“This is way different than getting out the last time. Probably because I’m older and got more to loose I’m halfway afraid to go out. Inside there you can’t just get up and go out, you can see the walls. I don’t see any walls now but I’m nervous.”
He says that without broadcasting fear, he’s still wearing his prison toughness, but I sense his uneasiness as I watch him pace the worn rug in the motel room he calls home. He stops, looks around and goes into the small kitchen opening the refrigerator door. “Want a Pepsi.?”
He opens two and hands me one before sitting down on one of the two chairs in the room. “I’m going to get it together man, trust me. I thought I had it going until I actually got out and was on the bus to here. Then I got nervous. Freedom, on my own. It’s been a long time.
” It’s strange, you know there’s a ton of things I can’t do ’cause of my probation. No drinking , going to bars, hanging out with ex-cons like me, and staying away from those chicks on the street out here. All that stuff I missed and thought about when I was in. Now I’m out and it’s all here and I can’t touch it. I just got to settle down. Stay calm.
“But check this out , I may have got lucky. I might hook up with these guys who live down in number 21. They’re painters and they’ve got work which would be way cool. I’ve got enough for another months rent here, some food and that, but I need to be working. I really need a structure. Know what I mean? I’m used to the same thing everyday.
“What’s cool about these guys is that I don’t need a car. I can ride with them, that’s big, I don’t even have a drivers license yet. I’ll gonna find out tomorrow. Reyes, he’s the head guy, says there’s a lot of work. I ain’t afraid of work so I’m OK with that.
“That’s one hard thing, getting good work without any real skills and keeping it. The other thing that is really hard right now is being here alone. There’s people on the street, I can hear ’em laughing, the girls, hot music, warm weather. Man, I can’t tell you the temptation. But I’m going to be strong, I go back and it’s for good. Three strikes and I don’t have a choice
“I didn’t want to come back to West Sac but I had to because this is the county I got busted in and my parole officer is here. I have family sort of here too. My mom lives out here but she is married to a gun nut dude and we can’t be around each other. He doesn’t like me and I can’t be anywhere where there are guns any or hang with people who have them. So I’m alone and it kills me not to just walk out to the street and start partying ,but I gotta stay straight.
“You’re lucky man, you can do what you want. That used to be me but I screwed that up so I’m paying the price. Don’t mess up dude, it’ just ain’t worth it.”
I feel for him, there is a lot going on outside, and I’m looking forward to it later on myself, but he got himself into this situation and now he’s paying for it. Federal and State walls controlled his life before and now it’s “invisible walls” as he calls them that will control him. His invisible walls are the rules that will force him to live the straight, clean life, to become a functioning member of society, and follow his parole. He knows what he has to do and I know it too, but…
“I want to do good man. I can hang here, save some money and get a real life if I don’t loose it. These people here are OK, they know where I’m coming from, so it’s just fighting off the urges. I stayed clean while I was in so I know I can out here.”
He gets up and begins pacing again, faster now.
“Look, I’m done talking about it and I’m tired of thinking about it. I’m going out and walking down to McDonalds and get a burger, that’s one place I can go and handle. Want to come along?”
I’m game so we leave the motel room and start down West Cap on a visit to the outside world…
For the moment he’s adjusting well to life behind the “invisible walls”. On his own he’s making a simple choice, but it’s a good one, Just to go out to get a burger and walk amongst regular people as a regular person instead of letting fly and roaring off into party land.
It’s going to be hard for him but if he’s strong enough to stay on the right path and play cool one day at a time, he’ll never see the inside of a correction facility again. If not and he blows it, his “invisible walls’ will
be replaced once again by those of concrete, steel, and barbed wire.