Dan was on the “Passover Food” list so for every meal he would go to the cafeteria where he was handed a brown bagged “Kosher for Passover” meal that he was allowed to take back to his bunk. Usually, food from the cafeteria was not allowed out, but due to someone misunderstanding how Passover works when they wrote the policy, the Jewish inmates were allowed to leave with their food and eat it wherever they so desired. There was a group of about ten Jews in Lompoc who gathered together for Pesach dinner. One of these guys was a huge Hispanic inmate named Robert. His father had been Jewish, his mother had not, and he had taught himself to read Hebrew in prison. He was studying to convert but no one would help him. He had reached out to the chaplain and different Rabbi’s with no luck. It probably didn’t help that he was covered in tattoos, but he wouldn’t give up and told Dan his dream was to study in a yeshiva one day. Robert felt it was the only way he would be able to get to Heaven to see his deceased father. Dan was immensely inspired by Robert and did what he could to help him with all of his Jewish related questions (which meant he wrote to me and asked me stuff, that I in turn asked my dad if I didn’t know the answer myself, and wrote back).
Our house in New York terrified me completely. It was something I had pretended I was handling, but really done very little about aside from calling the broker to ask why it was still vacant. The broker had been neglecting it and another agent had called to tell me the basement had flooded. They had discovered this during a failed showing, where the prospective tenant had looked in disgust at the damp basement. I called a friend of ours that lived in the city and he went to the house and confirmed what I already knew- we needed to do some major repairs and upgrade things like the carpet. I randomly saw an article in the news that same day. Madonna had bought a townhouse down the street from ours, one block away. That motivated me a bit further- hopefully the new celebrity appeal of our block could help us rent out the house! Meanwhile, I was nervous, I had never overseen the repairs on my own before!
We weren’t supposed to know, but someone within the BOP had told us that Dan was about to be transferred back to New York. My belief on anything I heard regarding anything BOP related was always “I’ll believe it when it happens” so I didn’t think it was that likely. Now that Dan was in a secure location, not in SHU, and I had seen him with my own eyes, I knew it was okay for me to fly to New York and try to fix our house. I made sure everything was as ready as possible, and then I drove up to Lompoc with my bags packed for my two days of visiting up there and then a week in New York. I had a wonderful weekend visiting with Dan, walking outside in the yard holding hands the entire time. I didn’t believe he was really transferring but, just in case, at the end of the visit I hugged Dan and told him to be safe if he actually did transfer back before I saw him again. We had spent the entire visit walking the yard in the windy sunshine and discussing the What If’s of the future and my plans for the repairs. He was pretty sure he was going in the next week and I was pretty sure I wasn’t so sure, but I played along because why not. It was really scary to have arranged so much by remote- I had contacted a repair guy we had used when we built the house and he had quoted what needed to be fixed over the phone to me. I scheduled carpet installers to meet me at the house and because they had installed there before all I had to do was pick the carpet, they already knew the measurements. After the visit ended I literally raced back down to my apartment in LA to park my car and jumped into a taxi and went to LAX.
As amazing as it was to see my family I knew I had to face the house. Once I saw it, I was completely overwhelmed by the scope of the repairs necessary. The previous tenant had caused normal wear and tear, but there was that water damage in the basement that had been left untreated and was now moldy and the carpet did need to be replaced entirely throughout the entire house. There was a room we had built to eventually put a pool in, but never finished so it was a giant concrete empty space- that leaked and dripped and needed to be painted and sealed. I was on top of it, it didn’t matter that I had travelled well over 3400 miles over the course of the previous three days with little to no sleep. I rented a Kia and was off, running around to Home Depot and Lowe’s, getting supplies for the repairs and then out of nowhere SLAM
As I exited the parking lot at Lowe’s in Brooklyn and drove down the street, I stopped at what I assumed was a stop sign. I couldn’t really see the actual stop sign, because there were garbage trucks parked on both sides of the street blocking the view. I drove forward and was t-boned by a car that had not stopped at his stop sign. A car that didn’t know I would be there, because I had driven down a one way street the wrong way. The garbage trucks had blocked the signs warning me of this. My rental car tin can Kia was completely and totally trashed on the right side, all the airbags on the right had gone off (but none on my side) and the car had spun around full circle and was now across the intersection, facing the opposite direction. People ran up to the car to see if I was okay, I’m sure I tried to tell them I was fine (as in, all of my bones were still in my body and there appeared to be no blood) but I remember hyperventilating and just sobbing loudly, inconsolably. The police didn’t know what to do with me, I was incoherent. The paramedics strapped me to a backboard because I had hit my head on the window and had a bump and the ambulance took me to the ER in Park Slope. I don’t really remember much but I know I called my parents and they came to Brooklyn pick me up. I was fine, physically, just very shocked and shaken. I was scared to tell Dan I had let him down, that I had gotten into ANOTHER car accident and that I wouldn’t be able to oversee the repairs properly. Oh my god, what about the carpet installers!
Dan was completely freaked out by my accident. So was I of course, but he really got scared. We had already been through this in October when I got rear ended on the freeway in California, so it was unnerving to have another accident so soon after. He wanted me to stay in New York and be near my family. It worried him that I was alone in California. He wrote that he wondered if the judge would release him early so he could chauffeur his wife around so she would stop getting hit by cars. But I couldn’t stay in New York- I had an apartment and a husband back in California. And I despised the East Coast, with it’s cold weather and ridiculously high strung inhabitants. It didn’t matter though, two days later I was still in New York and Dan had disappeared. No calls, not a peep from him. I knew with a sinking feeling that I was about to go back to California and pack up my apartment and move back to New York for the next little while.
Dan was in transit again and I stuck to the plan we had agreed on. I flew back to California, gave a week’s notice on my apartment, hired a moving company and moved all of my stuff into storage at Dan’s father’s house in Northern California. I drove behind the moving truck and then had my car picked up from there to be shipped to New York. Then I flew to New York and showed up at my parent’s house. Thus began the time I refer to as my “Ghost in the Attic” era. I resided in the attic and barely left my space up there unless I was going to visit a prison. I will tell all of it in due time of course, but I applaud my parents now for not saying what they must surely have been thinking. “We married you off already, no returns!” I’m joking of course, my family welcomed me back in with open arms. I didn’t know how long I would be there for, neither did they, no one did.
I spent many days and nights in our big empty house in the city, doing many of the repairs myself. I had a frantic need to get it rented out before Dan got to New York. The big empty leaky dripping pool room made me cry every time I saw it. I bought supplies and spackled walls, painted scuffs, vacuumed everything and set about putting things right. I hated being in the city without Dan. New York was always his city, I just hung out with him there. I sat in places we used to go to eat and stared at the menus. I knew what he liked to order but I didn’t have preferences when it was just me. Everyone in the neighborhood said hi when they saw me in the street, but they always asked where Dan was and sent their regards. I kept writing to Dan but I didn’t mail anything because I didn’t know where he was going to end up. The stack of letters grew and grew.
I end this chapter with a quote Dan mailed me when he learned he was transferring again.
I don’t know why it applies but it felt profound.