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This letter is part of the International Institute for Social History's Alexander Berkman archive and appears in Anarchy Archives with ISSH's permission.

Stella Cominsky
60 Hanover St
Rochester, N.Y.

Aug. 31, 04

Dear Friend: Somehow I don't feel sure whether you intend taking a trip to P.; perhaps your former plan had been changed; at any rate I hope this letter will reach you at home.

     Not that I have anything particular to say, but tonight I feel the necessity of talking to friendly ears....I have just torn off the Aug. leaf of my calendar; the dates on it are crossed and recrossed --- they are Calvary crossed. It has been an eventful month for me; it is no paradox though no particular event had happened during this month; but there are events that have no external manifestation; their playground is the inner self -- an arena of many fierce encounters lately.

     But I am drifting into the behold the great soul act. Enough, August is past, at least the mere space of time is gone; it is like the Roman Arena -- the play is over but the bleeding forms are still lying where they fell. --- I hail September. On the 19th day I will have completed 12 years. Think of it a moment. 12 solid, leaden heeled years. What a story they could tell.

     What part of a prisoner's sentence is the hardest to bear? I wonder what you, an outsider lacking this particular experience, think on this point. Just stop here and form your opinion before proceeding further.

     Does it not seem reasonable to suppose that the beginning of one's sentence would be the hardest part? So it is, but merely in a physical way; the change in the mode of life, the purely phys. restraint, the environment etc. all conspire to produce the effect of a phys. hardship. The mental suffering is there, too --- but as a rule, the mind is in a stupor; deadened, as it were,

- 2 -  

for the time being --- the reaction after the nervous tension preceding and during the trial and Sentence. The strangeness of the surroundings and the inevitable phys. discomfort and suffering tend to minimize somewhat, --- peculiar as it may seem --- the mental suffering. Gradually you get habituated, to a certain extent --- the latter varying with indiv. temperment --- both to the phys and mental status. But a change comes when your time is beginning to get comparat. short. There are then no new phys. discomforts to lessen the new strain on the mind, described locally as "time's short." It is at this point that the hardest part of a prisoner's sentence begins --- the worry because of the happy fact of "time's short"; a nameless, undefinable sort of worry, impossibly fretting --- gradually, as time continues to get shorter, assuming more definite form. It is the universal experience among prisoners; they have coined the phrase, "He is bugs (crazy), time's getting short".

     But, I think I must be getting "bugs" too, to waste my paper on such stuff, what probably has no interest for you. I began to write out of my soul's necessity; I wanted to have a talk with you, and I meant to tell you that I miss your letters --- I need them now more than ever. They are a positive help my dear girl.

     I have your last 2 letters before me. You didn't seem in the right mood the last time you wrote; rather depressed and lifeless. I hope you have recovered your usual spirits --- had anything happened? You have all casue to feel light and happy --- the dreams are nearing realisation it is finally decided now. I mean the date of your departure for N.Y. May all your high hopes be fully realised, that the both of you be happy --- Now is Sis? I wrote her when I heard of H's ?, but I suppose they were too busy to reply --- my letter was for both of them. Is H there yet?

     Esther --- well, your description is rather favorable; may be I would like her, as you say; very likely, that's if she is as good looking as her photo; for I am partial to good looks; but as to walking ten miles -- ? ? that's too strong even for a face; at least I can't remember the time when I had done such a thing. I prefer to take the street car even if it's a "rare, ? ? awaiting me at the end of it; the more ? ? by riding I'd get there quicker. But just now I feel more like ? a run to Bishop Potter's Tavern, than walking for a smile. It would not surprise me, however, to find you in my dreams tonight. --- ? ? of the 18 ? in reviewing; I liked it --- because ? Western. No, St, I never saw May ? but would love to. --- Was my ? ?, though it may have sounded like one, I didn't mean it as a justification; I need none. I thought I owed you an ? about something in which your ? was requested. But it's ok. With regard to that, you'll hear later. Are you well?

Gute nacht; Alex

P.S. Remember me to Mitzie. Her letter and picture rec'd. She'll hear from me by and by.

[If anyone can decipher the words indicated by question marks, please let me know.]

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