It was half past twelve when I finally heard the door creak open. Weary of waiting, I’d retired to the couch with the hope that closing my eyes would keep me from endlessly watching the clock. Needless to say, it did not. The bright green numbers slowly and reluctantly increased at a measured pace and in my heart, a seed of doubt as to whether or not M would make it before the night was over began to grow. Before the door was fully opened and before he was completely in view, I sprung up to my knees, feeling so overwhelmed that I couldn’t find it in myself to stand. “I’m not in jail anymore,” M said in an excited tone, as though he needed to reassure himself of that fact. “I know,” I said, so overjoyed that I could barely speak. “Come over here!” I called out. And he did.
I don’t remember what ultimately caused us to break away from the embrace. Needless to say, it was quite a while before we did. As my heart filled up with an equal measure of regret and relief, being in his arms again felt so new and so familiar at the same time that I didn’t know how to let go. Suddenly, in a few quick moments that seemed to come so soon after such a prolonged absence, the world was once again as it should be.
Except that M had clearly lost a lot of weight, further justifying the nickname I once gave him when I called him “my little skeleton,” in spite of his 6’5” frame. I told him that although he did not retain his jumpsuit he’d done well to find something to be for Halloween (and life, for the time being)- he had more than lived up to his name. I suppose he’d missed me too much to be at all perturbed by that comment and I did well to supply him with some much needed nourishment as soon as we got past our initial greeting. His approach to the bowl of food I set before him was nearly as pronounced as his affection towards me and I sat quietly reading the letter he had scrawled so beautifully (though not neatly) on the back of some crumpled prison form.
“They clearly don’t understand how much I love you. If they did they’d realize this is cruel and unusual punishment,” I read aloud. The punishment we both endured had seemed so cruel, but we had faithfully served our time and now... we had all the time in the world to set things right. And after all that time and punishment, we were so thankful, we were so much stronger; it was so worth it.