So I have this friend.
No, no, an actual friend. A friend who started as a friend of a friend but now I consider him a friend in his own right (I think that if they broke up, his girlfriend - my original friend - would ultimately get custody of me, but we could still be friendly). This friend has had some really awful shit happen to him, not the least of which (ahem) was getting sentenced to life in prison at the tender, formative age of 15 while taking the fall for a crime he was only involved in as an accessory.
That's the short version of the story. The long version, actually, is the subject of an indie documentary.
It's a good story, ultimately, because even if it was nearly three decades later, this was rectified. Tomorrow there's a celebration to commemorate his one year anniversary of his release. And I have to say, it's been a pretty remarkable year. He's done an amazing job of reintegrating, keeping his nose clean, and being a functioning member of my social circle.
There are times, of course, this gets downright comical, like when he got a ticket because he'd never seen a parking meter before and didn't know you had to feed it ("There was a bike chained to it. I thought it was a pay-per-use bike rack."). And there's times when it just completely sucks that his previously rough life led up to that at such an important time in his life and development.
We were having coffee this morning (it's what we do, since he's part of the coffee-related circle of friends), and he was like, "You know, I think about all of my experiences, and realize now, I generally don't have troubles." We, of course, were all like, what? And he went on to explain that, although he does sometimes get worked up about things, when he really takes a moment to stop and look at what's happening, it never really seems to be that bad. What's the worst that could happen?
Remarkable, really. I think there aren't many people who could walk away from this experience or even the things that preceded it and not think the world was a heinous, awful, dangerous place.
I told him this morning, it's absolutely amazing, that he got a second chance. A whole new life. Full of new discoveries and good people and humor ("This is my friend from school. We went to Penn State. No, wait, that was the State Pen") and the little everyday triumphs and tragedies that make life what it is.
I'm a little bit jealous, actually. He got to leave his prison. So many of us - myself included - can't ever seem to get out of our metaphoric ones, to free ourselves from the past. His imprisonment meant something much more literal, of course, his liberties curtailed in a way mine have never been. But what I'd give to not be shackled to those years of abuse and pain and terror. I recognize it as a hell of my own creation (well, maybe not exclusively mine), but apparently, like Persephone, I can't ever really leave.
So, in short, Bill, if you're reading this (or if Jen is telling you about it. Hi, Jen!), good work. Keep it up. We're all really proud of who you're becoming and the transition you've made. And don't ever let the rest of us forget how lucky we are to take our freedom for granted.