If there was one thing Michael had never understood, it was why people would tell him things.
It never began that way, but once they’d gotten to know him a bit, they'd start talking. And talking. Sometimes he found out important information that way, but most of the time… not.
“I remember this sweet little something from awhile back,” T-Bag said one morning. “She had the prettiest cornsilk hair, and she wasn’t any bigger than a minute.”
“Stop.” Michael said.
“She and her dolly were wearing matching dresses, and—”
Back in college, he’d had the same problem over and over again with several different roommates. Mostly it involved over-sharing about sex, sometimes other things, but his roommate would get going and Michael barely saw it coming.
“Oh, man, I used to spend hours in the bathroom. I jacked off so much I painted the ceiling with my—“
“Whoa, look at the time! Gotta head off to a study date.”
“What, at nine p.m.?”
“Yup—see you later.”
He should have gotten used to it, growing up with Lincoln, but it never got any easier. And now that Lincoln was in prison, it had actually gotten worse.
“God, Michael, it’s been so long. I can’t take it anymore—I’m starting to really notice Peterson’s ass.”
“Even Bellick almost appeals to me right now.”
“Augh! Brain bleach!”
“Why’d you have to say that? Now I’ve got Naked Bellick in my head!”
“Sorry. I just get really desperate in here.”
“I’ll buy you a giant jar of Vaseline when we get out if you’ll just shut up now.”
“Mmmmm, Vaseline. I could really go for that, nice and slick and—“
“Lincoln! You’re doing it again!”
Even as a kid it had happened. It was a wonder he’d survived grade school. Fifth grade in particular was an endless litany of disgustingness and gore.
“Hey, guess what?” Ricky Severensen had said one day. “I saw a dead cat in the street this morning. Its guts were lying on top of its fur, all wet and red and squishy and—Hey! Where’re you going? Aren’t you going to finish your lunch?”
When he was a teenager, Veronica would come over hoping to find Lincoln, and the two of them would wind up watching T.V. together in the evenings.
“… and the cramps are such a pain, and they get worse on those heavy days when the blood just gushes out sometimes, and—“
“Veronica, why are you telling me this? I don’t want to hear this! God—no guy wants to hear this!”
“Well, you’re not like most guys, Michael.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know. You’re easy to talk to. I can tell you stuff.”
“Not this stuff. Trust me. You really can’t.” Michael hadn't been able to fathom how that could possibly be a topic of conversation. “I can’t believe girls talk about this anyway,” he’d said. “It is some kind of competitive thing, where you try to gross each other out? Like telling ghost-stories during sleepovers?”
“No! It’s just… sharing. We bond over it. You know.” Veronica had seemed a little put out.
“Okay, whatever,” Michael had said. “Just leave me out of it.”
It had bought him a reprieve from menstrual horrors, but weeks and weeks of blather on shampoo types and deep conditioning and nail polish colors and “Do these pants make me look fat?” had nearly sent him around the bend. He should have been a little meaner, he thought later. It was a matter of self-preservation.
His junior-year college roommate was a prize and a half. A member of the football team, Blake had been relentlessly self-confident and obnoxious.
“You know, Scofield,” he’d said one night, lying on his bed and tossing a football up into the air. “I’ve been thinking…”
“That’s never good,” Michael had countered.
“For a nerd-bucket and all, you’re pretty hot. I don’t usually get into guys, but what do you say? Up for some experimenting?”
“No,” Michael had said flatly. “And if this is your seduction technique, I’d hate to see what you’re like when you’re trying to make someone mad.”
“You’re not, like, a virgin are you? Is that it? Though I have seen you with some serious babes. That dark-haired one that was here last week— who was that?”
“Veronica,” Michael had said warmly. “She’s off limits, though. She kind of dates my brother.”
Blake had put the football down and sat up. “She doesn’t have to be off limits. Not at all. You could get together with her and your brother, do the threesome thing.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Michael had asked. Blake found new ways to be appalling on a weekly basis. “Is there anything you wouldn’t do?”
“Animals,” Blake had answered. “I don’t do animals. Although…“
“All right, that’s enough. I’m going to the library.”
They never understood. It was like he needed a sign tattooed on his forehead that said “Not your therapist” or “No, I don’t want to hear about your sex life.”
He was not safe, no matter where he went.
In Warden Pope’s office, it was “She’s a wonderful woman, my wife, an amazing woman. She’s everything a man could want, really. Except for that bowel trouble that creeps up on her. But still, she’s more perfect than I deserve. A tigress in bed, and—“
“Warden, grab that corner there! It’s going to collapse!”
During count one day, Bellick passed through. “Heard Abruzzi spanking it in his cell the other day. He was calling out your name,” he told Michael.
“I’m sure it was his wife’s name,” Michael answered. “John’s quite the family man.”
“Oh, he believes in The Family all right,” Bellick laughed. “And not the sitting-around-the-kitchen-table kind either.” Michael pressed his lips tight, desperate to kick Bellick in the nuts with his uninjured foot, but he knew how stupid that would be. He couldn’t afford to do it, no matter how badly he wanted to stomp up and down Bellick from front to back and jump on the pieces afterward. He had to keep a cool head. The Plan demanded it.
And there was nothing like trying to work on something—especially something sneaky—and having a person practically hanging all over you while you did it.
“When I was in junior high, I crapped my pants,” Haywire said.
Oh for god’s sake, Michael thought. He really didn't need this right now.
“I shared something personal with you. Now it’s your turn,” Haywire prodded.
I’d like to share some knockout drops with you, so I can get some work done and never have to listen to anything like that again. But Michael said nothing, and hoped that Haywire would eventually get the point.
After the whole Haywire incident, he’d thought there’d be some peace. But when Sucre came back it was the same thing all over again.
“Sometimes when Mami and I get around to slipping below the equator… I’ll twist my tongue up against her and—“
“Whoa!” Michael said. “You shouldn’t be telling me this.”
“My other cellie used to like it. He got off on it.” Sucre almost sounded wounded.
“She’s your fiancée, and she’s going to have your baby. I respect that,” Michael said.
“Oh,” Sucre answered. And finally, finally Michael had won a small victory against the tide of Too Much Information.
And he’d almost forgotten about all of it, his mind completely focused on the last few days of scrambling to get Lincoln placed in the Infirmary and a finishing their escape route up through the metal pipe to freedom. Michael had narrowed down everything to that one, single possibility, that beacon of hope in a subterranean world.
And then it had failed—miserably, horribly failed—and they had regrouped and retreated. Michael’s last chance was gone, and Lincoln’s death was staring him in the face again.
As they stumbled back across the yard, Westmoreland began telling him something about a friend of his who had gone to the chair. Locked inside his own grief Michael thought, “Why on earth is he bringing this up? Of all the times to tell me something like this!”
But then a few important details suddenly broke through the fog. “Electrical malfunction” caught Michael’s attention, along with “rescheduled.”
Suddenly this excess information had meaning, held a seed of something important that Michael needed.
And for that breathless, uplifting moment Michael was grateful for whatever it was that made him the world’s unwilling confidant.
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