written by E. Martinez
How do you invite your 25 year old daughter to your funeral?
“Hey baby girl, come see Daddy die.”
She knows. They all know. It’s no surprise to anyone that I’ll be dying tonight. Wait. Murdered.
Murdered is the correct word. It suits the occasion. Tonight, I’m aware of the grim-reaper’s whereabouts. Tonight, they’re going to kill me. I’ve waited for this moment without wanting to wait for it. Now they’re waiting on me. And I’m sure they’ll be here soon. I’ve taken note. Death never runs late.
I can hear the second hand on the clock ticking nearby in the hallway. It gives me a dreadful sense of being mocked. I want to get up and peek, but I’m afraid I won’t accept what I see. Each tick-tock reminding me of what awaits. Time has always been my opponent, to all of us here. Children of god. The matrix. And Mother Nature. We’re just bastards in the neglectful eyes of Father Time. Even the white noise seems dark and loud tonight.
I scan the room, looking for Faith. She left a long time ago. And she took Hope and Freedom with her. But that was years back. They’ve been calling lately, but they don’t sound pleasing to my ear anymore.
I look for another distraction. Anything. I spy a spider weaving his web freely in the corner of my eight by ten casket. And Patience comes to mind. A lost practice the spider and I share. “I salute you, lil’ spider, for weaving your web without deceit, an endangered talent these days.” Which is why, I suppose, you eat and sleep peacefully without worries. “Hakunah Matatah.” That was Kaitlin’s favorite movie as a kid. “The Lion King”… I’d grrr… and say “Mufasa!” and she would hide her face, giggle, and scream. “Daddy do it again!” My baby girl. I had to hurt her feelings yesterday. I couldn’t help it. I refuse to allow her to witness this evil. Needless to say, shit got ugly. But memories of murder are uglier.
Baby girl, “Mufasa” was murdered too, and he was a good lion. Really though, how do you say goodbye forever?
That’s one of the first questions I shot at the Chaplain. His highness pranced on in here with a skilled sympathetic mask over his eagerness to do what he probably believed to be God’s dirty work. At least that’s what the spirit told me. I was like “what’s the basis of praying for my soul, when you’re ruining yours?” His look was classic.
And besides his first two words when he entered were, “My son.”
I thought, seriously! I’ve been here 21 years against my own free will, or God’s will. Me! A toddler of God. Who has mastered the art of crawling and you, Mr. Chaplain, his servant has served me nothing but a cold shoulder. You’ve seen my hell. And did nothing. And in doing so, you’ve made yours. Fortunately, he didn’t refer to me as his son anymore after that . Nor did he sound too godly making his ungraceful exit. As for me, I plan to go out gracefully. Won’t see me sweat tonight.
By the way, I forgive you, Father.
You know what’s crazy, though? How they catered to me a couple of hours ago. The same men that forced- fed me my own pride, and molested my character with their hate, now those same men want to wrap themselves in humbleness. Clans without the mask.
Sir, those aren’t uniforms, their costumes, I laugh at my inside joke.
Honestly, whoever cooked my favorite dish, they got it just right. On point like a decimal. Even more honestly, it tasted like shit. What, did they expect me to have an appetite? I even got a hot shower and a haircut. I almost felt compelled to kindly thank my murderers for sending me off to my grave with a full stomach and anti-perspirant deodorant. I’m sure it’ll ease the recession in heaven.
It wont be long now. Phase II is what they call this psychological coffin. It’s preparation for premeditated murder. Another Uncle Sam Human Sacrifice. Gotta make sure the Redbloodicans and Democrips got something to sink their fangs into. The whole appeal process was a joke… and the system… the system’s the comedian.
Twenty-one years in this bullshit. Fucking crazy. For 21 years I’ve prayed, hoped, pushed, and willed this door to open… and nowI don’t wantthat ma’fuckn’ to open. That’s not the kind of exit I had in mind.
All these years of hope and prayers… “Where you at, Father? Why have thou forsaken thee?”
Hope. Hmmm… Fuck Hope! Hope is doubt in disguise, don’t question it. I know Hope extremely well. She’s nothing but a tease, a dollar on a g-string. I know this. So I’m wondering why the fuck she won’t leave me alone tonight. I’m busy dealing with reality right now. And the reality is, it’s awfully quiet in here tonight. And I know I’m the reason for it. Whether wrong or right, a soul’s gonna fly tonight. And they’ll be coming to escort mine down the terminal soon. Yeah. My soul has a scheduled departure, one-way ticket, coach. You know, the state’s budget.
It’s strange, but it feels as if the temperature is gradually dropping. So unusual in August. Maybe I’ll holla at Zoe tomorrow about stitching me one of tho.. never mind.
I can’t stop thinking about the satisfying look on the warden’s face when I was taken to his office. He showed all 26 nicotine, coffeeand bullshit-stained teeth. Smiled like the Grinch and then he asked, “Who’s going to pick you up?”
In that instant, Hope showed up again. Only to blow me a kiss. If life’s a bitch, then Hope is a gold digger. She tricked me into dreams and has dictated the words of my prayers. Hope has done nothing but waste my time. I hoped on getting paid, but the security guard thought differently … and got shot.
So fuck you, Hope, your essence is flawed. An illusion of the imagination. Just like me standing there in the warden’s office hoping I heard the five words I thought I heard. Then it registered. What the son of a bitch really meant was, who is going to come pick up my dead body.
The slow registration of anguish in my eyes seemed to ignite a sinister satisfaction in his. He said, “Sit.”
He slid the phone on his desk over to me. Lit a Marlboro light and said to me, “You’re next on deck, your death warrant’s been signed. Call someone, you’ve got five minutes to arrange your funeral.”
That had to have been the thousandth time I died in this building. A hallway. My runway of fantasies.
I picked up the phone and I’m thinking how the fuck do I tell my ol’ girl that she has to come pick up my dead body.
But I had to do it. So the one thing I swore I would never do again, I did. I made mom cry.
And that day in the warden’s office… I died again.
I shake the memory. I look over to the corner of the room. The spider’s done weaving, now he waits with the patience of a sniper.
An old thought comes around. One I never understood. There’s a numerous amount of men back here. But not on, not any of these men grabbed their victims, told them they were going to be murdered, then locked up in a bathroom for years while the victim waited to die. Isn’t anticipation of death, worse than death itself? We die everyday… at least I do. But I guess I won’t have to worry about that anymore.
The tick-tock in the hallway increases its volume and like a prodigal son of DOC I find myself with a desire to return to Father Time.
I find heart. I baby-step my way over to the door and stretch my vision through the narrow crack in the metal frame and there he is, Father Time, getting in one last good-bye.
I hear the security door open down the block. I hear it shut. They’re out of my line of sight, but I can hear their boots awakening the concrete. An image of Nazis colors my mind. They’re coming for me. My name missed Schindler’s List.
Be cool… be cool. I repeat to myself. But that mantra does nothing but fuel panic. I hurry back to my bunk and sit down. I get angry at myself. I’m about to be killed and I’m still trying to follow their rules.
Shit. They’re getting closer. I scan the cell one last time as if I’m forgetting something. I divert my focus to the spider. There is a fly wrestling his web . The spider tip toes down to the web. Patiently, he enjoys the fruit of his labor.
My skin prickles.. I take it as an omen.
They open the feeding flap on my door. I stand. I feel robotic. I ‘m at the door. I turn around and extend my hands out the flap so they can cuff me. And they do, tightly.
My eyes meet their eyes. Acknowledgment. A good-bye, and good -riddance. A God bless with a dash of burn-in-hell. It sounds crazy, but at this moment, I almost crack a smile. How insane would that have looked.
Then the door rolls open. And that potential smile didn’t continue its attempt to crack because it shattered.
I took a step forward, and another, my feet gaining weight with each step. I pause. I breath. Even the white noise has stopped. It’s whispering. The building paying me my respect. Even Father Time has stopped his annoying tick.
I observe the familiar faces of my oppressors. They seem to be studying mine, as if I was alien. Hmm. Maybe I just got that “Moses glow.” No words are voiced; a few head nods say it all.
They shackle my ankles. And I commence the longest walk of my life. The DOC plank.
The murder show has begun.
We head towards my final destination, footsteps bang like gunshots.
They let me dictate the pace as I walk down the path chosen for me. I observe the silent sorrowful faces fogging up the small windows on their doors.
Friends, enemies, family. members of the hopeless.
I see Mom, Kaitlyn.
I see tears that won’t run cause their souls are dry. I see the pride they swallow and how it eats them inside. We share something back here. Secrets and mysteries given to us by God, and Lucifer.
We don’t say goodbye back here, we say “tomorrow.”
I’m seeing the faces of those before me and those next. I’m seeing faces of death. And they look like sad clowns that have spent their lives crying while making others laugh.
An officer’s radio smears the image and snaps me back. I watch Officer Conely unclip his radio and respond, “10-15 being escorted now, Sir.”
“10-4,” the radio barks back.
I blink. I step. I think. I pray. I repeat this.
Pattern. I’m on autopilot.
We arrive. The steel door unrolls.
I see an officer glance down. I think to myself he must of seen my heart drop.
The air-conditioning emitting from the death chamber freezes the trapped expression on my face.
My next minute seems foggy. The room looks too bright for death. The instruments too polished. The guards have on their best costumes, everything scripted. Ah, yes, premeditated murder.
I avert my attention to the wall-size tinted glass. I assume that is where the witches and wizards of the state gather to perform their rituals offering sacrifice.
They should Pay-Per-View this shit. It’ll help push people over the fiscal cliff.
They move me. Guide me towards a medical chair. It has restraints. My death bed. I think, I’m not crazy, they are. The warden and doctor exchange words. The officers attempt to lay me down. My will to survive resists. I’m overpowered. They strap me in. I sit directly in front of the tinted glass. I envision the hate emitting from behind the glass, the D.A., governor, victim family members, eager for me to die.
A shot of clarity sobers me. I’m being murdered in a room full of people who hate me. How criminal.
I glance at the doctor, he’s perfecting my poison.
I look to the left, I see the infamous governor’s phone. Do landlines still exist?
Hope wants me to believe in the phone ringing.
Fuck you, Hope! The phone’s not going to ring. I can hear voices behind me. I’m freezing, my teeth clatter.
I look straight at the glass. They’re enjoying this. That’s why I refused to let
her be here tonight. A parent should never have to bury their child and a child should never have to see their parent murdered.
The superintendent intercepts the hate being channeled towards me
through the glass. We make eye contact. The coward breaks it. He makes a needless minor adjustment to his tie. A pacifying gesture. He takes a step closer and says, “Do you have any last words?”
I look at him for the first and last time. I mean really look at him. And I feel
sorry for him. I think of my spectators and my tormentors. How power has consumed them. And I feel pity for them, too.
I open my mouth to speak. To say what I’ve rehearsed a million times in my cell. And in a voice I don’t recognize I say something totally opposite, spontaneously and with the dignity of a martyr. I respond, “Lord forgive them. For they know exactly what they do.”
His eyebrows raise. He pets his tie again.
“May god have mercy on your soul.” His words are empty.
“And he on yours,” was all I could come up with.
He stepped aside for the doctor and just like that.
It was time to die.
I can’t run. I can’t fight.
Lord accept me as I am. I stare frantically at the doctor hovering the needle over my arm. He avoids my stare.
I think of Kaitlyn. My eyes drown.
Daddy loves you.
The needle pricks the first layer of skin. Then the second, third and so on.
This injection, a paralytic agent. It’s to induce coma. Instantly my body begins to turn itself off.
I see Kaitlyn. I see my sister.
A tear escapes. I see regret.
My eye lids close slowly like garage doors.
I strain my focus on the phone. Did it just ring?
My father’s at my side. Comforting me.
I mumble something. Ifight my eyes open one last time.
It’s not my father. It’s the doctor. He’s killing me! Doesn’t he hear the phone ringing! Stop! Pick up the phone!
Kaitlyn sat quietly and alone in the observation room. She just witnessed her father die.
A good man murdered.
Her tears flood over a memory. “Daddy! Daddy! Do it again!.”