Letter #32 from UPIII

english

english

Recieved 22nd August 2018

JVA Köln, Freitag, 10th August 2018

Hey there dear comrades and friends,

today I’m going to try and describe how I visualise this time in prison, and if I can, maybe add some sketches with this letter.

Firstly though, because I will mention them later, “first” and “second” thoughts. The second thought is the consideration of the first thought, so just as a recap and example:

First thought: I have heard it is as easy to bite through a human finger as if is to bite through a carrot.
Second thought: That may be true, but I recommend you do not attempt it, because it will be painful. Also, I’m sure your brain is smart enough to not allow you to do such a thing.

There may be several other thought following the second (“which finger do you like the least? Surely there is a way to trick your brain… though it’s a shame to love a finger to test a theory”) but these aren’t really important in this letter, so I’ll move on.

Another thing to mention is a glass of water. When you pick up the glass, it is easy. It’s not heavy and you are able to hold it steadily in your hand. After several minutes though, is is not so easy to hold level, and your arm and hand may shake (I encourage you to try doing this, and see how long you are able to hold it for before it becomes too much and you must put the glass down).

So when I write “my cell is 3.7m long and 2m wide, and I live inside this space for, at least, twenty hours a day, sometimes twenty four”, some of you may think of this as the glass of water. “That is not so bad!” you might say, and at first I would have perhaps agreed with you. I picked up the glass when I first got here, and I thought “this is not so bad.” But now, after almost one hundred and forty four days, the glass no longer feels full of water, if fells full of lead.

To put this another way, which I visualise this time as, imagine a platform. When I arrived here, I stepped onto the platform, and the court lay a wooden board across my shoulders, layering it with heavy brick like blocks. They say, “hen you remove the last block from your back, you may go free.” Each day, I can move a single block from my shoulders to my feet. I must not drop the rest, I must remain strong beneath the weight. Each day is slow, as I attempt to remove one block, and carefully lay it beneath me, building up the platform. Each week, I must take on step up, so I can continue building up. The days are as slow as you can imagine the act of moving a block, that I must consider how not to drop the others, I must not allow myself to cave in or break. Sometimes it is not so bad, I can almost automatically move a block, passing the hours reading or writing or something. Some days, my legs shake under the weight and it feels like my body will give out, and I think “I cannot do this, these blocks are too much.” But my brain is stronger than my body, and I counter this with “yes, they are heavy, but not at least we know how many more are left above. Each day we move another, and we are one day closer to freedom. One block at a time”. And so I growl, or hiss, and I push myself up. It is another day at the gym, I tell myself, and someone has told me I cannot do something. “I’ll show you how wrong you are”, I smile. “It is good to be underestimated on some occaisons, because then no one expects it when you win.” And, I will make it through this. My shoulders and legs are shaking from the weight, but that is okay. This is where my first and second thoughts some in to this.

Someone wrote to me and said, if they could, they would trade places with me.

My first thought was of freedom, how great it would be not to be here. This lasted less than a second.

My second was that no, I would not let them, I would not give them this weight, I would not put this on their shoulders to free my own. I made my choices, and I will stand by them. If someone must sit here for denying their ID, I am okay it is me, and not another person. The damage of being here will be absorbed by me. You may feel it, the aftershocks, but I am glad you are not in the centre of the earthquake. Every moment I feel the heartbreak of being here, the very real suffering, consider how trapped I am, that it is just me, I cannot reach out each time I feel low, every time, I think “at least it is me”.

This is undeniably awful, but I will get through this. If this time makes me harder, if it grinds me down from a soft chalk into sharp flint, the heart underneath the layers of love and positivity, I can live with that.

When I first arrived here, and up until mid-May, I wrote letters to my friends which I never intended to send but was going to carry with me until I could give them in person. I found these yesterday by accident, and took some time reading them. I can barely believe I wrote them, I don’t think there’s much of that “me” left.

Bear with me here, because I am going to pull them out and write some of them for you, and explain how much prison has changed me so far, though I’d hazard a guess and say you have noticed already. My art is rushed, less imaginative, more just there because I feel it is expected, my heart no longer in it. My letters are up and down, irregular, my definition of “I’m okay” becoming looser by the day. I am okay, and I write that fiercely, because I am and I’m still fighting, I’m still moving blocks slowly, I’m still standing under the weight even though it’s back breakingly heavy some days. I am not an “okay” with a shoulder shrug, but I am still standing.

I won’t write all the letters, or the whole letters, I’ll just pull out some paragraphs. I’ll date them too, so you can see the change.

Written to a friend I will call “L”, 23rd of April 2018.

“… I’m just writing this to let you know I’m thinking about you and missing you. I really hope you’re okay and enjoying teaching… and have some stories to tell me when I’m back. I got the adventure I wanted … today is my thirty sixth day … I really miss our coffee dates. It hurts not talking to you and feeling so cut off – I just want to make sure you’re okay and be there for you if you’re not. I have time on my hands now, time on my shoulders and it’s more than I know what to do with and I just want to use it to help. I want to help those taken here with me … UPI went free a few weeks ago and I don’t know why, I wish I got to see her again … I have no internet, no phone, no outside contact of any kind. It’s honestly like being on a desert island. I hope you never experience this kind of isolation, and I hope you appreciate every single day that you can walk outside and sit in the sun. I hope you tell everyone around you every day how much you care about them because my heart hurts with how much I just want my phone to message “I love you and I am here for you” to you and my other friends. No matter what happens, I love you so much, I miss you and you mean the world to me … <3 UPIII”

I’ll go through L’s letters first, so I can keep them together, and then I will write out the others. You can correlate the dates yourself if you want to, it might give you a better impression of the amount prison has changed me.

To L, Tuesday 24th April 2018 9.15am (I used to write times on them).

“… writing letters is so strange, I keep wondering what to talk about. Before arriving here I don’t even remember the last time I wrote one. I really like it tough and I want to keep writing them when I get out … The idea that you can have these for a long time – solid, physical proof a person missed you and thought about you on the date written – makes me really happy. I will try and write you one as often as I can, so if you’re ever sad you can pull out the envelope and know that no matter how many days, weeks, months, years past the day above you are reading them, you do and always will have a special place in my heart. You are always welcome to my time, love … and anything else you want or need. I will always have an ear to listen, time to spare … and endless coffee and chocolate … If you ever feel bad about anything you’ve said or done … please know I forgive you and I hope you never feel bad or guilty asking me for anything … I want to help … be a lighthouse to guide you home when you feel lost. … It is so easy to be selfish and unkind, but why be those things when it costs nothing to be a friend and say something nice? “I like how you voice sounds, I hope I never have to stop hearing it”, “I love how you keep trying, even when it’s hard” … It is free to say these things, so why don’t we? I hope when you read this you tell someone how you feel about them or tell them something you admire about them or just tell them they crossed your mind – it is so lovely to be reminded people think about you and remember you. It feels like I barely remember me sometimes here because I’m a UP … It is so important to tell people you miss them, how would you feel if you never spoke to them again? It feels so real to me being stuck here. So please spread kind words and be the positivity you need. All my love, always, and talk soon.”

To L, Wednesday 25ht April 2018. 6:57am. (Banner drawing, “I am fighting for a better world”).

“… I often find myself thinking about how I ended up here, all the ifs, buts and maybes. I read a book recently called “into the wild” by Jon Krakauer. “I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love. I felt in myself an abundance of energy which found no place in a quiet life” - Leo Tolstoy. The above quote is in the book and I find myself stuck thinking about it. I very honestly do not want a quiet life - … kids, house, mortgage – I don’t want to live like I’m just born to exist and pay bills. … I guess that’s why I booked my tickets to Germany, I wanted something to propel me forward … I wanted something to believe in, something to fight for. Being vegan is not enough for me, it feels passive, I don’t kill animals but I don’t save them either. I don’t want to be neutral, I want to be on the side of history that is fighting for rights not welfare. Until every cage is empty, none are free until all are free. If I’m not going to stand up and do something than who will? If I don’t do it now, then when? I’ve felt shit being here, but I have also never felt so at peace either. I’m here because I stood on the front line … and said “today is not the day that you win”. … I rolled my shoulders back and put my chin up, not today. I am not afraid. … I can’t wait to be out of here so I can keep fighting.”

So now onto one for a person I will call “BC”. Dated Monday, 30th April 2018, 7:40am.

"… I should have written sooner but I kept thinking that I would be out soon so I could call, its now day thirty nine in prison. So much for that. I can’t help thinking “I’m starring in my very own episode of banged up abroad!” You should read my court letters …they’re the best crime fiction I’ve read in a very long time. For instance, did you know I’m basically considered a terrorist? Wild. Not even I know how “life threatening to people and things” peaceful protesting could be. I’m sooo dangerous apparently, what a joke.”

I go on to write about the buildings and architecture here for a couple of pages so I’ll skip that, but if you want to hear about it just write to me and let me know. And then onto - 

“If I had any serious complaints … it’s the distinct lack of decent coloured pencils … I’m missing a middle green, something between orange and yellow, a light/lemon yellow (my current one is half the size of my pinkie finger), a black that doesn’t leave “bits” everywhere and a red that isn’t scratchy. Otherwise, life is good. I’m drawing at least six hours a day … I’ll do some drawings for you and probably write again but I want to draw some skies and people for a while … The trees outside are beautiful now too – so many white flowers!”

This one to one of my “chosen” (ie, not blood related) families. 24th April 2018, 4:57pm.

“… I want you to know I miss you all terribly … I’m thinking about you guys everyday and sending love. … I wanted to write this letter to remind you that I think about you, I miss you, I remember you and I love you with all my heart. … I am a “UP” here and really wish that I could get a message from someone just telling me they miss me. That’s it. Just “I miss you”. I’m sure you guys have a friend that wants the same thing, or maybe that friend is you. I haven’t heard anyone say my name in over a month … I regret not telling people I love them or that they mean a lot to me or that I’m sorry I’m always so busy but I still miss them even if I don’t get to see them as often as I want to. To each of you who reads this … I will always support you. … You add something so great to this world by being in it and I can’t wait to see where you go in the future. I believe in you and admire you  for being genuinely good people – even if you don’t think so. … I want to thank you so much for all the memories because they are helping pull me through everything right now. Thank you for all the laughs and those to come. Thank you for existing, you do it so well. … All my heart and love, <3 UPIII.”

This one to a person I will call “Jeans”. Saturday, 14th April 2018, 7:51am.

“… I miss you terribly, I wish I could message you but this is the best I can do right now and I will send it as soon as I am free. … Thank you for understanding me and always having my back despite everything. … I miss your stories, our night drives past the beach blasting the 1975. … I miss your fire when you talk, how your words tumble over each other like you can’t speak your mind fast enough. … I love you fiercely, powerfully, from ever corner of my head and heart. I will always be there for you, as you are for me.”

I read this and thought about how much love and fire I had in me, how much energy and fight, passion and, for want of a better word, art. “Jeans” is one of my close friends, and while I still mean every word of this, I can’t feel the strength of it now, it’s like hearing sounds underwater. I feel dulled, like a blade left out to rust. What happened to me? Maybe it’s the same as giving, the less I give, the less I feel like I can. I can write “I love you” in every letter, and believe me I mean it whole heartedly, but it’s like shouting from the moon. Does anyone actually hear it? Do you even believe it? I have no one to receive love from here, in the sense of someone to go to when I need an ear to listen, a hand to hold, a heart to understand what I’m going through. Yes, I have friends, but it is the kind of love born out of need and necessity, desperation. We “love” each other because we, as humans, must feel loved and love something. Or we would just feel empty. Which I feel each time someone leaves. Gut wrenchingly, heart hollowing empty. Most people here have sentences of nearly two years, if not more. There is zero sympathy for my nine months.  There’s not even sympathy for the lady who got two years yesterday. So when I look at my calendar and feel the weight of how much longer I must stay, who can I talk to? Who will listen? Who will care?

Short answer: No one. No sympathy. No “it’ll be okay”. No, it’s “suck it up”, “it’s only nine months”. Lack of love breeds a hard heart. So what kind of person will I be in four more months? I could mention this to my visitors, say I’m having a bad day or week or whatever, but I’d rather not. It must be bad enough coming here once a week, I don’t want to complain for the half hour. It is the best half hour of my week, and I’m not going to sit there and, for want of a better expression, “chuck a sad” for it. No. I’ll smile, laugh, joke. Make it feel, for that wonderful half hour, that I am not here. And I don’t have to pretend I’m okay, because during the visit I am. I’m among friends, people who sympathise, who tell me what is going on outside. It is very grounding. Proof there is an outside, that I am not here forever, that I have a place and people to go to. I’m trying to think of a way to describe this “desperation love” here but I can’t really, you have to feel it. Out of everyone here, I’m closest to 208, and we have an understanding of sorts (hard to explain, and I don’t really want to) and she looks out for and after me but, it’s this knowledge that one of us will leave the other that is the massive elephant in the room. Last time one of her friends left, she locked herself in her cell for a day. Last time one of mine left I did this too. It’s like this ice water wake up call that everything here is temporary. We put enough love into each other to by, like a parking meter. Just enough to carry us through each day. Any more and it might be a two day self imposed lock in. I hate it. I hate not loving people, not with my whole heart anyway. But it is too painful to do so. Staying is hard, but going will be too. I’ll cry for 208, because I’m leaving them behind. Or maybe I’ll cry here because they’ve left me behind. Who knows. I cannot stress to you enough how awful it is. People say “don’t worry, I’ll write!” but, I don’t think so. I’m a reminder of their time in prison. This is a place you don’t want to remember. I will write to 208, this I fiercely believe in for all they have done for me and our understanding, but that is probably it. As best they can, they have made it easier for me here, so I will try and return the favour. Zero sympathy for my sentence, and the don’t understand my motives (“why not save apes in the jungle? It seems a better thing to fight for”) but we’ll talk like friends over coffee, which is enough. Maybe that’s the main reason I don’t go to Umschluss, it’s easier to create distance. 208 has the same thought. They really only open their door to people once each week or so. I might go to their cell once a month. I’m really struggling to word this, because unless you can feel this uncertainty I don’t know if you can fully understand it. It’s the glass of water again. Easy at first, until it starts to become not so easy.

Let’s go back to letters. This is to “LD”, Sunday 22nd April 2018, 7:40am.

“… I just wanted to write this because I’m thinking about you … I’ve learnt how to roll a cigarette and make chess pieces out of toilet paper (arguably more than I learnt during five years at University) … Today is my thirty fifth day in prison (can I get a shitty home job tattoo or am I not a real prisoner yet?) … Tried to run for two minutes and thought I was going to die … I have so many stories … talk soon!”<

To LD, Monday, 23rd April 2018, 6:05am.

“… I thought I would write you something – there’s not much else to do here. I hope you appreciate being able to shower whenever you want to, I’m only allowed to shower twice a week … and have eight other people in the room with me. God I miss privacy! I also haven’t shaved in forty three days and can literally feel the breeze blow through my leg hair. Majestic. … The prison has a shopping list you can order from every two weeks … and my razors should arrive Wednesday. I’ve never been more excited to shave in my life, and I’ll probably need all ten razors just for my legs. In other news I found out I can order a pineapple in the shopping … but because I’m in prison I’m not allowed more than a butter knife. How do they expect me to cut it? With my mind? Anyway … it’s strange here because I always wanted more time but now I have no idea what to do with all of it. Do I read? Draw? Nap? Write? Do yoga? … It’s also odd how easy it is to live with so little, I love it. I’m drawing a lot more now (“I have time) but run out of paper pretty quickly. … I wonder what it’ll be like when I get out of here “soon” (how long is soon anyway? I’ve been here thirty six days). I can’t wait to eat a mango or banana or some blueberries or an orange. They only give me bread, white rice, potatoes and soup … and it sucks. I literally dream about eating fruit now. … Prison is all about being excited for little things … sunlight, a new book, any kind of class. I think it’s good because I’m going to appreciate freedom so much more when I’m out. I can’t wait to go for a drive or run … talk to you soon.”

To LD, Tuesday 24th April 2918, 8:20am.

“… I thought I would write you another letter because I miss you. … What a spot of bother I seem to have landed myself in. … I hope you’ve sent me memes while I’ve been here, I’m going to be so behind. How do you pronounce it again? Mem? Me-me? Meh-Meh?”

Then I describe a thing I did, which is ‘not allowed’ (nothing good though, but I’ll slip some “fuck this”’s in if I can. I got told off but it wasn’t serious. Petty shit.), and I wrote “yolo” after it because “I’m already in prison” then go on to write about a friend.

“She loves flowers too, especially the white ones that form after (fuck I’ve forgotten what they’re called, those yellow bastards that cows like eating and have been turning my pants yellow) those plants flower. … Yeah anyway those bastards are her favourite … I also found out one of my friends went free on Friday, she was here for two years … I’m so glad she was let out. All she wanted to do here was sit in the sun … Another friend … is going on Friday … she hates the internet and like making tea from the leaves of the plant above. I hope I’m the next on to go.”

To LD, Tuesday 24th April 2018, 3:45pm.

“… I remembered when I was about to have my afternoon nap … that those flower bastards are called dandelions. … Also, days of the week right … Friday, Freitag, means “free day”. … Look at me go, I might be fluent by next week, me and my twelve German words … My friends are trying to teach me … they described a raspberry as a “small red berry made of many small red strawberries”. A guard had to look it up on their phone … Also garlic – knoblauch – was described as “hissing vampires”. So good … It’s actually cheaper to bey bananas (1,29€/kg) than apples (2.99€/kg) here. … I think that’s all for now.”

To LD, Wednesday 25th April 2018, 5:34am.

“… It’s still early here and the sky is a lovely light purple/grey. It’s cold this morning but has been for a few days … The trees here are so pretty, there’s three just over the wall that are so full of white flowers that it looks like snow. I’ve got bread for breakfast again. Just bread, no spread or anything to put on it. It also has no yeast in it (so we can’t make alcohol) and is a few days old so it’s kind of like eating a piece of cardboard. I don’t know if I want to eat bread again when I get out. At least the white bread is softerish, the brown is full of “bits” (ground what I think?). I have white today which is okay. My shopping … should arrive in three hours. I’ve been sent money so I can order whatever I want from the list, I only really want chocolate though, a razor to shave and some coffee … so I can have something to wake me up. I don’t have a kettle so I have to drink my coffee cold and black. Still, it could be worse. I could have no coffee. Prison is good in the way you really start to appreciate everything so much more. How food it feels to lie in the grass and feel the sun on your arms. That super good feeling after a shower when you put on clean clothes. Clean sheets and the first night you sleep in them and they’re not gritty with dirt (once every two weeks here) … watching the sunrise turn the walls round the prison from white to orange and the trees gold and pinky orange. … One of my friends says that when the clouds cover the sun her daughter would ask “who stole the sun?” … I wonder what younger me would think of me now. If you told me in January that I’d be in a German prison in March I would have laughed … when I get out I’m going to keep fighting … I want to fight for a future worth living in.”

To LD, Thursday 26th April 2018, 2:37pm.

“… One of my friends unexpectedly went free yesterday. Another leaves tomorrow … One other person was told during the “womens group” today that she is free. Yesterday during art she told me I have “eyes like a husky”, it was really sweet of her. … I also received two letters today – shock . And one contains “ripe dirt”. It’s great.”

To LD, Tuesday 1st May 2018, 6:44am.

“… May we never run out of adventures to have or stories to tell. Stay wild.”

To LD, Tuesday 15th May 2018, 8:38am.

“… a friend went free on Friday. Last Tuesday I was dragged through three hospitals … and guess what? Apparently I’m “under eighteen” so I’ll be going to the youth court sometime soon (I hope). Oh also the court wants to take DNA because I’m a “danger to the state”. Yeah okay mate. Pull the other leg. … I’m getting letters now too, and even have one from Sweden!” then I wrote some German, only useful German though obviously, like “I want to live in a treehouse so I can shit on police.” Very important. My German was becoming very good then, I knew a whole thirty words (wow!). Couldn’t count to ten but could say several swear words. Prison is definitely educational.”

To LD, Sunday 17th June 2018, 6am(ish). 


“… Today is my 90th day in prison, and I have another thirty seven to go before my first trial … at least it is something to count down to. … If I go free at the first trial I’ll have been here over a third of a year … I spent six and half days in the forest … that’s three weeks in prison per day I was there. Super fucked up. … I don’t have a TV here but have asked for one and it should come next week … it costs 5.75€ a month. I have a radio though so it isn’t too bad.”

Then I mention stuff that I’m not going to write, ‘cause it’s personal (ly very funny).

“It’s nearly the three hour social thing though, so I better get organised.”

Now onto the final person whose letters I will write. I have skipped many but the ones I am writing (I hope) give you an idea of where my head was at. I wrote very few after early May, and then only for special occaisons or something. I didn’t have the energy to keep writing. And there was the creeping suspicion people didn’t care. I’ve had one letter from a “pre-forest” friend, so I guess I may have been right. From all my chosen families, dozen of people, on letter. You can maybe imagine then how much I cannot find the energy to write. It feels, I suppose kind of stupid. That one letter though I hold onto like it’s gold. It’s the hope that I am at least being thought about by my studio family. To my old flatmate, you’re a champion. Gross and gooey family feelings right back, and big love to all the lads. And to all those who have only known me since the forest, or don’t know me at all and wrote anyway. I cannot express how thankful I am. Thank you for making it less shit for me here, for keeping me laughing and smiling. I just, I don’t have a word strong enough. Thank you. Thank you for giving me something to look forward to. You’re amazing.

The following letters are th “H”. Wednesday, 11th April 2018, 10:48am.

“… I’m going to try not to write too much, or there might be one less forest from the amount of paper I’m going through. I moves to house ten yesterday and the view is better, instead of a red brick wall I can see the grey concrete of the surrounding prison wall and the trees and houses beyond it. My shopping arrived this morning and I got bananas. I was so happy. … It’s cold today and I’m wearing a jumper … I miss you and I wish I had a way to tell you from where I am.”

To H, Saturday 14th April 2018, 7:36am.

“… I’m hearing a lot of stories lately about how long I’m going to be held in my box. My lawyer says a month, my court letters say six months to five years, a staff member is shocked I’m still here and she said I should be “out soon”. I don’t know what “soon” means but my court order sounds heavy and hard … I still have no name, no letters, no outside contact except my lawyer … but I’m okay. All my love, <3 UPIII.”

To H, Sunday, 15th April 2018, 7:21am.

“… sorry this is written on the back of an Antrag paper, I’ve run out of normal paper and because it’s Sunday I can’t get any more until tomorrow. It’s annoying but it’s okay, I can still write on it! I have officially been in Germany thirty four days today, of which I have spent twenty seven staring through some kind of bars. I am reading a lot, I finish one book about every two or so days between drawing, sleeping, one hour of walking outside, three hours of visiting other people and whatever else I can think of to keep busy. This is day six in house ten and still no radia, god I miss music. … I think about the forest sometimes and I want to be there so badly my heart hurts.”

To H, Tuesday 17th April 2018, 4:15pm.

“… I lie in bed when I don’t know what else to do – I’m to tired to read and too sad to draw – and I think about walking in the forest when I go free. … not knowing what is going on outside my cell is killing me … I’ve been in prison thirty days today and one of my friends said the prison held onto someone from the Hambi for two and a half months … I want to write that I can do this … but I’m barely sleeping because I don’t know what is going on or what will happen. Truth is I’m tired … Sometimes it feels like I can’t breathe my chest is so heavy.”

To H, Friday, 20th April 2018, 7:03am.

“… I hate how easy it is to feel forgotten here … there’s no letters coming through and I’m not allowed visits from anyone but my lawyer … I’m told the Hambi have been trying to write to me. That makes me happy even if they aren’t getting through … I don’t know if it’s better being called UPIII or just UP, at least UPIII sounds more personal, even if I’m still a number … I’m so happy my friends are going free but it makes it harder to be here … I’m looking over the wall at the trees – they are so beautiful – and I wonder what the forest looks like. There must be so many flowers! I hope you’re enjoying the sun and warm days … one hour outside is wonderful but I wish we could have more.”

JVA Köln, 7:15am, Saturday, 11th August 2018

It’s now Saturday and I spent my whole day yesterday, from breakfast (well, actually earlier, breakfast was 9am yesterday) until around nine pm writing this letter, minus one hour of Freistunde. That was good, it made it an easier day to pass. So let’s continue.

To H, Saturday 21st April 2018, 6:19am.

“… it’s very grey outside today but that might be because it’s still early. I like how the air smells in the morning and just before dawn … Maybe that’s why I’m awake, I like leaving my window open and it’s a cold day. Three thin blankets are definitely not enough to stay warm with. I’m not sleeping well or much at all, so lately I’m always tired. It feels like I’m going through the day sleepwalking, like I’m in a dream. I don’t know which is wore though – feeling like I’m dreaming or feeling painfully awake. I want so badly to sleep, to feel rested and dream. I feel so on edge and stressed out and I don’t know why. I hope you’re  sleeping well and if you sleep a few extra hours could you send them my way? I could use more than the few hours I spend tossing and turning during the night. I wish I could sleep when it’s daylight but I’m too worried about getting interrupted by the guards. … It feels like my week in the forest was a dream.”

To H, Saturday 21st April 2018, 4:43pm.

“… sometimes I wonder why people think “ah yes, this one, I love this person.” Especially when it’s about me. I’m short and loud and reckless and never really think anything through (that’s probably 99% of the reason I’m in prison, the other 1% is because I’m a total dickhead and think “oh man, hold my beer and watch this, it’s going to be good”) … right now I just really want a hug … I want to feel safe.”

To H, Sunday, 22nd April 2018, 7:15am.

“… I was wondering about birthdays last night … also did you know that machines scan the white space on barcodes not the black? … and cows can have best friends … I hope this gives you a smile … I haven’t slept much but I’m in a better mood, I’ve been a bit sick (the food here is awful) but I’m starting to get better (I hope). I’m looking forward to Wednesday because the shopping arrives and I ordered twenty five bars of chocolate (I need something to laugh about). Hopefully I’m not here to much longer … I miss you but I can’t do anything about it so I’m going to keep writing these … even though it sometimes feels odd.”

To H, Sunday 22nd April 2018, 7:09pm.

“… I’m sitting in my cell and watching the rain. I wonder what storms are like in a treehouse … Is it like being in a boat on a rough sea? I’ll have to ask someone. The lighting must be incredible. … I’m getting a tan from all the sun and have a white patch on my wrist where my watch sits … It’s lovely though and I can watch all the white flowers blow around in the breeze … It is so beautiful but I imagine it is so much better when you can actually walk around and see the trees, flowers … and watch everything change … I get to look at a small meadow of daisies and dandelions, and trees on the other side of the prison wall. It’s great but I wish I could see more.”

To H, Monday 23rd April 2018, 5:13am.

“… good morning (though I hope you’re still asleep where you are because it is still pretty early) … It’s nearly breakfast here where I will be given somewhere between three and five pieces of bread, usually white now … In about an hour I will be allowed to shower with eight or so other persons (I like how “persons” sounds more then “people”). I miss privacy. I miss being able to shower whenever I want and I miss my bodywash (it smells like raspberries, the soap here smells like industrial cleaner and synthetic lemons). I also really miss eating fruit (thinking of raspberries is making me hungry), especially bananas, oranges, pineapple, mango and peaches. I love berries too, blueberries are my favourite … I remember a friend used to call the “rich white girl munchies” because they’re pretty expensive and I used to eat heaps of them …“

I talk about some memories of Finland for a while in an almost melancholy way (“sweet pensive sadness” is how my old literature teacher described the word) and then continue with,

“I hope one year I can go in Winter and see the Northern lights, I hear they are beautiful and almost magic to watch. Being stuck in here just makes me want to see more of the world … It gives me something to dream about (if I manage to sleep). I want to drink 2€ wine in Paris (one of my friends speaks very fondly of this experience of theirs, so why not), learn to sail a boat (I learnt this when I was younger but would probably sink a bout now if I had to try and do it), get a motorbike licence, buy a van and travel around Europe … and go hiking in New Zealand in the places where elves and hobbits live (and maybe wizards too!)”

Bear with me again, I’m going to try and write as neatly as I can but my hand is getting sore so it’s shaking a little. I’ll slow down a bit and see if it helps.

To H, Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 7:19am.

“… I keep thinking about moments. Like in the forest … staring at the line of police … tripping over a stick or my shoe, I don’t remember … hands holding me down. A police woman angrily demanding my name, my language, my country. The way my skin stuck to the black gym mat in Aachen jail. The sound of whistling, how much it made me smile. The way my heart dropped when a friend read my court order to me (everything I receive from the court is in German) and the court said they might keep me here for months. The hope and feeling of weightlessness … when I was told I should be “out soon” and heard about the other UP’s. The peacefulness that I felt one sunny day in art class sitting on the window drinking a warm coffee and looking down on a courtyard full of trees and flowers. Last night during Umschluss … when I sat on her bad and watched her trace drawings on her wall … and some German song played softly on the radio. This morning when I had just woken up and looked out the window and the sky was light blue and gold, lighting up the walls around the prison and turning them orange. I hate being stuck here but the last few moments help make it not so bad … a friend went free on Friday and I miss her but I’m glad she can finally leave … and lay in the sun and be happy. It’s strange here, hoping that your friends go free knowing you’ll cry and miss them when they go. It’s not saying goodbye though, I have their address and can write to them when I’m out, but it doesn’t hurt any less. One of my friends goes free on Friday and she is so excited – two more days – but I can’t help feeling sad too. I want so badly to go too … so I can finally feel safe. I just want to sit in the Tower and hold a cup of tea in my dirty hands to warm them. I want to hear laughter … I want to hear the bang of the trapdoor when people come and go. “Soon” I hope, whatever that means.”

To H, Thursday, 26th April 2018, 8:23pm.

On the top of the letter I drew a flower and wrote “please accept this flower, I don’t have the heart to draw today, I’m sorry.”

“… I’ve been putting off writing mostly because it feels like I don’t know what to say anymore. Prison is strange … hoping your friends can go free … but then walk around feeling like you have no heart left once they leave. … T is free, J went free yesterday, M goes free tomorrow. Someone else went free today. So many come and go and it’s no longer as easy as it was. Day forty is tomorrow … UP4 is still here, I hope he’s okay and has people looking out for him in (I think) house three. I still have two people here though, but one is sick and the other works all day. I don’t know how to describe how I feel, I’m not sad but not happy either. I just feel tired, tired of watching friends leave and wishing I could go too. I wonder how many more weeks. This is not easy but … I can do this, each day the same, week after week. I’m told I might have visitors next week, I’ve heard that before. Maybe I’m just tired of finding a reason to keep believing. “Soon, soon you will be free” … I don’t care anymore how long I sit here – this is week ix – but maybe I just want to stop hearing things that give me a reason to count down to next week. I think mostly it’s the way my heart falls when I realise no one is coming … I know that it’s the court’s fault – I hear the Hambi are trying really hard to get in contact … I know the court is trying to isolate me, to make me give my name just so I can talk to someone … but they will not break me, I will not give up … I think it’s easier to find strength when you know how it feels to be weak.”

To H, Friday, 27th April 2018, 7:27am.

“… Prison seems to be easier on those here who don’t expect good things or kindness … we are not shocked when we hear bad news or if something doesn’t go the way we expected because we anticipated it. I think this is horrible … being shocked when good things happen because it is so unexpected … whenever I reviece a letter I expect it to be from the court telling me I will be here for more weeks … or that I will be moved to a diffident house again, away from the last of my friends. It’s easier to expect bad news because it doesn’t hurt as much when you hear it. I’m not sure how I feel about visitors coming to see me (though I don’t expect to see them – I’ve heard that way too often to look forward to it and then be told no one is coming). I don’t want to have to pretend … I tell myself what I will say if they come, “it’s not so bad here, I have friends” but now they are free and I am so happy for them even if it makes it harder for me. … “I go to activities” twice a week, Wednesday and Thursday, the two days I look forward to. “I write letters to my friends” knowing I can’t send them because I have no identity. This is when it is starting to feel not as easy as it was. Maybe it is just a low day, because I’ve said so many goodbyes lately … I wish I could write more but I don’t really want to … I don’t have the energy.”

There’s a book, “The wee free men” by Terry Pratchett that I’m really enjoying and there’s a paragraph I resonate with on page 60:

“… on the whole quite a truthful person, but it seemed to her that there were times when things didn’t divide easily into “true” and “false”, but instead could be ‘things that people needed to know at the moment’ and ‘things they didn’t need to know at the moment’.” I think a lot of the things I go through here fall into the second category. Which I hope you understand, because I don’t want you to worry.”

To H, Saturday, 28th April 2018, 5:49pm.

“… my last few letters have been pretty low and moody but I have been very sick and have just wanted to draw but couldn’t so it made me a bit upset … I feel better now though … I shaved my legs today. I feel so civilised, gross … it took nearly three razors … I’ve put some art on my walls to cheer me up … I love all the colours and shapes … I love art and I miss it … One friend came back from the court today and is really upset (understandably). I’ve been hiding in my cell – I don’t want to be around the negativity today. She was in 220 with her friend and invited me in to say hi, I did for a while but the cigarette smoke made me feel sick and lightheaded (they wouldn’t open the window). I don’t mind smoking, it reminds me of good times, but I hate not being able to breath fresh air or get away from it if I want to. Especially because I’ve been so sick. … I’ve worked out (it “only” took six weeks) that Mondays and Saturdays are soup days … I don’t have much more to say right now and I’m still a little sick so I’m going to try and sleep soon … I’ll try and write/draw again, unless I am free …. “soon” sure is taking it’s time.”

To H, Wednesday, 16th May 2018, 11:31am.

“… I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while, I wasn’t sure what to say. … it feels like the forest was a strange and wonderful dream but prison is the reality … this is week nine … I feel really gross, all I eat here is bread, rice and potatoes, and chocolate when I’ve ordered some. Sometimes I get a piece of fruit or vegetable but rarely … they also keep giving me meat and I hate throwing it away. What a waste of a life, but I can’t bring myself to eat it, I just keep thinking of the animal it came from … it makes me so upset … the soup smells like rabbit food … most of what I eat is bread that is stale and sometimes mouldy (there’s growing white spots all over it) … I miss fruits so much, I might actually cry when I see one next … last time I ordered shopping I asked for twenty five blocks of chocolate … I only received twenty four blocks though but I figure whoever got the other block needed it more than me. It gave everyone a laugh … I hope that whatever you’re doing and wherever you are that you’re happy … I don’t have much else to say.”

To H, Wednesday, 30th May 2018, 5:25pm.

“… Sorry this is the first letter I’ve written in a few weeks, it feels like writing into a black hole. I don’t even know if I’ll give people these letters anymore so it feels a bit pointless writing them … 5:34pm, three minutes until my birthday, if I was in Australia, because it’s already tomorrow. The last few minutes of being twenty two, and I’m writing this … so, here we go, twenty two, one, two, three, twenty three. I always think I will feel different. That I will feel a year older. I never do … sometimes I don’t feel old enough to be eighteen … I don’t think I’ve ever felt like an adult, not really, just a kid legally allowed to drive a car and buy alcohol.”

To H, Tuesday 17th July 2018.

“… I thought maybe I should write because I haven’t for a while … it’s 7:14pm now, I wonder what you’re up to? … it’s just starting to rain here, I hope wherever you are that you’re warm and dry. … when things are not so easy here (which is more often as my trial comes closer) I like to imagine the forest … that things are going  on “as normal” (whatever that is) … I heard there was another eviction attempt and that people were taken by the police … I hope they’re okay … being arrested is not “nothing” and getting dragged around by cops never gets easier. On Tuesday next week I will have both handcuffs and footcuffs put on me … like it wasn’t shitty enough when I was arrested, or when I was dragged through the hospitals two months ago. Then I have to do it again the week after too. Hopefully I can go free on my second trial, I’ve had enough of prison. I just want to go back to the forest … for the first few weeks, I thought I could get out and go back to how things were outside. Now I really don’t think I can … I don’t know how much of that “me” is left, I don’t even recognise myself … and it’s only been four months … I feel like my heart and mind are harder and I don’t like it. … I’m quite tired now, so I’ll finish this letter here.”

I guess my hope for this letter is that is humanises me and maybe you can connect to it more so than some of my other letters. I am not an idea, or some far away unseen thing, I am as real as you are. This real, and this is happening now. I will be pushing my way through each day until the 19th of December, and really all I’m wishing for is that people write to me to make it easier. Maybe the expression should be “it never gets easier, you just get better at dealing with it”, as I used to hear all the time.

Now I really am beyond tired. In a few days I might write a follow up letter with pages from my journal, which will be another long one so I’m really sorry for that, as I imagine it is easier to read when they’re short. I hope this letter really gives you a sense of prison too, more than I could blindly ramble on about in a day. Hopefully you can see as well how much I’ve changed.

So until the next letter.

I love you all, I miss you and I’m counting down to the day I can go free.

One hundred and forty five days I have been in prison and I will be released on the two hundred and seventy fifth day. One block at a time. Each day the same.

Best wishes, love, rage and solidarity.

Stay BRAVE.

<3 UPIII

Ps.: I didn’t do any drawings, my heart wasn’t in it and I can’t bring myself to draw when I don’t feel like it.

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