I had a bittersweet dream that day. It was about if we had really completed the trip to the Wyoming prison. If the plane hadn’t crashed. If I forced Charlie into the cell. The cell that he would call home for the rest of his life. Until he got old, and the forces of nature would bring him into a cold embrace, like the girls he killed. I would go back home to my girlfriend who was visiting for the week, and we could go and eat at that five-star restaurant that I had planned just for the two of us, on our first date.
When I awoke wrapped in the clothing of the dead, I wanted to cry. Surviving a plane crash does things to you. I don’t know what, but it could even make a seasoned military general break for no reason at all.
Break. You break when all reason gets thrown out the door. You feel like a kid again, crying for mommy, except mommy isn’t here. Nobody is here to comfort you and as the cold morning wind blows you feel every bit of it gliding through your soul. As the human race calls themselves the superior race, you feel like somehow, you’re below them. You’ve hit rock bottom, but you’re surrounded by dirt. You’re stripped of the very essence by which you call yourself a man.
But today was different. I didn’t cry. Nor did any of us. We were done. We were tired, hungry, and hysterical.
We were deteriorating.
“So, when we get rescued, what’s the very first thing you’re going to do?” Holly asked. I guess trying to break the ice.
“Go see my girlfriend,” I said. I missed the warmth of her presence, her soft hair, soft skin. I could almost see her crouching over me, wrapping a warm blanket around me. Whenever I was sad, she would always make sure I was warm. Then she would just let me cry. On her shoulder. I would never feel embarrassed.
My girlfriend is dead. When I meant that I wanted to see her, I wanted to visit her grave. But nobody knew that she died then.
Except Charlie, who was peering at me with his bright blue eyes. He knew because I’ve told him before. Yeah, my head was spinning. God knows why I told him. I’ve been assigned to Charlie on his very first transport to the first prison. He had asked me, sarcastically, why I was so down. I told him why, and he shut up immediately after. I guess he was wondering why I kept mentioning her, especially at these times where my head is supposed to be occupied.
“I guess I’ll go,” said Holly, breathing on her hands, “I think I’ll just eat some really good food,” Holly laughed. Will agreed.
“I miss the cheap pizza you find at bowling alleys. Sorry if that’s specific,” Will said, looking at Holly. I saw them lock eyes then look away quickly.
Holly asked Charlie what he would do. In all of my years working in prisons, in the army, I have never seen a man that acts as strong as him say something so sad. I remember this point in my life as if I had written it down as the moment was happening.
The air was cold. The first few freckles of snow had been raining down. We were all equally as uncomfortable, but there was an atmosphere of togetherness. We, sitting by the fire, were all equally as lonely. Equally as hungry. But that brought us together. We were huddling together, the clothes that weren’t ours were wrapped together to create a blanket for us. The fire was making a soft crackling noise. Our knees were touching each other. I can almost feel as if I’m there again, sitting by that fire so closely, all from different homes. All from different backgrounds. A killer, a cop, a hiker, and a kid’s teacher. But we were the same.
“I think, well, god, I don’t know,” Charlie laughed somberly, “I don’t know.”
At that moment I reached up and put my arm over his shoulder. I could feel him shudder. It was sad, really, but sometimes I like to think back to this moment. I just find it comforting that four complete strangers can end up huddling together for warmth at their most desperate hour.