Memoirs of a Prison Anarchist
From Alexander Berkman's Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist. Imprisoned for 15 years for shooting and stabbing Henry Clay Frick, the general manager of Homestead, Pennsylvania Carnegie Steel Company plant, Berkman published this autobiographical account of his confinement. His narrative includes several passages concerning homosexuality, which have been lauded for their longing and emphasis on the love that will of necessity occur within prisons. In one episode, he wrote of a time he was put in solitary confinement in an underground cell for misbehavior.
(ALEX, hunched in his cell; silence; sound of a prisoner being brought to an ajoining cell; JOHNNY enters, throwing himself on the ground and cries)
Hey, who's that?
You can talk, it's okay,
the screws are gone.
It's Alex Berkman.
Who are you?
The one from the stocking shop. Johnny Davis.
You aren't the type to get thrown in the hole.
What did you do?
Hey, you still there?
I killed a man.
What did he do to you?
He didn't do nothing!
I mean, he hadn't tried anything yet.
He told the other guys on the line,
he told them
that he had used me.
I went kind of blind for a moment,
but I guess I grabbed something sharp,
and I stabbed him.
I don't remember.
Next thing I know, they were dragging me down here.
But he never touched you?
What if lies like that got back to my mother?!
It'd kill her to think that I was a, that when I was here,
it'd break her heart.
Now I'll swing for it.
You don't think I'm like that, do you?
Those guys on the line laughed when he said that,
laughed like they had guessed all along.
You don't think I'm that way, do you?
I don't hardly know you, Johnny.
(time passes; ALEX asleep; JOHNNY tries to sleep)
Are you awake?
Yeah, I'm awake.
You're a terrible liar, Alex.
I keep trying to sleep.
But I can't stop picturing them
Take it easy.
I don't want to die.
Look, I don't want to get your hopes up,
but you're still alive.
You've been in the hole,
almost two weeks now.
So they haven't killed you
or put you on trial for anything.
Maybe you didn't kill Dutch at all.
Are you sure you didn't just wound him?
I don't know.
I don't remember anything.
I never actually saw him dead.
You think I didn't kill him after all?!
I don't want to get your hopes up.
But it's possible.
Please, God, let him still be alive.
And thank you, God, for Alex.
What do they call you in Russian?
My mother and sister always called me Sashenka.
I've always hated my name.
It's so common and boring.
I always wanted an exotic name.
The name of someone rich,
who's never worked a hard day in his life.
When you said all that,
the name that popped into my head was Felipe.
Felipe seems rich and spoiled I guess.
You know, expensive hair cut,
manicures every day,
a good shave every day with a straight razor.
A ring on every finger.
And a red tie and matching handkerchief.
Look, I'm not trying to say that you're like that.
I don't know who you are.
Yes, you do, Alex.
We've been talking a month now.
No one knows me better than you.
I think you're right.
I think I should wear a red tie with a matching handkerchief,
My little Felipe.
What are you doing, Sashenka?
Are you thinking about me?
I keep thinking about you.
What are you thinking?
That you're the only one I care about.
That knowing you're in the next cell,
makes being in this cell bearable.
I was thinking something like that, too.
You know what else?
You promise you won't laugh at me?
I swear, Felipe.
I was thinking that...
I don't know how to say it.
I was thinking that if you were here
if we were in the same cell,
that I'd want to kiss you.
Oh God, I offended you. I'm sorry!
Are you angry at me?
Please, don't be angry!
You promised not to laugh!
My dear Felipe,
I was laughing
because I was thinking the same thing.
I only wish...
What do you wish?
Please don't be angry when I say this.
I doubt anything you could say would anger me.
We worked together in the stocking shop,
but I didn't really know you.
I just wish that back then, I had...
Me, too, Felipe.
To think we used to be in the same room once,
that I could have touched you once.
No, it's not that.
Please don't be mad,
but I wish I'd really looked at you.
I can't remember what you look like, Sashenka.
I don't know which one you are.
Don't cry, Felipe.
You'll know me one day.
A few days later, the guards took Johnny to another cell called the Basket. Not as bad as the Hole, but in some ways filthier. When Johnny asked the guards if he had killed Dutch at all, they beat him for talking out of turn. Alex wrote, "I feel more lonesome at the boy's departure. The silence grows more oppressive, the hours of darkness heavier. From one of the more humane guards, Alex heard that Johnny grew ill in the Basket and was found dead on the floor of his cell.