Copyright is held by the author.
I WAS let out at 10 a.m. in the morning. There was paperwork and signatures and a few obligatory good luck and hope you turn your life around type shit. I got my few belongings on the way out. It wasn’t much but there were a pair of expensive sunglasses my Aunt had given me right before I had been arrested. I had half expected them to be missing after 25 years but there they were, a little dusty, but ready to go. I put them on and walked out those doors for the first time. The social worker had found me a home for convicts re-entering respectable society. It wasn’t much but better than a shelter. We had six months and then we were on our own. Finding a job in six months would have been easy before going in but now we all had those scarlet letter felonies pinned to us. I knew it would never be easy to get a real job, much less one that paid decent money, unless of course you knew someone. It always helps to know someone but if you knew someone chances are you wouldn’t have been locked away in the first place. It’s all there from the beginning if you look.
I wasn’t concerning myself with a job on my first day out anyway. No, I would beat my head against that wall tomorrow. I wanted to go see my Aunt. The person who had stood by me through it all. I walked through the streets amazed at how much had changed in 25 years. The stores and homes were all different and rearranged. It was hard to keep my bearings and though it felt like I was lost in some foreign land, my feet kept going without hesitation and within 30 minutes I stood in front of my Aunt’s apartment building. I walked the stairs and looked at everyone who passed to see if maybe there was a stray familiar face but they were all strangers. More accurately they were all at home and I was a stranger.
I stood in front of the door and rang the doorbell. Nervous for some reason and excited. It was really the only thing I had been looking forward to. The door opened and in it stood an old man who looked like he might fall face first any moment and kept catching his balance to keep from collapsing. He had changed so much but under all the years I could make out my Uncle.
I smiled. “Is Betty here?”
He looked back in surprise and for a second, I saw him recognize me and a little twinkle of shock and then his eyes went blank and he forced himself a little straighter. “Betty has been dead for two years now.” He paused as if not sure what to say or do but eventually he stood just a little straighter though still quite hunched “How did you know Betty?”
I knew he knew who I was. He knew I knew but this was his way of saying I don’t want nothing to do with you so let’s save ourselves some pride and move on. I stared back as my anger grew. I wanted to shove him down into the floor and yell at him. I wanted to take 25 years of pent up anger and unleash it on this man. Then as quickly as it flared up it was swallowed by the knowledge that my Aunt had died. She had been dead for two years and no one had bothered to even write to let me know. No one probably thought about it. No one remembered me or wanted to remember me.
I left without saying anything else. What the hell else was I going to do? If someone doesn’t want to even acknowledge your existence then why would you want to waste your time with them? Or maybe it was just I was too tired or maybe it was just I had lost any reason to care.
I managed to make my way home and locked myself in my room. I put on those sunglasses and cried until I fell asleep.