“It was painted green,” the prisoner insisted. Nodding his head. Wagging his finger. He remembered. He knew. He remembered the cellar door.
“We carved our initials. Una and I. We did it with my knife. I had a knife. But only so big,” the prisoner demonstrated the small nature of his childhood pocket knife. No doubt it had come in handy numerous times. To pin lizards. To take investigative samples from the sides of buildings. To threaten those boys slightly larger.
Vadash inclined his head slightly to prove that he was listening.
The prisoner continued, “I was a twin. One of a kind. But the left handed version, you know?”
Vadash didn’t know.
“We exchanged once. As people. He for me and me for him.” The prisoner bit his lower lip. He exhaled several times in quick succession. The thrill of being his own twin brother, a maddening leap in his mind’s eye.
“Nothing happened, you know?” the prisoner insisted again. But he laid the fulcrum of his skull on the cinderblock walls in a way that seemed far away and enviable. “Nothing at all.” He took a sharp intake of breath and Vadash felt his tongue twitch inside his mouth.
“Another man. I was him, you understand? An entire sunlit moment.”
Vadash sneered. The prisoner saw.
“What? What you think it was wrong?”
Vadash sneered harder. He sneered inward and away from the prisoner.
“It wasn’t wrong!” The prisoner glared at Vadash. “We both knew. It was innocent. Shut up. Stop talking. You’re hurting me!”
Vadash bared his teeth. He felt an anger. The primal anger. It consumed him.
“I will kill you tomorrow,” Vadash spoke, meaning it.
“Fine,” gloated the prisoner. “Fine. Do it then” the prisoner said it again and turned his chin away, still eyeing Vadash. Nothing was said between them for a minute.
“I was another man,” the prisoner reminded Vadash. “I felt his skin on my skin. I felt his boots on my boots. I felt the sunlight on a different cheek. You hear me?” The prisoner began screaming. “Do you hear what I say to you!”
Vadash nodded. His sneer melted into a sneer more sour. Embittered. A sneer not meant for anyone in particular.
“I escaped myself and I will escape this and I will escape you,” the prisoner rushed to exclaim. He ran his fingers through his hair. Over and over again.
Vadash knew. He would not kill the prisoner in the morning. He would remain. He would remain and listen to his fellow prisoner about the cellar door. About Una and the pocket knife. About living as his own brother for a single day. They would have this conversation over and over again. Because Vadash knew nothing else.