I Dated a Convicted Felon, Twice

Tracey Folly

I actively pursued them when I should have been running away.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2x8gqM_0YKsLwQq00Photo by Luiza Braun on Unsplash

I was window shopping with my best friend and closest confidante after school one afternoon when I spotted a young man with long red hair carrying a U.S. Army duffle bag. I thought he was cute; I had a weakness for men with long hair.

With my friend's help, I followed him around the city. We positioned ourselves where we thought he would be, running into him at Burger King, a local bookstore, and the bus terminal. That’s where I finally got his attention.

He was an interesting fellow, as I would learn over the course of the next month. He had served in the United States Army, but he had also served time in prison for passing counterfeit money.

He was a convicted felon with the prison tattoos to prove it. They were poorly inked black things. One was the shape of a cloud with a smiley face drawn within it. It was ugly.

He made no apologies for his past. He had knowingly and willingly passed counterfeit hundred-dollar bills around town, making small purchases and getting back the change in genuine U.S. currency.

The cashier at a local restaurant called the cops before he escaped with more than ninety bucks in change and a combination plate to go. He took a plea deal and did his penance before being released early for good behavior. When he got out, he had nowhere to go. He was homeless.

He lived on the streets, carrying everything he owned in a green duffle bag and using the change he collected from kindly strangers to buy booze at the liquor store as often as he could afford it.

Obviously, I found him fascinating. Every day after school, I made my way to the places I knew he’d be. I’d bring extra change and dollar bills that I begged and borrowed from my mother and gave them to him for alcohol.

We began dating if hanging around on sidewalks outside liquor stores and bus stops could be called dating. I was seventeen, and he was twenty-one. Neither of us cared about the age gap. We were both smitten.

One day, he grew violent without warning. He grabbed my shoulders and swung me around, slamming the back of my head against a granite monument that stood on the sidewalk. “That’s what you get,” he said, releasing his grip. “I need a drink. Do you have any money?”

I was on the ground. The dampness from the mulch I had landed in soaked through the seat of my faded jeans. I nodded my head and fished dollar bills and a handful of change from my pocket; I handed him the money.

“Is this all you have?” he asked. “I need money for cigarettes, too.”

My head wasn’t feeling any better by the time he returned with his tiny bottles of alcohol. I decided to call the day the disaster that it was and take the bus back to my neighborhood and the safety of home.

He walked me to the bus stop and waited with me for the bus to arrive. While we were waiting, he saw one of his friends and called him over.

The guy looked like a model. He was taller than my boyfriend by at least ten inches. His long brown hair was shaved on the sides, and I would later learn that he wore it in a mohawk when he went out to the clubs.

He was the most exciting thing I had ever seen from his green eyes that glowed like a cat’s to the black trench coat that was studded with safety pins.

With a swollen and painful knot growing on the back of my head from where my first felon-boyfriend had pushed me into a solid block of granite, I vowed to get to know his friend better.

There was just one problem. Turns out, he was a convicted felon, too.

The new guy lived within spitting distance of my best friend. That made it easy to pretend I was visiting her when I was really going to the third-floor apartment he shared with more than a dozen other people.

He and his roommates, who published a communist newsletter, lived in a makeshift commune. Every available space had a living being assigned to it.

I abandoned my poor friend, whom I’d visited on a daily basis before discovering boys, in favor of a long-haired punk rocker who already had a girlfriend. He had a new girlfriend now — me — and I wasn’t planning on going anywhere.

Soon, I learned that he had spent time in prison on a felony drug charge.

In the heat of the summer, his bedroom, which lacked a bed and technically wasn’t even a room, was sweltering. It was all he could afford. His sleeping quarters consisted of an airless, windowless attic crawlspace without electricity that was accessible by a narrow staircase that led from the back of the apartment.

I got into the habit of waking up every morning, getting showered and dressed, and immediately heading off to visit him in his stifling crawlspace.

I’d let myself into the front door of the apartment with the key they kept hidden beneath the doormat and tiptoe through the front room, living room, and kitchen before making my way to the attic where he slept.

Several weeks after our routine began, something went wrong. I crept into the area where he was sleeping. The only light in the room came from the open doorway that led into the illuminated hallway.

As my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I realized that he wasn’t alone.

He followed me as I retreated into the hallway. “It isn't what it looks like,” he insisted. “She's just a friend."

“Let me take a quick shower, and we’ll get out of here,” he said. “You can wait in the living room. Go read a book or something.”

I obediently made my way back to the living room and selected a collection of Walt Whitman poems off one of the bookshelves that ran the length of the room. The shelves were made from red bricks and old boards, and they were packed from end to end.

She was just a friend, allegedly. They weren’t involved romantically. She hadn’t even cared when I’d made my presence known.

Did that seem like the response of someone who’d been caught red-handed with another girl’s man? I didn’t think so.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I read poetry while I waited for my boyfriend. By the time he showered and dressed, I’d decided that I believed him.

We went for a long walk in silence, forgoing the city bus and using our feet instead. At one point, it started to rain. Fat, infrequent raindrops that threatened to turn into a storm but didn’t.

Not long after that morning, he called me to say goodbye. “I’m going on a road trip,” he said, “with my ex-girlfriend.”

“You’re going on a road trip with your ex-girlfriend?” It was late at night, and I didn’t want to wake my parents. I lowered my voice. “What do you mean you’re going on a road trip with your ex-girlfriend?”

“Don’t worry. We’re just friends,” he said.

Thus my second relationship with a convicted felon ended. It was probably for the best.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

Boston, MA
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