Today is a yellow day. The sunlight sneaks in through the window, writhing on the floor like a snake. Outside, the leafy pecan tree shakes in the wind.
To be honest, I do not write. When I do, it is facts and information. In the city I did not have time for poetry or pretty words. No one wanted pretty words or expected it of me. But now, alone with the cold stone and cold yellow light and snakes made from the sun, I have time.
I can hear humming in the restless air. The entire compound is apprehensive. It is because we are expecting the convey with Generalissimo Cobarde. The guards are nervous the inmates will act out in protest of the Generalissimo’s arrest, and increase punishment and decrease rations in everything. Once he arrives, he will fade into the background, another zebra in white and black stripes pushed up against the wall.
Tucked away as I am in confinement, I care nothing for the world.
I am cold today. It has been awhile since I wrote last. I do not like writing. My hand cramps and my breath shakes and my brain forgets the words which I had so carefully composed moments before. When I still lived in the Distrito Federál I dictated all the facts I have mentioned. A secretary with pretty hair and tight nylons would type, with her back so straight, as I paced and talked.
I have found out that half-frozen candle wicks that have been seared to the perfect degree by a low-burning candle makes for a wonderful pencil. For many hours I experimented. I broke off a candle and pulled out the wick and leaned over the flickering flame. My eyes burned and the candle smoked in my face, but after several tries, I had burned it perfectly. After it is burned I will leave the wick by the window, and the cold comes down from the mountains and the inmates in the yard scatter and the laundry whips like broken clouds—and my pencil is formed.
And thus I write.
I have the paper—they bring my food wrapped in brown paper, and sometimes (that holy word) the guard brings a package from my colleagues or my son or my uncle or my wife, and it is wrapped in newspaper.
Today is blue—hard blue. The sky is iron and faceless. This mean it will storm soon, a hurricane from the seaside, maybe snow, and the wind will pick up and fling the tools and benches in the yard around like toys.
I was not able to write about my packages last time, for they brought a new one and I scurried to hide away my loose sheets lest the guards notice and become curious. God forbid they take away my recreation.
My parcels come with the paper torn and opened in different places where the different stations cleared the security. Sometimes if my housekeeper Señora Morales sends her jam, the lid is missing (tin is precious) and a finger-sized scoop has disappeared.
Today is package day. The guards have not brought my packages yet, but when they come I am praying nothing is missing.
The guards have it worse than we do. They are my friends—some of them. Pelirrojo the Red Haired is the best one, and if he is on duty the jam is intact. Azul is the one who is always sad. Those two, and Libresco, as I call him, are the good ones.
But when Diablo or Rota or Cicatriz or Cucaracha is on duty, I keep my head down. I am quiet, and if they are in a good mood, they leave me alone.
The generalissimo arrived yesterday, on the Blue Day. They paraded him off the little cart they brought him in and pulled him through the prison yard where all we banished ones could look down at him and see him. It was an exciting day, but the sky was hard blue, which is why I did not say it was a red day.
It is storming, just as I said. My window has three metal bars, nothing else, and I can only watch as my beautiful leafy pecan tree bends and bends under the weight of the clouds, bending until I hear cracking. It is as though I hear the tree screaming.
The snake is back. The floor becomes a snake when the light is directed in the right way. There is a drawing or indentation on the floor. I think the man before me did it. He drew it just right so that it is invisible when the light is imperfect. But today—during the lightning, and on the Yellow Day, I can see the snake.
It is coiled and smooth and strong. Its neck is arched so slightly—ever so slightly. Its head is in a diamond shape, lithe and lethal. When I am in one of my yellow moods, my mad moods, I think it sneaks forward, tongue out, inching closer and closer to give me a kiss.
It is also a bird day. Today, the most awful day of madness behind me, is a good day. This day I feel the cool breeze on my face and watch the clouds roll lazily behind the pecan tree and listen to the scrub jay in the mountains beyond.
I like to become that bird, soar high past these bars and away from the walls which hurt my eyes. I enjoy becoming free, if only for a night, and knowing I must return to my room.
We are the birds, the little scrub jays and Oaxaca birds. I am a songbird, free yet a prisoner. One day, my madness will recede, and I will become the bird forever. One day.
It has been a season since I last wrote. My parcels stopped coming, and they wrapped my food in tinfoil because there was an overflow at a factory. The foil cannot hold the markings of my pencil.
The monsoons are gone and the lovely Mexican mountain heat is rolling in. I like this better than the cold. The pecan tree lost all its leaves for a while, but today is a green day for I can see the green, budding again. It is beautiful.
Another good thing. The storm cracked a branch on my pecan tree, and though that was bad it forced the tree to grow in a lean. It grows closer to my window every day, and I hope that by the time pecan season comes again, it will be close enough for me to satisfy the hunger that plagues us all here at the prison.
Generalissimo Cobarde was moved to the cell opposite mine a few days ago. Though this is the madman wing he is not mad—he does not rant and rave like the rest of us. Sometimes he sings. I can hear him if I put my ear up against a gouge in my door. He sings love songs. Mainly he is quiet, or recited poetry so quietly no one can hear him.
Si nadie sabe ni por qué reímos
ni por qué lloramos;
si nadie sabe ni por qué vivimos
ni por qué nos vamos;
He misses his family.
I wish I could ask him why he is here. Most madmen are here because they are dangerous when mad. I am here because of what I did for my company—my employer. The other inmates are here for murder, arson, theft… and on and on. They are merely criminals. We, the madmen high in the shut-off wings of the Prisión de luminiscencia, are the songbirds, the snakes, the ones everyone fears. We are the snakes; they shy from us.
I have much paper today, and a long pencil since Bauby gave me an extra-long candle yesterday. He told me, if he can, he will bring me a real pencil, with real paper. I told him not to bother. If Cucaracha catches wind, both of us will suffer.
Today is a yellow day, not because of the light, but because I can feel another spell of madness coming on. The pecan tree and the snake will watch me, and take care I do not hurt myself.
I will give my papers to the snake. It will protect them so that the madman inside me will not tear them to shreds. The snake will hold them tight, and after it is all over, it will give me a kiss when I take them back.