Saturday, June 7, 2014


When I was released on parole, almost immediately the comments came my way. A few people I didn’t know seemed to believe I owed them some sort of apology.

Um, no.

I dealt with similar meddling in prison. 

Beefy inmates took it upon themselves to administer their own version of justice, often seeking me out to interrogate my motives and crime.

I had to make a decision.

Should I entertain any and all questions? 

Should I offer weepy contrition? 

Should I blame my upbringing? 

Should I claim some kind of victim status?

I decided I would answer any and all queries so long as they were sincere. I decided never to apologize because, well, there wasn’t anything to apologize about. I decided to completely own up to the crime and my role in it, hiding nothing. I also decided to tell the truth about the circumstances.

If you’re late to the story, I used to be a public education teacher. I had an affair with an underage female student. Our relationship was discovered, I was arrested, pled guilty, and served a sentence of almost two years exactly.

When fellow inmates confronted me, I took their cross-examinations and flipped them right back. 

Who was it coming at me with questions? Oh, you’re in prison for chronic drug selling? I am sure you never, ever sold to anyone underage! Oh, you’re a wannabe gang member? I am sure you never, ever harassed or shot someone innocent! And so on. I attempted the impossible: I tried to get them to see how stupid even the mere questioning of me was. 

For whatever reason, sex intrigues people. It seems to bring out the worst in them, at times, and they felt it to be their job to make categorical judgments.

I was somewhat successful, but it had to do with the way I carried myself and the nature of the crime. I told my inmate moralists how whatever happened between me and my paramour was our business, and that I was in complete charge of my actions and knew exactly what I was doing (the consequences, not so much). 

I never backed down. I never hid. I never avoided what was true. 

When some lame ass vato strutted and chest beat about my crime, I’d laugh in his face and instruct him to go pretend somewhere else. I wouldn’t give-in. I’d explain how it was me who committed the crime, I was there. I knew everything. None of them could tell me anything. 

I was there, fuckers.

After a while, they’d get tired of faking interest in me and my crime and beg off to some other poor sap. I would not budge. There wasn’t anything more to tell or say, and they had finally found someone, me, who didn’t require or seek their approval.

It was a little trickier on the outside.

These people had actual power over me. They could get me fired. They could prevent me from earning a living. They could deny me a place to live. They could make my already cumbersome life a lot more difficult.

My first confrontation happened when some meth-addicted lesbian living in the surrounding apartment complex found out I was infamous. She sought the management company. She threatened action. She wasn’t brave enough to face me (they never are). She spread rumors throughout the neighborhood. 

And one morning, my heart sunk. An early-teen girl on her way to a nearby bus stop saw me leaving out the door, made eye contact in horror, and then ran across the street. I felt horrible. I knew someone had gotten to her, scared the shit out of her. I wanted to walk over and apologize. But I couldn’t. I just jumped into my car and went about my day.

The manager dude phoned me, expressing thanks at my being such a quiet, great tenant. 

At the time I didn’t realize he’d already been contacted, but I said something to the effect of being flattered he thought enough of me to personally call. He laughed and then spilled the gossip. He asked pointed, blunt questions. He didn’t know what to believe. 

I explained the young lady who I chose to have an affair with was a cool person, and I wasn’t tricked. He wanted, I think, to believe she was some kind of lolita, hitting on older, male teachers and I was just her latest conquest or something. Naw. I told him the truth. I said she was awesome, and I admired what I thought she was (I was very, very wrong about her – but at the time of my crime, I honestly believed her to be what I thought). He was taken aback, and he said so. 

He asked if I regretted what I did. I told him no. I told him the same as I did the inmates: I was there, dude. We had a great time together. There wasn’t anything nefarious or wrong about it. For me to regret it would be to lie to myself, and I won’t do that.

He again thanked me for being such a good tenant, and then promptly sent a letter to the angry tweaker lesbian, warning her against harassing me further. I found that hilarious.

Some of the other tenants stopped by soon after, also asking questions. I took them all. I was nicer or not depending on the questioner’s temperament. If they came at me sideways, I’d tell them to go fuck themselves. If they were hesitant, I’d try to assure them of the basic facts. My crime, by penal code (not just my opinion) was considered non-serious, non-violent, and I had no strikes. The formal risk assessment (a series of tests and measurements) was the lowest of the low. The tenants appreciated my candor, and they began to engage me personably as I did laundry or various errands around the area. I had zero problems.

Working posed yet another challenge.

Employers often asked about felony convictions, and I answered in various degrees of honesty. My policy was to avoid the question altogether, forcing them to push the issue, but I did have some interesting interviews.

One lady was positively orgasmic, claiming to have “found out” about me … and she announced this as I sat down for the interview. I laughed so hard it scared her. I told her there wasn’t anything to find out, and that it was all over everywhere – it didn’t take a genius to unearth the basic facts.

She quieted.

It took her a little while to speak again. She grabbed a frame off her desk, revealing a photograph of a beautiful teenaged girl, her daughter. 

She clumsily accused, “If it were my daughter …” and I interrupted. “But it wasn’t your daughter.” She tried again to emotionally manipulate the situation. I cut her off again. I lectured that stupid bitch the way an adult should: I was there, and if you must know, the young lady's mother was super supportive of our affair; and the young lady's mother wanted me to live with them when I got out; the young lady's mother made a statement to the police, and it’s on record, as asking I not be prosecuted. 

Now what? 

Are you still going to drone on how you know better than the very people you’re claiming to be outraged on behalf of? I laughed harder at my interviewer’s pretend concern. I told her to pull herself together and stop acting like she knew anything. I told her to stop with her American Taliban tactics. She was totally disarmed. She could not believe I was not only in the flesh in front of her, but that I was telling her to fuck herself. I thanked her for her time and pushed on to the next interview.

Other interviewers, the majority, appreciated how honest I was when asked. They wanted to hire me, but felt the liability and bad publicity might harm their business. I understood completely. We parted ways amicably, respectfully.

Staying employed was another matter altogether. It required me navigating precarious social waters. I got along with nearly everyone. If they didn’t know about my past, they loved me (generally). I am easy to work with. I enjoy myself. I am always loose. I work hard. But the contrast is almost always evident immediately. I spoke too well. I knew too much. I didn’t seem to fit the piece of shit job I worked at. Someone would inevitably find out, make the connection, and then all hell would break.

I’d wait for them to come to me. 

Maybe one out of ten had the balls to confront me personally; the rest were cowards, spreading rumors around but never having the personal dignity to talk with me. The few who did seek me out, I’d explain all I’ve set out above. I’d give it context. I’d round it out a bit. I’d not hide the truth. I wouldn’t apologize. I wouldn’t ask for their understanding.

What I’ve learned through this experience, and what I am still dealing with on a daily basis, is how our actions set in motion consequences we can’t ever really be sure to know where they’ll eventually lead. All we can do is check our decisions as we make them, filtering them through our moral system, and then accept the consequences. My choices led to fantastic, lifetime calamities. 

My choices also led to the happiest point in my entire life.

I think that’s not impossible to understand or appreciate.

Someone, namely Myra, was brave enough to listen to the entire story, brave enough to consider all the nuance and subtlety, and take-in the severity. Her understanding, her love, while not the reason I set out to do all I did, is what I’ve been searching for my entire life. That I had to walk through unbelievable fires and travesties to find Myra, and that the only thing I had to offer her was my brutal honesty, makes it all worthwhile in a cockeyed way.

This is my point, dear reader. 

You're going to find your Myra if you are sure to confront yourself. Be gravely honest with yourself. If you're in the wrong, admit it. If you're comfortable with your behavior, own it.

The reward is a Myra. 

That's the best advice I can give anyone.

And I mean it.


Craig Edward Kelso is the author of Anarcho-Capitalism (2014), a primer on the philosophy of peaceful, stateless cooperation. His curriculum vitae include a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from San Diego State University, and a Post-Baccalaureate secondary education credential in both Social Science and English Language Arts. Kelso taught for nearly a decade in the American public school system, and was voted by colleagues Teacher of the Year, twice in his short tenure, earning numerous accolades from chambers of commerce, mayors, state assembly persons, governors, congresspersons, senators, and even Wal-Mart. Currently he struggles to earn an opportunity to be employed, working as a laborer, dishwasher. He is deliriously happily married to Myra Kelso, living in Southern California with their adorable children. 

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