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From `The Book of Evidence'

EVEN at its most uneventful the Thursday visiting hour is a bizarre, not to say uncanny ritual. It is conducted in a large, square, lofty room with small windows set high up under the ceiling.... The room has a touch of the aquarium about it, with that wall of greenish glass, and the tall light drifting down from above, and the voices that come to us out of the plastic lattices as if bubbled through water. We inmates sit with shoulders hunched, leaning grimly on folded arms, wan, bloated, vague-eyed, like unhoused crustaceans crouching at the bottom of a tank. Our visitors exist in a different element from ours, they seem more sharply defined than we, more intensely present in their world. Sometimes we catch a look in their eyes, a mixture of curiosity and compassion, and faint repugnance, too, which strikes us to the heart. They must feel the force of our longing, must hear it, almost, the mermen's song, a high needle-note of pure woe buzzing in the glass that separates us from them. Their concern for our plight is not a comfort, but distresses us, rather. This is the tenderest time of our week, we desire tranquillity, decorum, muted voices. We are constantly on edge, worried that someone's wife or girlfriend out there will make a scene, jump up and shout, pound her fists on the partition, weep. When such a thing does happen it is awful, just awful...

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