In the early morning light my eyes slowly fluttered open. My groggy mind finding it hard to place the noise coming from below me. In that state of confusion, where things from the real world blend into fantastical happenings in a dream state, my mind could not yet process what woke me. But it did process that something was wrong.
Seconds after coming awake I was able to remember where I was. The drab white cinder block walls, so close together that I couldn’t have turned the bed sideways even if I was allowed. The pale light, coming in from the single, small window, high up on the wall. The feel of the metal bars holding my thin foam mattress aloft. The wall of additional metal bars came into focus, snapping the last remnants of my sleep away.
I look down, under my bed, to see what my roommate is doing on his bunk just below. Aaron has been having a rough time of it lately. Jailed for the almost identical scenario as my own – going to see if the person who was sexually flirtatious, purposely enticing, and clearly knowing full well what they were doing, was in fact a child – or as we assumed, an adult playing games. An adult interested in a no strings attached potentially sexual encounter.
But unlike me, Aaron had received an extended stay – four years of basically non existence for the price of his curiosity. Aaron was also gay and had been severely bullied his whole life for it. Especially so, these last two years he’d served here in prison. He had been feeling hopeless lately. Overwhelmed. Defeated.
Before catching sight of Aaron I noticed his shaver, oddly crushed on the floor next to his bed, as if stepped on. The plastic shattered and lying in pieces.Only recognizable by the handle which was still in tact. Something about the sight was disturbing, but my newly woken brain fumbled with the meaning.
My eyes finished their descent to see Aaron staring up at me. Blood was running out of his mouth in little rivulets from the corners of his mouth, like a vampire – and the quick thought made me smile. Until I realized what was happening and a scream tore from my mouth.
Aaron had removed the small razor blade from one of our plastic shavers. His fingers were shoved in his mouth, pushing inward, as his eyes winced with the pain that action was causing.
In that moment I understood the situation with perfect clarity. Aaron had choose to leave this misery behind. He was trying to swallow the razor blade so that medical attention could not come quick enough to save his life. He would bleed out internally.
Instantly regretting my scream, I jumped from my bunk and got behind Aaron on his bed, with his shoulders and head cradled in my lap. It was a position often thought of as comforting someone – but comfort was not on my mind. I pulled his hands out of his mouth and held them down against the sides of his body – with my other arm I grasped him low on the neck, keeping his adam’s apple from its full range of motion, thus suppressing his ability to swallow.
I sat there pleading with him, in hushed tones hoping for a few extra moments time, ‘please Aaron, this is not the answer. I will help you through this. Do not swallow that blade!’
The lights on the block were all on now, inmates hooting and hollering, guards running from cell to cell – trying to find the source of the commotion. They would be on me in an instant. My only hope was to hold on long enough for Aaron to spit out the razor, or a guard to actually listen to me! I was banking on the former.
Still trying to talk Aaron out of his plan, his eyes softening toward me – as he heard my words, felt my sincerity…I could almost see the gears turning in his mind. The bodies urge for self preservation, coupled with my words, were making a difference.
Just then my cell door clanged open. A guard rushed in, then two more. They were pulling on Aaron, trying to get him from me – but I held fast – yelling out what was happening – pleading with them to listen. If I let go, If I allowed him to swallow…
Everyone was shouting – the tiny room was now filled with blue uniforms. Even if I could have spoken to the guards they would never have believed me. To them we are all a bunch of animals and treated as such. I felt the baton crash into the back of my skull. Then my back, repeatedly, as they ripped Aaron from my grasp.
“I found this one choking the life out of his cellmate. Looks like they were fighting from all the blood. Take them to solitary while we work this out”
The handcuffs were placed on my wrists, wrenched behind my back. The multiple baton marks had my body screaming in pain, making me feel nauseous and weak. I dropped to my knees and stared at Aaron.
As four guards picked him up and carried him off he stared at me, openly crying now, and swallowed.
I woke sweating and thrashing about in my bed – my mind racing with panic, my heart beating out of my chest. I would lie there for an hour, waiting for the adrenaline to subside inside me. Grateful for the snores coming from Aaron, in his bunk, fast asleep.