Charenton is cold. Well, at least it is in my cell, which leads me too assume it's cold everywhere else. The place is made of stone; stone walls, stone floors, stone ceilings, and worst of all, stone hearts. It seems that no one here understands you. No doctor, or nurse, or administrative figure . . . no one. Not even fellow patients. It's kind of a sad situation. I was put in Charenton to recover from an illness, not to be treated like an animal and have no hope of recovery. I'm not that old, and with help, I could have a bright and promising future. But I guess now that I'm here, I'll have to rethink my get-better strategy. I thought that a doctor could cure me of what ails me and send me on my way after a few weeks. But during my first few days, I could already tell that wasn't going to be that case.
The first day I was here, I was put into a room with a bed and a single candle placed in a candleholder. I was given one match, and every time I needed my candle relit, I had to ask for a new match. I was given one dress to wear, which was ragged and old, with lots of tears near the bottom seem. There was very little to do, seeing as I wasn't assigned a job for quite some time. I asked a laundry lass if maybe I could have something to read, perhaps from another inmate, that might help to pass the time faster. Well, that never happened. So I was stuck in my little cold room with nothing to do.
I'm not so easily bored, so I decided to count the stone blocks in each wall. I started in the corner by the door, next to the floor. I tapped each block and whispered each number to myself. When the blocks got to high for me to tap, I stepped back and counted louder. I counted all the blocks in three of the walls, which had taken quite some time. I wanted to remember the number of blocks (for whatever reason,) so I asked a guard for a quill, some ink, and a piece of paper.
The guard thought it was stupid to want to remember how many stones where in the walls, but I convinced him to let me write them down. He told me he would only give me enough to write down the numbers that I had been trying hard not to forget. He handed me the things I asked for, and I wrote down the totals. I thanked him, and handed him back the ink and quill, keeping the whole piece of paper that he gave me by mistake. By the time I noticed that I'd kept all of the paper, he shut the latch on the door and seemed to have forgotten about it.
I thought I would count the stones in the last wall and then try to figure out what to do from there. Maybe I could fold the paper into something. Anything to keep my mind busy.
I started at the bottom of the last wall. I moved the table on which the candlestick stood, and I tapped the blocks once more, counting to myself as I went. When I tapped on a stone that was just about chest-level, I felt it shift a bit. I flinched. The moving had startled me. But then it dawned on me that maybe there was someone on the other side of the wall I could talk to, another lonely person sitting in a cold cell, like my own. So, I dug the stone out of it's place and pulled it toward me, the stone making a scraping sound.
I sat it down on the table and peered into the hole. I saw a huge room that contained a table, a chair, and a small, untidy bed, close to the hole. I saw no one and thought it might be a rather empty storage room. Surely no one here had a room that large to them self. I looked closer at the table and noticed a few pieces of paper lying on it. I became lost in a thought of what might be written on the paper, and suddenly a pair of eyes appeared in front of me. I jumped back and nearly screamed, but instead only held my chest and felt my heart beating wildly. I peered through the hole again cautiously, this time keeping some distance. I heard the breathing of the person through the hole. They sounded just as afraid. By the look of the eyes, I decided that the person was a young man.
"Hello," I stammered, my voice quivering. I thought about what to say next, but nothing came to mind. His eyes seemed to pierce right through me. I was petrified. I introduced myself nervously, but he never said a word, he only stared, shaking slightly and breathing hard.
"Are you okay?" I asked, not knowing what else to say. He looked at away and suddenly became very sad. He looked like he was going to cry. "What's your name?" I asked, trying to calm him down.
He muttered his name quietly, "Coulmier."
He looked back up at me, heartbroken. "What's wrong?" I said softly, coming closer to the hole. His eyes filled with tears and he turned his back to me. He laid on the bed and wept quietly for a while. I was puzzled. I didn't know what was wrong with him; he didn't seem insane or anything like that, so why was he here?
I called his name a few times, but he didn't answer. He only cried harder. I thought that I should find a way to help him feel better. I felt like I had been the reason he was crying and therefore had to help him. I looked around me and all I had was my own bed, a table, a candle in a candleholder, and a piece of paper. Suddenly, I had an idea. I would fold him something out of the paper. I decided that making him feel better would be better than having a paper with meaningless numbers on it. I sat down on the cold floor and thought about how I should fold it, then set to work on making it the desired shape. I tore it into a smaller piece, and made a few simple folds. I folded the piece of paper into a heart. I figured it might comfort him some.
I got up and walked back over to the hole and whispered to him. "Hey, I have something for you."
He got quiet for a minute and I heard him say between sniffs, "What is it?"
"Come to the hole and I'll hand it to you."
He sat up in his bed and faced me, his face streaked with tears. "I made this for you to help you feel better," I said softly, handing him the paper heart. I felt him take it and I looked back through the hole to see him staring at it. He looked back up at me with a look of thoughtfulness in his eyes. He wiped away the remaining tears in his eyes and said, "Thank you," very quietly.
"Your welcome," I answered him, smiling. "Anytime you want to talk to me, I'll be here. It's too cold to go outside during our recreation time, and I don't have a job yet. So if you ever need anything, just call my name."
"You'd better replace the stone now, the guards could come in at anytime and you could get in a lot of trouble," he said.
"But I want someone to talk to," I admitted. "I'm all alone in here and you are the only one I have to talk to. I don't consider talking to the guards or laundry lasses 'talking.' They don't really 'listen.'"
"Then we'll talk tonight after everyone else is sleeping. It's the only safe way to talk without fear of being caught and getting punished."
"Okay," I agreed. "Tonight, then," and then I replaced the stone.
I hoped very much that I'd helped to cheer him up some. That night I would try my hardest to find out what was wrong with him and why he was so sad. He was my only friend, and I wanted to help him. After all, that's what friends are for.