Without much further ado I began signing a seemingly innumerable amount of paperwork securing my release from the confinement of the Littleton County Jail. Upon the completion of the last bit of paperwork and after being meticulously instructed about the terms of my release from custody by the well-rehearsed Deputy Knowles, I finally found myself shedding the strange smelling orange pajama’s I had been issued days earlier in exchange for strangely familiar and wonderfully clean smelling clothes that my wife brought along with her from my collection at home. I found that the recent and suddenly distorted self-image I was being haunted by was not at all relieved by wearing the clothes my wife had so thoughtfully brought for me. I felt as though I was being swallowed by these clothes that had fit me so well only half a year earlier. Regardless of my inability to feel better in clean clothes, I was nonetheless reeling in the anticipation of walking out of the jailhouse and trying to recapture some sense of normalcy.
Deputy Knowles walked me to the front door of the jail, and punched several numbers on a keypad above the doorknob. After a loud buzzing noise signaled the lock’s release he pushed the door open to reveal momentarily painful and blinding sunlight to the eyes in my head that had only absorbed the fluorescent lights of the jail for the better part of the last week. I took a moment to shield my eyes from the sun with my hand, and was pleasantly surprised to feel my wife’s embrace before I had even gotten my bearings. I returned her embrace as completely as she gave it to me in the small, glass foyer of the jailhouse.
When my eyes adjusted a bit more to the relentless sunlight, I peered down into my wife’s face and quickly recognized the tears beginning to swell in the depths of the huge brown eyes she used so well to convey most of what I had come to love about her. In the wake of the surprising embrace that she had wrapped me in, I couldn’t help but notice that she had lost noticeable weight since we had last shared such an intimate moment. I had never agreed with her when she complained to me about gaining what were unnoticeable pounds over the years that we had known each other, but having spent the better part of the last seven months in complete absence of each other made even the smallest change in her personal appearance seem significant. Her beautiful, thick straight hair had gotten longer, and I noticed that she had changed the reddish tint of her hair to something that seemed to reflect violet in the sunlight.
“Don’t cry right here, baby… we can cry at home, okay?” I reached up and used my thumb to wipe a single drop that had escaped her long eyelashes which had valiantly been struggling to contain this renegade tear’s potential to turn her pretty, petite face into a puddle of emotion that she had been apparently holding hostage for far too long.
“I can’t help it,” she buried her face in my shirt, “I thought I lost you. I really did.”
“Okay, okay… c’mon,” I pleaded softly while my lips rested on top of her head. I could smell the sweet perfume of the conditioner she used, and was altogether surprised to recognize the long-absent feeling of aching muscles in my both of my thighs which signaled the impending flow of all the blood in my body to the one place I did not want all of the blood flowing too while I stood just outside of this fucking jail. “C’mon sweetheart, we need to walk out of here before I get a really embarrassing hard-on and pass out. I haven’t eaten anything in days and I don’t think my body is ready for too much excitement.”
“Awwwwww…” she looked up at me, pouting a little, while still more tears appeared in her glassy eyes.
“For real…let’s go. I am so ready to get out of here.” I pushed the glass door open and stepped into the free air while my wife still clung tightly to my waste with both hands. As we were attempting to synchronize our steps, she hooked a belt-loop on my jeans with the thumb of her hand and tugged gently on the pants hanging from my hips. Several inches of space appeared between my concave abdomen and the denim of the jeans.
“Oh my God…” she whispered in a hushed voice, pulling back from me while simultaneously lifting the t-shirt I was wearing to expose a portion of my chest and malnourished rib cage. “Oh my God,” she repeated a little louder. “We need to get you some food…” but the tears in her eyes were gone as she stood silently looking at my emaciated figure. “What did you do to yourself?”
“Nothing that I won’t fix… I promise.” I pulled the t-shirt from her grasp and let it fall into place. “Can we go home now?”
I reached for her hand and locked her fingers with mine, as we began the slow, suddenly awkward and silent march towards her car in the parking lot.
“Can I ask you something?” she was talking to me from behind a veil of hair that obscured the side of her face.
“Anything you want.” I responded firmly.
“Can I have you back all to myself now? I mean… can you really be done with all of this shit and the assholes who come along with it?” She stopped at the rear bumper of her dusty, dented maroon car and turned to look up at me. She put her hands on my face gently, and continued, “I really want you to tell me that this is all over, okay?”
I hesitated and averted my eyes from hers. The last image I saw of Bull in the monitor standing in his cell mouthing the words and holding the imaginary phone to his head began replaying in my head. “I don’t really know how to answer that question just yet.”
One of her hands fell from my face, while the other gently brought my head and eyes back to focus on hers. “Haven’t you had enough, though? Why can’t I just be enough?”
“Baby, I’m out here with you right now because that man in there refused to tell them that I was part of anything illegal that was happening on that farm. Unless you want me to march back into that jail, and tell that sheriff that both Bull Gunville and I lied to him about my involvement, and possibly go to prison for the better part of the next decade, then we both just have to be content with what we have at the moment and see how this plays out. I’m sorry, but he secured my ability to be out here, and I am obligated by that to do whatever it is that I can to make sure that he sees an optimal outcome to his current troubles. Do you understand?”
She wrapped her arms around me again, and buried her face in the bones of my chest. “No, sweetie, I don’t understand any of it. But at least please tell me that you’ll quit using that shit.”
“Baby, I can honestly tell you that I don’t have any other choice at the moment. I don’t want to go to prison, okay? I am scared to death right now and I don’t have any idea about what the fuck is going on in my life. If it’s a choice between doin’ dope and doin’ time, then there isn’t a choice at all. I really need to go home now… will you please take me home?”
“I never thought I’d hear you ask me that again,” she sighed and unlocked the doors to her car. We piled inside, and as soon as my seat belt was buckled I fell asleep, and was pleasantly surprised when I woke up many hours later in the soft bed I had shared with my wife up until all of this had began. She was sleeping soundly next to me, breathing softly on the back of my neck.
This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo.