There he was again. JC. Dressed in that damn orange jumpsuit. I tried to come every week, but life had gotten busy and it’d been awhile. But time was running out.
I looked up at him through the glass, his brown face looking back at me, long hair touching his shoulders in loose ringlets that he’d brush back every once in a while. His beard was trimmed pretty closely (from the trial, he’d refused to cut his hair, the help of an attorney, and even to say anything in his defense, but did clean up his beard a bit).
He was just looking at me. Those big, kind, eyes always felt like they were giving me a hug, when he was the one that needed comfort.
“It’s good to see you, Conor.”
“Good to see you too, JC. How are things?”
“My end is near, but things are good.”
I close my hand into a fist, squeezing my nails into my palm in anger and pain, hoping to stop the tears I could feel welling up.
“Why? Why couldn’t you just defend yourself? Or run away…we could’ve got you out of here…what are we going to do without you?” I trail off, looking down and off to the side before turning back, locking eyes, his gaze clearly never leaving me, “What am I going to do without you?”
His lips turned up into his familiar smile, weaker than usual.
“I am, who I am.”
“C’mon, JC, they’re going to fucking kill you and you’re…you’re being all cryptic and shit…”
His hand was placed on the glass, splayed out and inviting.
I reluctantly bring mine to rest against the other side of the glass.
“I’ll be back. This isn’t the end. It’s only the beginning.”
“But why why you? Couldn’t it be someone else? Anyone else? This isn’t right. You don’t deserve this, you…you…you”
“Does anyone here deserve this?” He asks, gesturing to the other inmates around him, “If they can’t have justice, why should I?”
“It’s good to see you, Conor. You’ll be here tonight?”
Tonight. Tonight was the end. The execution. Tonight they were going to kill JC. An innocent man.
“I’ll be here.”
“Thank you. I’ll see you.”
He placed the receiver in its cradle. And started standing up before sitting back down and picking up the phone again.
“At least if I end up in Hell, I’ll be prepared to search for my book of life for eternity, right?”
“Right,” I say with a soft smile.
He finally places the receiver in its cradle. And stands up to leave. He’d turned to walk away, but looked back to shoot some last finger guns at me, his eyes wearily twinkling as he walked back.
I sat. Stunned.
It was time.
I was back at the prison. I’d dressed up, not sure why, but it felt right to witness JC’s final moments looking my best. Even though he rarely changed out of his patterned shirts and board shorts. I chuckled to myself remembering all the times we’d had — the fish sinking that boat, that wild snow storm, that night with H—. What am I going to do without you, JC?
They walk me back to the observing room. The chair is in the center.
I’d tried to stop myself, but I’d been devouring everything I could find on lethal injection and my stomach churned thinking about how fucked up the whole thing is.
They walked JC out, in chains.
They place him in the chair, and strap him in.
The doc is preparing the injection to the side.
This is it. The End.
The injection is placed, but before it can enter his blood stream, JC cries out, “God, where the hell are you hiding?”
The injection enters.
He slumps, twitching.
I stare dumbfounded.
It was finished.