No Friends; Only Favors

I suffered a lot in there.
My mother didn’t visit me for 6 months.
No one but her visited me.
My father visited me twice in 10 years.
He wasn’t taking it well.
My mother told me he had a stroke and was recovering.
I learned from my mother some time later that he died.

There were times when I needed a helping hand.
But I didn’t ask for help unless it was absolutely necessary.
You have to stand your ground in there if you don’t want to get bullied.
They’ll take any chance they get to walk all over you.

I did everything.
I worked in the workshops.
I would give them cigarettes in exchange for coupons.
I worked, unclogging the sewers, collecting trash and sweeping the yard.
Sometimes when I was hungry and had no food, I’d just hide in a corner and cry.
Other times I would go live with someone and help her out.

It was always a happy day when someone was being released.
We would tie our scarves around our waists and dance.

The worst thing was being deprived of the outside world.
And the thing we learned from that place was patience.
There aren’t any friends in there, only favors.
They only befriend you to ask for a favor.

My official papers were among the missing ones.
After spending 9 years and 3 months, and after everyone else got out, an old woman told me,
“Go ask about your papers. You should’ve been released a long ago.”
The guards let me out after I practically begged them.
Mr. Ahmed kept looking for my papers and couldn’t find them.
“Why are your papers among the missing ones?” he asked.
“Write a pardon letter.”
My mother wrote it for me.

They called my name one day at sunset and told me that I could leave.
I called my mother to have someone pick me up.
People asked me where I was going.
“I’m going to the Directorate,” I said.
I stayed the night there, and the following day I was sent to see the investigation officer.
“Are you going to deal again?” he asked.
“I never dealt before. I was about to get married. They took me as I was going to furnish my house and my things were lost.”
“Lost where?”
“My mother sold them so she could take care of me and my brother in prison.”
“So you weren’t dealing drugs?”
“No. An officer took me by force and I asked him where he was taking me,”
“I’m furnishing my house and my wedding night is on Thursday.”
“You don’t have to wait until Thursday,” he said.
“I tore up his things and beat him up.”
“He swore that I would never get out of prison.”
“He framed me and I got a 10 year sentencing.”
“Okay, now leave,” he said.

I tried everything.
They got me addicted to it.
I used to hide their stuff when the cells were being searched.
I helped smuggle them from cell to cell.

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