Some would talk and some wouldn’t. Mr. James, however, would always have something to say. As I did my rounds, I knocked discreetly before entering.
“I didn’t do it!” he stated emphatically as soon as both of my feet were inside the door. “They think I did it. But I would NEVER do it.
The old man was sitting in the lone chair in his almost barren room, facing away from the window and towards the door that I entered. As always he was somewhat disheveled, but with still with an air of authority to him. He reminded me of a man I worked for in the military— arrogant and pitiable at the same time. I wanted to help him. I always wanted to help him.
“Do what?” I asked, even though I knew exactly what ‘it’ is.
“They think I did it. But I know the law… maybe better than anyone else. Promise or no promise… evil is evil. You know that, right Chaplain?”
“Yes, evil is evil,” I agreed. “But I am more interested in how you are doing.”
“They weren’t there. They wouldn’t know. You wouldn’t know either. But you think you do, don’t you?”
I agreed with him that I didn’t know. I know what others had told me, nothing more.
“You got that right. You think you do. I know you think you do—- but you don’t know anything….” His voice trailed off at the end. Then he buried his face in his hands and ignored me.
Awkward silence would follow. Or at least it did when I first started working there. But I soon understood that I was being dismissed. This was our ritual. The pattern varied only in the smallest of details. I wanted to think that this ritual was a comfort and a help for him. I doubted it however.
“Well it was nice talking to you Mr. James,” I said. How many times before had I said those exact words? “You know I am available if you need someone to talk to.”
He ignored me as always. So I stepped out and closed the door behind me.