Leonard waits as the guard processes his paper work. That is how life is behind bars, always waiting for your betters to tell you when you can move, even as they are sending you on your way. Three years, six months, and four days. That is how long he has been here. That is how much time they have taken away from him for something he never did. He could have been almost done with college by now, but some scared white lady fingered him in a line up, and that was all it took. He had no good alibi, other than “I was at home eating pizza.” All they had was her, but that is all it took.
Three years, six months, and four days. That is how long it took them to find her watch and her purse. That is how long it took to track it to the man who sold it from his pawn shop to the man who actually took it. Not that they ever convicted him. Not that they ever gave him that speedy trial he was promised in his American History class. No, they sat on her ID and his lack of alibi and had sweet eff ay to hang on him, but it was enough to keep him in jail, not having the money to even get a bond. It all went into paying for his first semester.
They stole that from him. They stole three years of his life, just like that dumb punk stole her purse. She got her purse back, and her money, and her watch. What does Leonard get back? Does he get those three years, six months and four days? The community activists say he can get big money, and maybe he can, but he cannot get that time. They tell him he can get angry, like he needs their permission.
He is angry, and nothing is going to fix that. All he can do is try to pick up where he left off. Maybe the money will help, if he even gets it. He is not sure he wants it. What he wants, what he really wants, more than anything, is to look her in the eye and ask “why?”