Six Hours of Freedom

 

“Before” my first haircut in over a year…

“Do you cut your own bangs?”

“Yeah…”

“You do a good job.  But, it’s extremely uneven.  Don’t mess with it after I’m done.”

I pondered what the hair stylist could have meant as I sat in his chair.  I decided to take it as a compliment and disregard the rest.  No time for back-handed compliments.  This hair, with all of its split ends and “extremely uneven” bangs, had been to prison and back with me.

I was recently reassigned to a new probation officer.  My former PO left the business altogether.  I imagine that it can be an unpleasant job at times.  Under new supervision, I get to have six hours of “Earned Leave” every week in lieu of a distinction between “Earned” and “Essential.”  Every PO does things a little differently, and I got lucky that some adjustments have ended up in my favor.

It was my first six hour stretch of Leave.  The day felt significant.  Not only did I have the most “freedom” that I’d experienced in the past eight months, I also had that happy news that my girlfriend from prison was being released from incarceration in the desert on the same day.  (When I say “girlfriend–” I mean a female friend.  In the context of “my girlfriend from prison,” the term might be especially misleading.)  She called me after she was released.  I remembered what that release had felt like for me, though my friend had been “down” about nine times longer than I had.  It’s safe to say that leaving prison is the best part about going to prison.

I drove over the hill to a salon in the Valley.  I hadn’t had my hair cut since before I was in the clink, and, as in my trip for a pedicure, there was work to be done.  I left after an hour with shorter, healthier locks.  Yay.

“After”

From the salon, I set out to drive to an office in the Valley.  One of my close friends is an actress on a TV show, and she had invited me to sit in on her rehearsal for an upcoming episode.  I was excited to see her and be there during her rehearsal, but after reentering the LA freeway traffic, I realized that I had to cancel and go somewhere closer to my apartment to ensure that I’d be home before my curfew.  Oh, house arrest.

I sat in my car with two hours left on the Earned Leave clock, not knowing where to go and feeling discouraged.  I called some friends, but on such last minute, it seemed impossible to plan anything.  My calls were met by voicemails.  I decided to reroute and head to one of my favorite places in LA.

I drove to The Grove, an upscale, outdoor shopping center in the heart of LA.  I noticed a Pottery Barn Kids and stepped inside to look for a gift for my close friend’s son.  She is bringing her baby, whom I’ve yet to meet, to visit me soon, and I thought it would be nice to have a token gift for the infant when they arrive.

I felt a sense of comfort when I entered the store.  However, my rise in spirits was abruptly met by what I observed to be quite the opposite effect on shoppers as I walked in.  I was wearing a t-shirt dress and wedges, blatantly exposing my GPS bracelet.  It hadn’t occurred to me that the image of an ankle-bound felon wandering around a children’s store could be somewhat alarming to onlookers.  I paused a moment, observing two examples of a parent and a young child skirt past me, hurrying to the opposite end of the store and tightening a grip on their child’s hand, shooting me dirty looks over their shoulder.  I felt like throwing my hands up and yelling out, “It was POT, OKAY?!!!”  just to get the record straight.  I considered leaving for propriety’s sake, but then decided to go on about my business.   Who cares?  These people don’t know me, and I frankly found their reactions very amusing.  It’s almost better if they don’t know why I’m on house arrest.  Let ‘em wonder.  It’s not like I wandered into the store dressed like Barney, armed with a fishing net and a bag of candy.

“Elephant”

I found a stuffed animal of an elephant in a corner of the store.  I picked him up and saw on his tag that his name was “Elephant.”  I smiled because it reminded me of “Turtle.”  A kind salesgirl offered to wrap him up for me, and I left the store feeling better about the day.

115  days to go.

The Visiting Room

the ol’ ball and charge cord…

“OPEN THE DOOR!  POLICE!!”

It was a little after 1:00AM.  I had just settled in for the night.  I was in my living room at my computer, face washed and bangs pinned back on my forehead, face cream set and lights off.  I was sitting in my bathrobe, ready to check some e-mails, when I was startled by a loud banging on my door.  I heard a muffled voice shouting at me from the corridor.  “OPEN THE DOOR!  POLICE!!”  I froze.  What could the police possibly want from me at this hour???  I had just been out to the garbage and lingered near the stoop longer than usual…  But, is that really grounds for a probation violation?!  Could it be such a grave offense that it went over the head of my probation officer and was sent directly to the police with an order to take me in with no delay, by force of arms??!  It seemed that these people were out for blood tonight.

I stood up and tip-toed to my door.  The voice hollered again, “POLICE!!  OPEN THIS DOOR!!”  I looked into the peephole.  It was blocked.  The person on the other side was blocking his image.  I called back, “Remove your finger and show me your badge.”  A tense moment passed in what seemed like forever.  I felt my breathing change.  I grimaced and my imagination ran wild with different versions of horrible that might be on the other side of the door…

I stayed at the peephole.  The finger moved, and I saw my friends Kim and Daniel holding up a bottle of wine and some food.  “It’s us!!”  They erupted into friendly laughter.  I opened the door and saw their smiling faces fall after taking in my appearance.  Kim looked uncomfortable.  “Oh.  Um.  Were you asleep?  We just, uh, figured you’d be awake.  We knew you’d be home…  Are you okay??”  I hugged them with relief.  Despite the initial alarm of their prank, it was good to see friends, no matter the hour.  (And yes, okay—I AM usually awake at this hour.  And I am home.)

We turned the lights on and got busy in the kitchen, Pandora in the background, pots and glasses out, conversation on.  My single apartment came to life.  I genuinely enjoy being alone, but when good friends are here, especially as a pleasant surprise, it can be a welcome deviation from my norm.

My recollection of the evening, after a certain point, is blurred.  I was, after all, tuckered out from working.  I remember having a good time through the night, then—nothing.  I awoke the next morning on top of my covers.  I groggily came into consciousness.  The evidence around me suggested that I’d passed out before my guests had left.  Always the perfect hostess.  The crux of evidence to support my theory was the fact that when I woke up I realized that I was plugged into an outlet.  I moved my foot and felt a pull on it, then saw that my ankle bracelet was hooked up to a long charging cord that led to the nearest wall.  I suspected this to be the handiwork of Kim.  My friends take great amusement in my obligation to plug my ankle bracelet into a wall to charge its battery twice a day.  Kim told me later that day that she “didn’t want it to power down in the middle of the night,” so she took the precaution of plugging me in before leaving.  Now, that’s a friend.

121 days to go.

The Mystery Masturbator

My friend and coworker, “K,” who has now consented to be revealed as “Kim” (gasp!!!!), came to my apartment one evening after work recently.  She brought her dog, Hope, an adorable German shepherd who, despite many endearing qualities, looks nearly identical to the DEA dog who conclusively sniffed out the scene during my arrest in Ohio in June of 2010.Kim arrived at the door of my apartment at around 10pm, with Hope aggressively fighting the confinement of a leash that was tethered to her neck.  I related to the little animal.  “Little” may not be an appropriate description of Hope, at least by LA’s ever skewed sense of normal.  Upon greeting Kim and the German shepherd at my door, Hope struck me as being something of a dogzilla, when compared against the perceived normalcy here of shoebox-sized canines that seem to serve more as accessories to vanity, rather than fellow inhabitants of valuable life.

Once inside the apartment, Kim let Hope off of her leash.  Hope assessed the room, then immediately launched herself into a grizzly assault on my most cherished stuffed animal, “Turtle,” who lay defenseless on my bed.  She chomped him from my pillow without hesitation or mercy, then headed into the kitchen to finish him off.  For a moment, it looked like that was going to be the end of Turtle.

Turtle is a master of survival.  He should be a felon now because he traveled with me during my darker days, but he narrowly escaped indictment at the outset of the arrests and was ultimately never charged as an accomplice.  Turtle’s luck continued when I was finally able to pry him from Hope’s jaws and hide him in a cupboard for the remainder of the evening.

Kim and I went outside to my backyard to get some fresh air.   We were deep in conversation when Kim stopped mid-sentence and looked past me, speechless.  I turned around to see what had caught her attention.  A dark, sweaty face stared down at us from the window of a decrepit, neighboring apartment building that towers over the backyard.  The depraved creature in the window was lost in a frenzy of self-pleasure as he stared down at us, taking in our horrified reactions.  “Oh, Jesus.”   “Is that?   No…”  “That’s—oh, God, that’s disgusting.  No.”  “Ew.  Um, we can see you.  Really?!”  The bastard decided that he wasn’t ready to stop masturbating, so we decided that we were ready to go inside and call the police.

After Googling the phone number, I called the “non-emergency” contact number for the local police in our area.  I finally got an officer on the phone and jumped into an explanation.  “So, this might be a longshot, but I want you to know that we are willing to go back out there, and maybe one of your guys can skulk around in the bushes, or, you know, hide in the shadows.  We are willing to lure him back to the window, and then, right when he starts going at it again, you can, I don’t know– maybe one of you can just… shoot him.”  Listening to every word that I spoke into the phone, Kim’s hand went over her mouth, then she leaned over to bury her face, shaking her head at me.  The officer on the phone line met my suggestion with stunned silence, then, “Okay…  Let me transfer you.”

Forty-five minutes of waiting on the phone and two hours of subsequent waiting in my apartment later, two police officers knocked on my door.  Kim had made the wise suggestion that I “put some pants on!” prior to their arrival—meaning that I may want to consider covering up my ankle bracelet before I invite officers of the law to come into my place of residence and expect them to listen to my account of some sordid neighborhood wrongdoing, rather than look for a reason to drag me back to the Big House by my ankle bracelet.

Kim and I took the officers back to the yard and showed them the scene of the crime.  They questioned us about the nature of the exposure, then assured us that they were on their way to pay the pervert a stern visit.  I was satisfied to know that he was about to find himself being watched as well—only by the police, and not by some sweaty, disgusting pig staring down, half naked, from a window.  What a bastard.  If I wasn’t a felon and if it wasn’t illegal for me to possess firearms, I could have the option to arm myself to the teeth for future visits to the backyard.  I may not be able to carry a weapon with bullets now, but damn it if I wouldn’t have the blessing of the law to waddle out to the back with my lawn chair in one hand and an antique crossbow in the other.  I could just kick back in my chair with a savage, rusty arrow pulled back at the ready and pointed directly at the window, waiting for that sick-minded deviant to crawl back to his mount and take a gander at the yard…

132 days to go…