Sarah Schulman Reads from an Unpublished Memoir
Bored as I was, I began, along with a few other inmates, to make worry beads. The dough of the bread was the material we used to form the beads, and we used powdered paint to colour them.
At this time, prisoners were being regularly taken for interrogation. They usually wore oversized slippers to these ordeals. The reason for this was that they were regularly whipped on their feet, and in consequence the feet would swell. Had they not taken their oversized slippers, they would have had to walk back to the cell on bare bruised feet.
The daily departure of these prisoners to the prosecutor’s office created an incredible atmosphere of terror in the cells. I continued to make worry beads and observe my cellmates. The number of prisoners had drastically increased.
The number of prisoners beaten was also on the rise. I remember well Shahin, a dark-faced girl. She belonged to one of the leftist groups. I asked her to show me her bruises. She laughed and said that because of her dark skin, the bruises could not be seen. I followed each case with avid curiosity. It seemed in some cases that the whole body was one big bruise.
The next night I saw Shahin in the bathroom again. She seemed happy as she chatted to her friend—apparently she had gone to another interrogation, and now felt that the danger had passed. A couple of days later, she seemed rather nervous again: and that night she was summoned once more to the prosecutor’s office. The next day, her name appeared on the list of those who had been executed. I had by then become a friend of her friend and I asked about Shahin. Apparently, Shahin’s crime was to have been the driver of a car in the trunk of which a small printing press had been hidden. On the last day of her life, Shahin had told her friend that she thought she was going to be executed. She knew this because the interrogator had fondled her breasts, and that was a sure sign of doom ….
Toward the end of November, overcrowding in the prison reached an explosive point. There were more than three hundred and fifty people crammed in our few cells. Every night, a group of prisoners were forced to stand in a corner, because there was not enough room for everyone to sit down. Summary trials and mass executions had become routine … I was tired and disheartened. I felt the weight of all the corpses on my shoulders. In one way, though, I felt happy to be in prison in these treacherous times; I knew that if I were free, and did not take any steps to protest the executions, I would have forever hated myself. But the unfolding catastrophe was much bigger than anything I could do, bigger even than anything a political group could do. In captivity, one is not tormented with these problems, for there is definitely nothing one can do. I knew that when the sad history of these days came to be written down, then at least my role would be clear.
Albert Camus, in his interpretation of the Sisyphus myth—the man who had killed his son and was commanded by the gods to spend eternity pushing a rock up a steep hill so that it can roll down again—claims that the man was happy because he need make no choices. Now, in prison, in times of bloody and banal brutality, I too was happy because I need not make any choices. I had not asked to be in this position, but I made no efforts to escape from it, leaving my fate in the hands of the Hezbollah.