I think the thing I actually miss the most is watching a sun sit still on a solid evening hour, its talons skewering the clouds beneath. That elongated stretch through the clouds; that beam downward, pointing like a strict schoolteacher, informing everyone around that, yes, there is a higher purpose. I’m not saying I found religion in here just because I can’t watch a sunset anymore. God, that would be cliché, and I’d rather die than pass on that impression. But I do sit alone, sometimes, wondering whether the clouds are gather- ing together, communing like a collection of cotton balls in a tightly sealed ziplock bag, or whether they’ve been flattened out like a stack of pancakes. Or if they’ve been vaccinated with a syringe of rainy dye so that only a select few darken into grays, blacks, and charcoals.
It’s funny how most things come in threes. Cumulus, nimbus, stratus. Three times a charm. Three strikes and you’re out. Hickory, dickory, dock. I suppose, then, that it would only make sense that I’m going to die in a trio of poison. Sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride. A three-drug cocktail designed first to anesthetize, second to paralyze, and third to exterminate. This, my lawyers told me, was a far more humanitarian way to finish the job than its predecessors, which included all but not limited to public ex- ecutions of any and all forms, a firing squad, hangings, gas chambers, electrocutions, and, of course, our very own lethal injection. For some reason, people still like to call it The Chair, as if they’re holding on to the good old days. But nobody fries from the needle. They know this as well as they know the instrument of death that brought them here. No. They just experience botched anesthesia, welcoming the paralysis that precludes them from informing a single living being that the potassium chloride stings. It stings so much that the volcano at the vein has erupted prematurely, and as a result, molten lava is slowly rolling through the body, incinerating and smoldering arteries and organs in its track, like being burned alive without the ability to scream.
I’ve read up about it. I have articles from those habeas lawyers and from Madison McCall. It’s supposed to be painless, and might actu- ally be. But how can that be tested? Honestly, is someone really going to care about any pain we feel on our twenty-sixth mile? They’re going to do it anyway, no matter how many veins they have to test to find the right one, no matter how many people divide up the task, no matter how late in the night they proceed. They’re going to do it anyway.
In the ’40s, they tried to fry some kid for murder and failed twice. They charged his body full of electricity—the metal cap tickling his brain, the straps wound tightly around his arms—but they couldn’t do it. It wasn’t his fault that the incompetent executioners messed up twice. Still, they tried it a third time to make sure the boy was dead, taking pleasure as his body shook in a lightning bolt of momentary seizure until, like the sizzling flicker of a fading lightbulb, he finally turned off.
Like I said, everything has a way of coming out in threes.