“Do you cut your own bangs?”
“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.
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.
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.