So, you’re at the gate. They don’t look anything like you expected. But then nothing ever does. You raise your arm to look at your watch but it’s not there; they probably took it but you lost track of the details in all of the chaos. You’re not sure why, but you have an overwhelming feeling that time doesn’t matter right now. It’s as if time slipped out the back for a quick and secretive cigarette; you’d kill for one now but you’ve been told without words and besides, your pockets have been emptied too. So you just wait.
Your mind backtracks to the time you got lost. Perhaps the isolation you feel now takes you back there. You stand, hands cold, breath stinging, head throbbing and vision blurred with hot tears. An empty bottle rolls across the table; you have finally let go. The prison walls swell and squeeze you tighter, rhythmic with the whirring of your empty thoughts. You don’t panic, though. You savour the feeling because you have learned the hard way that it won’t last. So, you sink, welcoming the falling sensation as if closing yourself back into a warm duvet on a Sunday morning, like entering the womb backwards. Everything is red. There is a lot of red, warm and fuzzy. You’re not scared – you have lost that with your possessions. You hear them fight over keeping you alive – you cannot place the muffled voices enough to hear what they have decided or whether there is any other emotion tucked away inside them alongside the anger – it sounds like they are shouting. Maybe they want you to hear. Their exchange flows and washes over you in waves. Perhaps you are drowning. You let the water in.
Then you wake. Your eyes open and the room is tipping you upside down, holding you by the feet like a prize turkey. It shakes you, tipping out your last pennies, a lighter, a cigarette stump – had they been there the whole time? You couldn’t be sure. You reach out and feel the cold steel of the gates. You pull at them to open – you don’t know what’s behind them, but anything is better than this. The voices have stopped shouting – the blurred shapes the voices belonged to have vanished and taken their slurs with them. It’s just you, back at the gate. You’re still waiting for them to open like a drunk waiting for 11 am to arrive. You pull at them, hoping there’s someone or something – anyone or anything behind them to embrace you or envelop you. You don’t know how, but either time has raced to your aid or you have mustered the strength from somewhere deep inside to open them – just enough for you to squeeze inside. You hear whispers on the other side and the beep of an alarm, soft and gentle and it warms you inside. You crawl through, knees bleeding and fingernails dirty, into the black abyss, blissfully ignorant of any danger, escape, the carrot dangled in front of you to rest beyond the walls of your prison, just for a while, if not forever.