Rubenstein calls Davis "the heroine of the book," for having labored so diligently to get Echols out of prison. She worked on the case, he says, while Echols worked on maintaining his sanity. There is applause. She looks at her lap and gives a coy smile.
The first question from the crowd comes from a Harvard librarian who mentions the letters between Echols and Davis written while Echols was in prison — they exchange a smile at the mention — and whether he has been approached by any libraries about his plans for his papers, journals, and letters. Right now, he explains, what wasn't confiscated by guards is sitting on a shelf in Salem.
"We were considering burning them," he says. Oh no's! and Don't do it's! rise from the crowd. "Please don't do that," pleads the librarian. Davis mouths across the room to her: "Do you want them?"
Echols is visibly lightened after this exchange, smiles now, jokes about how being around so many people after a decade of solitary confinement is "sort of hellish."
A man asks if Echols is in touch with Misskelley and Baldwin. Echols answers, saying that Misskelley is agoraphobic, doesn't leave his house, too afraid he'll be put back in jail. Echols says he does talk to Baldwin, though, who is in college studying to be a lawyer even though he won't be able to practice law unless he is exonerated.
A 13-year-old girl, with the Led Zeppelin IV symbols Sharpied onto the toes of her gray Converse sneaks, asks the kind of question that would sound hokey in the mouth of an adult, stale and sappy, but is so sincere coming from her, honest and curious, blood rising to her cheeks as she speaks.
"Can you describe what it was like to feel rain for the first time, or feel the wind?"
"There are no words," he starts. But he finds them, and it's his best, longest, and most genuine answer of the evening. His descriptions of weather and its moods are some of the most evocative in the book; this is just the sort of emotional register Echols works best at, the romance and melancholy of a teenage girl. "It's like a fairy tale," he says, leaning forward in his seat. "It was too good to be true. To finally be able to feel and see these things again, it's so big you don't know whether to laugh or cry. You don't know whether to laugh or cry. Most people have nothing in their frame of reference they can compare it to."
Rubenstein asks him to explain the difference between "ordinary" death row and solitary confinement, "so that we mere mortals can understand." If we are mere mortals, does that make Damien Echols a god?
As the event winds down, Echols implores the crowd not to feel heartbroken. "I don't want you to leave thinking we live in a fucked-up world." He hopes, if nothing else, that the book will inspire people to do something with their lives. And he apologizes. "I might've come off as a little somber tonight," he says. "I'm kind of wore out."
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