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Pique n your interest

Movin’ on up



For the past two-and-a-half years I’ve been living in a glorified boot room. The dimensions were approximately nine feet by eight feet, and between my bed, desk and shelves, there wasn’t a lot of floor space to do sit ups.

By contrast, the cells that suspected Taliban and al Quaeda fighters are being held in at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba – which were condemned by foreign newspapers and Amnesty International as inhumane – are just over a foot shorter in each direction at approximately six-and-a-half by eight feet. At least they have a view of the beach.

I couldn’t open the thick black felt curtain that hung over my window because after dark a compact fluorescent light from the complex’s own lighting system would brighten up my room like the daytime. Besides, anyone on their way to our front door had to pass by the window, and, false modesty aside, I didn’t really want to be seen.

Through my hollow door, I could also hear everyone in the house coming and going, and I do mean going – the full bathroom on the main floor was located just across from my "room." I put room in quotations, because after about a week I started to refer to my little berth as my "sleephole."

For some reason I painted my sleephole a bright orange. I meant to paint it a brownish kind of burnt orange but the paint on my walls didn’t resemble the colour swatch at all once it dried. Probably because the previous occupant had painted the room a vibrant school bus yellow.

Someone mentioned to me that they had seen a program where prisons experimented with the effects different colours could have on the attitudes of maximum security prisoners. While pink and light blue had a calming effect, orange generally made the cons angry and aggressive.

Mostly I just felt sad looking at my orange walls, at least until I painted them a sterile white almost a year later.

While I had the loudest room in the house in terms of its location, even nature was conspiring against me and my need to string together eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Our unit backed out onto a little forest, and every spring the robins came pecking at my window, attacking their own reflections and evacuating liberally and messily on my window sill. They’d usually start pecking at about 5 a.m., and come back every 20 minutes after I’d throw something at the window to scare them.

I taped a big "X" on each pane the first year, and finally wedged a stuffed animal between the curtain and the window pane to act as a kind of scarecrow.

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