For a good 27 days I have not touched any opium. If Father Cillian hadn’t been here, the intoxication would have swallowed me whole. The evidence of Rose’s insincerity weighed too heavily for me after meeting Grace. Once again, the trust I placed in a human being was destroyed. But after today I think I understand Rose and now I know which way to go.
At the end of April 14th I tried to forget everything: my love for Rose, the conversation with Grace, Silvius and the Secret of the Inmates. I took refuge in the sweet embrace of opium. Its thick clouds of smoke embraced me like the greasy arms of an aging whore to whom I willingly abandoned myself. Night after night I entered into this love affair and it began to change me. I became indifferent. More and more I became one of those wardens I had always despised. The events of those days ate me up, I tried to repress them, but this pushed me further into the strong grip of my intoxicating mistress. To the point where my vices forced me into the muck of London. And thanks to the bastards who tried to collect my betting debts, this was to be taken literally. They found me buzzed at Mrs Ts’ao’s, dragged me out in the street and beat the shit out of me. But apparently the time had not yet come to die covered in blood in London’s excrement.
It was Father Cillian who decided not to leave me lying there. He helped me to my feet. He helped me get out of the destroying opium caress. He showed me another way. Until then, I had only seen my relationship with Rose as a chance to escape the darkness of my past and completely forgot to develop an empathy for Rose’s situation. This ultimately resulted in a situation where I not only doubted her affection, but also jeopardised my position at Newgate. Cillian now gave me something I had not been able to find on my own: a perspective. He gave me the openness to understand the behaviour of the others, even though their reasons leaved us in the dark. I understood more and more that mutual concessions are necessary to grow together. Often, we then realize deep down that the differences we thought we had in common are the ones that unite us most. In these days, the helpful Father, who acted out of pure charity, became an honest friend who was missing in my previous life. Thanks to him, I was ready to approach Rose again and do whatever was necessary to learn the truth.
However, my determination was put to the test again that morning in Newgate. I was on early duty. Like every morning, we led the inmates to church. A mostly very unmanageable situation. At the same time, several inmates and a manageable number of prison guards pushed their way through two corridors, up a staircase and into a corridor to the chapel. I could not miss the chance that this confusion brought with it. I had to meet Rose!
So I stayed close behind her in the scrum. I only had a few minutes. Inconspicuously I took her hand and made myself known with a gentle squeeze. Rose tilted her head to the side so that our eyes met for a brief moment. Every word I had written down was erased. All that remained was a confused stammering. I tried to summarize the past events in a few words and assured her that I would do everything to keep her in my life. Even if this meant that as a counterpart she expected more than just my love.
My words did not have the effect I had hoped for, let alone the reaction I expected at that moment. She pulled her hand away and dominated me in a quiet but sharp tone. Even before I could react to her rejection, she increased the distance between us so that another inconspicuous conversation was no longer possible. But the few following words should keep me busy until this evening:
“Behind these walls, one thing is important: Survival! Inside here there are own laws that force me to do things I would not have done in a previous life, with a free will. However, I would never prostitute my innermost feelings for such a low purpose as smuggling. You think I’m like that bitch Grace? I truly thought you would understand.”
Her last words were accompanied by a deeply disappointed look, which at one blow revealed my pathetic perplexity. A perplexity that accompanied me until a conversation in the Bucket of Blood.
Even though I have renounced opium, a good glass of Gin is still fine, and I was in dire need of it after this renewed encounter with Rose this morning. As usual, I had taken a seat right at the counter, with my back to the door. After the second glass of gin I began to complain to Dale, the barman, about my grief over the situation with Rose. At first I kept quiet about the fact that she was an inmate. I didn’t know whether it was the sparse audience in the pub or my secret remarks, but the otherwise very taciturn Dale seemed to be really interested in my story. So little by little I gave more details about Newgate, Rose, the Inmates and the Secret.
My openness to Dale was to pay off that night. Because I guess the presence of a bartender is like wearing glasses: Most of the time you don’t notice them, but they are always at your service when it comes to seeing more clearly. In this respect one could say that what one sees is always seen by two pairs of eyes. And this is often forgotten. That’s why Dale had already overheard quite a few conversation of former Newgate’s wardens. Rumors of criminal conspiracies of female inmates within the walls Rumors of a group of women who oppressed and subdued other inmates through violence Rumors of a dark secret they kept. Rumors of a gin.
I couldn’t believe him at first and thought he was mocking me by coming up with conspiracy theories. But then he pulled out a flask from under the counter. A flask that was almost identical to the one Rose had been carrying around the gallery. The contents dispelled my last doubts: it was the gin from Newgate. Dale told me he took it from the same rag I was talking to three months ago – Sylvius. Pretty drunk, he bragged to Dale that this was the best gin he’d ever tasted. When asked where he got it, he had only replied, “A woman here in London has many secrets, but the women in Newgate have only this one.”
At that moment I realized what Rose had meant by “Here inside there are own laws that force me to do things, …”. Because if there was any further evidence of the gin, then the rumors about the oppression of female inmates were also true. For Dale, today’s interview has proven an elusive story. I, on the other hand, have finally understood what has to be done!