Life is too short. That’s what everyone always says. How many people really believe that though? I know I said it myself many times throughout my life, but now that I am nearer to the end, I do believe it. I believe it whole-heartedly. It is that firm belief that has placed me here, right now, in this predicament or adventure. I prefer to look at this as an adventure. If I didn’t, I would still be sitting in that chair by the window, sweating in the heat of that stuffy nursing home waiting for death.
This is not how I had pictured living my final days when I was young, full of piss and vinegar, indestructible and hardly able to harness my energy. Even then, I liked to live life on the edge. I was never the criminal type, but I enjoyed challenging convention.
The clink of the guards keys moving toward me interrupt my reverie. He stops at my cell. There is a look of pity in his eyes and his voice is almost soft when he speaks. Those two things are in direct contrast to his physical appearance; big bulky muscles fighting against the cotton fabric of his uniform, short blond hair, hacked off near the root, tips standing out in defiance at the sides of his head-the balance hidden by his hat, thick legs anchored by heavy, highly polished black boots.
“You have a visitor, Mr. Carmichael. Come this way please.”
“A visitor? I wasn’t expecting anyone. I don’t have many friends left or family, for that matter. You know that is the problem with living too long, young man, you end up alone, outliving everyone. It’s not that much fun.”
Again, I see that look as I pass him. It’s starting to make me angry. I don’t need sympathy from anyone.
I hear the clink of the cell door close. A sound that I am sure, I will become accustomed to, like the sound of the clicking wheel on the nurse’s trolley as it passed my room, on the nightly journey up and down the halls of the nursing home. In the beginning, I never thought I would get a night’s sleep from that sound, but soon enough it faded into the background, faintly audible.
I stop and wait for the guard to unlock the next set of barred doors. Not knowing exactly where we are heading, I feel a hesitation in my normally steady gait. I fear that it will be yet another symbol of my weakness to the steroid Hercules behind me and my irritation is mounting. I yearn to keep it under control. A snap, right now, here in this place would not be wise.
The final door opens and I walk into a small, grey coloured room with a simple wooden table in the middle. A middle-aged man, in bad need of a shave sits at one of the chairs, papers spread across the top of the table in a haphazard fashion and he hardly looks up as I walk in and take a seat across from him.
It takes what seems forever, for him to raise his head and look at me. I stare at him straight in the eye, willing him to do the same. He can’t, his eyes shift from the papers, to the door, to the floor, to the ceiling and all over the room, each time they meet mine, they quickly move as if my gaze is too strong to handle, searing.
I know he introduced himself and I heard lawyer, but I didn’t hear anything that he was saying because he is so nervous. It’s bordering on ridiculous. Where did he come from? How did he ever pass a bar exam? Maybe he has just returned to work after a lengthy illness and he is realizing he cannot do it.
“….as I said Mr. Carmichael, these charges are quite serious. It could mean that you may never see freedom again. I need to know everything that happened. It’s the only way I can hope to find a way to defend you. The evidence is very incriminating. They have you on video camera, your voice on a tape recording of a conversation with one of the other suspects, and they have a statement from one of the bank tellers who gave a very detailed description of you. I’m curious about one thing, Mr. Carmichael. Did you know what you were doing? Did you know that you were committing a serious federal offence by committing a bank robbery? If you realized all of that, why in heaven’s name did you use your own name?”
His eyes are on mine now and I can see the frustration in them as well as hear it in his voice. I almost feel sorry for him. I feel badly that because of my follies, he is now challenged with the task of getting me off. It is not going to be easy. He is frustrated because he cannot figure out my motive. He is probably thinking right now, “What would motivate a man at his age, 83 years, living a comfortable life in a safe, sterile environment, to rob a bank and risk ending up rotting in a cell?” He has his job cut out and for that, I am sorry.
I make no apology for living though. I do not have the time or the desire to tell him why. He will know himself one day. The past five years of excitement are worth, however many more years that I have to live, in what others may view as misery. Misery was my life before I met Donald. Because of Donald, I can honestly say that I have lived the life of a king. All that money, the trips, the food, the wine, it helped me forget about my loss for a while.
My dear Marjorie, god bless her soul, is probably angrier than a hornets nest. However, she must know the loneliness I have felt since her death. Surely, a love like ours does not end when one of the partners dies. I won’t believe that. I know she is waiting and soon enough I will join her.
“….as you can see Mr. Carmichael, it’s going to be very, very difficult to defend you and hope to get you off without having to serve any time. However, my hope is that the Judge will be sympathetic to your age, health and up until this string of bank robberies, an exemplary, clean record.”
“Thank you, Mister, uhmmm I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name.”
“Yes, thank you for everything Mr. Jones. I appreciate you coming to see me and anything that you can do will be just fine.”
“I really don’t think you comprehend the seriousness of the situation Mr. Carmichael.”
“No? I don’t want to sound flippant Mr. Jones, but I do understand. I understand everything. The problem is that you do not understand. That is your job and your journey. Mine is over.”