Funny the things ya hear on the outside.

Funny the things ya miss.

Back then, inside, when I was 437262, guest of the good state of California, there wasn’t a day went by when I didn’t talk to someone. Or have someone talk to me, which is kinda the same thing but you don’t get to choose what to talk about. Even on days when ya felt like keeping yerself to yerself, there’d be someone saying something: straighten up, break’s over, lights out. Then there’d be the orchestra: the doors swinging shut like great old drums, the whistles through the broken windows, the creaks and wails of the water in them pipes. You think it’d be quiet in there, locked away with nothing to do but count the days and wait to see if you feel sorry. It ain’t. It’s noise, noise, noise, 24 hours every single day.

At night, it’s the quietest and the loudest too. All the sounds you can hear are things you wouldn’t in the day. One man’s breathing, another man’s tears. The footsteps of mice. The slap slap of a hand as someone jacks off thinking about his girl. The fold of paper as the guard reads the news.

When you can hear a man doing everything, any man, all men, when you can hear a man sleeping, crying, dreaming, dying, when you can hear all that, all at the same time, you know you’re not alone.

Inside, you’re never alone.

Here, outside, it’s different. The noises are different. The constant hum of traffic, even when you can’t see a car. Birds. The voices of women. Music, the first time I heard the voices of women when I came out, better than music.

The other day, I walked past a high school and their band was out practicing, marching up and down the football field, fast as they could go without missing a breath or a beat. I stopped and watched ’em for a while. Hadn’t heard a sound so, just so big, in a long time. They saw me watching, watched me back, got that look that made me think it was time I moved along, that look that says: you don’t belong here, you ain’t one of us.

Outside, you see all sorts of people and you hear all sorts of things and there’s never a day that goes by without something happening around you, but I can go three days without speaking to someone or being spoken to back.

Outside, you’ve got everything you can want and sometimes, more days than not, it’s just you on your own.

That’s why I come back, some days, sit on the steps by the old prison entrance, the way they used to bring people in back when gangsters wore hats and the cops were all from Ireland. It’s long closed now, this door. Now they bring people in the other side, through thick metal gates, with scanners here and armed guards there and all kinds of shit to make you think this place is full of the world’s most wanted instead of a bunch of car thieves and wife beaters. So you can come and sit here, by the old way in, and no-one tells you to move.

So I come, some days, sit on the steps and listen. You can’t hear it all from here, but you can hear enough: the doors swinging shut like great old drums, the whistles through the broken windows, the creaks and wails of the water in the pipes.

I sit and I listen and it’s like I’m outside and inside at the same time. And I guess, sitting here, I just don’t feel like I’m so much on my own.

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Lizzie Boyle

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