This Much is True - Tia Louise

Prologue

JR

With my back to the San Francisco traffic, I hold the railing of the iconic, vermillion bridge and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

Two hundred and forty-five feet below me, the frigid water of the bay swirls past, and behind me is the building where I spent the last eighteen months of my life, paying for a crime I didn’t commit.

My hair is long to my collar. My body is lean and ripped with muscle to intimidate anyone who thought he’d get the best of me.

I’ve lived with the funk of brown Lysol, body odor, and urine so long, I forgot fresh air could smell so sweet.

At five p.m., a guard came to my cell, rattled the bars like some old cheesy black and white movie, and told me to get my shit together.

Time to go.

I was halfway through a four-year prison sentence, and last night, they said it was over, early release.

Confused is an understatement for how I felt, but I wasn’t about to argue. I started making plans.

“You can thank the tree huggers for this miscarriage of justice.” The woman behind the desk scowled as she spoke, like the words tasted bad. “Wouldn’t want you getting sick. It might violate your civil rights.”

Rage smoldered in my chest, and I didn’t make eye contact with her. This whole eighteen months has been a violation of my civil rights, but why should she care?

Since the start of this nightmare, nobody cared. I said it once, twice, three thousand times. I. Didn’t. Do. It.

Nobody gave a shit.

Not even my court-appointed lawyer believed me. I was caught with illegal human growth hormone, and that’s all they saw. No one looked at the receipt for perfectly legal adaptogen supplements, which is what I thought I was picking up. I was a redneck from South Carolina with a trunk full of HGH. Case closed.

I entered San Quentin and kept my head down. I made allies with the biggest, meanest guys, and the quiet ones who stayed to themselves. I learned to be ready to fight always.

I started my prison sentence resolved the next time I saw my father, I wouldn’t let up until he was begging for mercy.

Now I’m a free man.

Sort of.

I’m out, and I’m headed back to look him in the eye. He sent me here, and I want to know why.

Staring out across the dark waters, I make a vow. I’m getting back everything I’ve lost. I don’t know how the man who put me here will make it happen, but we’ll sort that out when I get home.

Snatching my navy canvas bag off the ground, I start walking.

Hope

I shouldn’t have drunk that whole bottle of wine.

The sea breeze pushes my blonde hair off my face and twists my skirt between my legs. I pull my fluffy beige coat tighter around my chest, and when I wet my lips, salt touches my tongue.

It’s rough out tonight, the wind whips hard and the waves crash, but it suits my mood. My insides are twisted and stormy, everything is crashing around me…

The beach path along the shore of San Francisco bay is deserted—just like everything these days—and I cut a wobbly path in my progress towards the bridge.

Two iconic, vermillion towers rise in the distance, a string of lights tracing the edges, and I think of a ship passing in the night.

Blurring my eyes, I imagine I’m in an Alfred Hitchcock movie… or Mike Myers… So I married an axe murderer…

A dip in the soft sand makes me stumble, and the empty bottle slips from my fingers. It hits the ground with a dull thump, but I keep walking. I should go back and get it, be a responsible citizen, carry it to a recycling bin, but I don’t.

I push on.

Large boulders separate me from the path up to the bridge. They feel metaphoric. I gaze up at the network of iron and cables and try to sing my favorite ABBA song. “I have a dream…”

My voice wavers and breaks on a sharp inhale, but I push back. I square my shoulders and summon my daily affirmations…

I am doing better than I think I am.

My future is bright, and my best days are still ahead of me.

I am strong enough to face what’s in front of me.

My life isn’t over, and I never give up without a fight…

But I’m so tired. I’m not sure I believe them anymore.

Pulling out my phone, I text my best friend Yarnell. How long would it take

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