I hadn’t exchanged ten words with him. I don’t really like talking to strangers so I usually confine myself to polite greetings, unless they start talking to me first.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked to him a little more, mostly about the weather. You know. Small talk.
Yesterday he mentioned that Saturday would be his last day on the job. Today I commented, “That must be kinda nice.”
He said, “Not really.”
I know that he works outside, some kind of construction job, I imagine. I figured his contract was finished and he was going to be out of work for a while. I said, “Yeah. Kinda nice, kinda not.”
He took a puff on his cigarette, considering that, then shook his head. “No. Not where I’m going, it’s not nice.”
“Where are you going?”
I felt bad for him. A little flash of shock and surprise, yeah, even alarm. But not really. I figured if he’d been convicted of anything violent or dangerous he wouldn’t still be working now. I said, “Man, that’s too bad.”
“Yeah. But I did the crime.” He shrugged. “Now I gotta do the time.” I know it sounds trite, but he really said that. He didn’t sound upset, just a little sad and resigned.
“How long are you in for?”
“You know what really gets me? This case has been out there for two years. They could’ve locked me up in the winter.” He gestured to the sunshine and budding leaves on the trees. I laughed. I couldn’t help it. It was a good point, but … you understand.
We stood in silence for a little while after that. Finally, I asked, “What did you do?”
He shrugged again, taking a pull on his cigarette. “Drugs.”
I’d guessed as much. Most people in jail today are locked up on drug charges. And it’s the sort of crime that the police aren’t going to worry over having convicts wander the streets before they’re imprisoned. It made me angry. “Stupid law,” I blew out. “It shouldn’t even be a crime.” I wanted him to know I was on his side.
“Yeah. I figure it’s my body. I ain’t hurting anyone.”
It made me so angry. What business is it of the police or the state or anyone else? By what right do they ruin a man’s life for nothing more than this, than poisoning his own body? No, it’s not a smart or a good thing for him to do. But what business does the government have telling him how to live his life? And even if they did, what the hell possible good could it do him to be locked up for it? For three years!
He said he wasn’t dealing. Really, I didn’t care if he had been. It’s none of the state’s business anyway.
I smoked marijuana once, about ten years ago. It was boring. I always thought that’s what Clinton should have said about it. “It was boring.” I’m pretty straight when it comes to that. But I have lots of friends who’ve done more. Lots of lives that could be ruined over this. Over nothing.
It makes me so angry.
I wished him luck. I meant it. I hope he’s OK. He’s got a week off before he goes in. I hope he enjoys it.
It makes me so angry.