A Novel in Installments
Gabriel huddled in the corner of the jail compound, trying to reconstruct the last few days as best as his head injury would allow. He remembered getting the hashish from the girl in the square. What was her name? Shelly, Sheila, Sonja? He knew it started with S but couldn’t recall anything much beyond that. She had handed him the bundle, he had paid her. He remembered that much. He remembered the moped whizzing by and clipping his arm, after that he remembered waking up on the floor in the jail, being nudged awake by a fellow inmate who was about to piss on his head. That was it.
“What day is it?” he asked the fellow huddled on the mattress next to him, shaking violently from the chill that pervaded the large open space. Gabriel unfolded his long frame and made his way toward the large pot of dal bhat being dispensed with a large ladle into metal bowls. Gabriel asked for two bowls, nodding to the fellow inmate on the mattress. As he handed the bowl to the shaking man, his hands steadied and he began to slurp the dal noisily.
The prison at Kathmandu was an open air affair with closed dormitories, mattresses on the floor, three men to a mattress. The inmates were the guards called Dai. The entire open yard was the size of an Olympic swimming pool and held 120 or so prisoners. The open yard is where the meals and a circumambulation occurred which was considered the prison exercise program. There was no supervision other than the inmates who doubled as guards. The time in the yard and the time in the dormitories was divided in twelve hour increments, and each prisoner had to be accounted for every three hours by an audible count.
Gabriel was astounded by the crowding and the general filth. The entire facility smelled of feces, garbage and urine so strongly his eyes watered with the stench of it. The surfaces of the walls and the floor were slimy with human excretions of various kinds.
“How long are you here for?” Gabriel asked his shaking mattress mate.
“Fifteen years. I’ve served five.”
Gabriel watched the feverish man as he curled as far from the contagious body as possible and yet still absorb some of the man’s warmth and be on the shared mattress. Without the body heat generated by…