The Prisoner / Remah Jabr

“The Prisoner” is based on two monologues: the first is narrated by the prisoner himself and the second by his girlfriend. First performed in Brussels, Belgium on May 1, 2014.

Do you think I am not social?

I know that I have problems with communicating

yes, that’s true, I agree I am not social, but people don’t help me to be social, people help me to be unsocial

when I meet people for the first time, usually I find them nice, but later on, when I get to know them, they start changing , or let’s put it like this, they don’t change but when you really get to know them, you start seeing things that you don’t see at the beginning, and then when you get to know them very well, you know what they will be saying, how they will react on your story , what words they will use when they are depressed …

I listen to people and they listen to me, and then they know all my stories through and through and that’s what I am trying to tell you, it is like when I read a book, I don’t want to finish it, I have read hundreds books but I always stop 4 pages before the end, because I don’t want to be disappointed

I don’t want you to be bored or fed up with me, in the same way I don’t want to get bored with you, I like to leave some space to discover things, to be surprised to learn new exciting things about you step by step, I am not gonna tell my whole story, and that’s why I don’t keep my friends for a long time, I change friends every six months , or at least every year, this way they will stay curious, attracted and maybe they will even stay in love. it is like you cut the curve on the highest point. I am not gonna finish the story I am gonna stop at the most interesting point

 The Prisoner2

I like to give my friends “time off” from seeing me

that’s why I am staying here alone, actually those days that I’ve been staying here alone, have been the best days of my life, I never enjoyed anything as much as I am doing now.

I enjoy the tranquility, so I can think , and nobody is disturbing me, I am thinking … I am thinking of everything, I am thinking of everyone.

Nothing, no letters, no phone calls, even a fly is not allowed in here.

The best life ever. Look at us, here you and I are talking, see, I am very calm, I am not nervous or stressed ,

You know why? because I don’t know you very well, I am curious to get to know you, I am not bored, you are not bored. It is worth it spending some time with you. If you stay a long time with the same person, you become less valuable for him, this is the whole point you get it?

Of course I get bored very easily , maybe tomorrow I will be fed up with you, or maybe even today, or maybe in 5 minutes, so I will not wait six months, I will replace you ,by a new friend , like this , I like change.

Breaking relationships always attracts me, you think it’s the end, but actually it’s a new start, people forget about that .. I hope she decided to go away

Its 10:10

I don’t want really to communicate with you , I am just          talking to practice

So I don’t forget how to talk, when it is time to.

It is 10:11 .. ..

I used to sing revolutionary songs to kill time, but those romantic ideas didn’t work in this case, time is the strongest element ever, it is even stronger than god, time is god, yes there in prison, time is God, it is impossible to kill it.

Idecided to do something nobody had never done it in his whole life, I decided to count until one million and I did it .. one, two, three, four, ,, I will not do it I am not stupid ..time is unbreakable , it is even stronger than stones

These walls are my friends, walls are my friends, Before you lean against a wall, check which kind of a wall it is: is it a wall that you can break , or dig in it? check the color, does it change when you dig in it? or is it the same color inside as outside, anyway walls are not supposed to be leaned against, stupid, walls exist to hide yourself behind them



There was a man, he stuck to the wall for 10 days, he shared the same cell with me during the interrogation period , and the first moment he came in, he asked me to kill him, yes, because he made a confession, he told the interrogators, things he didn’t do, but he couldn’t handle the interrogation, and he was a shamed. he said: I don’t dare to tell you what they did to make me confess “.

” I made one mistake, I said I would not confess…”, he said

Anyway, I didn’t kill him, Because I am sure he was not serious about it. he didn’t want to die, otherwise he would have done it himself

he just wanted me to tell his story when I got out , so people would excuse him, or would forgive him.

For me, every day without a confession was like a victory. I enjoyed this game with them. I was looking forward to these interrogations as if I was looking forward to meet my girl. You know, this feeling when you see them defeated , makes you feel ecstatic..

When I confronted this guy in my cell with the truth: that I didn’t believe him that he wanted to die, he just needed the empathy from people, he just stopped talking to me, and he sat against the wall with his back towards me. he started drawing on the wall with a small metal pen for the whole night without even looking at me..

I missed my only chance to have a conversation with him,, I thought maybe I was too hard with him, but he should be stronger, he deserved the punishment .


I should stop blaming myself, I NEED A CORNER

I don’t want to see your face anymore, turn your face to the wall.

I need a corner, I always had a corner


It is 10:15..

Maybe she needs some explanation, I should talk to her, shall I call her? But I don’t dare, I didn’t write her a letter in such a long time.

I lied to her, I told her that I had written her many times, but that the letters must have disappeared

I know I am a bastard I shouldn’t do this, but , I couldn’t write her, I wrote everybody but when I started writing her, life became complicated and the words were gone, I didn’t find the words to use in my letter.

it’s not a good idea to meet her, no, no , for the moment, it’s not a good idea

It is not that I don’t want to tell her the truth, but.. fuck it is complicated

She always said: Life is the choices we make, it is like a building, our choices are the stones, each choice is a different stone, sometimes the building ….. …

My building? I didn’t make that many choices in my life, I didn’t choose to be born here , I didn’t choose my religion and I didn’t know how difficult it would be for her being in love with a rebel. did I choose to be a rebel?

But I do choose to stay here, don’t think that they are keeping me here, it’s me who wants to stay.

No, no , I will not,,

I don’t want to promise something I cannot fulfill, I am a free man and it’s a shame if I don’t fulfill my promises. The last time we would meet, I promised her I would see her at 11.00 am on Sunday , I didn’t make it. ever since she makes me remember this date. she doesn’t forget, she doesn’t forgive.

She says: when you make an appointment you should be sure that you are able to come.

it was the first time in our relationship that I didn’t make it.

I am talking too much today, I should be careful of what I am saying, and of how much I am talking

you think I am stupid and I’ll tell everything, no, I might even tell you lies to make it more interesting and let this moment lasts and you shouldn’t believe everything I told you.. no,, , I may be stupid but not as stupid as you are.

What do you want , do you want me to prove that I am not working for them?

are you suspecting me ??

That’s an old trick you trying to make me defend myself. So I will tell everything I did.. I am aware of what you are trying to do.

 The Prisoner1

(The phone is ringing)

It was Friday when the phone rang , it was for me, the officer offered me some cheese, he let me call my mother for one minute, my mother said: you should be nice with them because they want to help me ,, (they asked her to say that to me) and she did, she is a mother. they do everything with a purpose. They put you in the isolation for 35 days, they give you pasta over boiled, cold without salt , and then after the 35 days of isolation they brought me to the office, nice and warm, they offered me cheese in the office and they let me call my mother for one minute…. how do you think it made me feel? it is strange how I couldn’t keep from smiling. The officer turned the screen of his computer towards me with my mother’s photo on it, he said: you don’t want her dead, do you? I burst out laughing because it was like a bad gangster movie, he was a bad actor. I asked him: Excuse me , could you say that last line again please? he didn’t repeat it, he said something else, but with every scene he got better and better, and the scene got worse and worse, nobody liked him this officer, not even his colleagues.

I didn’t say anything on that Friday, but I wanted to be sure that I could finish the cheese before I left the interrogation.


after the phone call with my mother, they let me without interrogation for 5 days  

I cannot stand the phone ringing anymore.

every time the phone rang on the floor where the cells were, , I thought it was my turn. And then they open the door next to your cell It was a mixed feeling you get.

They do everything on Purpose, and then you start see the signs everywhere, the smell, the mice, the color of the cell, the drops from the ceiling.

You don’t trust me, I understand that you don’t trust me. I don’t trust you either, it is normal, we don’t know about each other, the only thing we know that we are in, and the others are out, so maybe we are the same, the only difference between you and me that you are the only person who knows if you are a spy , I am the only one in this room who knows if I am a spy or not ,, but you should know that I will not be tricked easily

do you want to convince me, that you don’t work for them

Look , I am not convinced. you being silent makes me think that you are afraid of making mistakes or that you are afraid that I will discover your accent.

This is what I said to the guy with the pen who stuck to the wall But he didn’t open his mouth for ten days.

“Each day without a confession , was like a victory for me, after a while I was looking forward to these interrogations as if I was looking forward to meet girlfriend. I enjoyed this game” I wrote this to her, but I never finished the letter because of the pen, , the metal pen made me lose this game

as soon as the guy with the pen who stuck to the wall asked her name, I found myself telling him everything,

and I lost the game

In the office they just showed me the video that was taken by my friend with the pen.

He was suspecting me, I had to give him some trust, I had to talk to him, You know,and then he thought that I was a spy, I had to defend myself … it ‘s my fault, I give people a lot of space, I   respected this guy too much. he was the only person I could talk to, and we had a misunderstanding.I thought that he thought that I was a spy, I was afraid that he would warn the others about me.

I should stop defending myself, I should stop talking.

I am gonna decide not to say more than ten words a day, From now on,

Ten words, Not more

Ops that’s 4



fuck it

It s not important how much you talk, what’s important is what you say

ten words can destroy everything, you should be aware of this, so you keep your mouth shut next time.

now I am doing it again…. Ok, wait, what am I doing? how can you learn to resist your mouth. it happens, yes it happens. It happens because we are not prepared. all these years of being in the resistance, and we didn’t get one single exercise in to learn how to control your mouth . we’re wasting our time shooting on stupid bottles, I don’t understand , a word can be more dangerous than a machine gun, if I ever have children, I will glue their mouths.

Lesson one: never say “I would not confess”. That’s half a confession, saying “I will not confess” means that you hide something and you will not tell about it, you should say ” I have nothing to tell”, or ” I did nothing”,

            I should glue my mouth right now, because I snitched on my      friends.

 I knew they were playing games with me, I was ready for that. The moment the officer asked me If I was in love or not, I said no. although I wished if I could say yes. but I don’t know what happened later with the guy with the pen who stuck to the wall.  He only asked for her name, and I found myself telling him everything about everything, allowing him filming everything with his stupid metal pen. When he asked for her name, It was as if he pressed a button in my memory at the right moment , in front of the pasta, against the hard wall, as if he opened a file of my fevered body. everything came out through the exit of my mouth, my whole life came out

I thought that he thought that I was a spy, I found myself proudly proving to him that I couldn’t be a spy, because I did this and this, I told him everything, every detail all the dates and locations and the names.

These people work level by level, step by step they get you where they want, the food, the light, the body torturing, the kindness, the time, the colors of your cell, they have the time to plan everything rationally and rationally they control your time, while we can only react emotionally, instantly

she was crying on the phone when she heard that I don’t want to talk to her anymore

She didn’t know that I was crying the whole night too, singing to her face that I draw on the wall with some mayonnaise they offered me generously after my confession

I should stop thinking ,

shut up, I don’t want to remember, I want to touch her, now my heart is shaking, ooh my stomach is dancing.

Stop, stop thinking, stop thinkinga million I should count to a million

Its 10:30 ..

Go away , go away

8 years, practicing everyday and you will be professional

This position, is my favorite position, all the great ideas that I have written came to my mind in this way , while my head is down , because when I am upside down the world makes more sense, when I am up I can only eat, talk and shit, this is my own special way to revolt against the natural flows of my body

What do I do with these great ideas? I become free.

First I want to be free of my guilt and then I will think of how to get out of here, if you want to help me, free me of my guilt .

I need to be punished, I miss her punishing me by making a mustache out of mayonnaise, to keep me away from kissing her. I don’t like mayonnaise.

I try not to think of her, but I cannot

I didn’t want to write her , because I didn’t want her to write me just because I wrote her, if she kept writing me, without receiving an answer from me, then it would be her choice. I am trying to say, that I didn’t want to try to keep her.

I wanted to give her a chance to take a decisions for herself about her life, I mean if she was thinking of breaking up the relationship I was helping her by not sending any letters.

do you understand what I mean?

No? me neither , I don’t understand.

 The Prisoner3

The 8 years I was in prison, every week she started her letter with Sunday ? a question mark, at 11.00 a.m,   three question marks , for 8 years I didn’t make it, that’s 396 Sundays, yeah, and then she talked about the work, about the problems she had, because she always skip work on Sunday, and she blamed me for that .

I accumulated all the Sundays that I was not there, and I would like to pay them back to her, now I owe her 396 Sundays

at the end of her letters she always wrote: you don’t love me, you don’t know what love means, you are selfish, and an animal and then she signs the letters with ” I love you” . she sent some Jasmine with the last letter, I didn’t find it inside the envelope, but I could smell it

Since I came out of prison in December 2013, I didn’t receive any letter, until this morning (Sunday, a question mark, 11 a.m. three question marks…

I think it’s time to fulfill my promise , I could smell the Jasmine again

It’s a ten minutes walk

It’s 10.45


He goes and comes back

Actually, after 8 years in prison, I know it now: I would not have confessed, if I had noticed that a prisoner during the interrogation “who was not allowed to keep anything with him” could keep a pen in his pocket

The Girl friend

We met for the first time in the western cemetery, where he visits his friend grave, everybody was crying. at the moment he looked at me, and smiled to me , I smiled back.The Prisoner4

He was a good lover, If I texted him: “I had a fight with my sister”, in 5 minutes, he would be there on the corner at Adel street, waiting for me, we wouldn’t hug each other this is not allowed, we would smile we would stay as closer as we could to each other, he would sing a song of Fayrouz, he would give me all the jasmine that he collected that week, if the street was empty, he would sprinkle the Jasmine on my hair, he would say: never buy a perfume, you are a girl from Nablus. this fresh holy Jasmine is your perfume. He would keep telling me the same stupid joke, he wouldn’t leave me until I smiled.

between the broken down houses, we used to meet at that corner, to celebrate our love. there in Nablus we have all the elements to have a true love story.. a cemetery, destruction, Jasmine, stupid jokes, Fayrouz songs. There in Nablus men are fighting but they still find time to take care of their women

We met for the first time on 22nd of May 2002, if we hadn’t met on that date, we wouldn’t have celebrated our 3rd anniversary on the 22nd of may 2005 on Sunday, if we had met one day before or one day after in 2002, it wouldn’t have been a Sunday in 2005, and they wouldn’t have arrested him, because if it wouldn’t have been a Sunday, his Christian friend’s shop wouldn’t have been closed, and his Christian friend could have helped him to escape through his shop into the old city

I will never forget that Sunday, I will never forgive him for that Sunday. I keep everything here in my memory. He wanted to let me go, to free me but let him free me of my memory first

We are born with a memory, of course, it grows but it doesn’t change. we changeThe Prisoner5

The memory doesn’t change, it keeps everything, exactly as it was.

I remember the first time I went with my father to his office, his desk was huge, the image was saved in my memory, this image is still there , somewhere in the back of my head , me growing up hasn’t had an effect on this image, it’s still there, and the desk is still huge

In my memory I keep his smell, the smell is still there, still strong even if I am getting older, the smell doesn’t change.

thank you memory, we don’t need a battery or electricity to recharge you, if we feel nostalgic we can replay our lives any moment we want, we can push the repeat button, no? I am in love with my memory

I don’t want to see him anymore, I am living on that beautiful memory and I don’t want to renew it, or destroy it, what if his smell changed, I want to keep him for the rest of my life like the desk in my father’s office huge and strong

She goes she comes back

Actually, he would not have been arrested, if he had listen to me, that we could meet on Monday instead of Sunday,, ,

We hear the phone ring


The End
Remah Jabr: Palestinian poet and playwright, resides in Brussels