By Andy Betz
No longer paired with their mates
Singular purpose to keep that close-by warm
Attracted by static
Kept attracted by a greater force
Needing a mate to be complete
No longer needing an identical mate
Two Old Socks
One New Pair
“You operate within a myriad of truths often in conflict, definitely on questionable moral grounds. I have a use for this ability”.
His words resonated with me. Not that I entertained nefarious thoughts, more that I gained insight into how he thought, how he responded, and most importantly, how he acted.
It was almost three months ago, I had an epiphany. For the majority of my life, my family and every employer I ever encountered thought I was scatterbrained. None of these people described me as stupid or dim. Rather, they all held me in high esteem in that I retained the vast majority of what I read, even if I did not understand it. I have the photographic memory of legend and the instantaneous recall mechanism to make use of the former.
However, I did not have the ability to understand or comprehend the nuances of the information. This made me somewhat robotic in my responses. Without a filter to sort by importance, my responses ranged from the absurd to the ridiculous. When asked about a faulty car engine, I could rattle off (chapter and verse) the contents of a repair manual, but not a single detail of the essence of a repair.
In short, I could tell you all about it without knowing a single thing about it.
By my 16th birthday, my father gave me a tome on philosophy.
He thought it would help.
And it did, if you wanted entertainment value for your money. People learned to ask those questions that should never be asked; What is the meaning of life? Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Is there intelligent life out there? What happens when you die?
I became the dime store novelty that everyone had to try once (maybe twice), but eventually demanded either I shut-up or leave. Most times, it was both. Most times. I saw the instigators cringe when they had enough of my answers. Most times, actually every time, I finished my answer alone.
I became well-versed in the art of well-versed alone.
I saw no future for me.
Then, I met him.He spoke first in riddles.
I answered with conjecture. He countered with discourse. I parried with constructs.
We met on the same road, walking in the same direction, while walking home from the library.
We finished our walk in the next town, fifteen miles away, in a diner ordering breakfast.
This man could spar.
Within an hour, the cook came out and asked us if he picked up our bill, would we leave so he could get a moment’s peace?
As eerie as he was, and I was comfortable with many levels of eerie, it was the first time eerie became profitable. We never broke character, never stopped speaking, never stopped quoting from memory the masters, and departed with full stomachs and (for definitely for me) a besotted heart.
The blush on his face spoke volumes of his similar disposition.
For the next month, he spoke of situations. “How would you respond under this set of circumstances? What would you do if X happened? Or Y? When would doing right actually be wrong?” I told him what I had read. He tolerated my banality only for so long. Eventually he told me so.
“Stop quoting others. This time, tell me what you think. When is it permitted to lie? Can a man commit a crime if he has a good reason? Under what conditions can the government limit freedoms and rights? Does the State enjoy the exclusive right to murder a murderer?”
For a young man, barely 18, not yet 20, his inquiries came from a seeker of ultimate truth who might climb the mountain in search of the guru who was told to possess a vast array of ultimate answers. I cannot be sure if he made such a quest. Was I in contact with an intellectual pilgrim or a crusader sans moral compass?
His boyish charm diluted my suspicions. My family adored this man who could control my idiosyncrasies. I tried to explain to mother the better word was regulate.
I was yelling to the wind with my family.
And yet, with each day, I found him more intriguing, more eccentric in his odd way, more and more to my liking. My him was my partner. I knew it. My family knew it. All I had to do was wait for him to know it.
It was a time and place where teenagers do fall in love and sometimes do get married. If he asked my father, my father would give his blessing; both for my security and for my departure.
A daughter of age who makes all she knows uncomfortable has little in the way of future opportunities. My father hoped I would move away and become a librarian or a secretary, never to be seen or heard of again.
My father gave his blessing in all but those exact words to him. He spoke of the benefits of eloping, but not of a dowry. My father did everything but roll out a red carpet for him.
That should have been a red flag. No family should be that eager to see a daughter off.
And yet, I didn’t care to heed the warning. I fell for him without eyes wide open. I would have said yes at the drop of a hat. On our walks and talks, when he held my hand, I held him as if my life depended on holding on to him. I should be an independent woman constructing a solid future of my own. I should be standing on my own two feet. I should be the rock.
But, all I am is sand. I am easily swept away, but never aside. Otherwise, I have no foundation. But I have him.
On August 10th of that summer, he finally asked the question, just not the one I expected.
“Did you know a wife, even if she participated in or knew of a crime, could not be forced to testify against her husband committing or participating in a crime?”
He gave me a moment to answer.
I replied with my own question.
“Is the Minister available right now?”
Our wedding took a brief ten minutes. Our life of crime lasted years. By the time we were caught, our tally included four banks and two payrolls. We kept low, off of the radar. Living light, with a suitcase always packed was not the life I anticipated, but it was the life I wanted.
As long as I was with him, it was all I wanted.
We had a family and eight different homes. Two of our children inherited my memory. The other quickly learned his charm. As they grew, each became part of our life.
We were choosy. We could have accomplished more, but declined most opportunities. Above all, we were careful. Careful was our MO. Careful was our creed.
Until we weren’t.
The details of that day involve a new detective with a memory for details. He was patient. We knew someday, someone would come for us. I was certain it all had to end.
And it did, ironically on August 10th, on our wedding anniversary.
Our children spent a little too much money on the cake and the present. A family of our station does not have children carrying large denominations of cash. I gave the signal to run when I discovered their error, but it was too late. The detective anticipated such.
The two dozen police he accompanied were of the same ilk.
By the conclusion of the trial, I lost my him to federal prison, my children to my sisters, and my assets to the court system.
I lost my freedom with the judge’s sentence of 10 years. I served the full term.
I asked my sisters, upon my release, about my children. They told me each departed upon coming of age. None of the three left any contact information.
Perhaps, it was all for the best.
All that remained was him. I visited him often, wrote him letters, and appealed to the Governor for his early release.
During my last visit, he told me of his love and how he would not have change a thing if given the chance. Then, he asked me a question.
“How difficult would it be to suddenly have gray hair, no earrings, and a slight limp similar to the guard with the key collection behind you?”
Ten years is a long time to memorize the plots of every prison break story one can get their hands on.
I could do it in less than one.
Bio: Andy Betz has tutored and taught in excess of 40 years. He lives in 1974, and has been married for 29 years. His works are found everywhere a search engine operates. He has also previously published many times with The Yard: Crime Blog and his work can be found HERE.