The GPS monitor dug into his ankle and it hurt, all day. Thomas figured out a way to fall asleep with it, but by morning the black metal box with its flashing red and green lights had twisted around and it felt like someone had spent the night quietly sawing off his foot while he slept. I’ll get used to it. Sometime in the next 4 1/2 years of my probation I’ll stop noticing it.
Thomas turned onto his back so the monitor would be on top of his ankle. He desperately wanted to stay under the sheet and not face another blank day. He went through a mental ritual to motivate himself: What is happening in this moment? What is real? I am here, in bed, in my Indianapolis apartment. I am free. None of the restrictions imposed by the State are happening to me right now. I am not being stopped from traveling in this moment. I am healthy. I have resources. My happiness is up to me. I am free.
Thomas rolled out of bed and got dressed with an extra sock on his left foot to try and keep the monitor off his ankle bone. He was down to two or three shirts and one pair of pants that still fit him.
Downtown, strangers walked past him. People with their own secret life dramas. Nobody is thinking about me. I am free. Thomas was living off credit cards and eating lots of carbs. Comfort foods. Stuff he never would have eaten just a few months ago. French fries covered in cheese and gravy. He had stopped going to the gym, had quit yoga and karate classes because he didn’t want anyone to see his ankle monitor. Now the only exercise he got was walking from diner to diner. He’d stay, munching on toast and pizza and chips, drinking coffee and using the wifi until he felt like he had overstayed his welcome and it was time to move on to the next place. I’m like a neighborhood cat that goes from home to home, getting fed by everyone. His credit cards allowed him to be a very generous tipper.
Thomas had applied for several jobs, jobs befitting his background in education and urban planning. The application forms had asked about his criminal background. He never got a call back. The only reason he had an apartment was that he wrote “no” in the box about felony convictions.
He passed a homeless man who was sitting on a stoop holding out a paper cup. I’m hovering right above him. I’m between worlds. I don’t know how to crawl back up, and nobody’s going to help me. But I won’t let myself fall all the way down.
Thomas didn’t know where he was going. He saw his reflection in the window of a vintage clothing store. His hair was uncombed. His beard was gray. Today was his birthday. Or maybe that was yesterday. He kept walking.
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