Letters From Prison: Requiem by Michael Fisher

Letters From Prison: Requiem by Michael Fisher

Do murderers cry? No one has ever asked me. I became one twenty years ago through denial. Sixteen might seem too young to have demons, but it isn’t, and when I turned my back on them, they pounced on me.

I hadn’t cried for years before I became a murderer, but I did two days afterward. I was held under fluorescent light and enduring vigil designed to defeat suicide, a curly-haired stick of catatonic quiet surrounded by strangers and questions. Then two deacons I knew visited me. My shock was shattered by their familiar faces — I curled up and cried for hours, powerless to provide them with answers to a loss we all shared, but in which I alone was evil.

Other visitors followed, both family and friends, but I had nothing left for them; no tears or words for all of those I loved and had wounded. I sat as wood while the worlds and hearts I had shaken crashed down around me. I comprehend little and remembered even less. My aunt, a psychiatric nurse, told my father years later that I remember so little because remembering the details of my crime could make me catatonic for good. I trusted her word then, and I trust it now.

After all those awful days and hours, I got better, but I never fully healed. Blessed with loving family and odd friends, I could smile and laugh again. Yet in the midst of a good day, memories would overtake me, and all of the good in the world flattened out like a pop-up card that snaps shut when the reader grows tired of it. Then a wasteland engulfs me, where I brooded on what I was and nothing mattered but the past.

In the six or so  years after my crime, those periods of brooding grew so frequent and intense that I feared they would consume me. Before they could, I found relief in a strange place — movies. One, to be exact, The Last Samurai. Filled with people as rigid as I am but far superior in character, the story was a haven as I began watching it. Its message of redemption through service told me that there was still hope for me. At its climax, when the samurai were annihilated, I wept as I had not since I first faced those deacons six years earlier. Yet when my grief passed, I felt as if a deep-seated wound had been scoured clean, though not soothed.

For nearly a decade, I watched The Last Samurai every year, and each time it gutted me. But when the pain eased, I once again felt cleansed. With time, I realized that The Last Samurai gave me a release valve, a way to grieve through a fictitious event the truest and most horrid deed I have ever known or committed. It kept me from drowning in grief when nothing else could.

I wonder sometimes about other murderers who grieve. Not all of us do. For those who do, when they talk about their crime with restraint, I imagine what their valve might be. None of them have ever told me. Maybe that’s because I’ve never asked.

The Hardest Part of Prison

The Hardest Part of Prison

After a while, even the horrid conditions of prison become normal to its occupants. Waking up everyday in a concrete cell, being told when you can shower, use the phone, or even use the bathroom eventually fall into place as routine. No big deal — it just is. I suppose as humans, this is an essential feature and component of our survivability. We must and do adapt to even life’s most trying and tumultuous circumstances. Of course this is usually always preceded by the five phases of grief/loss (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance) that we undergo; but we do inevitably reach that final phase of acceptance at some point. After which, things settle and become normal again. Yet, the most dreaded, sinking feeling that I experienced for the third time in my incarceration last Thursday is something that I will never adapt to. It counters the most fundamental needs of humanity and leaves a scar that, unlike those made of flesh, don’t fade with time.


Letters From Angels: A Mother’s Tears


First in our new series, Letters From Angels, which is a companion to our Letters From Prison series. This was written by a mother whose son was wrongfully convicted.


AJ, I picked myself a flower today,
and said they were from you.
Because if you were here with me,
I know its what you would do.
As you walk alone to your dorm,
I walk alone to my car.
I leave a piece of my heart there with you
and take a piece of yours.
I cry my silent tears that only God can see,
until the day that I can bring your whole heart home with me.