by Tony Domaille
Kobi stood, nervously, as the heavy door opened. The rattle of his wrist chains seemed impossibly loud, and their restriction made it hard to wipe the sweat from his brow. He forced a smile for the man entering the hot, windowless, room and heard his voice crack as he said, ‘Thank you for coming, Mr Hurst.’
Nigel Hurst didn’t return the smile or offer his hand. Instead, he took a moment to take in his surroundings and then said, ‘So, this is what a prison visiting room looks like.’
‘You don’t know how much this means to me,’ said Kobi, unsure if he should remain standing. ‘They don’t allow me visitors. Only you.’
Hurst nodded. ‘Is it bad in here?’
‘I am like a mouse,’ said Kobi, softly. ‘If you are quiet, and the guards don’t notice you, you can survive.’
Hurst nodded again. There had been air of menace about the guards who had let him into the prison and shown him to this visiting room. They had been fine with him, but he’d heard them bark commands and insults at prisoners along the way. He’d seen how the inmates flinched and cowered. But if it was bad Kobi was only paying for what he’d done.
Kobi sat and lowered his head as he spoke, as if reading Hurst’s mind. ‘I hope you can understand how I could do what I did.’
Hurst didn’t answer. Instead, his mind dragged him back to the terrifying moment when Kobi and other men had boarded his yacht, wielding machetes and demanding everything of value. He remembered the fear in his stomach and his wife’s eyes as the men ransacked the boat. He didn’t understand how anyone could do what Kobi had done, but this was a different continent. A different world.
He knew that Kobi was a poor man. But was that an excuse? The streets had been alive with the poor on his way to the prison. People dressed in rags. Begging. Their eyes full of that unmistakable mix of despair and defiance as they tried to find food for the day or shelter for the night. If being poor meant doing the things Kobi had done, they would all be behind bars. They weren’t. They were thronging the streets in a massed bid for survival.
Hurst said, ‘There are a lot of poor people out there.’
‘Do you believe they have never committed crimes?’ asked Kobi.
Hurst shook his head a little. He didn’t care whether they had or not. All he knew was they had never committed crimes against him.
There was a silence, as both men waited for the other to speak.
‘I’m sorry for what I did,’ said Kobi.
‘Sorry for what you did, or because you were caught?’
Kobi took a deep breath and then spoke slowly. ‘Like most people in my country, I have never had anything. No proper home. My family hungry. When my daughter was sick, I had no money for medicine. Life for me is not like an Englishman. Our lives are very different.’
‘They are,’ Hurst agreed. ‘I was a sailor; you were a pirate. But let me tell you something. When I was not much younger than you, I was without work and living hand to mouth. I could have told myself it was okay to take what I wanted from others, but instead I started a business from nothing. I worked hard for forty years. I never envied the next man or thought anyone owed me anything other than what I’d worked for. So, when my wife and I decided to sail around the world on our own boat, it was a reward for our own efforts.’
Kobi wanted to scream that there had never been any opportunity for him. No rewards. That’s why he had wanted a little of what Hurst had. Just some dollars, maybe something he could sell. Did the man know what a few dollars could buy in his country?
‘It wasn’t my fault,’ said Kobi.
‘Then who do I blame?’
‘They said your wife was sick.’ Kobi’s eyes were welling. ‘They said she had a weak heart. I only wanted jewellery, money… I never meant for her to die.’
Hurst said, ‘But she did.’
Kobi sat forward in his chair that was bolted firmly to the floor. He had to make his plea. He searched the face of the man in front of him and believed he saw compassion in the sad eyes of someone who had lost so much. He sat up straight and chose his words.
‘I beg you, Mr Hurst. I know what I did was terrible and has cost you so much more than what I stole, but can you forgive me? The authorities will commute my death penalty if you tell them you don’t want that to happen.’
‘I know,’ said Hurst.
‘With your forgiveness I will see my family again, one day.’
Hurst looked at the painfully thin man before him and saw that his remorse was real. ‘No one should lose their family,’ he said.
Kobi nodded and chanced a smile. ‘My family will wait for me. I will serve my sentence but then we can be together.’
‘I’ll never see my wife again,’ said Hurst.
The prisoner dropped his chin to his chest. He could feel the man’s pain and searched desperately for the right words. The words that would tell how sorry he was. How he wished he hadn’t boarded and robbed the man’s yacht and cost him his wife’s life. But he felt Mr Hurst understood. He stretched out a manacled hand across the table and said, ‘I can never thank you enough for coming here and forgiving me.’
Hurst took Kobi’s hand and pulled him gently closer, so that their faces were inches apart. ‘Oh but, Kobi,’ he whispered, ‘I didn’t come here to forgive you. I came here to see the look of a man who knows he’s going to die for what he did.’
About the author
Tony is an award-winning playwright, director, and co-founder of Journeyman Theatre Productions, with more than twenty plays published and produced in eighteen countries. Tony has also had many short stories published in anthologies and magazines. You can follow him here -https://www.facebook.com/tonydomaillewriting/