Tomorrow marks the 10-year-anniversary of my trial. It began on Friday, July 11th, 2008. By Wednesday evening, the 16th, I was in Ada County Jail, calling my wife, hearing her crying into the phone as she said, “Baby, I feel like you DIED!”
I remember when they announced the guilty verdict. It was about 5 PM. I was hoping the jury would want to deliberate until the following day, giving me one more night in purgatory. But no. No such luck. At 5 PM the lawyer called, said the verdict was in. My wife and I were enjoying a chai latte at a nearby coffee shop, and shared one final, feverish kiss, before we got into the taxi and headed back to the courthouse.
“We the jury find the defendant stephen newman guilty of attempted rape.” She read it with no vocal inflection. No emphasis on the word guilty. It was one long, monotone sentence, as if a housewife were mumbling to herself in the laundry room, “I need to start using less bleach.” For the woman reading the verdict, it was just another mundane task in her day. For me, it changed everything.
I looked back just before the Bailiff came to handcuff me and walk me out of the courtroom. I saw my dad raising his eyebrows, helpless. My mom just looked down, solemn. My wife mouthed the words, “I’m Sorry!” with tears already forming in her eyes. My lawyer patted me on the back and said, “You’ll be ok.” Most of the audience applauded and cheered, as if I had just scored the winning touchdown. But I hadn’t.
A decade in prison. The realization that it’s actually been that long is surreal. In many ways, the time went by extremely fast. It doesn’t feel like it’s been 10 years, yet I’m often reminded that it has. When I see a picture of the 7-year-old nephew I remember, and I learn that he is starting college this year, it’s a painful reminder that, yes, I’ve missed out on some stuff.
In ways, I suppose prison is a bit like being in a coma, then waking up ten years later. You’re still in the same bed, in the same room. The paint on the walls looks the same color. The windows look the same. The tree outside looks the same. The food tastes the same. Diet Coke tastes slightly less good, but fairly close to what you remember. You still hear traffic on the street. Your dad’s sense of humor is still in top form. Your mom is wearing the same necklace. But then you’re told your doctor died a few years ago, your nurse got in a bad car accident in 2010 and is now paralyzed, your house and car have been sold, your former best friend made 100 million dollars, and people give you weird looks when you tell them you’re thinking about spending the money to maybe see a Michael Jackson concert. If not him, perhaps Prince. Or Tom Petty, he’s always been one of your favorites.
You don’t understand why people are always looking at their phones. You watch a World Cup soccer match on TV, and nobody in the crowd is even watching the game, you notice. They’re all texting, or playing a game, or trying to find a casual hookup on Tinder or Grindr. They seem to have forgotten they paid thousands of dollars for tickets to this event. You can’t even understand how to use Tinder. You keep tapping the screen, they keep telling you to swipe right or swipe left. Huh?
The woman you used to be madly in love with spends every free moment of her life on Facebook, and never emails you anymore. Intimacy has been reduced to “Damnnnnn. You’re so HOT!” Or perhaps the more mature, “Wow, nice boobs!” (with a few heart emojis to prove that he’s not objectifying her body, but that he actually loves her boobs). You’ve left her several voicemails, but she never calls back. You’re told that nobody even checks their voicemail anymore. You remember old school smiley faces. The colon and the parenthesis. But now there are these emoticons. What the hell?
And when did people get so freaking sensitive? Everything offends everyone! I mean, you knew it was starting to get bad even ten years ago, before the coma, but now…. Wait, they’re telling me I can’t write any more about this topic, as it will probably offend some readers. And if they get offended, they will talk about it on Facebook, and it will somehow ruin my life. So, nevermind. Carry on! I’m really so sorry if I hurt your feelings. How was I supposed to know talking about Michael Jackson concert tickets was insensitive? What do you mean I can’t use the word “housewife”?
You wonder why that snake has a vest on and you’re told that it’s a comfort cobra. You wonder why the turtle has a vest on and you’re told it’s a therapy turtle. You wonder why the cat has a vest on. Duh! It’s a companion cat now. Everyone knows that.
OK. Sounds like I’m going to have a lot to learn when I’m released in November. I guess a lot really HAS changed. But the good news is, I’ll be able to drive home and start fresh…………..
Or at least I thought I’d be able to drive home. I can’t seem to find where to put my key into the ignition.
About the blogger:
Stephen Newman has been trying to move out of his two-person room since May. His cellmate, now giving him the silent treatment, is driving him completely crazy. The guards keep promising him, “we’ll move you next week,” but next week keeps coming and going. Stephen has no cobra, snake, nor cat, so to comfort himself he writes award-winning blogs on Inmate Blogger, convinced that the actual awards must keep getting lost in the mail. You can contact him via email at InmateNewman2016@gmail.com
Categories: Stephen Newman