Glass Eye

LOS ANGELES TIMES, OCTOBER 21, 2011 – FINDING FOREGIVENESS ON DEATH ROW

Two men. One a convict, 30’s. One a man from Bangledesh, 20’s. They do not look at one another.

STROMAN

(a Texas accent))

Hello? Raze? (Rahze) Y’ there?

RAIS

Hello, Mark. And it is pronounced Rays.

STROMAN

Rais. Got it. Well, anyway, hey. Hey. Finally. Thank you for this.

RAIS

The pleasure is mine. I wish it could be more.

STROMAN

Yeah, well, lawyers, politicians. You know how it is.

RAIS

I do. Still, I would have liked to talk to you face to face.

STROMAN

Me too. I don’t even know what you look like, man.

RAIS

Really? You don’t remember?

STROMAN

Bro, I’d been doin’ meth for two weeks straight. Only thing I remember it was 911 and I wanted to kill some Arabs. Even screwed that up. Killed a Pakistani immigrant and a 49-year-old Buddhist from India. Almost killed you.

RAIS

I am a small man. Brown. In Bangladesh, some would call me handsome. I have a good smile. And a .

(Then:)

And you, what do you think you look like.

STROMAN

I’m a ugly man. Shaved head. Tattoos, even the places a sane man would want to hide’m. Ugly tattoos for an ugly man.

RAIS

How very funny.

STROMAN

That’s funny?

RAIS

I’m sorry, no. What I mean is I saw a photo of you. Taken not long ago, I think. You are in your cell, at a table, staring at the camera. You have delicate hands. Your eyes are warm. You have the smile of a baby.

STROMAN

This baby shot you and half blinded you, man.

RAIS

Yes. It was horrible. But wonderful.

STROMAN

How the hell’s that?

RAIS

You allowed me to see.

STROMAN

I don’t get it. See what?

RAIS

That I am a man of faith. That my faith is the strongest part of me.

STROMAN

I don’t think I know what faith is.

RAIS

It is belief in goodness. And forgiveness. It is the belief that a child grows up to be a good person.

STROMAN

My mother told me once that she’d rather a had a dog than me.

RAIS

And my mother told me that we are all on a journey gifted us by God. Only he knows how the journey begins and where it finally ends.

STROMAN

I’ll hold to that.

(Then:)

What else don’t I know about you?

RAJI

I was in my country’s air force.

STROMAN

No way. Doin’ what?

RAIS

I was an engineer. I worked on airplanes.

STROMAN

Dude, you were behind a cash register pumpin’ gas.

RAIS

Sometimes skill does not translate well in America.

STROMAN

I got no skills. Had none. Maybe that’s what had me pissed all the time. What are you doin’ now?

RAIS

I am in school. I am studying. I would like to be a teacher.

STROMAN

Good for you, man.

(then:)

You got children, Rais?

RAIS

No.

STROMAN

I got four. You got a wife?

RAIS

…yes.

STROMAN

I don’t.

(a joke)

Maybe we could trade.

RAIS

My wife is not here.

STROMAN

Say what?

RAIS

She became afraid. She refused to come to America.

STROMAN

So that’s another thing I took from you.

RAIS

Do you know, Mark, that when I am in a group of people, especially women, I get the most marvelous reactions when I take out my and polish it. It freaks everyone out completely. Just another thing to thank you for.

They both laugh. A moment.

STROMAN

Well. They’re telling me I gotta get off the phone.

RAIS

I understand.

STROMAN

Hey, man, again, I want to thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Before they stick the needle in and send me to sleep, I’m gonna tell’m. I am totally at peace.

RAIS

Mark, I am praying to God, the most compassionate and gracious, for you. I forgive you and I do not hate you. I never hated you. This is from the bottom of my heart.

STROMAN

Love you, bro.

RAIS

I love you, Mark. As does God. Goodbye.

Lights to black.