She sipped a Lemon Drop. Mine was a Gimlet. We sat close, our elbows propped on the red vinyl bumper and saddled up to the bar. We talked of kids and friends and school and work and sex while we melted into a happy buzz. We hadn’t seen each other for at least six months and we compared stories of our speechless, disabled little kids who have to take multiple drugs for their unrelenting seizures. She asked how I was doing and I said, “pretty good,” and then mentioned how much I miss traveling, how much I miss San Francisco, how much I miss being able to go to places I want to go. “It’s a little like being in jail,” and I thought how I felt as if I was a captive released on parole. Looking into her beautiful, dark eyes I knew she was my partner in crime.

I went on to explain that, not unlike some prisoners, I have access to ways of improving myself. I can read and research, I can write about my experiences, I can correspond with folks outside of these walls, I can live vicariously through the adventures of others, I can spend hours on end plotting my escape from incarceration and I can dream of the day I might be released. In my relative captivity, in order to maintain any semblance of sanity, I must focus on the simple things, on the sounds of birds outside my window, on the warmth of sunshine as I stroll around the yard. I savor each bite of food that I take into my body, each sip of wine or coffee or milk or bourbon that passes my lips. I meditate on the silence of the hours alone in my chambers and reminisce about times spent on the outside, moments from my former life when I strutted the streets of San Francisco, biked the trails of Marin, trekked the roads of Europe, motored the isles of Greece, Turkey and former Yugoslavia, explored the beaches, deserts and plains of Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt and Brazil.

And like a captive, in order to keep hope alive, I must remind myself that these places and the people who live in them are not gone. They await me, and perhaps one day I’ll be released from this relative prison where I must rise at the same dismal hour every single day of my life to begin the monotonous task of trudging around with my loving little ball and chain.

photo by Michael Kolster

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