Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Microstory 1358: Inside Jobs

Journalist: First of all, I want to apologize, on behalf of the American people, for what you went through for six years. That is a long time to be kept in chains.
Free Man: It was five and a half, and I wasn’t in chains, but I appreciate the sentiment.
Journalist: What is it like, being out? Have you found it hard to acclimate?
Free Man: It was the first day. I sat on a bus stop bench for probably two hours, just because it had been so long since I could sit outside alone. Since then, though it hasn’t been as hard as you might think, at least not in the way I assume you’re asking. Of course my life is hard now. My lawyer is currently working on getting me some compensation for my wrongful imprisonment, but until that goes through—if it does—I need to look for work. I can tell employers all I want that I was exonerated, but they still don’t hire me. It’s not any easier for me than anyone else with a record, however unfair that record is. If you’re just talking about whether the world itself is a scary or unfamiliar place, not really. I mean, it would be one thing if I went in before cell phone ubiquity, and out after it. Or if I went in now, and didn’t come out until everyone had flying cars. The world hasn’t changed so much that I can’t keep up, though.
Journalist: So, you think you’ll be all right?
Free Man: Prison gave me a lot of perspective. Everyone has asked me if I’m angry, but I became an optimist in there. Yes, I believe I’m going to be all right. I’m not saying the system isn’t broken, or that the police and court didn’t do anything wrong, but I’ll be able to move past it, now that I’m free.
Journalist: What do you have to say to your critics?
Free Man: Well, what are they saying about me?
Journalist: They’ve expressed concern—and, understand that I’m just relaying this to you; not making any judgements myself—that you’re unfit to return to society. They site reports that you committed crimes while you were in prison, and that your overturned conviction does nothing to alleviate their fears of what else you might do. Again, this is just what people have said.
Free Man: I understand where they’re coming from. I can’t say that I’m proud of some of the things I did in prison. I can say that I did those things to survive. I never killed, and I never dealt in weapons. People who say that have probably never been to jail before, and they don’t know what it’s like. If you don’t play ball, other inmates will kill you. It’s terribly unregulated, and dangerous. Even on top of my wrongful imprisonment, I did my time for those crimes that I actually committed. The prison had plenty of creative punishments for getting out of line. I don’t know if there’s anything I can do to persuade people that I have no interest in doing anything wrong now that I’m back in society, except...ya know, not do anything wrong. It’s just gonna take time. This is all about time.
Journalist: I see. Now, let’s discuss the book. Can you confirm that there is a book?
Free Man: There is, and there isn’t. Let me explain.

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