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Many thanks to Cheights for the beta, helpful advice, and encouragement.

Many Splendored Thing

by sistersleep

Lost excerpt from the journals of Augustus Hill -

Now, some guys say there is no love inside of Oz. Hell, most guys say it. In a way, it's true. There's no love for the guy farting in the cot above you, or for the hacks that treat us like animals. Nobody's receiving any love from anybody behind the walls with them. Unless you're one of those rare ones that catches some love behind bars, something you make yourself, that's only there if you bend to it, build it, carve out your own hole with a shank.

Like Keller and Beecher. Those two guys are a very fucked up exception to the rule though. Usually, Romeo ain't finding no Juliet in here, and if he does, you can sure as hell bet it ends even bloodier than the original tale. Nowhere in old Willy's story did Romeo turn on Juliet for his own clan, break the poor girl's limbs and then try to get her back.

But in another way...Oz contains all the love there is, every type. Even that rare kind that found Beecher and keeps him locked in a violent dance. Even if it's just the more common remnants being held in caged hearts. It's here. Everywhere.

Who knows the love of a bright sunny day out with your girl better than a guy who will never experience that heat on his face and soft warmth at his side again?

Who knows the love of a day at the beach, digging your toes into that wet sludge of sand, running on the challenging surface, being sped by laughter and feeling the ache from it in your calves and your smile, better than some poor fucker stuck in a wheelchair who feels...nothing beneath his feet? Hell, I can't even feel my fucking feet!

So yeah, there's that kind of love. The million tiny loves every other one of you motherfuckers on the outside take for granted. In here, they are a presence. Cherished memories that are taken out and polished smooth, brighter and more idealized than they ever could have been in reality. Ghosts, longings for everything your stupid ass has fucked up. But those illusive loving longings are here, residing somewhere deep in the heart of all but the most lost. And even that bitter, cold fucker who's resigned to his fate - you better bet he still dreams about those things. Wakes up and loses it all over again. Why do you think he's so fucking cruel?

All these little taken for granted loves...they start to fucking hurt every time you think of them, like the best love. The true love. Hurts like a bitch sometimes, rips you to shreds like nothing else, but you just have to take another hit. Have to keep yearning for it. Because you remember how perfect it can feel. A rush to rival any drug, but that come down is always a killer.

And everyone knows there's self-love. Magazines with the pages stuck together, bouncing television hosts, and rattling cots - the scratch of cheap sheets and practiced palms. Every month a whole new glossy crop of loves. The love of another body. Of beauty. Of wet warmth and soft tits. It's gone from our grasps, but it stays in our veins like no other drug habit ever can. Love is the jones you ain't ever going to fucking shake.

Maybe, if you're really lucky, or really new, your girl still might visit you. Bringing you long kisses that fuck with your head and give you that rush. And let me tell you, you have never loved that girl quite as much as when you see her there waiting at that table, or behind that glass. When you walk into the room and there she is...just as beautiful as she was in your mind that clings to her and turns her over and over during the long lockdown. In your heart. More beautiful than any of those glossy tits. Because you know what she looked like in the morning, hell you even miss her morning breath. You remember her calling your name, even if it was just that fucking shrill demand to take out the trash - in your memory, it's like music. If you're even fucking luckier, you get one of those nice visits where you can leave the glass behind and sit with her. You get to smell her in your arms when you hug her too tight and too long with that greeting.

You can feel love in Oz.

You just can only have certain types right under your palms.

The memories.

The touch of your own hand.

A phone receiver with a voice on the line sounding happy to hear you, happy to pay the state the big money for the minutes just to take your call.

Rare little kindnesses from the few staff members that don't see you as scum. The ones that aren't burned out yet. Dr. Nathan cares about her job, even if she doesn't take any shit. Sister Pete...loves everyone, so does Father Mukada. Or at least they try. And them treating you like a human being? You feel it like you never did before. Because that's the only thing you're getting after a while, especially after your girl stops calling, and even your moms stops visiting as much. Or maybe you never even had that love on the outside to cling to. Sure, you'll never let the Father and the Sister know what it means to you, and you'll hurt them, fuck with them, ignore them, play them, and roll your eyes at it, but it's there. It just hurts that that's all there is left for you. Reminding you that it isn't enough, that it isn't quite real. It's not really for you, but for your poor soul or body that can be saved, even as it feels so good for being all there is.

All this shit you can't have, it builds up. That love contained and regulated to letters with photos of your girl, television shows with beaches you can't smell, phone calls that don't last long enough, visits that don't come often enough because they cost your loved ones too much travel time. That love for your girl, your favorite hangout, your favorite draft beer, your favorite burger, it just grows and grows. Tugs and pulls and haunts you. And that love others on the outside feel for you just...drifts. Fades. It can't handle the strain.

You feel less and less of that rush of feeling other's love pouring towards you in return. Until it's just you and the memories of love in your head and all that shit trapped in your heart, unfulfilled. And here you are...doing all that loving and longing...and not getting it returned. It hurts...but you can remember it being so good. You can hope for another chance. And in your head you know that if you get that chance? Yeah, this time, this fucking time - you're going to hold on.

I can see why you would say there's no love in Oz. But there is. The brightest love that you have never fucking felt so purely elsewhere, because you don't take it for granted anymore, and the darkest most obsessive fucking love that hurts like nothing else, being lost and torn and dying. Until it feels like it's never coming back.

You feel the lack of it like never before too. So much more sharply than when you had another chance on the horizon, when all you had to do was walk out your door, talk up some sweet girl, visit family, or just invite some friends over for pizza and a game.

There is love in Oz. Every kind - yearning, pure, magnified, needful, twisted, dirty, obsessive, created, imagined, fading - everything a fucked up, trapped black heart can hold on to, and that's more than you think. Wrong or right. We got it all in here.

But it's the absence of love that's felt clearest of all.


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