PRISON

Dear Year 11,

Below is what I wrote in today’s lesson. Remember, it’s not the way to do it; it’s a way to do it.

The air is always musty at this time of day, for the residue of the morning’s cleaning has left it thick with bleach, so thick that you can almost taste it, so thick that, on particularly pungent days, it makes your eyes water. On the floor, the vinyl remains damp, in places drying to leave a powdery white residue in its wake. Soon, when the bell is sounded, footprints will impress themselves on this chemical carpet. For the moment, it remains unblemished.

The tap continues to drip, and the shadow of a limb falls heavily, despondently, at internals, as if in secret coalition with the droplets that sit ready, alert, awaiting their moment of release from the rusty pipes of a Victorian plumbing system that should have been replaced years ago. If you listen very hard, it is possible to hear the life of the prison below: the hum of the sewing machines in the workshop, the hubbub of the kitchen and the whir of the laundry. Another droplet falls in the sink; this time the shadow falls a fraction of a second too late. There is a grunt, for he has lost the game, again, and rolls onto his side to face the wall, where Amy is laughing at him, in her red sunhat with white spots, squinting in the sun, with an ice cream in her hand and a hole in her heart.

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