Rarer than a four-leaf clover, Chris Andersen is a living testament of taking full advantage of a third lease on life. The same blessing a young man 1,000 miles north prays for every day from his jail cell.
Slightly hungover about three weeks ago, I decided to force myself out of bed Saturday morning and clean my apartment. Doing so wasn’t life or death. Everything was clean for the most part. Yet, like every person suffering from too much liquor the night before, I became my own physician convincing myself the quicker I began moving, the quicker the symptoms would disappear. Smart or not, that’s what happened, too. As is the case with any moment in my life, a soundtrack was needed to help push through the faint headache and dealing with the fact my hands would soon smell like a combination of dish detergent and dirty clothes.
Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle was chosen. Dishes were cleaned. Clothes were washed. The carpet was vacuumed. And the entire time, Snoop and I rhymed in unison, stopping only to remind myself there aren’t 10 better debut albums in rap history than The Dogg’s.
Had it not been for randomly glancing at the windowsill where my phone sat, I’d have never known an incoming call was being received. Looking at the number, I immediately knew who it was. It was from a Virginia correctional facility where my friend Ricky was housed. He’s been the subject of several pieces I’ve written over the past five years. Since 2004, I’ve seen him more times behind bars (2004-2010) than I have as a free man (2010-2012). This time in particular, I was aware of the nature of the call.
He sounded depressed, much different from the previous occasion we spoke. New charges were being brought on him. Meanwhile, his innocence was becoming more and more difficult to prove despite him denying every charge brought against him. I believe he’s innocent. I want to believe so, at least.
The most critical notion he stressed was how he was attempting to make the most out of his second chance at life before “the powers that be” intervened. He was enrolled in college because his plan to do so at 18 was cut short by his first prison stint. He was also adjusting to being a father of a new born baby boy and future husband to an all-around awesome young lady. Being locked up for nearly seven years caused him to see life differently. Where I saw opportunity, he saw simply trying to avoid trouble. His court date had been pushed back several times already, meaning he was sitting in a cramped cell for months waiting to tell his side of the story. A growing sense of urgency was forming because of the unknown. Perhaps the prosecution didn’t have a case and was attempting to stall. Perhaps they were building an indefensible attack. The stress of possibly spending the next handful of decades behind bars seeped through the phone.
Calls from prison rarely last long. I wanted to lighten the mood, or at least try to. We joked briefly about sports; him telling me this was Carmelo Anthony’s year. We talked about the Cowboys, which made us sad again. For two or three minutes, we were on his front porch shooting the shit again like we were kids in middle school. With less than 10 seconds remaining on the call, the last thing he told me was to tell my family hello and that he’d be home soon.
For a third chance at freedom.