I came home from work, tired and famished. I was lifting a big slice of lasagna out of a pan to a plate when the landline rang.
This is the phone I am required to have as a condition of Vince’s probation. He was in the shower, and the phone is in his room. I respect his space and don’t go in there except to the do the laundry. (He shares his tiny space with the washer and dryer.)
Brrr-ing…brrr-ing…brrr-ing…. I stood with the lasagna poised between pan and plate. It stopped. Then Vince’s cell phone started up—vvvbbbb….vvvbbbbb…vibrating on silent. It went on and on and still I stood drooling over my longed-for lasagna.
I heard the shower shut off and Vince’s voice, “Hello? I’m in the shower.” He repeated himself. Did the person on the line not believe him? Then: “MOM! Will you let the agent in?”
I lowered the lasagna into the pan—it was lukewarm now anyway—and went to the front window. Yep, there she was, sitting in her car at the bottom of the stairs. I moved to the front door and opened it, waving down to her. I stood waited while she got herself out of the car and moseyed up the stairs.
Do not sound sarcastic or mad, I told myself.
“Next time, why don’t you knock on the door?” I suggested.
“Oh, yeah!” she replied, as though she had never heard such an idea.
She stood in the dining room with the urinalysis cup while Vince threw on some clothes. She smiled, I faked a smile back. Vince entered the room, retrieved the cup from her, then returned to the bathroom. As he was returning down the hall, the agent said loudly, “Be sure to tip the cup on its side so the urine gets on the test strip.”
Maybe I should have exited at that point but I didn’t realize she was going to linger. And did I mention I was hungry?
Vince sat at the dining room table. The agent and I stood in opposite corners in the room. I was half way into the kitchen, with one eye on the lasagna.
“How’re things goin’?” she asked.
“Fine,” was his reply. He told the agent he was planning to buy a $300 car. It would help him get around quicker and he could tinker with it on “the property” which includes the parking lot of the condos where we live.
“The big challenge,” I volunteered, “will be for him to find a landlord who accepts ex offenders.”
“That is a big problem,” she said, “Most landlords take advantage of them, because they can.”
My crabbiness quotient quadrupled. Or maybe it was just plain anger. Well, I’ve rarely had a good experience with a landlord, so why was I shocked that they would exploit ex offenders?
“We do know a guy who is open to ex offenders, and fair,” she continued.
One landlord in a metropolitan area of 3.5 million people.
She told Vince she would get him the landlord’s information, and left shortly thereafter.
Finally! My lasagna. I sat across from Vince and when I saw his face I thought, “Oh no, I’m in trouble now.”
“Mom,” he began slowly, as though he was talking to an utter moron, “Don’t ever bring things up to the agents. Now the next time one comes, they’ll grill me about why I want to move out. ‘What’s wrong at home?’ ‘What’s going on with your mom?’”
“But…last week you told me you had that tip on a sober house.” For a few days we had both been excited but it fell through. “You want to move out, don’t you?”
“Yes, but we agreed I could stay a year.”
“Yes, but…you were talking about that house…. I thought she might have some resources.”
I ate my lasagna without gusto and offered him some, which he accepted. “Do you really think I would try to get you in trouble, on purpose?” I asked.
“Sometimes I wonder,” he said.
Just like when he was inside, I didn’t know the rules until I broke one, and trying to be helpful only got me in trouble.