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Solitude

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He doesn’t like being around people. He finds it hard to keep steady. In the orphanage it was difficult to find anywhere to be alone. He’s always hated noise, crowds, always, ever since. He’s gone out of his way time and time to avoid interacting with the other inmates. He likes visiting day, when other inmates are taken out of their cells and he is left behind and it is quieter.

He has learnt that Webb Porter stays behind as well.

He has no reason to think that Porter even knows he exists. Some, like him, avoid attention, just as some, like Porter, attract it. All the inmates knew of Porter from the day he arrived. Even Cobb.

The screaming was terrible, a horrible thing, but he understood it.

First the infirmary and then the violin made Porter quiet – and Dr Sengupta, according to the rumours that Cobb can’t escape hearing, and he is inclined to believe them. He understands that too.

Before, Porter was someone he would have avoided if he could. But now every evening his cell is full of music, and Cobb doesn’t want it to stop.

Sometimes, looking at Porter, he thinks it would be better not to be entirely alone; sometimes, seeing him, he wishes it were just them in this whole fucking prison. Then there’d be quiet, only ever broken by the violin that he now waits every day to hear.

He hates overhearing talk, can’t shut it out, it keeps breaking in and in. But he’ll listen to Porter play, and find peace in that.

He’d like to be closer to Porter sometimes, perhaps if their cells were next to each other, to hear his playing more clearly. Not to talk to him – he’s never heard Porter speak, in any case, and that’s fine with him – just to have him there: someone who wouldn’t try to talk to him, someone who can play the violin like that, someone who screamed like he’s wanted to.

He wants to listen. He wants escape. He wants to stay. He wants all these things with Porter. He wants to be able to watch Porter play as well as hear him.

If Porter’s cell were next to his, he’d find himself a mirror and use it to watch Porter play. He doesn’t use a mirror, usually, not because he dislikes watching people but because he doesn’t like to be seen watching.

If Porter’s cell were across from his, Cobb would watch him all the time.

Sometimes he thinks of the bars of his cell as slats in a fence and thinks about how he could kill in here. Not that he would, here. When he’s in solitary he watches the outside and thinks about killing there. There’s nothing here. That’s what he wants in here.

And Porter, now, and his music.

They tried putting Porter in solitary once, in a cell near Cobb’s, but he still screamed. Cobb was relieved when they took Porter away, but now he kind of misses the idea of having him near. The day they took Porter out of solitary was the first time Cobb saw him.

After that he used to pass Porter on his way to the infirmary. Porter was always very still and very silent against the wall, and Cobb almost understood, almost – he understood silence, and solitude, but no more than that.

And now, after everything, despite everything, he does not want silence or solitude. And that makes him more threatened than anything else in Alcatraz.