Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Prisoner

The prisoner looked at the judge and asked, “Do you ever feel judged?”

The Judge gazed back at him with a blank look. It was clear he believed he was looking at a fool, but the prisoner continued because no one stopped him. He said, “I know I feel judged. Not always, but often. Not by everyone, but by some. And they have this – I don’t know – this power, this influence.”

The Judge was shuffling his papers together. His mind was already somewhere else.

“I know, I’m probably just paranoid,” said the prisoner, “but I feel like people are deciding whether or not I’m worth their time or effort or attention, simply trying to decide if there’s a better deal than me and what I have to offer. Always looking for an out.”

The Bailiff gave the prisoner a look that implied he was pushing his luck. But the prisoner kept talking, exposing his heart, he said, “When I stop to think about the number of people who have walked away from me over the years, throughout my life, with no explanation or rationale given, and no concern whatsoever for how I might perceive the abandonment, what am I supposed to think? Should I chase everyone down to prove my love and concern? I’m not the one who walked away. If I did something wrong they should tell me so I can change. If I didn’t do anything wrong, why are they gone?”

“Maybe you are just being paranoid,” said the Bailiff. “Why do you think this is about you?” The Judge looked at the bailiff, clearly annoyed that he was keeping this thing going.

The prisoner thought about it for a moment and said, “Well. If people were walking away from me for reasons that have nothing to do with me, surely they would respect me enough – care for me just slightly enough – to talk to me about what they’re going through and how I shouldn’t take it personally? Surely?”

The Judge had listened in for a moment, more out of curiosity than anything. He coughed, clearing his throat. He raised his eyebrows as if he might say something, but then he seemed to change his mind and his eyes drifted to the walls, the ceiling: that look of obvious boredom.

The prisoner wouldn’t admit it, but he was hoping for some kind of response from the Judge. He was looking for some answers. So he kept pouring it out, unsure of where he was going with all of it. He spoke in a rush, almost choking on the words as he said them. “Or maybe it’s just none of my business, right? I mean, for years you pour yourself into people, loving them, what business is it of mine if they walk away? Who am I to ask for explanations? Who am I to expect anything?”

His eyes filled with tears as they began to dart back and forth, as if looking for an escape. He bowed his head, ashamed. “It’s clear, as far as they’re concerned, I’m insignificant.”

“Is that how you feel?” asked the Bailiff. “Insignificant?”

The prisoner was lost in his own thoughts. Lost in his pain. He was staring at the floor now, but not seeing it. He was seeing in his mind’s eye the faces of those who had left him standing alone in this courtroom. His voice began to reveal his weariness, but he went on. “On the extremely rare occasion when someone explains why they think I’m a shmuck and they can do better without me, the expectation is clear: I should smile and take my lumps. Shut up and listen. I deserve whatever they say and do because I have failed them. I have been judged and found unfit.”

The prisoner did not realize the Judge had already left the room. The Bailiff said, “Well. You can go now.”

Looking up, confused, the prisoner said. “You mean I’m free?”

The Bailiff said, “I didn’t say that. But you can go.” Then he left too. Unceremoniously.

The prisoner stood there, lost in thought, not sure what to do. He was immobilized by indecision and pain. The silence of the courtroom was deafening. It was a weight. He was certain: No one cared if he stayed. No one cared if he left.

Not really.

© LW Publishing 2010


  1. This one is making me think a lot. Stirring up all kinds of uncomfortable feelings. Very powerful.

  2. That is a very nice story. It's full of meaning. I kinda feel sorry for him though, it's painful to feel insignificant.

  3. This is every day in the life of....(insert a name).
    Insignificance is invisible. To matter is solid. Who cares enough to find solution for the insignificant lonely souls? There is a multitude of them. Who will act in a manner that shows them that they matter. This piece speaks to me and reminds me of the fine threads that create that tapestry of life and just how significant each person is to the other. Sounds like this poor guys tapestry was full of holes.


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