I wanted no mercy. I wanted them to throw the book at me. What I had done was unconscionable. The deaths of four people--public servants. Firemen, to be exact.
The fact that it was unpremeditated, that it could not be foreseen, is negligible. However unintentional, I feel the blame can be laid squarely upon me. Along with one other person, technically speaking. But that has no bearing at all upon my own guilt, and I would just as soon not even mention such complicating--not to say mitigating--factors.
It can be said that I would have easily given my own death for the both of us. This is no indication of magnanimity on my part. It is not said out of any affection or disaffection for the other party, the other person. I have absolutely no strong feelings for that individual. The price of my own life simply would have not been too large.
In a modest way, I let my feelings be known at the public event of my trial--but only modestly, lest they be seen as a plea for clemency of any kind. I wanted nothing of the sort, and feared that any strong emotion would bias the proceedings in a way favorable to me. Simply and briefly and unemotionally I spoke out to the effect that own death by execution would be an insufficient but willing recompense for the deaths of the innocent public servants. That was the most efficient manner in which to let my feelings be known.
In return, I was told by counsel that such an outcome was not really even possible, given the obviously unintentional sequence of events in question. But that did not matter to me.
Such an outcome was not destined to be.
The outcome which did arrive, however ironic and which might seem possibly pleasant to some onlookers, was by the same turn even worse, from my vantage point. And truth be known, I must state my willingness to take the worst, given the unconscionable deaths which occurred as a result of my negligence.
Technically I was convicted of a trespassing violation, albeit the penalty was the most severe possible, which my counsel offered to easily make lighter. But I instructed him in no uncertain terms not to.
My accomplice--so to speak--was not apprehended. I did not reveal where they might find him, either. I could not have. His whereabouts are forever a mystery to me.
My fate was to become exiled--a state I am certain many would contend to be worse than being put to death. Exiled in a medium security prison with television and books and private cell and no duties to speak of.
And which many would contend to be (again) highly ironic given the state in which I had been living for some years prior to the chain of events which led to my exile here--namely that I was homeless after a life of typical vocations and habitations. And had been, for approximately three years.
Though even such inconveniences as a leaky water handle in the corner here are, to say the least, highly distracting. Not that for even one minute do I maintain that I deserve any better.
It is worthy of noting that, after countless hundreds of days with no clue as to the source of my unhappiness, the sweetest release in my life was the first day I had nowhere to go. For years I had drudged in the paths we are expected to drudge, and each successive day found less reason to do so. You know the routine, you're in it yourself, it's easy to tell. Earnings, consumings, mortgages, relationship maintenance, children, demands, demands. And one day to walk out on it all and embrace the life of the immensity of abandoned buildings in America.
Those who do not know would be stunned to learn of the vastness of sheltered space in this country. Back to consumption: forever expansion means to simply build new buildings and forget the old. You might think this applies mainly to the larger cities, white flight, hollow cores, but it's not so. The vast countryside has more vacant farm homes and storage spaces than you might imagine. Open fields, miles and miles from anyone, and you can find shelter where no one will bother you for years on end. Of course the location means the lack of blood donor banks and dumpsters and the like.
The gold mine is in the sheer numbers of smaller cities--the hotels and schools and offices and acreage of warehouses. Which is the story of how I found myself in a modest Louisiana city.
Not that kissing your children goodbye one morning and leaving the entirety of their lives to their godawful mousetoothed disposal-voiced mother and never seeing them again is a thought to be relished. But it is a pain that simply has to be endured.
The particulars of the day that led to the events that brought me here to the point of asking that my life not be spared are certainly not ones to be dwelled upon, not news to anyone who has ever had their eyes open to the sordid goings-on of human beings. I must say that the straits I had found myself in of late had been particularly hopeless and my actions out of character. Bad luck, a misunderstanding with a man with one nostril long sliced away concerning the position of a pillow, and temporary emotional aberrations led to the known events: a fight, the knocking over of a candle in an eighth-floor hotel room that had seen its last occupant some decades ago.
I do not know the name of the other party--the accomplice, as some might say. I would not have wanted to know, and will not ever know. I am not protecting him either. My own willingness to die for the injury we caused is sufficient. Not that he could ever be found.
The failure being--and I am perfectly cognizant of this--not that we had a misunderstanding or that we roughhoused and knocked over a candle or destroyed useless property for some absentee owner who probably did not even know that he owned a dilapidated hotel in some miserable Louisiana city, but that the fire started and we both ran down the stairs and thought only of our own safety and not the brave souls who tried to wrestle the conflagration back.
It was not even so much that we--I--caused a fire and destroyed property which did not belong to us. Or that I pursued a dream contrary to the wishes of most of our society.
We even tried to put the blaze out for a short time. My assailant was rather inventive about it, dancing about and throwing random items to smother the flames--I, less so, admitting my fear of the smell of burning flesh.
If we had only made a 911 call from a pay phone.
There would have been more time to respond and contain.
And that is what I confess to. And accept responsibility for.
This prison life--comfortable as it is--I would have never asked for, True, I had rejected all possibility of exchange--that is, labor for comforts of life. And I had accepted a drastically refuced level of comfort.
Far less than this. I never asked for this.
But I would give it all up.
Can you hear that leaky water handle? I just need one other person that will say he can hear it. That's all.