I got out of prison on a Saturday. 10 years sure seemed like a long time to me when I was 21. Someone told me that my twenties would fly by. They told me I’d be married with a family before I knew it. Someone lied. Of course, my twenties were a bit different than that of most young gentleman. Most gentlemen my age were learning a trade or trying to court a woman. I was surviving. Come to think of it, I’ve always been surviving.
Oh, how rude of me, I haven’t even introduced myself. Phillip, professional thief – er – sorry. I was a professional thief before I got caught. It was a set-up. There was this job. It seemed like a pretty simple heist, but it turned out to be more complicated than that. They hired me to crack the safe, but that wasn’t actually what they wanted. They needed a fall guy to cover their escape and, being as young and naive as I was, the choice was obvious.
I don’t talk about it much. I used to bitter about it. It was hard for me to sleep at night, partly because of how horrible these beds were, if you could call them beds. I got used to them. No, it had a lot more to do with what I would think about after the guards turned out the lights. I used to fantasize about catching up to the guys who set me up and what I’d do to them if I ever caught them. That’s a pretty big “if” though. They were more like ghosts than people. I don’t even know their names. I hardly remember what they look like. And besides, that was years ago. 10 years is good time to think, but more importantly, it’s good time to forget. That’s what I wanted to do, at least.
Sunlight was breaking through the window above my “bed,” casting long, thin shadows from the window’s bars along the wall. I rolled over and looked at the calendar I carved into the same wall.
It was Saturday.
Getting out of prison was about as glamorous as getting in; lots of waiting, paper pushing, standing and hand cuffs. They had me change into some uncomfortable civilian clothes. They gave me an itchy shirt, patched trousers, suspenders with rusty clips, a jacket about as thick as a sheet of newspaper, some old shoes that didn’t fit, and a dirty hat. I’d never looked better in 10 years.
Once I was changed and they had finished stamping all my papers, they walked me outside to the gate. There, they handed me a burlap sack and told me this was to help me start a new life. The warden walked over to me. He took off my cuffs and shook my hand.
“Congratulations, Phillip,” he said, gesturing toward the road beyond the gate. “You’re free to go.”
He smiled at me. I feigned a smile back. I walked out the gate and heard it to whine to a thud as it closed.
And that was it.
The prison was located on a hill not far out from the city. I stood on the street for a few minutes taking in the city before me. Sunlight hit my face. It was warmer, somehow fresher than in the prison yard. I took a deep breath. The air tasted better. It was less stale. A breeze caught my jacket a tossed my dark hair. I cracked a smile for real this time. I looked down at the city wondered how much it had changed in 10 years. I untied the drawstring on the sack and looked inside. There was another pair of trousers, another shirt, two pairs of underwear, $100, and a sandwich. I don’t know if this was supposed to be a joke, but I chuckled like it was. I wasn’t sure how they expected those things to help me start a new life, but nevertheless, I tied the sack up again and slung it over my shoulder. I turned, took one last look at my home of the last 10 years, and started walking down the road toward the city.