The Game Changer The Final Score
Author:L.M. Trio

chapter 2

(Luke)



“Luciano DiAngelo!” I hear my name being called from the guard standing by the door. I look forward to Saturdays. Visiting day. I like the sound of getting called for a visitor. My dad is my one constant. I don’t allow Deanna or my mom to see me here. It’s dirty and rather disturbing. I don’t want them to know the way I am living, but at least I call to keep in touch. My friends from high school arrange the occasional visits, however, most are busy with school and their lives. I appreciate the effort none the less.

Mikey is as faithful as ever. We talk at least twice a week and whenever he has a Saturday free, he makes it a point to visit. I know firsthand that if you’re lucky enough to have a Saturday free in baseball, there are much better things to do than visit a prison. However, Mikey shows up, no matter what, with a story and a laugh. If I’m having a bad week, he senses it. He’ll make a special trip to fly in early on a Saturday only to head back that same afternoon to be at his game that evening.

I was transferred here, the state penitentiary, not long after arriving at the local police department. The state facility is a whole different experience than the local PD. As the guard pushes aside the steel door to my cage, the knot that settles in the pit of my stomach yanks at my insides. My room is dark, musty and gloomy. There is a constant stench of urine coming from the surrounding cages.

Everything in this place is quite the opposite of the world I once knew. I sometimes feel as if I’ll never make it through till the end. It feels as though I’ve been here for years, although, only months have passed.

When I first arrived, I wrote letters of apology to everyone I hurt, including the family members of Dale Cummings, the man I killed. I feel nothing except regret for everything that happened that dreadful day. Even though I apologized in court, I wanted them to know that I was remorseful for the outcome of that day. I am responsible for someone losing their life. I deserve this.

I wasn’t the wise guy they made me out to be; I had never hurt anyone physically in my life. I thought I was helping that girl; she was hurt. To this day, I replay it over and over in my head. Would I have done something different? I doubt it. Regardless, because of my actions, he died, and for that and many other things, I am regretful. This is where I belong.

I honestly admit to myself, though, that the night that haunts me the most is the last night at home. It’s the one I feel I deserve to be punished for more than any other because of the pain I caused JJ. I humiliated her. I betrayed her. I will never forget that last look in her eyes. I can barely stand to look at myself in the scratched, rectangular, clouded mirror that hangs before me. In it, I see a distorted image of someone that barely resembles me. I hate the person staring back.

I write JJ many letters, it’s one of the things I do to occupy myself. Each one, a guide to the emotional rollercoaster I have been on since the day I arrived. At first, I begged for her forgiveness. I need her forgiveness. I need her. Yet, I can’t bring myself to send any of these letters. I don’t deserve her forgiveness. I don’t deserve her. How could I ask for her forgiveness when I haven’t forgiven myself?

Early on, my dad mentions that David asked for a visit.

“Dad, I don’t know. I’m not sure I can face him. He trusted me and I betrayed that trust,” I answer.

“Luciano, I’m not going to tell you what to do, it’s you’re decision. Let me know if you change your mind. You two were close; why not hear what he has to say? Maybe it will ease some of the hurt you are feeling.”

“Maybe not,” I answer.

“Maybe not,” my dad agrees.

I know the look in my dad’s eyes. He doesn’t have to say any more. It is something I need to do. No, it is something I have to do. I owe David. He trusted me with JJ, and I betrayed him as well.

I don’t want to see him, though. I’m scared. I don’t need him to remind me how much I hurt his daughter. I live with it every day. However, if I can’t tell her how sorry I am, at least I can tell her father that I never meant for things to turn out this way. I finally agree to a visit.

I sit down in front of the smeared glass window, picking up the phone hanging on the wall while signaling to David to pick up the other end.

“Hey, Luke… How ya doin'?” David asks. I see compassion in David’s face when he looks at me. I wonder how he can feel anything for me other than hate.

“I’m okay… I’m good,” I lie, barely able to look at him.

“You don’t look so good; you’ve lost weight.”

“I miss your cookin’.” A forced smile falls from my face. Thankfully, David laughs at my attempt to ease the tension.

“Look, the reason I’m here…” He pauses. “I’m not here to talk about what happened between you and JJ… We are friends, right?” I nod in agreement. My heart tightens at the sound of her name. I finally look David in the eyes, clenching my jaw tight. He deserves my full attention. “You and my daughter meant a lot to each other. I can’t forget all of the good things you did for her. I know it ended bad, but…”

I could feel my eyes begin to well up and I hold up my hand to stop David from continuing. The last thing I want to do here, in this place, is cry. Crying shows weakness. You can’t dare to show weakness in this place. Nevertheless, I have to say what I need to say, I owe him this. David was always good to me. I ask him to give me a minute while I take a deep breath and try to compose myself.

“I never meant for things to end the way they did… I loved her… I hate myself for hurting her… but, she was ready to give up everything… She was ready to back out of school… stay home… visit me here every week. Do you think I would want her to see me here, like this? I’m wrecked David… look at me,” I choke out, holding out my arms and pointing to myself. “I couldn’t have that. She deserves better. I’m not proud of what I did, trust me… I live with it every day… I should have done it different… I…” The lump in my throat is growing. I can barely find my voice as it begins to quiver.

David stops me, cuts me off midsentence. He notices me getting emotional, and I know that is not what he wants.

“Luke. Stop. I know why you did it. I know you love her.” I take note that David uses the present tense. “That’s what I want to tell you. I’ll admit I was upset for a while. But you’re right… She moved down there by herself. She loves the art program at USF… She seems to be doing okay… I think it was the best thing for her. I knew she was considering passing up her scholarship and I almost let her. I would have done the easy thing and given in to her, which would have been a mistake. You made the tough choice and let her go.”

I nod my head in agreement. My heart is sitting in my throat and I can’t muster up the words to say more. Although, I feel that David’s reason for the visit is to make me feel better, I’m not quite sure that it has. I don’t want to think of her moving on without me. Then again, it’s better than the alternative; I was afraid that I had destroyed her for good.

“That’s enough about that. I just want to let you know that I understand.” David waves away his hand, dismissing the conversation. He changes the topic from JJ to his genuine concern for my well being. “You need to focus on getting stronger and getting your life back. You need to find a way to get through this,” he says.

David stays for as long as the guard allows. After the initial conversation is put aside, I realize that David is here as my friend, not as my ex-girlfriend’s father. We discuss David’s job and catch up on sports, which has always been one of our favorite conversations and debates.

After my time is up, I say goodbye to David and thank him for the visit. I wonder if he is going to tell JJ that he visited, somehow, I doubt it.

***

The first year crawls by. I often feel as if time is standing still and I will never leave this place. I begin to scribble in my yellow legal notepad…



“When I first got here, a few of the guys told me I would get used to being in jail, but I don’t know how that is possible. It’s been over a year, and every morning that I wake up, I’m still surprised that I am here. I still feel as if I’m stuck in a nightmare, unable to wake up. Do you ever think of me? I know I have no right to ask. All I ever do is think in this shit hole. Some days, I wish I’d get jumped while walking down the hallway. Maybe I’ll end up with brain damage and my previous life will be erased from my mind. I think it will make things easier for me, not knowing what I lost. As you can see, I’m having one of my bad days. Maybe next week I won’t feel so beaten down. It gets harder, not easier. I miss you. I love you always… Luke”