The Thousandth Man by Rudyard Kipling
One man in a thousand, Soloman says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it's worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine hundred and ninety - nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.
'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for 'ee.
Nine hundred and ninety - nine of 'em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory.
But if he finds you and you find him,
the rest of the world don't matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.
You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spending's,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lending's.
Nine hundred and ninety - nine of 'em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man he's worth 'em all,
Because you can show him your feelings.
His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men's sight --
With THAT for your only reason!
Nine hundred and ninety - nine can't bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows - foot -- and after.
I always liked that poem. I'm not sure why, sure as shit didn't have anything to do with *my* life. Until I met Keller, Chris...the traitor. Or not really I guess, since he was always working for Vern but still... I thought he was my thousandth man, that he was someone I could trust,someone I could love in all this fucked-up shit that is life in Oz. How stupid of me.
I remember once, him and me in the shower the first day after he was inserted into my life, how I told him that I found it hard to trust people. Him and Vern must have pissed themselves laughing over that one. Crazy, fucked-up Beecher, so desperate to love someone that he can't even hate them after the break his arms...break his heart. Yeah, I'm still in love with him. Just proves how fucked-up I really am. I can't forgive him and I can't hate him all the way... my nightmares are worse now, before it was the same dream over and over again. Me, hammered out of my mind, tearing along until ::splat:: but when I look twice it's not Kathy Rockwell anymore, it's me; the new me.
//Extra-crazy Beecher! Now with ten times more psychosis!//
Freud would probably have a field day with it; of course, with Freud the diagnosis would probably have something to do with sex and my mother...sick bastard. Anyway, now all my dreams are about Keller, us talking, playing chess. Then we always end up in the laundry room and I do my confession thing (fuck was I thinking? Honesty in Oz?) only this time the hacks don't show up and we're making out like fuckin' horny teenagers only suddenly we're in the gym, on the mats. We keep going at it but then it's Vern in my arms and he's laughing and the scar (goddamned *brand*) on my ass is burning like new and I feel my arms and legs snap and Shillinger's standing over me laughing that obscene giggle of his and I'm looking for Keller (help me Chris, *please*) but there's only Vern and I don't care anymore 'cause I'm so goddamned *lonely* and I just want to (make love) *fuck* --
-- And I wake up, sweating and crying and shaking like one of my kids after a bad dream and I just *know* that Keller's looking up at my bunk with his eyes gleaming in the dark like he's some kind of fuckin' *cat* (or rat maybe, suits his personality better if not his looks) and I just want to crawl down there and beg him not to do it again, not to hurt me ever again but I also want to kill him, to scratch and gouge 'till he's dead (like Metzger) so I *know* he'll never hurt me again but I can't decide which to do so I lie there. I hope and I fear that he'll jump up and try to help me (like before) but he doesn't; he just lies there silently, barely even breathing but I can *feel* his eyes burning into my back through my bed. After a while, he sighs, just once, and I feel the burning pressure between my shoulder blades relax and I know he's gone back to sleep. Then I roll over, facing the sink so I can pretend that everyone around me *can't* see everything I do and I pray to a God that I don't really *believe* in anymore for oblivion. To just be able to *rest* and feel nothing. I've given up on peace; emptiness is so much *safer*. When your empty, there's no love, no fear and no pain. Just... revenge and hate so icy cold it scares me. Oh God, sometimes I scare myself shitless, wondering (how could this be me? What happened to me?) when I changed into the man with the frighteningly cold eyes that I see in the mirror.
Chris is begining to catch on, I think. Now that he's back from PC he's made a couple efforts to (prag) make up with me. I think I'm starting to scare him too, though. When he looks at me and thinks I'm not watching can see him searching my face, trying to find a hint of the man he (betrayed) "loves". That man is dead now; the last *shred* of the man I was, my last hope of staying a *human being*, it's all gone now. Vern's ultimate revenge.
Even if I wanted to, even if I *could* forgive him I can't. Chris either doesn't get it or he doesn't care but if there's one thing that I've learned from the horror that has been the last two years of my life, it's that in Oz, your rep is everything. I'm crazy-ass Bitcher (the prag who fought back) the guy who sucks and fucks but be careful where you *stick* that because he's just a bit rabid. Even though I haven't done anything *really* crazy in over a year (aside from falling for Keller, of course) most people remember what I did to that fuck-wad Robson and try and stay as far away from me as possible. Not like I'm gonna complain. If I forgive Keller, I'll be his prag. Not like with Schillinger but everyone will see me as Keller's prag and I'll be dead. Physically too.
There's nothing either of us can do to fix this, even if we wanted to. Choices can't be unmade; maybe Keller would've told Vern to fuck himself if he'd had a second chance. Or maybe not. Maybe I wouldn't have trusted Keller if I'd known what was going to happen. Or maybe I would've been so pathetically needy that I'd fall for him anyway, just for the illision of happiness for a few months. Not that it matters now anyway; Keller narced out Metzger and Schillingger (fucked if I know why) an he'll be dead soon, either by Schillinger's hand or by mine. Not that I'm kidding anyone, part of me still loves Keller too much for me to be the one who kills him. Maybe I'll be there when he dies, Schillinger would probably like that, one last twist of the knife before he kills *me*. Maybe I'll be able to forgive him then. Maybe I could forgive him now, knowing what's coming.
Catholics believe that if you sincerely repent your sins and seek absolution, you'll be forgiven; problem is, I don't know if Chris isn't just going for one last skullfuck ('cause *God* knows I can't tell when he's lying) or if he's for real this time. Regular people say that all you need is love. It was around on some fucking Hallmark card a *long* time before John Lennon started singing about it. But in Oz, love is a free hit of smack or a repreive from being (pragged) fucked for a night. It's the rush from a really clean hit, or the syrupy daze from too much booze. I've experienced all of these things at one point or another during my stay in McManus' playpen; none of them compare to the clean, cold *bite* of hatred. In Oz, hate and pain are a lot more (real) common than love could ever be. I wish - out of all the things I wish I could change - I wish that all we really *did* need was love. That pain and prags and reputations could just be ignored. That's the old (dead) Toby Beecher talking. I know - just like everyone else in Oz does - that if you *really* want to do something *nice* for someone, you'll hate them. 'Cause in the *long* run it's safer for *everyone* concerned. Love in Oz is a curse ( or maybe it's just me) just like everything else in here. But at least with love, you've got a choice - in the begining anyway.
It was never really our choice, what happened between us. Fate (and Vern playing match-maker, now *there's* a scary thought) tossed us around like leaves in a fucking hurricane. Maybe me and Keller really could've loved each other, *without* all the bullshit in the way. Maybe he could've *been* my thousandth man. (Maybe I could've been *his*.) It's too fuckin' late now though, we made it to the gallows together, but we're probably both gonna hang.