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When I stay alone

Mindy Lu's picture

When I stay alone


  Have you ever been eager to stay alone without any noises from outside? Have you ever wanted to do nothing but sit in a corner with yourself? Have you ever been tired to talk you anyone else? Have you ever enjoyed the time when you are alone? Yes, I have. However, have you ever imaged that what will happen if you have to stay alone for years, or even decades? Eastern State Penitentiary was such a place where prisoners stayed in single cells all days without any communication with others.


  At the gate of Eastern State Penitentiary, I noticed the luxuriant Parthenocissus on the high walls. From the outside, it does not look like a prison but a garden. But when I went into the gate, everything changes. The cold iron barriers, the old wooden doors and the rusted lockers showed the horror of the penitentiary. The world seemed be divided into two extremely part by the high walls—outside, there were beautiful views with the breeze of freedom; inside, there were chillness, fear and loneliness left by the heavy history.


  The cells looked not too bad—each of them had a bed, a desk and a toilet. There was a moment when I even thought that the life might be comfortable because the prisoners need to do nothing at all—they did not have to worry about the meals; they could get up whenever they want without annoying alarm clock; they did not work and suffered the pressure of survival… Nonetheless, when I experience the thirty-minutes stay in a cell, I change my mind.


  When I first went into the cell, I was nervous and a little bit excited. I felt like I was touching the history and even communicated with the prisoner who lived here. But I have to admit that such feeling went away soon. I began to notice the bad smell and ashes everywhere. Although I can subtly hear people’s talking outside the sell, it was too quiet to stay alone! It was cold around me and I became scared. I wanted to listen to music or play my cellphone, but I did not, because I wanted to experience the real lives of prisoners who had no cellphone or mp3 at all.


  Ten minutes past, I looked at my watch frequently but time seemed to flow much more slowly than it usually did. I was so trying for me to stay here for entire thirty minutes, while the prisoners stayed for decades—I could not keep imagining their lives. I tried to think about other things such as “where I could go for lunch” or “what I do on Sunday”, but I could not—the grey walls and the somber light made me felt uneasy and constrained. Thus, I began to thought about whether prisoners here could save themselves by staying alone? Is it possible for people to think deeply with fear and isolation from the outside world?


  In my opinion, the answer should depend on the different characteristics of the prisoners. Perhaps, some of them could become calm and wise without any disturbing from outside, which let them realize the mistakes they made and understand some truths of lives. However, I guess, most of the prisoners went mad by long-time loneliness. They might feel hopeless and angry; they might curse their fates and wardens; they might miss their families every time; they might get mental disorder in the completely isolated environment …… I stopped my imagination again and somehow felt sad. Endless loneliness was indescribably stifling, and, at that moment, I could felt it clearly. I pitied the prisoners had experienced such treatment and felt that I am so lucky to have a peaceful life.


  Finally, the thirty minutes past, longer than I had thought before. I went outside the cell and saw a family went pass me. The parents and two little boys are hands in hands and the dad was telling his boys about the history of the penitentiary. I felt more relaxed because the horrible atmosphere of the prison has gone—it is just a scenery spot nowadays.