a blessing that I am destined to die. Because I cannot imagine the shame I will feel once the newspaper publishes all of that rubbish from the trial. I can’t see how any purpose will be served by printing the filth, the lies, all that Antonie wrote and attributed to me. But if they are going to make the transcripts public, then yes, I fully agree with Teresa, the newspaper should also print my side of the story, side by side with his lies.
And so, Teresa, I am continuing to write this journal just as you suggest. You came to me that first week I was imprisoned. You squirreled the leather book at the bottom of a basket of Irish soda bread, covered in a red gingham tablecloth. We sat in the cell singing together that afternoon, and then you turned and stopped singing and leaned your lips to my ear. While I continued singing you whispered: “Look in the basket for the journal and the ink bottle and the quill.”
When you had gone, I lifted the gingham and pushed my fingers under the crumbling soda bread. There was my journal. Tucked inside the first page, this pale blue note: “My dear Renata, this --and my prayers, day and night – are all I can offer. As I’ve said so many times before, your writing will save you. Just remember, put everything here. Make it clear to the world exactly how Antonie lied. How he tried to portray you as the seductive dancer. How he framed you, made you look guilty of his murder. Write all of it. Expose his lies for what they are. Someday, I promise you as God is my witness, the truth will be revealed.”
Ah, Teresa, would that you were right. But how can I possibly undo the vicious lies that Antonie has woven so tightly around me? How can I make people see that he created me in his own mind? In his own words, he framed me, made me into the kind of woman that he wanted. A Spanish dancer of all things.
Still, sitting here, I know, I have no choice but to follow Teresa’s advice. I have only my diary to show the world that I am innocent. Dear Teresa, you will be the guardian of all that I write. Once I am hanged, you will be the only one who can ensure that these words are published. Only you can rescue and restore my sorry and trampled reputation.
At least I will die knowing that you will try to clear my name.
The jailer comes now with another plate. I tuck the diary inside my billowing sleeve.
I turn the plate away. I cannot bring myself to eat even a bite. He says I will die of starvation. Maybe that would be a blessing.